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The Governor of The Bank of England, Mark Carney claimed that up to 15 million jobs in the UK (which is just under half the UK workforce at the time of writing) will be replaced by machines in the coming decades. And it’s not just the menial, low skilled jobs either. Carney warned that “safe”, well paying jobs like accountants, auditors, copywriters and salespeople could all go as well.
Although some believed that his views were ‘alarmist’ and ‘extreme’, I wrote a blog post a while ago saying that the 40-40 plan (40 hours a week, for 40 years) had vanished and was not coming back.
The major anti-establishment backlash that we saw in the Brexit vote and the shock 2016 US Election victory of Donald Trump were as research shown were made caused by disenfranchised workers, who made have lost livelihoods to machines and companies taking their jobs overseas.
But this is not something that any leader or politician can fix nor turn back the clock. As Mark Carney said… we are living through technologically and economically a massive time in human history and our old way of thinking just won’t cut it. The genie’s out of the bottle Aladdin and it won’t go back in.
I have discussed these themes before but with this blog post I wanted to make it more personal. I have personally seen what technology can do to a whole industry… Let’s talk about music…
A month ago, my wife and I went to watch the fantastic Jazz Saxophonist Soweto Kinch at the Roundhouse for his new album launch – seriously guys check him out!
As were waiting in line, this young, very eager guy approached us telling us to buy his new album on special offer for only £5. He spoke about the production, his dreams, the artwork and everything in between without catching a breath. When he finally stopped, I told him that I loved every word he said & I would have bought his album but there was major problem:
I don’t have a CD player.
In fact I haven’t bought a physical CD in 5 years. I mainly stream music or watch it on YouTube. But what made me sad was his reaction to what I said – rather than understand my point, he took it as an excuse and personal insult from me not buying his music. This guy did not realise that the music industry has moved on and he didn’t want to go with it.
When I got into the music industry in the mid 90s (I know I’m old right?!?), cassette tapes and CDs were still the rage and if people wanted to know what the hottest tunes were, they would listen to DJs like John Peel and Trevor Nelson and watch programs like Top of The Pops and CD:UK. To buy an albums, you had to physically go to the shops, listen to the album of your choice and then pay anything from £10 – £30 (especially if the album was an import!) To listen to our CD, we would use a portable CD player called a ‘Discman’ which was huge! When you clipped it on your jeans it was like having a small dinner plate stuck to your hip – but it was cool!
Record labels because they relied mainly on physical sales, had a lot more money to throw around and could afford to take more risks on up coming talent and give them “development deals” – where they would help them develop their artistry. It wasn’t perfect but it was easily understood…
But as the Internet Age came so did file sharing services like Napster and LimeWire, then platforms like iTunes and YouTube – and when Steve Jobs created the iPod and said those legendary words “it’s like having 1000 songs in your pocket”, it was last grenade that blew the Music Industry Business Model wide open and it has never fully recovered ever since.
Internet Killed The Radio Star
A good friend of mine works in a publishing agency, which as a company that collects the ‘royalties’ on behalf of record labels and artists and when we sat down to chat, he told me that “most of these artists that you see on TV don’t actually make a lot of money off their music anymore.” Seeing my puzzled face he said “mate, I am responsible for signing these guys royalty checks off – unless you are Beyoncé or U2 you’re not making big money. The days of living off one album for the rest of your life is dead”.
Whoa. I wasn’t ready to hear that – I spent at the time, the best part of my life preparing to enter the industry, but as the years rolled on, I realised that my friend was right. Labels merged or went under, studios closed and people that were making good livings making and performing music started to lose their jobs. The Titanic sunk. With luck on my side, I got a teaching position in a wonderful music college which I cherish dearly.
But as time went on, something started to worry me. Time and time again, I taught these wonderful young people who with their music, wanted to change the world. Their tunes were brilliant – but they were completely ignorant to how the music industry works and the gigantic changes that were happening. The still believed in “burning their CDs and getting it to the right A&R guy”, totally unaware that social media and YouTube has made the traditional A&R redundant and labels will be more interested in your Twitter following than what instruments you used in your 4 minute masterpiece. Technology has changed the whole game & they didn’t get the memo.
So Was Mark Carney Right?
Is this the end as we know it? No, it won’t hit us like a meteorite – but that’s the point.
In the music industry, these innovations didn’t happen all at once but they rolled at gradually over the years and decades. Likewise we talk about the future like it’s some far away place but it’s here. We have self driving cars and planes, cashless banks, 3D printers, cashier-less shops and Artificial Intelligence becoming more and central to our daily lives. Humans no matter how we measure things, have a very poor relationship with time – we are always on the look at for the for the sudden, explosive changes but more often than not it’s the gradual and slow changes that hurt us the most.
Mark Carney’s words were frank and grave but I feel that they were right. Although technology is a major part of the puzzle, I feel that we have to rethink ALL parts of our culture to face the massive challenges that humans face in the 21st Century.
Thank you for reading! What do you think? Do you think Mark Carney was right or wrong? Leave your comments below or tweet me @karlwebdev.
Thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!