care of itself.’
He set an ambitious target to break ve new acts – and
in the end they broke seven.
There is nothing radical in that ambition. But the business that
delivered that very traditional goal was undergoing radical change.
Nearly a third of the staff left. Half of the new people Doherty
brought into the business came from outside the music industry. He
increased the size of the customer insight unit and brought in the
futurist Gerd Leonhard as a consultant for a year (a classic ‘Firestarter’
move). Marketing techniques that had been used for decades started
to change. For the release of Dido’s album Safe Trip Home, the label
commissioned 12 short lms that were seeded online, rather than
simply resorting to the traditional mix of TV, press and poster adver-
tising. There was also the inevitable clampdown on cost: at one point
Doherty sent round a memo saying that he would personally sign off
all taxi receipts: the bill fell instantly by 80%.
For many of those working in the business at the time, this was not
a great period. This kind of change involves a world of pain but it
is, unfortunately, necessary. If labels have a future, they will have it
because they stuck to what they do best, but reinvented how they do
it, and then build out from this strengthened core business. That is the
task for disrupted incumbents everywhere.
Stick to what you do – reinvent how you do it
This then is our challenge – to take the core business and make it relevant
for the new world we nd ourselves in. It is what Simon Fox had to do
when he set about transforming HMV’s stores; what Lou Gerstner did
when he invested in CMOS technology that allowed IBM to resuscitate
the mainframe business; and it is what Steve Jobs did at Apple when
he sorted out the supply chain, cut the number of products Apple was
producing and brought the company back to protability before deliv-
ering the iMac, iPod and iPhone that redened consumer electronics.