Dark Star

Posted on Jun 23, 2023Read on Mirror.xyz

MTV, Napster and Embracing Destruction


There are lots of discussions around LLMs, crypto and generative AI, all of which are expanding our ability to create & consume content outside of our predisposed constraints. Interestingly, there’s a large amount of focus around product building and “solutions” aimed at maintaining what currently exists — playing defense. The energy should instead be hurled towards accelerating the means and modes of disruption and seeing how it all fleshes out.

Here, we should find inspiration in the chaos. For those who lived it, you remember what Napster did to the music industry and the impending doom coming for the very thing we all collectively loved as a society. People stole music, made it digital and easy to distribute, and this was to be… The End. As an observer it’s easy to think people just wanted music for free, but really, it was something bigger than that– consumers took control and showed us their desired relationship to a song in an internet-first world.

The natural result for Napster’s disruption should have been a long run for iTunes. People prefer the convenience and access of digital music, so we evolve to that format and move to buying songs digital. But it wasn’t. The end result was streaming. And once consumers got a better experience and the ability to control what they wanted to listen to, they didn’t just stop stealing music — they actually started paying for it.

This wasn’t a death blow as predicted, but instead a catalyzed shift in value accrual and purpose. These calamitous disruptions actually enable new consumer use cases and business models. Here, while the business was traditionally built around the song, internet-native distribution turned the song into the means of discovery to drive engagement — see a live show, purchase merchandise, or connect closer across social platforms.

While we can be nostalgic for the pre-internet models that built the foundations of the music business, consumers with more access, a louder voice, and new technologies preferred something else. New platforms and businesses were created. We adapted and rebuilt. Video was supposed to kill the radio star. But MTV defined a generation of music culture and generated entirely new opportunities for artists to go beyond their music and build brands through emerging creative means and mediums. Music influenced culture, fashion, sports… everything.

The internet evolves in a way that consistently democratizes creation and distribution, barreling through the walls of the existing status quo, breaking them down and building them up again. Crypto, AI, and other emerging technologies are no different than what happened with MP3s. Now, we just know what the likely outcomes won’t be. The walkman didn’t get refactored to download digital music. It became the iPod. Our means of creation and consumption will not mimic what exists today, they will develop based on these emerging unlocks. And they should expand those passions and businesses, not just replace them. This is where our energy should be.

While many want to focus logically on maintaining the current structure of business and consumer relationship, psychologically, the train has already left the station. We won’t be able to see the forest for the trees until we witness the behaviors and desires from consumers and what they’ll do with this new technology. It’s not just congress and competition that you have to convince to maintain your ground; it’s the customers and fans of your product. And they are saying and showing you otherwise.

[not written by ChatGPT]

None of the information discussed herein is intended to be, or should be construed as financial advice, or an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any security. The information set forth herein has been obtained or derived from sources believed by the author to be reliable and has been provided solely for informational purposes. Nevertheless, the author does not make any representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the information’s accuracy or completeness. Certain companies referenced herein are included by way of example and not companies in which TCG has invested to date nor companies in which TCG intends to invest.