Wednesday, June 16

Good experience design — the solution for the music industry and the future of business.

Mr Jobs said that pirated music was hard to find in an easily accessible form. "It takes about 15 minutes to find the right song and get a good working copy on the pirate networks," he said. "And what's more, it's stealing." The iTunes Music Store, which is accessed through the company's iTunes software, on Windows or Apple computers, offered fast, legal downloads. "And it's not stealing, it's good karma," he added.
The biggest industry in the US is the service industry. The service industry is the quickest growing industry in the US and has been for years. We're not just talking about bartenders and waitresses. Whether it be phone support, sales, websites, offices or showroom floors, service is at the core of every industry.

As the US market matures the service industry will only become more important. As an example I cite the most mature economies in the world, the economies of the European nations. Take the the Netherlands for example, Services account for 69.7% of the Netherlands gross domestic product and 73% of the labor force (1998 est.). The US started out exporting it's physical resources, just like China and most developing nations start out. However an economy based on the creation, sale and export of physical goods is unsustainable. It's only logical for our service industry to to take an ever increasing precedence. That's is to say it's only logical that the biggest industry be serving one another.
The U.S. economy has changed in other ways as well. The population and the labor force have shifted dramatically away from farms to cities, from fields to factories, and, above all, to service industries. In today's economy, the providers of personal and public services far outnumber producers of agricultural and manufactured goods
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What is service all about? It's about creating a good experience. People don't pay $5 for coffee at Starbucks because the coffee is "just that good". People pay $5 for coffee at Starbucks because in addition to good coffee Starbucks offers a great experience. What is this great experience Starbucks offers? In their own words they want to be the "third place". If the home is the place we spend the most time and work is the second place then Starbucks wants to be the third, an "extension of your living room".

So, the number one coffee joint in the US doesn't even think of it self as a coffee place they think of themselves as an "extension of your living room". While experience is so prevalent to them, I still incredibly find that most businesses don't get the concept of experience. They have broken websites, broken call support centers, broken sales experiences, broken client interfaces, and generally broken communicative processes. They're cellular carriers that thought it would be a good idea to charge clients $3 for calling support. They're banks who thought it would be a good idea to charge $3 for talking to a teller in person. They are corporations with poor phone support and poor website who depend on them or expect to much of them. They are record labels whom did not identify opportunities to create better music experiences and when those opportunities are currently staring them right in the face still refuse to invest in alternatives to illegitimate file-sharing.

So, if the number one coffee joint knows that people pay for the atmosphere just as well as the coffee, then you would think the record labels would understand that music is about more than just selling little plastic disks. Somewhere along the line record labels lost track of what really matters, and what really matters is that the music is fundamentally all about experience.

Experience is about attending a concert, watching a music video, band posters on the wall, flipping through the vinyl, mixing tapes and sharing the experience with friends. Experience is about the joy of being able to find and listen to the perfect track on your iPod while waiting on the platform for a elevated train on a sunny workday afternoon in downtown Chicago. Steve jobs is betting that the experience people want is to be able to buy their music in digital form through a computer based interface and take it with them anywhere.

Music is an experience unto itself, it enhances our everyday experiences and it can be experienced at infinite times and in infinite ways. Freeing music from plastic disks has opened an infinite amount of possibilities for experience. Yes, some may be bad, but the majority are great, and perhaps if the music labels accepted the permanent reality of file-sharing and invested at least some energy into improving or providing basic legitimate digital music experiences then perhaps they might find that it's not really as hard as they thought to "compete with free" because what they are calling "free music" is not really so free at all.

If Starbucks can can create a dynasty out of competing with "free coffee" in the workplace, then a bunch of idiot music moguls should be able to make billions more than they're making now competing with "free music", and in so doing will reduce the demand for illegal trade.

Experience is all of the above and as Steve Jobs points out it is about the buying experience as well. Some like to flip through music in a Target, some like to flip through their music in a local resale shop and some like to find their favorite tracks on the file-sharing networks. What Apple is betting on is that some like to buy music through a computer based interface in the privacy of their own home or business, and what I'm saying and has been said to the tune of $85 million dollars is, he is right. Apple's $85 million in revenue represent nearly 2 percent of the entire US record market.

So why is Apple the only one providing a successful music experience? Apple has always been focused on ease-of-use, usability and continuity of the "digital lifestyle". It is so readily apparent in the marketing efforts for the "digital hub" and the "Apple iLife". If the top coffee shop in the nation can succeed by focusing on creating an experience good enough to become the "third place" then it is only logical that a corporation focused on the experience of a "digital lifestyle" would be the first one to correctly identify and provide a successful solution for the digital music experience.

Apple might still be the only company that's capable of building a continuous and complete music experience for some time till the top five record labels get off their fat and lazy asses and invest some R&D money into building new and improved music experiences. They'd also better do it soon because I don't think Apple's solution is ever going to scale to meet demand. Why? Apple's has crippled the music store by making it so you have to own an iPod in order to listen to their music on the go. Crippling their market share is a fundamentally short sited (but lucrative) move on Apple's part, but it's unlikely they'll change it until they have some serious competition. Apple's never been shy of thumbing it's nose at the masses and the music industry by being as exclusive as possible.

The future of all business is about good services and experiences. The future of business is all about humane interfaces and life style support systems.

Fun? There are hundreds of documented cases of failed experiences chronicled at

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