Canada East Chapter

January 28 2013

What Meetings Can Learn from the Music Business

By David McMillin

pcma, music businessMeeting professionals heard a lot about technology at Convening Leaders. From how to monetize a mobile app to how to leverage social media to how to use hybrid tools, plenty of sessions focused on what digital means for the next direction in meetings and events.

In “Digital Disruption’s Impact on Conventions and Trade Shows,” panelist Michael Doyle, Principal, Michael Doyle Partners, brought up a strong point: the meetings industry isn’t alone in its struggle to figure out how to use these new technologies effectively. Newspaper publishers, television producers and record label bosses have all had to come to terms with what the era of online, mobile and virtual tools means for the bottom line.

“Look at the music industry,” Doyle said. “All of a sudden, Apple, a computer company, became the largest music company in the world.”

Doyle’s comment makes a lot of sense and resonates particularly well with me. When I’m not at the computer screen for PCMA, I’m a musician. Over the past six years, my band has released records independently while watching some of the biggest companies in the business shutter their doors and old-school veterans lose their jobs. Why? They were afraid of change.

While the shift to iTunes and online streaming services didn’t happen overnight, music industry executives were incredibly resistant to embracing digital technologies. With a pricing model that relied on the profit margins of physical compact discs and worries that downloaders would steal all of their content, the digital world was perceived as a serious threat rather than a potential opportunity.

That mindset had some serious consequences. In 1999, the industry enjoyed $14.6 billion of revenue from music sales. Ten years later, that number had slipped to just $6.3 billion. That’s quite a massive decrease, and I believe it could have been avoided with a willingness to rethink the model before executives were either fired or forced to believe in the value of services like iTunes, eMusic and Spotify.

However, the meetings industry is in a much different position than the music industry found itself years ago. We won’t wake up next week to discover that all of our attendees have decided to stay home and strictly connect virtually. Why? Everything is moving more slowly in this industry.

“In the meetings industry, we haven’t even really started to see the disruption yet,” Doyle said.

Rich Hawkinson, executive vice president, product development, INXPO, echoed Doyle on the panel, telling attendees he was surprised at the slow pace of digital adoption.

What does that mean for you? It means there is still time to catch up and ensure your continued relevancy. Whether you’re trying to figure out whether you should introduce a hybrid component to your next annual meeting or you’re trying to determine whether you should invest in more bandwidth capabilities at your hotel, now is the time to make the investment in the future.

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