How is research helping music companies deal with a rapidly changing market? Robert Bain meets Keith Jopling, strategy consultant to The British Phonographic Industry.
The music industry began amid confusion. When Thomas Edison came up with the phonograph it was a revelation, but it wasn’t immediately clear what it was for. Edison had been fiddling with the recently invented telephone, which he expected to be used like its forerunner the telegraph, to send messages that would then be put into writing. He thought the ability to record the spoken word would allow operators to work more efficiently.
But the invention never caught on as an aid to telephone operators or secretaries, and attempts to sell it as a novelty item were short-lived. It took years of refinements and experiments (technical and commercial) before the new technology found its place: as a device for playing music in the home.
Eventually the modern recording industry came into being and went on to enjoy a century of relative stability. Although Edison’s wax cylinders gave way to vinyl records, tapes and CDs, the basic model stayed largely unchanged. Until the internet.