Ownership has been one of the pillars of the American dream. Your first car, the house with the picket fence, the bigger car and the bigger house. That pillar is crumbling.
There’s the financial crisis, a flood of defaults and foreclosures placing whole states under water. More importantly, there are all these new services that tap into a Zeitgeist: Why bother owning any DVD’s when I can get three from Netflix to send back whenever I want to? Or better, why bother sending anything when I can stream the whole movie? Why leaving your car unused in the driveway for 90% of the time when you can just sign up for Zipcar, and share vehicles with the many others around your city in the same situation. Your kids have quickly outgrown their clothes, but those shirts and pants are in too great a condition to throw them away. So, you decide to try thredUP to swap those clothes for new clothes from other families online.
Or, you have boxes filled with CD’s, hard drives clogged with all your mp3’s and iTunes libraries. They have all become obsolete and feel like such a burden since you joined Spotify. Suddenly, you have access to 15 million songs for free (plus advertising) or $9.99 monthly (includes streaming on your mobile device and listen to your choices offline). $9.99 is the average fee for one album on iTunes, Spotify gives you access and semi-ownership for the same price. It’s pretty obvious that Apple’s iTunes service as we know it is in severe danger to become obsolete in a very short time, including all the other music downloading services.
Spotify has changed the music industry. Again.
There have been other services like Spotify before (Rdio comes to mind.) but they weren’t carried by a wave of anticipation, hype and supreme user experience. One of the main features that will convince many people to join is the social function of sharing playlists: Once you log in through your Facebook account, you can peruse the playlists of your Facebook friends and explore new music or reconnect with old favorites. The idea of owning music will feel in no time as outdated as the tapes in that moldy box in the back of my garage.
In a few years, the majority of music will be streamed, the rest of the revenue for the music industry will come through live shows and specialty editions like Bjork’s new album ‘Bibliophilia’ as a multi-media project encompassing music, apps, internet and installations.
Your living room will change.
Remember the good old days when you could walk around the living room of a friend, sneaking a peek at the books he’s reading, the albums he’s listening to, the movies he’s watching? Those times are gone for good. All this information is now housed on social platforms and the sharing of that information has become an expression of yourself. Just like ownership of things used to do the same.
Eventually, the future of business is sharing.
In Lisa Gansky’s fascinating book The Mesh, she describes how new technologies, and the ability to access real-time information about everything around us via GPS-enabled mobile devices, are expanding what we can share with one another:
“Up to now, the information revolution has primarily swept through industries and services that are or can be digital – numbers, text, sound, images and video. Related sectors, such as banking, publishing, music, photos, and movies, have undergone massive change. Now, mobile networks are rapidly expanding that disruption to physical good and venues, including hotels, care, apparel, tools, and equipment.”
This will change everything.
Sharing will dominate the future of business. New businesses will arrive that focus on creating, sharing and use social media, wireless networks, and data crunched from every available source to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright.
The change from ownership to access and sharing will transform whole industries. Including ours.
We were just getting comfortable with that whole digital and social thing. Time to get uncomfortable with today’s realities again.