Tomorrow is St George’s Day, and in honour of this Turkish missionary a parade was held through the centre of Manchester this morning (including, for some odd reason, a Scots Pipe Band). As I walked through town I glanced at the window of the HMV store, which carried a couple of huge banners for the Apple i-Tablet-Pod thingy. It occurred to me that years ago, back in the days of LP records, this window would have been filled with album sleeves to celebrate English music: Vaughan Williams, Britten, Parry, Walton, Bliss, Tallis and Bax.
But now, I suppose that HMV are tied into some elaborate contract which means that Apple (and Orange, for that matter) are allowed to dictate the contents of the store’s window display.
This weekend has been the ‘Record Store Day’ vinyl festival – a special occasion when various recording artists have released limited-edition copies of their work on black LP and single discs. At one time, it was customary for disc-jockeys to travel to venues in a Transit van, carrying hundreds of records (of which perhaps sixty would end up being played during the evening). Many a seasoned DJ has regaled listeners with tales of how their rear axle broke under the musical burden on the way home from a gig.
Nowadays, DJs keep their collections on Minidiscs, or MP3 files; or even elsewhere, choosing to snare the musical tracks which writhe like Schlieren in the ether of the interweb. And this is sad; there is a peculiar delight in seeing a familiar LP cover being pulled out from a box of records by a Rock DJ.
As album covers go, The Alice Cooper Show is in a league of its own; a furious jumble of images from the rocker’s theatrical shows. Alice in the guillotine; Alice dancing with Yvonne; Alice spattered with blood.
The music begins in thrilling fashion, with the band delivering a rapid series of chords; suddenly the audience screams with delight – you can almost see Cooper burst onstage, just as the band launches into ‘Under My Wheels’.
One is reminded of Furtwängler, who would rush onto the podium, baton in hand, and immediately start conducting; this enabled him to avoid giving the Nazi salute which was compulsory at all concerts in Germany during the War. In 1947 he returned to the concert hall and this time was able to bow to the audience before starting the performance; the significance of this gesture was perfectly understood and drew heartfelt applause from all present.
Alice Cooper’s musical career typifies the Resource Based View of business strategy; rather than carefully exploring the needs of the marketplace, and generating products in response to client demands, he simply cultivates the particular skills and capabilities for which he is best known. After all, according to RBV theorists (Grant, Hamel et al), a firm’s core competencies are what generates its income so these should always be the main focus of attention.
If you try to adapt your business portfolio to match the market, it is likely that your firm will begin to resemble the other major companies in the field. This converging identity will enable customers to compare firms and their product range; all well and good if you happen to be the best, but a disaster if it turns out that your company is a ‘me-too’.
Alice Cooper is a unique brand which has endured for forty years (once he could sing I’m Eighteen’ and mean it) and he recognises that his value as a performer will rise and fall with successive generations of music fans.