This cameraphone photo is from a few months ago, after a long Sangria drenched night that started at the Sculpture Garden and culminated at some restaurant in Chinatown.
I didn't even know there was such a thing as white sangria.
It's the weekend now and, if you've seen my Gmail status over the weekend, that means it's blogging time. There's lots to think and talk about so looking forward to some productive time at Murky Coffee this weekend. Stay tuned.
If there's two parts of me that are most often misunderstood, it's my taste in music and my sense of humor.
Anyone who went to college with me, suffering through hot car trips to the mountains every weekend for snowboarding, can attest to my eclectic tastes. But I defended those mix tapes every time, dismissing others negativity as simple lack of appreciation for good music (pretentious perhaps). I'll defend my music (see my Last.fm profile or my Anywhere.fm library) to my grave.
But I've talked about music a lot this week already.
My brother (pictured at the right) called me last night to tell me that he wore my homemade Brokeback Mountain t-shirt (given as a birthday present) to school yesterday and got lots of compliments. I made that shirt on a complete lark and didn't think he even wore out in public anymore after the one time he wore it here on the night of his birthday party.
It's been some time since the last Snarky Post of the Week installment but there's been enough good material lately (Apple's scare tactics surrounding iPhone hacks is a perfect case in point) that it's coming back for now.
Ignoring the iPhone and Facebook and Social Graph hoopla but continuing with the music-themed posts from this week, this headline caught my eye. A great example of dinosaurs trying to show how with it they are, when in reality, as Umair would say, it's an example of strategy decay:
"MTV, Real, and Wal-Mart Shake Up Digital Music" (PC World)
Thanks for the eye-catching headline; my question is what's worse, writing that headline to grab people's attention or writing it because you think it accurately captures what MTV, Real and Wal-Mart are trying to do?
Nothing could be further from the truth, having those three companies and their brands even mentioned as "shaking" things up in the area of digital music. It's almost laughable if it weren't so sad. And if you're new to the DRM discussion, you have some catching up to do but at least start with my last Snarky Post of the Week on why DRM does rock.
Let's not just complain without explaining why. The NYT Magazine story on Rick Rubin taking over at Columbia Records stirred up the music industry (see Bob Lefsetz) because Rubin suggested that music subscription was a possible answer to the industry's woes. As the PC World story says,
MTV and Real Networks announced in August that they would create a new music service based on Real's Rhapsody service and MTV's music content and packaging. Verizon will deliver portions of the service through its V Cast music offering.
Hmm, MTV as the arbiter of music that we want to listen to, not the partner or brand I'd chose to help with "content and packaging." MTV is old and done. We can all agree that MTV was once counter-culture and the barometer of cool but they sold out to advertising and cheap content (e.g. reality shows or user-generated content for your Web2.0 fans. MTV doesn't even play music anymore (last time I saw any music videos, and ones worth mentioning, were Feist and Ben Lee videos on VH1 late night last week). You know when Justin Timberlake is telling you to play more music that you've really lost it.
Second, don't get me or anyone else started on Verizon. I have a general distaste for all cable and telco companies because they've been ripping off consumers and fighting innovation in their respective industries for so long that I don't have much respect for them. Again, it's almost funny to see their business models withering away thanks to the internet (go Google phone, please reduce the telco carriers to a commodity, transferring bits and not locking us into their devices anymore) but I can't laugh because they've been screwing consumers for so long.
And who uses V-Cast? Or put another way, how was the service slipped into the tiny print of the bills for those 10 unsuspecting people in the world that have this service (and don't even know that they're paying for it)?
Third, while there are some fans of Real's Rhapsody service (Fred is one among them), it hasn't taken off with people. They've had the service for some time but most people my age (20-30 range) probably don't know about it and prefer to still buy the music (CDs to rip themselves or via iTunes-- I told you my stance earlier this week.
The better question about subscription models, as Bob points out, is that "We need to define terms. Is subscription RENTAL or GETTING A STEADY CHECK FROM EVERY CUSTOMER EVERY MONTH?"
The market so far has not shown an appetite for the former. The latter is something that most consumers would be okay with if it means having access to all the music we want, whenever, wherever, and for whatever platform we want (home PC, work PC, laptop, mp3 player, phone, PDA, etc.). Stories about new music services demonstrate that the music industry is experimenting, and that's good, but they've had a lot of time to experiment and so far all results have been anti-consumer (DRM, Sony rootkit CDs, suing their customers, etc.).
We can hope that they figure out and survive or look forward to the new guard changing the entire industry and say goodbye to the traditional music industry as we know it. Rubin sums it up well.
"I have great confidence that we will have the best record company in the industry, but the reality is, in today's world, we might have the best dinosaur. Until a new model is agreed upon and rolling, we can be the best at the existing paradigm, but until the paradigm shifts, it's going to be a declining business. This model is done."
Patrick and I going to the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kings of Leon show tonight at 9:30 Club and I can't wait.
I first heard KOL on my radio station back home, WBER, back in 2003 soon after they released the album, 'Holy Roller Novocaine.' It was the song California Dreaming that did it for me and then they fell off my radar.
Fast forward to earlier this year and KOL popped back up, either from The Hype Machine or more likely from Fred Wilson's blog. Fred added them to his current playlist and posted about seeing them in concert and that was good enough for me. When I saw them on the 9:30 Club schedule, I knew I had to see them live.
It's this kind of personal recommendation (albeit passive in this circumstance) that is the future of the online music industry. I wrote about this yesterday (a rather long one post I admit).
I don't know if I've ever described a band as plain old, solid rock and roll music, but these guys are the epitome of it. Here's a quick playlist of random KOL songs (you need the newest Flash player plugin installed) and be ready to listen to some classic rock and rock music.
Is it harder to be in a rock band than it was a generation ago? Or put another way, is getting signed to a record deal still the best outcome for a struggling band?
A couple of facts and numbers cited from the article:
There are a couple of problems with the new metrics (either downloads, MySpace page visits or friends, or web hits) and problems with comparing historical radio numbers to the present metrics.
First, website hits or MySpace friend popularity doesn’t translate into direct income numbers, like it would with radio ratings numbers (which, although the radio royalties were always low, meant you were getting some small check in the mail). But online popularity and more importantly, having your rabid fans spread your name and mp3s online, virally and through word of mouth recommendations, is priceless.
The question then becomes translating online popularity into a living for the band. If local shows are on the decline, as the article suggests, because you can’t reach a mass audience via the radio (I’d argue that you shouldn’t want to reach a mass audience anyways, focus on reaching the hardcore niche audiences wherever they are), then be creative about how to have a “show” over the web or through some other, non-traditional venue. How can a band in the digital age aggregate these loyal yet disparate fans for “shows”?
Second, comparing the website hits to the Arbitron radio rating numbers doesn’t make sense. There’s no doubt that the days of commercial radio success (and shouldn’t be any nostalgia for it) is now over, long live the death too. I’m not arguing that all radio should or will die (because it won’t) but the mass appeal of the old days of radio is over: there are too many competing channels now and more importantly, these other channels have content that we actually want, rather than the lowest-common denominator BS music that commercial radio now plays endlessly.
You don’t want to reach a mass audience in fact, because the days of trying to sell a gazillion records is over, it will never happen again. Ask Paul McCartney or Kayne about that, with their recent albums not replicating the huge sales success of their earlier records.
More importantly, I disagree with the idea that the ComScore data suggests that music or information about bands won’t spread very far online.
For me and from what I read on both the techie and music blogosphere sites, it’s that online sharing of music (information or mp3s) is huge and growing tremendously. In fact, rather than buy albums (which I never did anyways, I was late to the whole music obsession in high school so when I got the music bug in college, Napster started and I’ve been downloading ever since) I discover new music online from blogs, personal recommendations (e.g. Last.fm or Pandora) or from friends online (e.g. blogs that I love and trust for their recommendations, Fred Wilson primarily) or from traditional media (NYT Sunday’s artists picks section or Wired Magazine’s suggestions). Rather than buy their albums, I attend shows and then tell everyone I know about these great bands.
What would you rather have, an anonymous DJ who’s forced to play the bubblegum crap dictated by the major labels (payola anyone?) or have a personal recommendation from a friend that’s passionate about music and shares your musical tastes?
So I’m not supporting artists by buying their records, but I market them by word of mouth, via my blog, via my Last.fm or Anywhere.fm profiles, and most importantly by buying a ticket for their shows.
“We’re in a period where CDs are clearly dying,” says Donald Passman, author of the music biz book, ‘All You Need to Know About the Music Business,’ “but there’s nothing to replace it.”
That's crap again. Even if you argue that downloading has made it harder for new bands to get a record deal (which I’m not sure is true), why should the immediate goal of new bands be to land a record deal? I don’t think that it needs to be, why not build the following first and then let the record deal come later—or do the recordings yourself.
To get a coveted spot on the Warped Tour, Hotspur, the band featured in the story, had to pimp themselves out to Smartpunk.com in order to win their online popularity concert. Is that really the smartest way to get ahead in the new digital music world?
If I were Hotspur or any other band trying to break into the music industry, here are the questions I’d be asking myself and asking fellow bands:
What are the answers?
I’m not sure, but I mentioned some possible solutions and some do have positive suggestions (please keep reading, just a little but more). And no, I’m not in a band, just a devoted music fan that’s giving the fan’s perspective. You could argue that being a techie and business person, I really don’t have any idea what I’m talking about and you might be right…But you can’t ignore these trends.
If you think I’m wrong, read the amazing Bob Lefsetz blog (which I recommend to everyone even if you’re not interested in the music industry). He’s worked as an “entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music’s American division and consultancies to major labels” and has been writing about the music industry the past 20 years.
If you want to know where the music industry is going, read Bob's Lefsetz Letter everyday:
That’s one of the dirty little secrets of this business. Talent is only fifty percent. Desire and perseverance make up the rest of your success. But NONE of the foregoing are a guarantee.
So, you’re up shit ocean with a paddle so small you’re overwhelmed.
Welcome to the club. You’d better be doing it for a love of the music, because chances are that’s ALL you’ll have, your music and your enjoyment in playing it.
Maybe you’ll gain some traction, you’ll become a pro. But the odds are against you. You need that desire and perseverance and LUCK! And it’s harder to get lucky every day. Even if the radio station DID play your record, what would it MEAN, is anybody LISTENING?
We’ll get some clarity in the future. The gulf between amateur and pro will reemerge. But chances are, only a thin sliver of pros will be like the stars of yore. There will be Kanye, and then the guy who can fill theatres.
That’s the game you’re getting into.
So don’t lay out a plan for world domination. If you’re lucky, you can dominate your DOMICILE! Maybe if a friend goes to college in another state you can make headway there. But there are too many people and too few slots and no pot at the end of a rainbow.
Cry all you want, but this is fact. You’d better be doing it for the love of the music. And this is the key that may grant you success. Those old paradigms, how you look, how you’re marketed…the majors only have a few slots per year, and most of THEM don’t make it. The old game is dead. The new game is daunting.
UPDATE (10/01/07): Greg Robinson, the drummer from Hotspur, was kind enough to leave a thoughtful comment answering some of the questions I outlined and I think this could be a good discussion. I'm even trying to see if Bob Lefsetz might add his opinion.
And since I do want to support artists however I can, here's their song, "Have You Seen This Girl." Please support these guys by checking out their MySpace page and buying their latest album from here or from there (does one of these give you guys a better deal?).
Came across this photo via my Google Sidebar, which is docked at the right-side of my screen and rotates through all of photos. It's a great little tool, giving me a reminder of all the cool trips and poeple I've met in my life.
Here's one of Tyler driving the Land Rover down to the beach at Cape Cod last year. Up close and personal, which I know he didn't appreciate, but I like the photo, the determined face (or perhaps the scrunched eyes are because of the sun and no sunglasses) contrasted with the blankness of outside (my bad photography skills not adjusting for the white balance of the sand and clouds backlighting Tyler's face).
Sometimes accidents become good photos but more often than not they remain accidents that you never show anyone. I think this one belongs more in the serendipity category.
Now playing: Arianna Huffington - Bush, Hillary, New Attorney General, Working Seniors
What the newspaper and traditional content owners don't get, summed up quite nicely by Facebook's Zuckerberg at TechCrunch 40:
MZ: our thinking is that if we give people more controls, they can share more information. As people shared more and more information, Facebook found that it creates a more component experience that brings them back to Facebook more often. Page views and traffic went up 50% within weeks of the launch of the news feed.
Contrast that insight with the relatively back of the boat thinking of the NYT who's finally closing down Times Select in favor of open access to all of its archives becuase of the huge ad revenue it was losing thanks to the walled garden (failed) experiment.
I'm working at our London office for the week and looking forward to the weekend in the city. I have a list of to-dos, mostly non-touristy things (my Dad mentioned Ye Olde Chesire and the Churchill Bunker museum while Londonist posted their cheap events of the week), but let me know if you have any suggestions.
I brought my camera so I'll try posting some photos throughout the week.
David Kappos, the Chief IP Lawyer for IBM, spoke quite plainly in this recent interview with Scoble that patents in the IT sphere (as opposed to patents in the life sciences, pharma, etc.) are too easy to obtain. Patents in the IT world should really be truly innovative ideas and the issue is that software is usually an incremental endeavor and the current system needs to be changed.
Also, finding prior art in the software world is much more difficult that in other industries because there's no lexicon or common language for its architecture and structure; the software industry has completely changed from sub-routines to macros to objects to java beans and now to web-enabled components.
He advocates that the copyright and the patent system catch up with the times, meaning that patent claims should be posted online so that the corrective and collective-intelligence of the web will automatically solve the prior art challenge.
Lastly, David advocates that innovation is the new completive advantage for the 21st century. With the continual shrinking of the distance between the idea and the product, it means that the real economic value drives towards the ideas. And how can you reasonably extract value from those ideas much sooner and more efficiently. That doesn’t mean devaluing IP laws (they need revision but not denigration) but accurately distinguishing between the valuable less valuable kinds of innovation so that everyone profits.
I agreed with everything up until the end: can a refined copyright and patent regime effectively distinguish between more and less valuable kinds of innovation and apply a variable or sliding scale of protection?
That’s the only part I’m having a hard time envisioning because it seems like a slippery slope for IP champions to accept, that some innovations are less valuable than others. If you accept that premise, then you could be calling into question whether there is indeed a baseline standard for protection (e.g. the current 75 years plus life of the creator). By not accepting a variable IP protection scheme, you guarantee that your current and past holdings won’t be called into question.
Regardless, it’s refreshing to hear a corporate attorney
speak candidly about the need to reform the current copyright and patent
structures, admitting that many software patents are too easily granted, and
that the prior art could be completely overhauled by harnessing the collective
intelligence of the web. Now the question is how to drive urgency in reforming
these things at the legislative level in Capital Hill.
Now playing: Stars - Your Ex-Lover Is Dead