Change & The Illusion of Knowledge

Daniel Boorstin, author and historian, was right when he observed that, "the greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance: its the illusion of knowledge." Its true; to realize the potential this exciting time of change offers requires letting go of certain past assumptions. Disengaging from old thinking enables a consideration and potential adoption of innovations impossible before but central to driving new opportunities. When evaluating every industry today, the primary barriers to moving ahead toward a positive future have much more to do with interests vested in the past than the potential the future offers. Nowhere is this more accurate when considering the struggling music industry of today.

Enter Spotify. Founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek, former CTO of Stardoll, and Martin Lorentzon, co-founder of TradeDoubler, in Stockholm. The company is fast catching up with Twitter as the most talked-about internet site and has been called a “21st-century jukebox”. A library of millions of songs, both pop and classical, can be accessed by users through their computer. Tracks are not downloaded, but merely played once. The effect is similar to listening to the radio - but you choose all the songs. Spotify is unique in that it is both free and legal. Experts think it represents a new model for people to buy music and watch television and films in the future - as reflected in the brief advertisement below.

More interesting than the innovative business model itself is the founder's recognition of where the barriers to success lie. Ek explained the notion of overnight success as "very misleading and actually rather harmful to any hope for long term and sustainable growth in this industry" during a recent interview. Despite this, he called out the music industry for doing just that and expecting to see business models proven "within months of inception."  "That's just not how it works", he says, reminding us how iTunes was not initially the powerhouse it is today. Apple missed its iTunes revenue targets by 30% and most label executives doubted its staying power at the time. While Ek realizes that comparing iTunes to Spotify is wrong given the very different business models for each company, it does prove the overall point: success in this industry or any industry takes a long time. More importantly, the long time is more a result of the industries lack of vision and acknowledgement of a solution - a clear demonstration of "the illusion of knowledge" blocking discovery.

If it was up to Spotify, the music industry would be embracing the future instead of fighting against it. Ek opines that for the industry to find success, it must recognize the new business model as "a mix between ad-supported music, downloads, subscriptions, merchandising and ticketing where the user comes first and where the key to monetization comes from portability and packaging access rights." If willing to adapt, the industry could then have the potential to grow stronger than it ever was.

Its not just the music industry that is in desperate need for new thinking in leadership to reach its potential. See his recent interview video below to learn more about Ek and his views here.