Gamification in reverse: a music business where charts mean less

Folks have been talking to me a lot lately about “gamification.” It’s a popular business trend that hopes to leverage the video game habits of recent generations into stronger workplace productivity. Take a set of tasks that would otherwise sound pretty boring: making phone calls or filing TPS reports. Then, turn it into a game. Make the scores transparent, so everyone on a team can see who’s about to “level up.”

It dawns on me that the music business went through this trend a few decades early. Our leaderboards? Billboard, R&R, SoundScan…

Except now, thanks to digital distribution and market fragmentation, our scoreboards look a lot more like the back pages of the Wall Street Journal than the leaderboards at the Masters. Digital charts change daily, so does it mean the same to be “#1″ now as it did then? Plenty of strong companies have stock prices that will never land them a feature on CNBC, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to close.

If you’re going to start keeping score, try using some of the metrics that will really determine whether you get to keep making music for a living:

* Number of fans on your mailing list
* Number of tickets sold to your next gig
* Number of gigs on your upcoming calendar

And, unlike games where you’re competing against someone else, all you have to do to succeed is to keep beating your own high score.

Photo by Flickr user joyosity, under Creative Commons License

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