Legacy Industries of the World, Unite!

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Last night my father and I were making vacation plans by phone. “It’s not about the room,” he insisted, “it’s about the amenities.” The pro tip, with its Morty Seinfeld cadence, confirmed that my father is a South Floridian of a certain age, and it spurred a thought: What do the music and hospitality industries have in common?

They’re both under siege by the sharing economy. Both markets were dominated until relatively recently by legacy brands, such as Sheraton (est. 1937) and Columbia Records (1887)—companies that, however different otherwise, have been similarly undercut by peer-to-peer systems, “freemium” competitors, and a perceived shift of value from the service itself to the network of patrons.

But industry dominance doesn’t disappear overnight. Multi-platinum records and mega-concerts sell out every year; likewise, hotels will remain the default hospitality provider for the foreseeable future. With handwringing about disruption on the wane, the question for leaders in both industries is how to make a career in their sector more profitable. And for the higher minded, what kind of responsibility does the tourism industry have to support the arts?

Here’s a way of addressing both questions: combine two distinct groups of customers—those who want to hear live music and those who want to see the world—into a single market. With two revenue bases under the same roof, hotels, musicians, and their respective management can each collect from both.

That would appear to be the idea behind the Starwood hotel line’s exclusive concert series for loyalty members, which features John Legend at the Sheraton in downtown Los Angeles tomorrow night. Earlier this year, the same series offered its guests exclusive access to performances in Beijing, Mexico City, and Madrid.

It would be useful to scale the same model to support artists across mediums and price points. And while we’re at it, imagine what other legacy industry collaborations would like. How about a hardcover book with your next taxi? Any thoughts?