Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Death of...Photofinishing

Via Brad Plumer, the top ten "dying" industries in the United States by decline in revenue, industry participants, forecast decline in revenue, and some other stuff (original report here):

  1. Photofinishing
  2. Newspaper publishing
  3. Appliance repair
  4. DVD, game, and video rental
  5. Money market and other banking
  6. Recordable media manufacturing
  7. Hardware manufacturing
  8. Shoe and footwear manufacturing
  9. Costume and team uniform manufacturing
  10. Women’s and girls’ apparel manufacturing

Each of these industries is caught in the maw of some particularly brutal bit of capitalist logic, whether displacement by superior technology (photofinishing, video rental, recordable media manufacturing), shifting production to a cheaper country (apparel manufacturing), or displacement by a better business model (appliance repair). Firms in these sectors don't (or shouldn't) have many illusions about where they go from here--either come up with a different way to use your capital and labor stock to produce something not vulnerable to the trend, pray for some kind of extra-market protection from the government, or...start looking for employment elsewhere.

Now, I doubt they have a category for "classical music performance"--and if they do and its actually no. 13 on the list, then I'll eat this post--but I suspect not. The takeaway here is simply that death of classical music handwringers taken to scolding folks for having their heads in the sand might want to consider the fact that the "classical music" sector doesn't line up very neatly with the cut and dry cases above. Issues such as changing generational tastes and shifting donor composition are no doubt critical and deserve to be at the center of continuing dialogue. But jumping to the conclusion that an industry needs to "make a different widget or look for new jobs" is not something one approaches lightly, obviously. And it seems awfully difficult to make the case that an emerging trend like "middle aged concert goers may not be showing up for classical music at the rate of the previous generation" should warrant the same instant conclusions for classical music that a trend like "all of your customers now have a box in their house that does exactly what your store did but cheaper" warrants for Blockbuster.

So why do some people insist we act otherwise? What good is supposed to come of that?


Lisa Hirsch said...

As always, you speak sooth.

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