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Archive for January, 2012

Jan 28

I saw an interesting article the other day on TheVerge.com and at first, I was wondering, what is “The Verge” and why is it in my RSS reader?  Then I remembered that it was a start up media platform focused on tech that I read about late last year and decided to start following.  Turns out, that was a good idea.  They discussed the “Homecoming Queen” of today’s music industry, subscription music streaming services, with an investigation of whether or not there’s actually real money there for artists and labels.  I’ve worked on a few subscription music streaming deals in my day, and my opinion is that there could be money for the industry in this space, but not just for subscription streaming alone.  I’m not a fan of the access model.  Plain access is not a money-maker.  Why?  Because YouTube already does it for free, and better than every audio-only subscription service available.  They don’t want to say that, but it’s true.

What do I think that customers will pay for?  Expertly-curated passive listening.  I’m not just talking radio, because radio already does radio, for free.  What people are looking for is the right mix of discovery and familiar, plus no-work-required hours of seamless passive musical enjoyment.  For this reason, of the options, Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, etc., I’ve always been the biggest fan of MOG – just waiting for them to get their user interface right.  One thing they have done better than others is worked out their programming, their lean-back listening experience algorithm.

The train has already left the station on access, so what’s next?  Spotify is working on their radio experience, but shouldn’t that be a core product?  I mean, who really wants access to all the world’s music without knowing what to do with it?  I can’t even get my gym playlist right for a 45 minute session on the treadmill.  There are a lot of out-of-work radio programmers and music magazine editors.  If I was in charge of Spotify, or Mog, or Pandora, I’d be snatching them up like hotcakes to work with my programmers in perfecting my passive listening experience and site editorial.

Funny enough, when I was in Paris last summer, I met with the lovely folks at Deezer, Alex Dauchez and team.  Despite their licensing troubles, they have something very interesting.  At the time of our conversation, more people were using their platform in France than were using iTunes.  That’s major.   What was the difference with this music subscription service?  EDITORIAL!  Deezer has the music catalog, but has put major money and focus behind their editorial, making the site feel more like a music discovery community and resource than anything else.  A tastemaker, rather than just a pool of audio files.  And their consumers love it.  Their model of optimizing for mobile handsets, working with the smaller markets and playing the market aggregation game works.  They’re not in the US yet, but other players should be taking notes.  This is how you do subscription.

And so this brings me back to the original question.  Can labels and artists really make money with music subscription services?  Nope.  Not unless there’s some kind of push to your content.  So you win if you have a big catalog or name recognition.  But if you’re a baby artist, or a label with a small catalog of only minimally popular songs, you’re kinda toast.  Unless, there was some kind of spectacular programming and editorial that ensured that good, unknown music gets played.  So, consumers decide to pay, and baby artists get enough plays that they actually see a fraction of the royalty pool.  That’s the win in my book.

Jan 28
Stack of "Piece of the Fame" books

Hot off the presses, my first four copies of "Piece of the Fame"

This is only fitting to be my first blog post at my brand spanking new website.  I am overjoyed to announce that my very first book (or my second, or my third, depending how you know me) is live and available on Amazon.com.  Maybe it’s a major endeavor to write and publish a book, but if you knew the story of how I got here, you’d really understand the sense of accomplishment I feel, having done what I set out to do against the most immeasurable of obstacles.  To make things fair to those reading, many of whom are meeting me for the first time, and likely even more who know me already and are giving me the courtesy of their time in reading my thoughts, I figured I’d give you the story of how I came to write this book.

First, I left my position at Atom Digital at the end of November, 2011.  I knew that the only thing that made sense for me at this point was to hang my consulting shingle at the top of 2012, but that just didn’t seem like enough.  See, for the preceding 4 years at UMG working in digital strategy, and the past year working with Lady Gaga, Greyson Chance, Mindless Behavior, Mary J Blige for a bit, Willow Smith for a second, launching the digital “Gaga’s Workshop” campaign for Barneys New York, spending days and days meeting with startup CEO’s, VC’s, and tech gurus, I had just collected way too much knowledge to file it away, only to be brought out for special occasions.  People need what I know, all people and not just musicians.  I realized that, and as such, I decided that I would spend December writing a book.  My objective was to neatly organize all that I knew, discovered, practiced and learned about social media marketing and brand development into a nice paperback…in less than 60 days.  That’s right, I made the decision on Sunday, December 3rd, 2011 to write the book, sitting in the middle of church.  My intended publication date was February 1, 2012.

"Piece of the Fame" Manuscripts

My partial stack of "Piece of the Fame" manuscripts and interview transcripts

You have no idea the journey that I went on in that period.  I have stacks of manuscripts (because I’m neurotic about losing my data), printed out marking the day by day progress of what I was writing.  I have recordings of interviews that my friends graciously agreed to schedule at the last minute (shout out to Paul Brunson, Necole Bitchie, April Carter Grant, Ryan Babenzien, Kelli Johnson, and Jeremy Caverly, you ROCK!!) that I literally had to transcribe word by word.  I have a fried laptop hard drive (because wine spilled all over my keyboard just as I was finishing) whose data I’ll never be able to recover, amen to jump drives and data backup.  And I have many, many nights of missed sleep.  But at the end of the day, I also have one, 262 page masterpiece that I get to call my own:  Piece of the Fame: Rockstar Social Media Marketing Strategy for Everyone to Ignite Your Business, Career and Personal Brand.

It’s a great book, if I may say so myself, and I’ll be talking much more about it here, and on the Piece of the Fame Website (PieceOfTheFame.com).  It explains social media from my perspective, from the degree of insight and visibility that I have had not just into the technology and social media platforms, but also the best practices from those who have leveraged it most fully.

Check out my book, buy a copy (or a few copies) and come back often.  We’ve got a lot to talk about.