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What's Your Digital Disruptor?

'Digital Disruption' refers to the ways in which new technology takes over and replaces the old. For example, the introduction of emails slowly replacing that of the fax machine, Spotify and other streaming platforms competing with physical sales of music, online ticketing competing with the box office, and so on.

In 2016 (Harvard Business Review), Ron Adner and Rahul Kapoor explored this through the notion of ecosystems. In simpler terms, there are certain challenges that any new introduction of technology will face with the older version of itself. This is done at different paces depending on the product and how competitive their competition still is within the modern market, and how many challenges it may face before becoming part of mainstream culture. There are four quadrants within this framework to justify each process;

- Creative destruction: This refers to when there are only few challenges to the new technology and it leaves few areas for the old technology to retain opportunities, therefore resulting in fast substitution.

- Robust Coexistence: This is where the substitution is only gradual, as the old technology is seen to 'fight back' and bring out other alternatives to compete with the new.

- Illusion of Resilience: Similar to creative destruction, this quadrant sees new technology moving in with very few obstacles, however in contrast there is no 'fight back' from the old technology, therefore giving the name 'illusion' of resilience as there was nothing to compete against.

- Robust Resilience: This sees the new technology gradually moving in with challenges to the old, but with some elements of the old technology fighting back.

There are many ways that the newest technology is affecting the music industry, of course the biggest one recently being the introduction of streaming platforms. Nowadays, most if not all people in 'mainstream' culture will most likely use Spotify as their most frequent source of music, and the likelihood is that if not, Apple Music or another streaming platform is being regularly utilised. Social media is also now taking over the way we access information, with most people turning to Facebook and Instagram for the latest world updates over the news on television.

These new innovative technology advances leave a lot of room for bands and artists to experiment and express themselves in different ways; the goal being to appear different and unique, and to find an angle within their self marketing that has not yet been explored.

I feel that this could be done in a completely opposite way to that of using social media as much as possible, by using a 'Social Media Blackout'. A non-music example of this is the marketing for the release of the 2008 film 'Cloverfield', directed by Matt Reeves. The entire marketing campaign for the film was based around 'word of mouth' and secrecy, beginning with an enigmatic teaser trailer, giving no information other than a release date; 01.18.08. The official trailer was not released until 9 months later, finally giving the film's title. Within this time, eight fake news clips were made in different parts of the world describing a collapsed oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean, which was discussed in forums and argued through conspiracy theories to have been caused by the monster featured in the film. A fake website was also created to further enhance the suspense, along with additional campaigns through video games. Another element of this included keeping the actors in the dark about the film itself too; they were only given their script at the beginning of each day allowing for all the shots filmed to include their real reactions.

The campaign itself remained bigger than the film itself, as it created a social media 'buzz' and kept people interested in uncovering the story leading up to the release of the film. The reason I have used this example is that it shows the utilisation of social media and the internet can sometimes be even more effective when done so sparingly, or even not at all. By only releasing small amounts of information at a time, and this being done so secretly, people became invested in solving the mystery and were therefore hooked from very early on, even with no knowledge of the film whatsoever.

This I feel could be used in some way within music; often bands or artists will change their 'social skins' before the announcement of a new release to start building that buzz, but what if they went off grid all together? Particularly for larger artists, this could work massively in their favour, as even if they haven't been particularly active for a while their true fans will instantly become invested in uncovering where they've gone and why.

Another similar example of this can be seen through the band Tool's latest album release. Within their fanbase, it is widely known that Tool are hugely opposed to social media. Even on their current tour they are banning their live sets being filmed by the public, both allowing for more anonymity and enhancing the viewer's experience by not having their entire audience using their phones. Even with the boom of streaming sites, Tool remained reluctant to conform and remained releasing their music only on physical (it is even very difficult to download). However, about a month or two before the release of their latest album 'Fear Inoculum' rumours began to spread. It was finally announced that their music was being released on streaming platforms and people went crazy. Half of their fanbase couldn't believe that they had caved and conformed to mainstream culture, and the other half believed it to be revolutionary. The week of Tool's music being released onto Spotify and other platforms, all their albums rose to Top 10 instantly, and the once underground, alternative, often unheard of band had created their own social media 'buzz'. They are now hugely talked about, and it is massively appreciated by their younger true fans how easily accessible they now are to listen to; being able to put Tool's music in their regular playlists and listening to them every day.

There are loads of ways social media and the digital revolutions of today's age that can benefit artists, however I think this shows that often less is more and the less you push something online and the more enigma is created, the more buzz and the more success can be achieved in the long term.

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