Go back to September 2004.
It’s the height of the Napter-Metallica-Filesharing craze.
And Green Day decides to make music history by becoming the first ever artist or band to sell blank albums.
That’s right. Hordes of fans were buying thousands of Green Day CD’s with no music on them!
Were they crazy?!
For the sake of taking a different approach in dealing with music downloading – legal or illegal – Green Day released a CD-R 5-pack that contained five blank discs with original album cover art printed on the top and sides.
On the side of the box, the punk-pop trio reminds their fans, ‘Burn responsibly. Download music legally and burn your own Green Day compilations.’
A few days after the CD-R 5-pack came out, I remember watching Green Day on MTV News.
Billy Joe Armstrong said, ‘Kids are going to copy, burn, download and rip our music anyway. May as well make the CD’s look cool!’
He went on to say, ‘And for fans that illegally rip our tunes but want something that doesn’t look homemade, we can still make money.’
Dude. That is, like, SO punk!
Yes. But there’s something bigger, though.
Green Day did something that was, like, SO SMART: they befriended the current.
They noticed an unavoidable trend: fans were ‘illegally’ downloading their music.
But instead of panicking…
Instead of getting upset…
Instead swimming against the current, at the risk of alienating existing and potential fans (ahem, Metallica)…
…they befriended it.
Green Day’s blank CD’s, instead of exacerbating the file-sharing process, actually made it easier. And cooler. And more fun.
Not to mention, fans felt a little less guilty about downloading songs for free!
Oh, and here’s the best part: if you go onto Green Day’s official online store, they’re still sold out.
Three years later.
So. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Identify the unavoidable, unstoppable trend (current) that might have a negative effect on your business.
2. Observe how your competition swims against that current.
3. Reverse your trajectory.
4. Befriend the current.
5. Allow it to carry you where the market is going.
6. Enjoy the ride!
And now, because you’ve befriended the current, you can spend less time swimming frantically, and MORE time focusing your efforts on developing cool, memorable, word-of-mouth-worthy stuff.