Wednesday, March 16, 2005

How the iPod Ran Circles Around the Walkman

This article resonated with me, as I fondly recalled when I worked at Warner/Elektra/Atlantic (WEA), the distribution arm for Warner Bros., Elektra, and Atlantic Records. Very cutting edge times back then from 1976 to 1984 when I worked as a merchandising & marketing "everybody loves me" new kid in town, freshly relocated to Nashville from Atlanta to help open up the emerging country music market.

In the era of satin jackets, LPs and 8 tracks, with all the music I cared to listen to, free drinks on the house, concerts every night, promotional trinkets, posters and boxes of free t-shirts and albums, it took a forced relocation to Nashville to fulfill my destiny where I fell in love with my precious wife of twenty six years, Becky.

Music was really happening then, when Fleetwood Mac's Rumours was the all time best seller, Rod Stewart was sexy, Bob Marley was smokin! and Talking Heads, the Pretenders, Genesis, the Eagles, Rolling Stones and countless others were so innovative in their music. I was making the rounds with many bands, with my long haired flea bitten varmint coworkers to support the grassroots promotional efforts such as a new Irish band named U2 to local college stations and retailers to get some sales going. Being an urban cowboy in Nashville with EmmyLou Harris, Hank Jr. and Conway Twitty was cool too! (Kerry, you name dropper you...)

Cassettes came on the scene, and it was a tough sell to convince retailers to reconfigure their shelves for this concept of portable music when 8 tracks were king. Then Sony came along in 1979 with the "Walkman" and music was never the same again!

Now, How the iPod Ran Circles Around the Walkman article by Randall Stross in the New York Times Business section is a mini history lesson for us old timers who cut their teeth when marketing was so fun and hip! Think about it - having Bugs Bunny as one of your bosses was very cool. Our sales pitch back then was, "Every album is a hit; some just sell more than others." Twenty six years later, history repeats itself - Walkman then; iPod now.

"At first glance, digital music is the field in which Sony's considerable assets seem best suited, with a little rearrangement, for a comeback. On one side, Sony has 50 years of experience in producing portable music players, beginning with transistor radios in the 1950's and extended by its Walkman franchise that has sold more than 340 million players. On the other, it owns one of the world's largest music labels to supply content. Yet in the iPod era, Sony's headstart counts for nothing. It's as if the company were the Sony Graphophone and Wax Record Company."
Read on and rock on!

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