One of my favourite quotes is from hockey superstar Wayne Gretsky (AKA “The Great One”).
“I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is”
In a fast-moving game like ice hockey, if you skate to where the puck is, you will be irrelevant to the game when you reach your destination. The only way to influence the outcome of the game is to predict where the puck will be and position yourself there.
Music distribution trends give us a good read on where the access-to-stuff puck is going.
- In 2002 Silverchair released “Diorama”. I waited until Saturday morning, then drove to Sanity and bought a copy, and took it home to listen to.
- In 2007 The Killers released “Sawdust”. As soon as I got home, I downloaded it in iTunes, and half an hour later, copied it onto my iPod so I could listen to it, anywhere.
- In 2012, Muse released “The 2nd Law”. I downloaded it directly to my iPhone and listened to it in my car on the way home.
- In 2013 Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories” and I didn’t even have to download it first. I simply streamed the music and started listening immediately. Streaming music services like Pandora, Spotify and [my favourite] Rdio – allow you to listen to music on demand without even waiting for a download to complete! – and without having to make a commitment to it (Ie. virtually for free). That’s the new way to access music and everyone will soon be listening that way (if they are not already). Even Apple has started skating in that direction with their WWDC announcement of the soon to be launched and predictably titled “iRadio” streaming music service.
Just think for a moment what this represents in terms of our expectations for content delivery: In 2002 we were fine with “wait a few days to go and pick it up”. Now we expect to “wait a few minutes for it to download”. Rapidly our expectation is shifting to “don’t wait at all!”. The importance of this is not just increasing convenience or decreasing wait time, but it’s in how these factors change our behaviour. With the advent of online music download services, my music collection grew in both volume and diversity. Now that I can stream music through Spotify, my behaviour has changed again. My listening has become even more eclectic.
It would be a mistake to think that this trend is restricted to the music industry. I think we are seeing it in all kinds of areas of our lives. In 2002 students with interesting ‘goss’ would wait till they saw their friends the next morning to share it…
It’s remarkable how many schools block their students’ access to YouTube and iTunes, or whose teachers still offer education in a way that more closely resembles buying from Brashs, than streaming from Spotify! “Biology is at 11:00 AM tomorrow in Room F6.”
Or how many teachers still walk into class to write encyclopaedic-type information on a whiteboard, or hand out photocopied documents – as though that information wasn’t readily available to anyone with access to Google?
If we are providing knowledge-based information, in a way that requires students to be in a physical place at a specific time to receive it – we are not skating to where the puck is going. Actually, we are not even skating to where the puck IS – we are skating to where it USED TO BE!