Remember Napster? At its founding in 1999, it was envisioned as an independent, peer-to-peer file-sharing service that was known for the free online music it offered. Its technology allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with other participants, bypassing the established market for such songs. For music enthusiasts, it was great; but it hurt sales and profits for artists. They charged Napster with massive copyright violations and, eventually, the service was shut down by court order.
Despite this speed bump, Napster paved the way for decentralized peer-to-peer file distribution programs, thus creating a huge rift between the technology and entertainment industries. Teens of the time only helped widen this rift, as they made up the majority of Napster users. As they matured to college-aged students, some universities even banned the site because it was taking up too much bandwidth!
Over the years, however, Napster-like programs started to phase out, as artists began to find ways to work with technology, to help their sales while supporting technology. Even though teens played a key role in the rise in popularity of Napster, they are now helping to bridge the gap between the entertainment/music and technology industries.
- Lady Gaga sells 1.1 million albums during debut week. Lady Gaga partnered with Amazon and on May 23 the retailer sold digital copies of her latest album, "Born This Way," for 99 cents in a heavily publicized move to promote its music service. Her fan base crashed Amazon's servers on the first day of sales. The move was interesting in that a price of $0.99 seems to target a younger age group, who wouldn't want to spend much more than that. It seems that Amazon understood teens' influence on the music industry, and, as it turns out, 77% of customers were between the ages of 12 and 16.
- Black Eyed Peas' lead singer, Will.i.am, takes job at Intel. Lately, Will.i.am has been busy as Intel's director of creative innovation and, as an active philanthropist, prolific endorser and producer of commercials, he is probably the most marketable, brand-friendly pop star in the market. He has branded himself and is never out of character and never off-message. This move is interesting because Intel wasn't previously seen as a "cool" company -- teens didn't know too much about it. But now that Will.i.am promotes the company, more and more teens are taking interest. The Black Eyed Peas reach many age groups, but the majority of fans fall between the ages of 14 and 25, so Intel's move to bring on Will.i.am was certainly strategic.
- ITunes reaches five billion songs sold. People love iTunes in the same way they loved Napster, but this time, artists approve. In fact, most artists have their own apps, or at least have their albums available for purchase on iTunes. ITunes has become the largest music retailer in the U.S. -- the number of sold songs was recently reported at five billion. The same report shared that 12-17 year olds are nearly twice as likely to interact with iTunes than any other age group. Teens are also more likely to own smartphones than any other type of phone. ITunes and artists know that teens will be the best brand advocates, so they've designed their products to ensure that teens can access them.
The theme throughout these examples is that teens have great influence over both entertainment and technology, and both industries are well aware of it. This was a problem 12 years ago, when the two industries collided; but today, their influence can be used to help both parties.