Futurists be damned, we need 'transitionists'

Futurists be damned, we need 'transitionists'

Futurists be damned, we need 'transitionists'

I can’t claim to have invented the word ‘transitionist’, but I’m going to try to make its usage more common.

I’m tired of so-called futurists espousing how the creative industries need to conduct their business in the 21st century, rather than actually explaining the means by which gigantic corporations should transition their businesses from offline to online models.

This is a big step for me. I used to consider myself a futurist. I even successfully predicted a range of music industry trends well ahead of the curve:

  • Major record labels moving to all-inclusive investment models (they call them 360° deals) — predicted in 2002. The majors started moving in this direction around 2006/07 and made public pronouncements in 2008.
  • Apple controlling digital distribution, exercising pricing control and unbundling the album format, precipitating a consumer move to buying singles — predicted in 2002. The majors realised too late that their business model had been fundamentally undone, and then waged a public PR campaign against Apple in an attempt to introduce variable pricing, which occurred in (get this) 2009. The sale of singles on iTunes has been on a per unit decline since …
  • Talent managers, if they played their cards right, would inherit the music business — predicted in 2003. This one is yet to play out fully as most managers still look to record labels to finance their deals. However, it is safe to say Irving Azoff (via Front Line Management and Ticketmaster) exercises significant control in the North American music biz (lots of people will disagree, but they’re in denial).

And that’s just three of many …

Let me tell you, working out what was going to happen was easy. But my predictions don’t include transitional solutions: that’s difficult.

Yes, book publishers need to move to new distribution methodologies, production workflows and pricing models. Yes, authors need to integrate collaborative technologies into their writing ‘workflow’. But how do we as an industry achieve this without destroying 99% of our current revenues? The answer is that we don’t. We can’t. We need to transition our industry from a model that worked for a very long time to a new one that will undoubtedly serve us well into the future.

That’s why I say ‘futurists be damned’. It’s easy — if I can do it, anyone can. We need transitionists. Count me in!