Before we talk about your annual convention, did you hear the news that, for the first time, the Beatles music catalogue is now available to stream and download? This was a big 2015 Christmas Eve gift to a lot of Beatles fans around the world.
The music business continues to change before our eyes: physical music sales, CDs specifically, are down; vinyl has seen a retro resurge; digital music downloads, a big success in quantity (less so financially for the industry and the artists), are now declining, and music subscription models and streaming sites are booming.
It’s hard to keep track of the disruption in the music business made possible by new technology, changing business models and the strong demand of the audience consuming music on their terms – when they want it, how they want it and where they want it. All this comes at a much lower cost and 100% on-demand, thanks to an all-you-can-listen-to buffet brought to you by Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Google Play and dozens of other Web-based streaming options. And it looks as though this phase in the revolution is here to stay. Streaming now represents about 27% of all recorded music revenue in the U.S., and digital downloads, 37%. Physical sales of CDs and vinyl are now just 32% of sales.
Music artists who used to tour to promote their albums now tour because it’s the only way to make the big bucks that a Steven Tyler, Kanye or Kenny Chesney lifestyle demands.
Your association is in the situation the music industry was in 25 years ago, with one big difference. Live events are your version of a concert performance at Madison Square Garden – the big show, the money maker, the chance to bring all of your fans together.
The major difference is that you don’t have CDs to sell, content to stream or a subscription service to amortize what happens at your event. And, in truth, would anyone want to stream, download or share anything from your event? Sure, the keynote speaker may be great, but a good TED Talk from that same speaker may be better. And you may have a few educational sessions that a remote audience may want to watch; but have they been produced, or just video recorded?
Here’s the point. You are going to see a change in how your audience wants to consume what your organization has to offer. Our expectations are established by Spotify, Amazon, Uber, YouTube and the hundreds of other new ways your members learn, are entertained, get connected and shop.
Can you see how your annual event may face the same transformation the music business has seen, with the live audience expecting more than just a once-a-year concert tour (i.e. your annual conference)? They will expect the insights, connections, shopping options and education they’ve come to expect in every other facet of their lives. You may think it’s just the millennials, and that you can ride it out until the Boomers finally are a minority of your membership. Not so – many of you reading this are like me, a Boomer who consumes, shops and lives almost exactly the same way as the native millennials.
So if you agree that it’s unlikely anyone would download or stream your annual conference, now’s a good time to start thinking about how your 2017 event can be designed with a different mindset. It starts with you, and will spread to your team. Your members and your industry will thank you. What are you waiting for?