Saturday, October 01, 2005

Music as an innovation system

To my great delight one of my all-time favorite bands Van der Graaf Generator (link to lead singer Peter Hammill) has reunited, and I discussed the music industry as an innovation system with a friend the other day. Is music an innovation system? But of course it is! The music industry features a complex and changing system of structures, procedures, functions and relationships. It is a major industry whose products are part of our everyday lives, and which has major economic, social and cultural influence. The music industry is an extremely interesting case study for an innovation system. I personally have good experiences from the punk rock era as a musician in the late 1970s.

Music, as all arts and in my opinion also research, is totally dependent on the right mindset and environment. The music industry today clam that that it is in deep trouble. If that is true is a matter of debate. My personal opinion is that is in a way true, but only those music publishers and record companies that are managed by lawyers and economists are in trouble.

In the 1990s the music industry made tons of money and became giants. All companies of that kind that grows large enough (music/media/publishing) seem to, sooner or later, get a lawyer or economist at the top, thanks to the stock owners. Seldom (but not always) does that kind of person know anything about the core business, music or publishing. And as a result the whole business decays.

Same thing with all those unsuccessful science/technology/innovation parks. An enterprise that is totally dependent on the benevolence of the coworkers will not succeed, unless it is “run bottom up”. Bottom up systems are built for people, instead of companies. You cannot force people to be innovative. The managers – the government, the management etc – can only create favorable conditions. You cannot buy your respect, you can only deserve it.


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