Seth Godin, Football, and the Arts

It's Broken!
It’s Broken!

I got a little shout out at Ian David Moss’ recent post at Createquity for my recent blog post about diversity in the arts–Moss’ post actually is chock full of interesting links but this one, Why do we care about Football?, by Seth Godin caught my attention since I’ve been doing comparisons on the economic structure of sports and the arts.  As I’ve said in the past, the economic and cultural infrastructure which allowed popular entertainment forms like Pop music and Sports helped to prop up the industries as much as, if not more than, anything else.

It’s not that Sports and Popular music are inherently more popular or entertaining than, say, classical music.  Those industries just happened to exploit mass media and broadcast media forms in ways that classical music hasn’t.  Sure, for a while even classical music benefited from the mass media and it is telling that the last cohort which has relatively high attendance at classical music events just happened to be the last cohort that were in their teens and early twenties just when classical music was on the television with any regularity.

Here’s what Godin says:

Going forward, no other sport will ever have a run like this, because the TV-cash part of the connection can’t be recreated. Mass TV built many elements of our culture, but mass TV (except for tonight) is basically over.

The new media giants of our age (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.) don’t point everyone to one bit of content, don’t trade in mass. Instead, they splinter, connecting many to many, not many to one.

The cultural touchstones we’re building today are mostly not mass, mostly not for everyone. Instead, the process is Tribes -> Connections/communities -> Diverse impact. Without the mass engine of TV, it’s difficult to imagine it happening again. So instead we build our lives around cultural pockets, not cultural mass. Our job as marketers and leaders is to create vibrant pockets, not to hunt for mass.

In other words, we are slowly leaving the age of mass media and going into a much more fragmented marketplace.  The Popular Music industry is hemorrhaging and the Sports Industry is in denial and will likely fight tooth and nail to maintain its status quo as a big money maker even if that means someone else gets to foot some of their bills.


  1. “Our job as marketers and leaders is to create vibrant pockets, not to hunt for mass.”

    I might disagree with this. There is money in mass, but not for content makers. For content connectors yes — own the pipes and/or the servers, and you make the money on mass.


    • Interestingly, I read Baumol’s latest book titled (get this) “The Cost Disease” — and he talks about the movement of the labor market out of manufacturing and into service related industries–which translates into having far too many people creating content. As you say, and as Baumol mentions, eventually we’ll need people to find ways of connecting consumers and content or providing other service related to content-to-people connections–and that’s probably where much more moeny can be made. Maybe nowhere near what was made in the old traditional mass media forms, something more modest.


      • Dunno, the Spotify dudes seem to be expecting quite a lot. “Own the pipes” seems to be the order of the day, and since the pipes cost a lot of money to start with, it’s beginning to sound like one can make a small fortune in the music business only as long as one starts with a large one. 😦

        The cheapness of storage and bandwidth certainly does fly in the face of the cost disease, though.


      • That’s the thing–the Spotify folks are certainly making money–but the artists whose content they are using just aren’t seeing the returns. In a way, this is really not that much different than how mass media works (just on a smaller level). The media companies bring in the advertising dollars and the content makers see a small cut of that. I think in this case the aggregate amount of money that all spotify artists are making might be significant, but since it’s being split amongst so many different artists, there’s little return for most except the biggest hitters.


      • Absolutely. The servers defy the cost disease, but the music doesn’t. Own the storage, servers, and bandwidth and you’ve got it made.

        I think this is part of why neatly and miserly targeted marketing is so very important. It may be the only way to reach any audience at all without losing control over your content. Keep your head up enough to make money, and down enough to actually AVOID mass exposure. You can keep your money at the very low levels of earning, and at the top levels, you make enough to do well even if most of it is trimmed away. It’s the vast “middle” area that’s getting squeezed — big enough to wind up on mass delivery mechanisms, small enough to encounter problems because of it.


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