The value of vinyl.

Nielsen released its final review of the music industry for 2014.
Digital downloads and CD sales are shrinking.
Streaming is booming.
And the biggest music comeback of 2014?
Vinyl. LPs.
A groove that needs a needle.
Last year more than 9 million vinyl records were sold in the US.
The best year since 1991 when Nielsen first started measuring them.
Factories are struggling to keep pace.
So what’s the value of vinyl?
That is the brand question, after all.
And it’s typically not what you think.
It’s not the aesthetic quality of sound.
And, in my very simple book, there are only two meta components of value left.
Control and identity.
I’ll go with identity.
Vinyl feels more raw, more real, more personal.
Like how it feels to get a tattoo.
The value is emotional.
It helps the owner feel more connected to the artist.
The great management philosopher Peter Drucker was almost right.
He wrote, “What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance. What the consumer thinks he is buying, what he considers ‘value’ is decisive.”
It’s what the consumer feels she is getting in exchange for her money that is decisive.
Value is a complex and puzzling notion.
Economists can’t agree on a definition because it’s not an objective concept.
Value is multifaceted.
Value is highly contextual.
Value is subjective.
Value is delivered and imagined contentment, happiness, and self-worth.
Value is about desire.
And whoever develops and delivers the best evolving composite of value, for their particular audience, wins.
We’re not rational creatures.
We don’t optimize our choices to survive in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.
We buy to blossom.
We select to show that we belong.
We purchase to get a sense of control and meaning.
We decide in order to feel good.
And for millions of people, vinyl helps them do just that.

We become what you expect.

In 1967, thirteen-month-old Daniel Kish had his second eyeball removed.
And his mother had to make a crucial decision.
Lower her expectations and protect her blind son from the world.
Or treat Daniel like any other boy and let him do what he wanted to do.
She chose the latter.
And that conscious act of faith changed everything.
Daniel didn’t wither, he thrived.
He became one with his world and learned to negotiate it.
To run, climb, play, and even ride a bike.
Primarily by making palatal clicks with his tongue.
Echolocation, like a bat.
(You can listen to Daniel’s amazing story at this link.)
Daniel Kish blossomed into an amazing human being.
But it was his mother who made that possible.
By giving up control and setting Daniel free.
Free to experience.
Free to fail, free to discover, free to learn.
And, eventually, free to see.
We’re living in a low expectation world.
One where leaders place us in tight little bubbles.
And feed us intravenously with bland, risk-free nutrients.
Hoping to protect us, and themselves.
God help us, they’ve even banned sledding.
Anaïs Nin wrote:
“Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.”
Because without suffering, without defeat, without adversity we’re subjected to a grave, unintended consequence.
We eventually go blind.

The randomness of reality.

Human beings crave control.
We want to believe in the power of our choices.
To inevitably determine our destinies.
Why else do we make resolutions?
Indeed, thoughtful planning and disciplined behavior matter.
It’s how dreams are made.
But control is an illusion.
This became distressingly clear to me on New Year’s day.
When I read an article about cancer.
It turns out that two-thirds of cancer incidence is random.
Having nothing to do with genetics or environment, nature or nurture.
It’s simply noise, biological bad luck.
It’s unpredictable.
And so is life.
Sometimes we bump into opportunity.
At others we bump into walls.
So yes, keep moving and bumping.
Have the courage and discipline to follow your passion and pursue your dreams.
But also embrace Göran Persson’s compassionate New Year’s resolution and
“be there for one another as fellow members of humanity,
in the finest sense of the word.”

Words, images, experiences and persistence.

Jay Abdo is a Syrian actor.
He stars in Werner Herzog’s upcoming movie “Queen of the Damned.”
Alongside Nicole Kidman and James Franco.
Prior to this gig, Jay struggled to survive in L.A.
Delivering flowers and pizza.
Jay used to be a celebrity.
One of the most famous and privileged actors in the Arab world.
But in 2011, he spoke out against Assad’s brutal Syrian regime.
And that ended his career.
His accounts were frozen and property confiscated.
So Jay fled with his wife to the U.S.
To escape a campaign of intimidation and threats.
And to start anew at age 50.
But Jay was a nobody in Los Angeles.
An unknown brand with no credibility.
Despite his know-how and previous accomplishments.
So he went to work communicating his value.
Through words, images and experiences.
He changed his name to Jay.
From his beloved given name, Jihad.
An ancient Christian name that means “a struggle for something noble.”
He got unpaid parts in low-budget movies.
Just so he could create a demo reel.
He went to over one hundred auditions.
And failed at each and every one.
And then, by chance, he met Nick Raslan.
A Syrian born producer who was working on “Queen of the Damned.”
Jay showed the producer his demo reel.
And met him again for coffee.
Eventually Jay met Werner Herzog, and landed the role.
Branding involves hard work and difficult choices.
Strategic decisions around words, images and experiences.
Jay’s branding produced his reward.
But it was a struggle.
It required persistence.
Because despite your best laid plans and efforts.
Success arrives when it decides.