February 4th, 2000

An article in this week’s Los Angeles Times by Chuck Phiilips didn’t mince words.. The Pulitzer prize winner quoted an internal memo written by Bertelsman Chairman Thomas Middlehoff which was extremely critical of the firm’s executives in the wake of the Time Warner/EMI merger.  In the memo, Middlehoff warned that the company would never reach the goal of being number one “…if executives sit back and wait to see which tactical move and strategic alliances the executive board develops in order to master the radical changes occurring in the communications marketplace.  Each and every one of you has to rise to this special challenge.  Those who still haven’t understood that time has come jeopardize both their existence and their position at Bertelsmann.”

The ominous tone of that memo was only the beginning as Bertelsmann and Sony announced that no merger between the companies’ music divisions would take place.

This is all interesting, but outside of Bertelsmann, what does it mean for you?  It means that playing the hits and getting the hits played aren’t going to be enough to solidify your job in the new millenium.

Middlehoff is justifiably angry at executives within BMG and you can rest assured that some changes will result because Time Warner beat Bertelsmann to the EMI punch.  Some executives who were comfortable with their recent success, may be looking for new jobs, not because of what they did…but what they didn’t do.

For the past five years, I’ve been screaming that continuing the status quo is not only not enough, but it puts you way behind the curve.  If you haven’t gotten the message already, it just might be too late.

Strategic planning meetings and the immediate implementation of those strategies are what will define your image and job performance in the coming months.  Relying on the things that have made you important in the past will be a waste of time.

The landscape is changing.  And rapidly.  Two plus two no longer equals four.  It may not be equal to anything.  Or it may equal everything.  It depends on your ability to look into the future and plot a course that will give you an answer.  The good news?  Even if you make a mistake, you’ll be able to fix it or act on another idea before you’re held accountable.  Your only fatal error is to do nothing.

Time is being compacted into milliseconds.  it is now possible to change the course of a business strategy within a few hours.  It once took years.  With the advent of of computers and the web, you can take an idea from creation to marketing to retail in a matter of minutes.

Soon, by the time you ask a PD, “Is it a hit?” the answer will be “it was.”

Although the skills you honed to perfection might have gotten you a job you currently have, those skills won’t be enough to keep you in the penthouse suite.  The term, “what have you done for me lately?” will take on a whole new meaning.  There is no “wait until tomorrow” in light of constant ads, realtime airplay and daily sales reports.

Part of the problem is our own fault. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” has been the mantra of radio and records (no pun intended) for years.  The new mantra is, “If it ain’t broke, break it.” Our jobs are changing.  The good news is we have the ability to define our new jobs.  Nobody really knows what they are.

In an industry that has seen little change since it’s inception, consider the following possibilities: four to six radio companies will own virtually all of the radio stations in United States.  Three to five companies will control the record industry.  Because the cost of business will continue to escalate, alliances will be formed between companies.  Promotion and marketing costs will be shared and slashed.  One promotion executive from each record company will meet with one PD.  Deals will be struck and records added and dropped at that meeting.

On the record side, retail bricks and mortar will become “clicks” and fodder.  Inventories will disappear because consumers will dictate how many “copies” of songs they want.  Acetates wont have to be pressed.  Units wont have to be ordered.  With one click, you accomplish demand, supply and fulfillment.

It is a brave new world, moving faster than the speed of light.  By the time you finish this Editorial, it’s probably out of date.  Forget your resume.  Nobody cares where you have been, only where you’re going.  Long no more for the good ol days.  They’re gone forever.  There is no tomorrow anymore.

It’s all today.

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