Godin Warns Radio At CRS

Seth Godin describes himself as “bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change.” (sethgodin.typepad.com) Judging by the intensity and depth of his CRS Keynote address (3/4) his quote seems accurate. Godin has written ten bestselling books including Tribes, Purple Cow and Meatball Sundae plus holds an MBA from Stanford University.

The speaker began by suggesting that root level changes in our culture and technology, are forcing mass media companies (i.e. newspapers, radio stations, music, TV) to evolve. “The entertainment industry was perfect,” Godin began, “but things have changed. Either your boss gets it or you will have to leave them behind,” he replied to a question from the audience. “When mass media attracted the masses, people designed products to be average so they would appeal to that large mass of average consumers. But mass media no longer has a mass audience. It’s fragmented.”

According to Godin’s view, the music industry used to be perfect because there were entire chains devoted solely to selling its products (record stores) and there was scarcity created by the high costs associated with recording and marketing. These factors limited the number of record labels, and FCC-created scarcity limited the number of radio signals. The result, he explains, was a type of oligopoly with a high barrier to entry. But Godin warns that these barriers are dramatically changing. “Wi-fi in cars will mean consumers have an infinite number of stations to choose from. And the cost of recording is no longer a barrier at all.” Summing the new problems Godin said, “Piracy is unstoppable, scarcity is gone and having the RIAA sue your customers hasn’t worked.”

Aiming squarely at the radio audience, Godin urged the industry, to “leap from the old biz to the new. Timid trapeze artists are dead artists. Start dating your listeners and getting their permission for you to send them emails. Radio needs to again be in the scarcity business and can do that by finding a unique niche. The longtail is coming to radio. People want to LOVE what you are playing, not just LIKE. Be their curator and they will pay attention.” The Long Tail concept is all about niche marketing and having smaller, but very loyal audiences.

Godin believes the music industry has passed from an A&R mentality to Brand Management and is now moving toward Tribe Management. “Tribes are key to who we are, our work and our spirituality,” he says. “We can belong to lots of tribes at the same time, all connected. But mediocre won’t work for a tribe. A Tribe must earn its authority to exist from the members and building a tribe requires commitment before success. You can’t market average stuff to average people. Tell a compelling story and your fans will spread the word. “When your communications are anticipated and personally relevant to each member,” says Godin, “then you know you have a loyal tribe.”

Some of the Tribe-building ideas mentioned were; Authenticity—do what you said you are going to do, all the time; challenge the tribe to spread the word; create a culture or secret handshake; be curious and commit to growth; and stand for something.”

Godin readily admits that not all ideas will be strong enough to form and attract a tribe. “You must be able to convince at least 10 industry folks to join before moving forward,” he advises. According to Godin, this concept of Tribes is the rationale for the behavior that is driving the meteoric growth of social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Understanding it will be essential toward building careers and media loyalty.

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About the Author

David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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