My drink-of-choice is iced tea. Specifically, Bigelow Peach Tea (quart size). I drink gallons of this stuff every week, year-round. For years, I’ve been buying it at a local supermarket that –as far as I know– is the only place in town that carries this band/size. Every month or so, I go in and buy up every box they have (I leave one or two if I’m feeling compassionate).
I recently discovered the supermarket no longer stocks this flavor. No idea why. I scurried to the Bigelow website and ordered a couple of cases which showed up on my doorstep a few days later. Crises averted. I couldn’t help seeing a parallel to what’s happening in the music business.
Once upon a time, I thought of the supermarket as where my favorite ice tea comes from. But they were never anything more than a link in the distribution chain. The tea came from the Bigelow Tea Company. And now it comes directly from the company to me. I won’t ever go to that store for this product again. No need. My relationship is with the tea company.
We used to rely on our local radio stations for music. They decided what to stock…how much to stock…and when to put fresh items on the shelf. If I didn’t like their selection, I could go to another station. If none of the stations stocked my brand (reggae, for example)…I’m SOL. The radio stations determined what I listened to.
Internet…MP3…Napster…iPod…iTunes…oh my. I am now in control of my music and it feel good. At least in terms of music, the radio station was just a link in the distribution chain. The Internet is a short chain, just two links: the content and me.
As a small-town program director and DJ, I believed I was adding value to the listening experience by picking the “best” songs to play and the “best” order in which to play them, and by saying clever things between songs. Looking back, I realize the programming (content) that had the greatest value usually wasn’t cool. Hometown News, Tradio, Grapevine, etc. But it was home-grown tea and you couldn’t get it anywhere else.