The Music Industry's Surprise Success
Anita Sharpe on Business
What would you put your money on -- a company that carefully puts its products through rigorous tests and focus groups before releasing them to the public? Or a company that bases its product release on the idiosyncratic tastes of one person?
For decades, modern business has practiced the former. In the music business, at least, that formula is driving sales and profits off a cliff.
Now consider the Nonesuch music label, which records such people as Emmylou Harris, David Byrne, kd lang, Pat Metheny and Stephen Sondheim. According to a Sunday story in the New York Times magazine, its sales have grown to $35 million from $750,000 in the past 20 years; profits are up and 2004 appears to be its strongest year yet.
Its secret? Its chief, Robert Hurwitz. 'The remarkable thing about his approach to his business is that it's pretty much the polar opposite of what the music industry at large does,' the Times writes. 'Where the big labels are out to copy past success, he looks for originality. When he hears something he likes, he signs it. There is no consultation with a marketing department or wrestling with higher-ups in the corporation.'