Radio and Records: Would Your Audience Wait in Line for You?

I’d like to think I have more of a life than showing up an at Apple store at 6 pm Friday night to be among the first to get a copy of the new OS X operating system for Mac.

Well, think again.

I dragged my wife to Biltmore Fashion Square – home of my favorite place now that record stores have lost their magic – the Apple store.

I estimated at least 1,000 people waiting in a line that snaked around this retail village. To sooth my wife I said, I’m not a nerd – I’m doing this so I can write a post about it on my blog. Yeah.

Well, I am not a computer nerd. But I am addicted to Apple products and I thought you’d be interested in what happened to me as I queued up to spend $199 for the Apple operating system update.

Apple had it all figured out – as they always do.

The line moved fairly quickly – no one was complaining – only two people were too impatient to wait and I heard them say they would be back Saturday morning. Once in the store, Apple employees cheerfully (and they were cheerful) directed us into a separate line that went past other Apple products we could buy. Back to the Genius bar to pay for the CD which was rung up on a mobile device. The receipt was sent to my laptop. Another tree on the way to being saved.

On the way out of the store – and it wasn’t easy to get past all the people looking to buy other things – I thought “when was the last time a radio station or record label had the equivalent of fans lining up to get at their products?”

I know you’re going to say, “Jerry, how about concerts?” And I’m going to reply, can you say Live Nation and can you agree that many concert goers are pissed off before they even enter the venue (especially for what they must pay the ticket brokers).

KIIS-FM in LA does a wonderful star-studded concert event each year but that’s not what I’m saying.

The labels and the radio business (and this includes you, too, satellite radio) does not excite its fan base the way Apple does.

Money is no object. We’ll pay. We want to be early adopters even though we know early adopters must suffer through software glitches (and believe me, there are many with Leopard). Never have we seen so many happy people free to interact and empty their wallets since Woodstock (and of course, at Woodstock, we didn’t have wallets or clothes for that matter!).

Radio stations and record labels: would your audience do the equivalent of waiting in line for your product and/or service?

This, in my opinion, is worth thinking about. How to make radio, and music exciting again. Consolidated sounding radio stations haven’t done it. Less is more hasn’t done it – most listeners feel their getting more of less when it comes to exciting programming. Suing your customers – yeah, that really has a lot of potential to energize the labels’ fan base. Energize them to hate you and steal more from you.

It’s one thing to excite your audiences and customers (which traditional media absolutely is not doing) and quite another to satisfy them.

I say that because as much as I admire and appreciate Apple, I’m not wild about the new OS X operating system. It does some neat things differently but not necessarily better. I should have paid closer attention to The Wall Street Journal technology writer Walt Mossberg who said about the same thing in his review.

Still, I had to see for myself.

The power of focusing on not just doing your job well but exciting your customers and fan base.

I’m listening to the flight attendant on my USAirways flight to LA today (Sunday) and I’m being pitched (three minutes!) to sign up for their credit card. All consumers are bombarded with messages that don’t resonate.

If traditional media wants to make a difference now, focusing on ways to excite their audiences and customers and then delivering on those expectations can bear more fruit than all the HD radio alliances, NAB 2020 initiatives and cockamamie Internet promotions combined.

Apple usually gets it right. Radio and records usually gets it wrong.

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