Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

We'd Rather Fight Than Switch: Music Industry in a Time of change.(Instructor's Note)

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

We'd Rather Fight Than Switch: Music Industry in a Time of change.(Instructor's Note)

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns market changes experienced in the music industry with the advent of the Internet as a vehicle for distributing individual songs. The Internet, as a disruptive technology, spurred an upheaval of what had been a decades old business model for the creation and distribution of music. The music industry's desperate legal battle to preserve an out-moded distribution channel is discussed. Secondary issues examined include copyright protection for intellectual property and behavioral ethics for both individuals and companies. This case has a difficulty level appropriate for senior undergraduates and first-year graduate students (4 or 5). Appropriate courses for this case discussion include marketing management, channels of distribution and buyer behavior. The case is designed to be taught in 1.5 class hours and is expected to require 1.5 hours of outside preparation, not including supplemental readings, by students.


Imagine working in an industry that makes large profits with existing technology; an industry facing unprecedented change driven by shifting consumer demand facilitated by technological innovation. Instead of embracing change, your first strategy is to try banning the new technology. Your next strategy is to eliminate new competitors attempting to satisfy shifting consumer demand, using litigation to put them out of business. Your third strategy is to lobby for new laws restricting consumers from consuming your product in new ways. Your fourth strategy is to use technology to destroy your customers personal belongings and generally aggravate their lives. Finally, your coup de gras is to treat your customers as criminals and sue them for damages; a multi-billion industry settling for thousands of dollars in damages. This is an apt description of actions taken by the music recording industry and its trade association, Record Industry Association of America. Seeking to stave off innovation and squeeze as much profit from an out-moded production and distribution system, the music industry turned its collective back on their customers. They decided that they would rather "fight than switch!"

The music industry is been irrevocably changed by the Internet, but rather than embracing change to better satisfy their customers' needs the industry opted to continue to sell CDs. Music consumer use of the internet and innovation has figuratively dragged the music industry into the 21st century. This case provides an overview of the changes occurring in the music industry over the last decade, allowing for the discussion of innovation's influence on distribution channels, and ethics in buyer and corporate behavior.



This case focuses on the effects of innovation on distribution and behavioral ethics in the recorded music industry. The music industry provides and interesting and engaging context for students as many are actively involved in downloading music, both legal and illegal. In addition to providing an interesting discussion context, it takes a macro distribution channel perspective that students are likely not to have given much thought.

The case is written as a retrospective of the music industry from the late 1990s to 2006. Compiled from a variety of sources, it describes the behavior of the recording industry in response to changing music consumption behavior by consumers. The litigation strategy used by the recording industry was really the impetus for writing the case, as it is rare that business goes after their customers with the intent of mandating a particular behavior or seeking punitive damages. From a marketing perspective this is a foreign concept, and it provides a platform for discussing how businesses should handle technological innovation and changing buyer behavior.

While not the main focus of the case, it is also possible to have an interesting discussion of behavioral ethics. …

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