"Digitally delivered - the one thing the business thought the consumer wanted which was convenience, but I don't think it did anything to strengthen the connection between the music and the fan. When you reduce the visual marker to a thumbnail, it's not like holding a CD let alone a 12" LP." Billy Fields, the vice president at Warner Music Group that oversees vinyl for the company.
Having recently had a sort out of the loft at home, I stumbled across a box full of records…remember them…black vinyl discs which were the backdrop to most of our formative years. Looking through the covers, memories flooded back and it got me thinking…I really loved playing records – it was the music, but also the experience and physicality of doing so.
With lots of CDs and digital downloads, and the ability to stream music without ever owning it, it got me thinking - ‘how do I embrace this ‘old’ technology and get it to work with my ‘new’ digital system to maximise the value of both?’ It also led me to think about vinyl in the context of an IoT ecosystem and the user experience. For those of you interested in finding out more about IoT ecosystems, my colleague Gemma Beard has written a couple of excellent blogs http://www.cgi.com/uk/blog/how-to-build-an-ecosystem-within-the-internet-of-things and http://www.cgi.com/uk/blog/why-ecosystems-are-so-important-to-the-internet-of-things).
So let’s start with the existing ‘infrastructure’. I had a digital system which allowed me to stream music, play CDs and also listen to the radio…and a music ‘hub’ that connected to both hard wired and wireless speakers around my house. So you could replicate that scenario across businesses in an IoT context.
Having made this investment in digital technology, I’d forgotten about the ‘value’ I used to experience by playing vinyl…so the record deck and albums were ‘archived’. In truth I was so keen to embrace the new digital era, I never really considered one day I’d want to integrate the old with the new. Is this sounding familiar?
Anyway…I decided that I’d like to listen to some of the albums again…so I had a couple of choices…invest in a new deck (the old one was well past its best) and some headphones and speakers and have it as a ‘silo’d’ music experience, or try and find a way of crossing the vinyl / digital divide – and integrate the deck (a legacy system) into my 21st century music experience. The first would cost more and mitigate some of the investment I’d made in digital, the latter…well I wasn’t sure it could be done.
So, I spoke to an expert…and realised I wasn’t the only one with the problem…and deck manufacturers had seen the upswing in demand from music lovers who also pined for the vinyl experience again as well as wanting to leverage the investment, both monetary and emotional, in vinyl collections built up over many years. Fortunately we found a way of connecting the deck into the main music system – so I didn’t have to live with 2 music silos running side by side!
What’s even better…is that by doing so, the vinyl music ‘data’ can be heard as it should be (with the odd crackle) through any of the wired and wireless speakers I have. I can thumb through album boxes, pick out a record, read the sleeve notes and place the vinyl on the turntable…move the arm over and lower onto the disc…and experience the music as it was meant to be heard…through my modern day digital system.
So, what does this experience tell me about IoT. Well the parallels are many. Businesses face similar challenges to leverage investments in digital, but retain the old, often silo’d technologies which are core to their successful operation. The difficulty comes when trying to integrate the old and new. By doing so it’s possible to release significant value, both in terms of data and user experience…which is exactly what IoT provides.
And as Billy Fields alludes to from the digital / vinyl debate…convenience isn’t always the most desirable element of the user experience – sometimes old and new working together provide a much richer and harmonious sound.