Video killed the radio star,
He hit him on the head with his old guitar,
He tried to run away, but didn’t get far,
That’s how video killed the radio star
— Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley
I’ve long been obsessed with music, and for more than 10 years I’ve earned my living as a singer songwriter and working musician.
But having come of age as a rocker during the personal computer revolution, I have learned more than just how to open a beer with a lighter. While working at eMusic for six years, I was part of the digital disruption of the music business. I lived through the intense competition between big players like Apple and Amazon, and smaller companies such as Rhapsody or Spiral Frog. And I witnessed the surprises, e.g.: the success of a Swedish startup Spotify, that now has more than 20 million subscribers.
Today, I work as the CMO for Magisto, a company that provides a mobile video editing application. I’ve begun to feel it is deja vu all over again, only now with personal video. Many are vying to be the alpha dog or “Jay Z” of the video scene. For example, Instagram has just launched its video product. Snapchat has secured funding to the tune of a reported $60 to $80 million, and Yahoo swept up Qwiki in an acquisition. And mobile devices continue to offer more features and functionality around video. Onlookers ask me if I’m worried that the personal video market is too competitive or going to be dominated by the “the big dogs.”
On the contrary, as I kick back and squint at the horizon, I see a spectrum of video solutions playing out. Anchored on one end by short-form video messaging and on the other by long-form social storytelling. As with any disruptive innovation, consumers will swim upstream from low cost “good enough” solutions to feature-rich solutions with increasing functionality and depth. Video didn’t really kill the radio star: it just redistributed him/her. Similarly, photos aren’t going away any time soon, but today it’s not photos or video: it’s photos AND video.
The introduction of MTV in the 80s was one of the most overt disruptions to music. It was simple: music videos were more compelling than radio because you actually got to see Michael Jackson dance. Video is by nature more engaging than just audio. Today, video has other mediums in its sights, including but not limited to pictures. Bold statement, possibly. But, if you look at the past few weeks as an indicator – the times they are a-changing and personal video has the power to profoundly transform communication and culture, not unlike the vinyl record, CD, MP3, iPod and – drumroll please – the iPhone, which have all been cultural and technological groundswells which then created all sorts of new markets.
When I think about all the creative ways to express music and tell life stories, I’ve never been more energized and ready to rock. We are entering a new era of truly personal media. The screen is blank, and the story is ours to tell – quite literally.