Posts Tagged ‘Music’

My favorite posts of 2008

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’m finally back and getting into the groove of 2009 after heading to my hometown to spend time with family for Christmas, and then taking off time over New Year’s, as well. It’s good to be back. But before I start looking forward to all the very good things that are coming in 2009, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2008. Here are my favorite posts (for a variety of reasons) from the past year.

2008 blog posts

 

10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs (2/25/08)
“Here’s a look at 10 qualities that some entrepreneurs share that may help them be great at starting a company, but not so great at existing in normal society.”

The board meeting & the business plan (1/25/08)
“No matter how solid the plans are in your mind, you’ll find holes when you write things down. This is true in about 99.9% of the cases. I’m sure that there are exceptions; other people like Jack Kerouac who famously wrote On the Road on one long scroll, but in general, things get clearer when they are written down. ”

What Skymall can teach you about user testing (1/23/08)
“Basho the Sumo Wrestler table will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it.”

What’s going to happen to the music industry? (1/8/08)
“So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.”

7 ways to raise money for your start-up (2/19/08)
“The good news for anyone who has limited resources when starting a company is that entrepreneurs seem to agree that this can be a good thing. The need to conserve resources often leads to creativity, hard-work, and a drive to succeed that can be missing when money is available and things are easier and more comfortable. So the first piece of advice when you’re thinking about raising money is to make sure that you really need it before going after cash.”

Four hurdles to jump after starting a business (2/13/08)
“When you start a business, you may be trying to hold onto faith that it will be a success, but you don’t really know that it will be. Along with that, you don’t always know where you’re next client will come from. Or employee. Or dollar. So you have to come to a point of accepting the not knowing, embracing the uncertainty. For me, it’s kind of a thrill to be working this all out as I go because I have come to believe that no matter what I face, I’ll figure it out. It might not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, I’ll either determine a way to get around the issue, find someone to help me with it, or overcome it in some way.”

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media (3/25/08)
“One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.”

5 ways to make sure that skimmers will read your email message (3/13/08)
“The life of a skimmer is treacherous. They go to meetings and get asked a question “about that email that was sent yesterday” and have absolutely no idea how to answer. They never know what time the party is going to start, or who was invited, or what day it is going to be held. Skimming causes problems. But for whatever reason, skimmers can’t stop. They might just think it’s ridiculous that people send long email messages. They might be “all about efficiency” or “impatient” or “don’t care.” The list of reasons is long.”

The rare women tech start-up founder (4/30/08)
“Although it may have been said many times in many ways, I think it’s a mistake to gloss over the issue of having kids…For every start-up founder, I think, balancing a career with the rest of life is something to think about. But as a woman, the issue rarely leaves my mind. It adds urgency, pressure and stress. And I’m sure for some women, this trifecta of bad emotion is enough to keep them from starting that start-up.”

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations (4/17/08)
“You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times.”

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem (4/11/08)
Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked.”

Stop scheduling meetings on Tuesdays and get to work (5/8/08)
“I might be the last person to know this, but Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. I was alerted to this fact by this blog post, which pointed to some research by Robert Half International. But then when I went to dig in deeper, Tuesday-is-the-most-productive-day-ever was all over the Internet.”

.anydomainnameyouwant soon to be available for purchase (6/27/08)
“I have heard a lot of people making the case that the only domain name that really matters is .com. Although I agree that the .com domain name will stay the strongest for the foreseeable future, this thinking is really short-sighted. Although technology is advancing quickly, the Internet is still in its infancy. It’s hard to predict what will happen in two years, let alone in 20 years. I think that there is a very good chance that other gTLDs will become important. I’ve seen evidence of this in other countries, and honestly, it’s even possible that the gTLD system could eventually go away entirely.”

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app (6/5/08)
“Do the “addiction test.” Can someone use your application once and then never again? Not good. Do they use it once and then feel compelled to immediately use it again? That’s good. Do they want to go back and use it the next day? And the next? That’s even better.”

Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have (but I’m working on it) (8/21/08)
“I have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.”

Five things your business can learn from Disney (8/13/08)
“Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.”

Five reasons to start delegating more today (9/10/08)
“Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work.”

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough (11/4/08)
“I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.”

Babel Fish, Google Translate and human go head-to-head (12/5/08)
“To me, it looks like the human with moderate Spanish skills won, hands down. But if you aren’t lucky enough to sit 3 feet away from someone who is willing to indulge your translation needs, I would go with Google Translate. At least in Spanish-to-English translation, with these examples, it had a slight advantage.”

Facebook's music plans: Five random thoughts & one prediction

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Facebook is in the news again about its plans for getting into digital music. Namely, the news is that Facebook doesn’t have plans as of yet to enter the digital music business. I posted a story about this today on The Industry Standard called The Facebook Music mess. If you’re interested, give it a read.

Facebook MusicAs I was working on the article, there were five extra things that I wanted to include but didn’t. Here they are:

1) MySpace is going to kick Facebook’s butt in music no matter what Facebook does. MySpace Music, which officially launched in September, has a huge lead on Facebook in the music business. Even before the company’s new music site launched, MySpace already had millions of bands and musicians signed up and using the site as a promotional tool. MySpace’s roots are in music, and this lead is going to be unbeatable for Facebook.

2) It doesn’t matter that Facebook will be #2 in social music. Even though Facebook will not beat MySpace, it will still be in the music business. And Facebook won’t mind being number two because the multi-billion dollar music business is large enough for there to be more than one winner.

3) The suggestion that Mark Zuckerberg is considering getting into music out of jealousy is preposterous. Facebook has millions of registered members and those millions of members want to listen to music. Zuckerberg and crew are going to have to figure out a business model that works for Facebook and its users, end of story. This has nothing to do with jealousy; it’s purely good business sense.

4) Facebook does actually have a chance to beat MySpace – even in music – internationally. I have written about this in the pastFacebook is going to dominate MySpace in the global arena. It’s possible that Facebook may even beat MySpace in music internationally, especially since MySpace hasn’t launched internationally yet.

5) The music labels are going to have to step it up because they are ridiculously behind the times. OK, this might seem unrelated, but really, the record labels are getting more archaic by the second. According to reports, Facebook is having trouble working out licensing deals with the giants. Apparently, the big four labels won’t give up their music libraries without getting an ownership percentage in Facebook first. That’s just ridiculous on so many levels. There will come a day (I think) when the labels realize that having access to Facebook’s enormous, loyal, repeat audience will be worth the trade of their content.

And here’s the prediction: Facebook will get into the music business in 2009 and whatever the company decides to do will involve a partnership with Apple and iTunes.

Five things your business can learn from Disney

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

“How do kids find new music?” is the question that I set out to answer in my article for The Industry Standard this week – “Tweens, teens increasingly turn to MySpace, iTunes, and illegal P2P services for music.” Go have a read if you’re interested in what I found.

In the course of researching and writing that article, I couldn’t get Disney out of my mind. Even though I don’t mention Disney in the article, the entertainment and media giant was there, framing every thought. Disney is the champion of the tween market, not only with its TV programming but also with its music efforts.

Hannah MontanaAt a time when the music industry is faltering, Disney’s success in the music industry is only growing. According to an article on CNET, Walt Disney Records’ music sales grew 60% from 2006 to 2007 due to the “tween and young-teen music craze led by Disney star Miley Cyrus.” This was at a time when music sales were down 17% overall.

And Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) is joined by other Disney hits in appealing to the tween crowd. Along with 2006’s High School Musical, the boy band group The Jonas Brothers is set to be another huge sensation for Disney.

Disney may have millions of dollars in marketing to back up their successes, but there are a few things that everyone can take away from the company’s success and apply to their own businesses. Here are five things that you can do to be just like Disney:

1. Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.

Jonas Brothers2. Be yourself. Part of the appeal of the Disney stars is that they seem so real. Because of this, they appeal to both tweens and their parents. And to maintain that image in front of so much media scrutiny, it’s likely that the stars are mostly just being themselves. Sincerity is appealing, and operating a business that you believe in and behaving with integrity while operating it will help attract – and keep – customers.

3. Remember that you’re building a brand. While Disney stars may be “being themselves,” they are never outside of the watchful eye of the media, and as such have to behave in a way that will build their brand – always. One little slip up (such as Cyrus’ photo incident with Vanity Fair), might be able to be overcome with an apology. But constant deviations from your brand will leave your customers confused and angry.

High School Musical4. Piggyback on previous success. The Jonas Brothers, Disney’s up-and-coming prospects who you often hear compared to The Beatles (at least by Disney), first toured as the opening act for – Hannah Montana. By piggybacking on the success of one musician, Disney was able to launch the careers of another group that appeals to the same demographic. In the same way, piggyback one business success off of another whenever possible.

5. Let your customers in on the action. One of the biggest reasons that High School Musical was so popular was that it invited everyone in to learn the songs and the dances. Both fans and customers want to be included, so figure out ways to draw your audience in and let them participate every chance you get.

 

MySpace vs. iTunes

Friday, April 4th, 2008

My most recent article for The Industry Standard just went up – How MySpace Music could beat iTunes. If you’re interested, please give it a read!

The music industry is something that I’m really thinking about lately with the launch of Fat J Records and signing Cara Austin – so the recent news about iTunes overtaking Wal-Mart and MySpace Music’s launch are both of great interest to me. And there are a lot of things about the MySpace vs. iTunes topic that I didn’t have space to include in my article for The Standard. So I thought I would just list them here, kind-of stream-of-thought.

MySpace logoMySpace Music can beat iTunes by supporting musicians. This is the premise of the article that I wrote for The Standard. Basically, I think that if MySpace Music provides data about the fans that purchase music, ticket and merchandise to the musicians, it can beat iTunes. Go read the article for the whole argument.

CDBaby is a model of how MySpace Music could work. CDBaby is an unbelievable music retailer that caters only to independent artists. And this is what its privacy policy says (these points are directed at buyers who visit the site):

“Only the musician whose music you buy will know who you are. If you don’t even want the musician to know about you, just say so at the bottom of your order form.”

I use CDBaby to sell CDs for Cara Austin, and so far, NOT ONE person has requested that CDBaby withhold their contact information. This is because people who go so far as to buy a CD are usually fans – and they don’t mind the band or artist being able to contact them again in the future.  According to the company’s Website, CDBaby has sold 4,202,465 CDs to customers resulting in $71,482,212 paid directly to the artists.

iTunes is a store, MySpace is a community. I read this quote from someone involved in the deal, and this is a really important point. While there are millions of people who buy music from iTunes, the MySpace community that uses MySpace to discover new artists and read about what they are up to, will be a powerful environment for making a purchase. With the possibility of revenue coming from MySpace, artists will do even more to make sure that their pages are attractive, interesting and compelling. And the community of music on that site is going to get stronger and stronger. Imagine 5 million musicians adding content, video, new songs and new song versions – this is going to be incredibly powerful and impossible for iTunes to rival.

Facebook’s chance to win in this space is shrinking by the minute. Facebook is gaining on MySpace in the social networking space, but Facebook’s support of music is, well, pathetic. They are going to have one shot to try to release a music platform that users will like (and use) but it’s not looking good. With MySpace’s announcement of the support of three of the four major labels, one possibility is that Facebook already has the support of the fourth (but that is highly unlikely and just speculative on my part).

International will be huge. I read that MySpace Music isn’t going to be able to distribute music internationally yet. What? What is the licensing issue with that? My suggestion – sign up all the indies asap and start selling to Japan, England, Australia, and everywhere else that has an appetite for U.S. music immediately – or else that could be a place that MySpace Music will be vulnerable.

DRM free matters, but won’t be the thing that wins it for MySpace. As part of the announcement, MySpace announced that they music that is sold from its music store will be DRM-free. (DRM=Digital Rights Management, it is the protection that Apple places on its files that prevents people from being able to share them.) This is a big deal, but not the biggest, as this will just (finally) compel Apple to follow suit with iTunes.

There is still a perception issue that could cause MySpace some serious problems. MySpace has kind of a seedy image. The site’s design is fairly unattractive, and it’s hard to navigate the social network without running into something that borders on pornography or spam. The company is going to have to do battle against that perception to win back people who have become disillusioned by previous negative experiences with MySpace.

Can Apple prevent iPods from using this service? Technically, I’m not sure if there is a way for Apple to limit the sites from which the iPod can download music, but if users are unable to load music from MySpace Music to their iPods, that would be a serious setback to MySpace. It also would likely cause a revolt among iPod users against Apple, but it would still be a hiccup in the acceptance of the service.

I'm launching a record label

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that my company Pure Incubation is working on starting lots of companies. You probably also know that when I get to announce the launch of one of them, I am really excited (and usually a bit relieved!)

Fat J Records logoToday I get to announce that my latest project is launching: Fat J Records.

I’ve been working on getting this independent record label off the ground for awhile, but I feel like it’s finally official because I’ve signed my first artist: Cara Austin.

Check out her site here: www.caraaustin.com.

I’ve mentioned Cara Austin here before – because I really like her music – but now I am more than just a fan, I’m her label.

To be honest, I’m still figuring out all the kinks with what’s involved with owning and running a record label. The idea to even start this type of business came from a post that I wrote earlier this year about the music industry and the things that are changing with the way that music is sold and promoted because of the Internet. That post is here if you want to give it a read.

The bottom line about the online music business is that no one has it just right yet, so I figured that I might as well jump in now when all the fun stuff is happening.

One thing that I know for sure is that the Internet is changing the fan/artist relationship, and with that in mind, Cara Austin’s blog has launched on Tumblr. I think that the Tumblr microblogging platform might be just perfect for an artist blog that will likely include a lot of pictures, quotes, and short bits and links, as well as video and audio clips. I’m going to be the primary writer of the blog, and I won’t only be posting about Cara Austin and her musical career, but also about our adventures in exploring the online music industry – so feel free to give a read or follow us there.

Second, I don’t think that the online music business models are going to be figured out by one small independent label working alone. So with this post, I invite all of you to get involved. Do you have ideas about what needs to happen to change the music industry? Why don’t you post them here. Are you an independent record label yourself, or an Internet business that is making the best use of the new music models that are emerging? Let’s work together. Send me an email and let’s see if and how we can collaborate.

The launch of a business is always exciting. But today is particularly thrilling for me as the music industry is all new for me. It’s seems sure to be a wild ride.

Washing an iPod

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Yesterday, I accidentally washed Chris’ iPod. I went into the washing machine to pull out the clean clothes and something clanked. You know that sound you hear when you know that something was left in the pocket of a pair of pants, and you fear what it might be? You hope it was just a penny, but worry it could be a lipstick…you just aren’t sure which way it will go until you find the culprit.

Here is the iPod post-wash. (Notice how it looks perfect.)

 iPod post wash

I was hopeful that the iPod would survived the wash when I saw how great it looked.

No such luck.

Moral of the story: Don’t wash your iPod.

Update: Jason Meserve just sent me a link to this podcast: I washed my iPhone, now what? Apparently this is more common than I thought!

Cara Austin back in stock

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Just a quick note for those of you who read my take on Cara Austin’s debut CD and asked me to let you know when the CD was back in stock at Amazon.com – they are available now. Or you can find it at the Web site: www.CaraAustin.com.

Get one while they last!

Cara Austin debut is amazing

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Cara Austin Send MeI have written about my friend Cara a number of times in the past, and today I am proud to annouce the launch of her new CD and Website. The CD – Send Me – is available for download or purchase at all the standard musical locations – Amazon.com, iTunes, Rhapsody, and CDBaby – but it SOLD OUT in the first day from Amazon, so they are waiting to get some more copies in and are temporarily out of stock.

I highly recommend that you check out these tunes – you’ll hear interesting lyrics, a great message that gets into your head and your soul, and I am constantly impressed with her songwriting skills.

Cara is one of the people who I admire most in the world – this is someone who everyone will want to get to know, check it out.

5 reasons that TuneCore has a place in the digital music revolution

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I first heard about TuneCore from my friend Mary when we were on a trip together in Baltimore. She is currently working on producing her first album, and I was picking her brain about digital distribution and manufacturing options for Cara Austin. Because of that conversation, I decided to use TuneCore to distribute Send Meto iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody.

TuneCore logoSo far, the process has been seamless and I think that TuneCore will emerge as one of the Web sites that musicians can’t live without as the music industry continues to evolve and more and more control is in the hands of the artists. Why? Here are five reasons:

1) It’s a piece of cake to use. I have written step-by-step instructions for using a Web site application before, and although it seems like that type of writing would be easy, it is incredibly difficult to make sure that you remember every step and it’s also tricky to keep the language simple enough that it stays clear. Add on top of that the fact that it’s practically impossible to make step-by-step instructions not-boring. But TuneCore has done it all, and their FAQ may be the best one that I have ever read. It’s thatgood and helpful. Uploading music to the site was also really simple, and they are very clear about exactly how long it will take for the music to debut on the various services. (January 26, 2008 – Stay tuned!) I’m also in the process of manufacturing some CDs with them – I’ll let you know how that goes when the process is complete.

2) They give artists all the money they make. There are a number of other services that help musicians get their digital tunes up on iTunes (CDBabycomes to mind), but they all take a cut. Sometimes a small cut (CDBaby takes 9%), but TuneCore takes 0%. Nothing. They just charge a fee to process the stuff up front – $0.99 per track, $0.99 per store per album, and $19.98 per album per year for storage and maintenance. All the money that the songs earn goes to the artists. Plus, it’s really smart that they are charging $19.98 PER YEAR because that creates a recurring revenue stream that will only grow as more musicians sign up and use the service.

3) TuneCore “gets” musicians. I am not sure if the founders and people who work there are musicians, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Here’s a paragraph from their philosophy that reminds me of the movie School of Rock, the part where Jack Black’s character is talking about how rock music is really all about fighting “The Man.”

“Why should you have to give up money from each and every sale of your music? Why should you have to enter into exclusive deals and sign strangling contracts? Why should you have to give up your rights and the ownership of your own music to some other company just to gain access to music stores? TuneCore changes all that.”

4) They keep rolling out new features. Since I first looked into TuneCore, they’ve released a service that allows artists to create a branded Web page for their album (these can be seen in the TuneCore directory), the ability to upload music videos to iTunes, and cool metrics, like the ones shown below. They are also working on technology to offer daily tracking of how many songs are sold through the U.S. iTunes service, a feature that is bound to be a huge hit with musicians who are trying to figure out ways to get people to listen to their music and who I bet will easily become obsessed with monitoring the sales.

TuneCore Screenshot

5) Success stories and big-name artists. TuneCore has been able to sign up some big-name artists – Jay-Z and Public Enemy – to use the service, and it’s generated some really good publicity for them. I expect this will continue. They also have a success story that’s really compelling, an artist named Eric Hutchinson who rocketed to fame after he was mentioned by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. This type of rags-to-riches story is going to be really attractive to musicians who are trying to make it, and should only help to increase the popularity of the service.

Micaiah Hesed's first song released

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Micaiah%20Hesed

My friend Micaiah’s first song came out today and I had to include a link here. It’s called “When I Dream of You.” She sounds so great – go check it out!