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Comparing Pop vs Pot Culture


Music, radio and pot are three intertwining industries, but certainly all are seperate industries going different directions. Comparing the annual revenue of the three industries is not so much comparing apples, oranges and bananas. It's more like comparing which dimensions of pop culture are growing and which ones are declining.

Based on industry data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and financial articles about the cannabis industry, cannabis has been the winner of the three in terms of which industry could have brought the most return on investment.

Due to the legalization of recreational marijuana in several U.S. states and Canada, 2018 has been a red hot year for pot. Although pot stocks skyrocketed over the summer, several of them pulled back after the news of Canadian recreational legalization was "baked in." Nevertheless, many pot companies are in better shape now than last year and poised for continued future growth. MedMen has emerged as a leader in the U.S., while Tilray has been strong in Canada. Word that the publisher of High Times is pursuing an IPO has added excitement to the investment community.

Radio and music, on the other hand, have been struggling industries this entire century with minimal growth and lower revenue than in the nineties. In 2018 cannabis actually surpassed music in U.S. revenue, while radio remained locked in its long stagnant position.

Even though each industry is radically different, they all play a role in the backdrop of pop culture. But it begs the question, is pot culture starting to eclipse pop culture at least as a financial trend? While music clings to Spotify and Apple for life support, radio is kind of a fading dinosaur that relies on big national advertisers who may be questioning the relevance of radio advertising. Online advertising has become a bigger deal, especially for small businesses.

These stats also raise another question: which industry takes you to the "highest" levels of entertainment? That debate is probably mostly between music and cannabis, since radio has fallen into structured, predictable patterns. But the music industry has also resisted exploring new ideas, whereas cannabis is all about exploring the inner soul and beyond. For many people, it's a new experience this century.

While these figures might not mean much to all three industries, they challenge both the radio and music industries to become more vibrant and innovative to keep up with the surging pace of pot. At the same time, pot is overshadowed by the organic food industry, which this century has risen from under $5 billion to over $45 billion.

The recording industry became widely known in the 1890s, then the commercial radio biz became popular in the 1920s. Cannabis, of course, has been around much longer, but only in the past decade has it become commercialized again (as it once was prior to being outlawed in 1937). Leaders in the music and radio industries haven't really had an answer for industry growth this century, whereas cannabis is off to a great running start.



Created by Alex Cosper