Agency’s: becoming one, not to use them

Compared to universities; CAA and Endeavor are very different kind of actors. And even though they are big well-established companies they seem to be totally un-known to most universities at this moment. But they are, at least will become, very relevant for the university’s future. Here is why, and in what way, universities should care.

Imagine the university sector seriously would start to disrupt – MOOCs and Zoom and all that would then just be forerunners. Imagine also things then happening would be similar to what already has happened to the music industry – in previous posts I have explained why this parallel is useful. What can we then learn about how universities should start acting?

Not that long ago EMI was one of the major global record labels. Today; EMI is cut up in parts, does not exist anymore.

Ones upon a time record labels possessed the commanding height in the music industry. The middleman between musicians and customers ­– similar to universities, teachers and students. Then the internet arrived. Today; record labels do not have the same kind of position.

It took 10-20 years for all this to happen, with iTunes and piracy as middle-steps – why MOOCs and Zoom could just be middle-steps. Finally it has now manifested itself with “the world of streaming”.

During that road; record labels had to work hard, actually still do, to find a new position ­on the market – if not just shutting down of course, some have.

It took years for streaming services to evolve. It also took years for record labels to accept their new role.

Something similar could happen to universities, if this industry disrupted for real in a similar way, and if universities did not prepare.

But should universities then just give up? If you believe that I suggest you to continue reading, here I show an alternative.

It probably also is the most interesting, and possible alternative – dreams of the impossible is something universities already have enough off.

19 years old Charlie Chaplin from UK signed an agency, which took him to America, then Hollywood.

CAA and Endeavor are companies that show a possible future, that´s the point by them here. Perhaps call them Hollywood talent agencies. They are big. Endeavor was even about to do an IPO, heading for the New York Stock exchange, as late as 2019, but they finally pulled the plug.

Well, there are actually other options for what universities could do, if this industry disrupted for real. But how good are they? For instance; they could downsize and focus on a local market – what some record labels have done. There is actually, still, a market for vinyl records, a small one. To some people, though not many, even cassette is cool today.

If education was unbundled in a similar way as music already have become unbundled, something similar is very likely happen to universities – why unbundling could happen to education is also something I have discussed in previous posts. In music it was the album that was unbundled, singles separated. In education it could happen if education and exam was separated.

In this scenario “exam centers”, actors only concentrating on exam, would evolve. Will they? Have they already?

Why would a university exist in a world where teachers exist but are floating around in the virtual space of their own? Why would a university exist in a world where a student can go somewhere else and get an exam? Why would a university exist if the students already had the option of finding a teacher by themselves directly on the web? Exactly; these are the questions of today to ask.

Is exam, today, actually the last commanding height that universities possess in order to control this industry?

Isn´t education really something that is already “out there” for all off us to just grasp?

Let´s look at record labels of today, not of yesterday. Why are not all of them gone? Musicians can get direct access to customers, for instance via YouTube, but also via a streaming service. Customers can get access to these musicians in the same way. So how come, really, that some record labels exist today?

Some still like The Beatles. But do our kids listen to them?

There are two major reasons why record labels of today exist…

One reason is that record labels might be in possession of songs already recorded that customers still like to hear. It´s called “the back-catalogue”. A decent number of people still like to listen to old songs and if you happen to be a record label that own the rights to these songs, you still can earn money.

However, in the long run, this is a problematic business. Sooner or later customers will stop listening to old songs. One constantly have to find new musicians and new songs, if one for a longer period wants to earn money on just owning the rights to music.

Adding to this; Is there even something similar here to the “rights of content” that universities of today have? Not that much. Universities do not own what a teacher does in a class-room. At least, they cannot own what is in the head of a teacher.

Competence is tricky to lock in.

Consultancy firms already knows this.
Is it possible to “own” a teacher and her material in the same way as a record label can “own the rights for a song”?

Gladly therefore is that the second reason why record labels exist is of bigger interest to look into. It is the manager role.

Successful record labels of today have developed themselves into managers instead of only being owners of rights.

Instead of trying to “own” their musicians they try to become a “support-function”.

This is a very interesting role to be good at, also a lucrative one ­– look at the size of CAA and Endeavor.

Yes, I do know that this is a different role compared to the one record labels historically held. But when life changes we sometimes have to just accept it and develop a new kind of living based on that particular situation. Doing that, literary just that, is actually what disruption is really about.

-> A book on disruption and how to find a new role: “Stop Nobody Move: Transformation Beyond Digital”

Disruption is about finding a new role, and do actions in order to get there, before that position is taken by others

It can take years, even decades, to adapt to a disrupted industry.
It is pretty well known that Avicii´s manager Ash was very important for his early success. Would we know his music today without them as a team?

A manager is an actor that finds “Zlatan before he became Zlatan and then helps him to become Zlatan”, so to speak. Zlatan is a Swedish soccer player that today is on the global top 10-list, but started off totally unknown in a poor part of the country.

The manager signs a player in his early days, and helps him to become Zlatan – the keyword is help. He also negotiates on the behalf of Zlatan.

As long as the manager is good on exactly just that, he gets a cut and Zlatan will keep him. It is actually not that easy to become Zlatan just by yourself, particularly when you are young.

Robyn is a Swedish big global musician that actually got upset on her record labels ones. She left and started her own label.

But if you instead are already very big and well-known you can do like the musician Robyn, leave your agent and do that job yourself. It is often what people with strong positions on a market do … if they do not feel that they get good value for their money.

Universities having well-known researchers employed, for instance the ones that has got a Nobel Prize, already know how that kind of game easily end up. I am just claiming that something similar could/will happen with teachers. Has it even already?

Now notice: who is actually working for whom here? A manager is working for the musician, not the other way around. It is a sign of how power between the two actors involved is distributed. Neither understanding nor accepting the loss of power was the biggest problem that record labels had, when the music industry disrupted.

University managers of today often have the mental perception of them being in the power position towards their own teachers.

-> A comprehensive description and analysis on what actually happened in the music industry.

Guy Hands was a venture capitalist that took over EMI during the disrupted period. He tried to save it, though never managed. He was not prepared for all the well-known musicians that left EMI – The Beatles was just one of them. He lost lot of money during the road.

Exactly this mental perception is what lot of university-managers have to start changing.

In a seriously disrupted world of education, it will become somewhat difficult for single teachers to find their own way forward, particularly for the young ones who are not established on the market yet. They would therefor gladly give away a cut of their own earnings to someone that can help them to develop, and perhaps even negotiate on their behalf.

This could be a very interesting role that universities of today could develop themselves into.

At this moment in time; this position is not fully taken.

CAA and Endevour are two of the biggest “manager-companies” existing on the planet at this moment, ­both of them based in US but with offices and representations all over the globe – we find similar companies in China and elsewhere. They ones started off with movie stars, like Charlie Chaplin, but since way back they are also good at helping musicians and not the least athletes of many different kinds.

2020 the podcaster Joe Rogan sold his episodes to Spotify for mind blowing 100 Million USD. Here he interviews Elon Musk. He is among the biggest podcaster in USA.

Should we be surprised if I tell that they also, since not that many years back, have started to sign digital influencers, speakers, book-authors, YouTubers and for instance pod-casters? No, that is not surprising at all. It is an expected thing by a manager-company.

Would it then be surprising if they also, sooner or later, will sign teachers? Or, could they perhaps already have started? Check their websites and perhaps find out.

Unless universities become better in “managing” their own teachers than they are at this moment, it is very likely that agencies will enter into this field.

There is enough money into the world of education to guarantee that to happen.

Now, imagine a university that seriously would prefer preparing for this scenario; becoming the “manager of teachers”. Is that actually a strategy one can start working on already today? Yes. And it would not be in the way for the existing business, not even cost that much … and that is actually my point here!

Becoming a manager is something one can start working on already today.

A strategy that would not be in the way for the existing one.

What would this mean in practice? Well, one could start off by launching a serious “development program” for the teachers one already have employed. And utilize the unusually great teachers one already have, they know what is needed in order to become a good teacher.

People that do passport-control are not employed to be friendly and develop us.

But I mean a serious development program, not the kind of “career-ladder-programs” several universities run at this moment – not even pedagogy-programs. These programs are not really development programs but more or less control functions.

It is a big difference between a system that is designed to check how good a person is, compared to a system that is designed to make a person good.

What is then in the way for all this? I would claim that the biggest barrier are actually not resources, not even knowing how this should be done in practice. All this could actually be managed. It´s the mental perception that is most likely in the way instead.

This scenario indicates a change of power.

Then bear in mind; exactly all this has already happened in the music industry. Ones that industry started to disrupt, musicians also started to “play around” with their own record labels – my book “Play it, well; Strategies for digitally disrupted time” describe this in detail. They did it simply because they suddenly could. Then of course, it was also the musicians that already sold well, the cash-cows, that was the forerunners.

After a while it even led to a situation where the record labels messed up a lot of it just by themselves.

Perhaps record labels just assumed that musicians would sit and wait until the industry-situation had cooled down again.

Boy, were they wrong.

All this that happened to record labels are also very likely to happen to universities, if the university sector starts disrupting for real, like the way I described it here, and if the universities of today do not seriously start preparing for it.

Heading for a future role as a “manager of teachers” could lead to a very prospering future for a university.

Particularly if one are among the first ones that does it.

Why don´t universities start preparing for a different world and seriously consider the particular option described here? At this moment they are far to important, and interesting, not to prepare.

Share perhaps this post and help a university find a new role – a prosperous one.

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