Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Music Industry Is a Bunch of Stressed Rats

The New York Times features an article this week in their Science Times section detailing the effects of stress on the brain. From the article:
chronically stressed rats lost their elastic rat cunning and instead fell back on familiar routines and rote responses, like compulsively pressing a bar for food pellets they had no intention of eating.
Sound familiar? Every few months consumer patterns change in music, and panicky execs with highly leveraged debt loads and parent companies to report to have to react and provide answers. Since sales are declining naturally - maybe from piracy - but also from old-fashioned entertainment dollar and time competition like movies, videogames, iPhone Apps, etc. The music guys have no real answers, so they keep blaming piracy, suing sites and demanding worthless equity stakes in soon-to-be-shuttered music start-ups.

The author of the underlying study continues: “Behaviors become habitual faster in stressed animals than in the controls, and worse, the stressed animals can’t shift back to goal-directed behaviors when that would be the better approach,” Dr. Sousa said. “I call this a vicious circle.”

What better way to summarize the music industry. Freaked out about downloads, piracy, shrinking margins, streams and the boogie man has generated a primitive habitual response from the music industry.

So what's the solution? Good news, the brain is resilient...

But with only four weeks’ vacation in a supportive setting free of bullies and Tasers, the formerly stressed rats looked just like the controls, able to innovate, discriminate and lay off the bar. Atrophied synaptic connections in the decisive regions of the prefrontal cortex resprouted, while the overgrown dendritic vines of the habit-prone sensorimotor striatum retreated.
Here's my suggestion to everyone at the major labels. Take December off. Relax, refresh and come back with a brand new outlook and ability to properly analyze the landscape and find a business - consumer balance that makes sense.

Read the full NYT Story here...