1000 Fans of Natalie Merchant: 2 essays for artist in the digital age

March 7, 2008

pgp-8142.jpgThe recorded music industry has become the global icon of how to destroy customer goodwill and torpedo an industry, in the digital age. Their mis-steps go from the tragically self-defeating (suing fans, grandma and apple pie) to the spectacularly ineffective (seeding corrupt files on P2P networks, malware and DRM). The US recorded music industry isnt in decline, its dead, there is nothing left to do but harvest the usable organs.

The surest sign that the recorded music industry has gone the way of chimney sweeps and buggy builders, is a couple of recent articles from blog A-listers Seth Goodin and Kevin Kelly. These are not folks from the lunatic fringe screaming in the wind, like myself, these guys are mainstream pundits well respected by the conference booking set. Even they no longer question but are promoting solutions to come after. The lessons and insights they offer could be as instructive to magazine publishers and indie flim makers as they should be to musicians.

truefans-1.jpg

Kevin Kelly’s article, 1,000 True Fans is a must read for any artist hoping to make money in the digital age. In it he argues that an artist can make a decent living ($100,000k/yr) concentrating most of their efforts on cultivating a fan base of just 1,000 “true fans”. He defines a true fan as “someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce”, ie your mother. The model is actually very well reasoned and hearkens back to the patronage model that Pholks have been debating for years. The application of a CLV to a music fan that appeals to me on some fundamentally geeky level but attempting to a hard dollar value on fans is frought with issues. While this is agreat article with lots of interesting areas for exploration and strategy building its to be taken with a dose of salt.

head.gifMarketing god Seth Godin, one of the coolest looking bald guys since Cypher, released the text of a speech he delivered on the music business. His Live Music Talk is another long read, but well worth it (pdf here). He basically argues that fan engagement, he calls it “tribe management”, is the future of the music business. Get permission, get personal and get pervasive is the point he is driving home. Of course he says it much better then that but you get the point. Seth, we’re that close, reimages the music industry through a consumer marketing framework, using Natalie Merchant to make it concrete. While this article doesnt offfer anything really new it does make seem to crystallize and simplify many older arguments.

Advertisements

Andrew Keen’s Against You: Why Old Folks Hate Web 2.0

June 9, 2007


Yesterday, ChangeThis posted an essay entitled Against You: A manifesto in favor of audience, by Andrew Keen. Keen is famous for two things, the 18 month flame-out of Audiocafe.com and the merciless taunting of Web 2.0 boosters. The essay is a jaded, bitter and over-simplified rehashing of Jaron Lanier’s more academic essay, Digital Moaism. Channeling his inner Roger Ailes, Andrew Keen borrows the more reasoned and reasonable arguments from Digital Moaism and stretches them to the Fox extreme (its worth reading for that alone). Read the rest of this entry »


Digg Bows to Spontaneous User Protest

May 4, 2007


A must read article over at Rev2.org on the Digg rebellion and its outcome. Two items that I think are really interesting and deserve more thought:
1) spontaneous user protest
2) siding with your users is a winning strategy

DVD’s, cracked. HD-DVD’s, cracked. Blu-Ray disk’s, cracked. There has to come a point where the movie guys realize that the effort and cost associated with trying to bottle up content isnt worth it. The main question shouldnt how do I protect my content, it should be how do I help people access and use my content, what are they willing to pay for and how much are they willing to pay.


A 5 Site Guide to Web 2.0

March 21, 2007

If you follow any of the Web 2.0 A-listers, like Pete Cashmore, Frank Arrington or Om Malik , then you know that the only thing anyone can agree on is that no one really knows what Web 2.0 is. Folks seem to agree that it’s got something to do with the rise of social media, Rich Internet Applications and the growing power of us, but beyond that there lots of debate and grey area. In an attempt to cut through some of the noise, I offer this list of 5 sites you can play with to get first hand experience of Web 2.0. No need for $1,500 research reports or slick consultants with 50 slide PowerPoint decks. I guarantee that if you get engaged in at least 3 of these sites you’ll know more about Web 2.0 then most new media pontificators and all old media execs.


“Whats the point of this?” Thats seems to be the universal refrain when people first encounter the site, and its a damn good question. I still havent figured out what the point really is, but whenever I get a text telling me to post, I do. I also post when I have those all to frequent that someone says something where the only intelligent response is to stage blankly in dumbfounded silence (a look I’ve had to perfect of late).

The site is slow and often unresponsive but its a great example of the utilities and services that catch on with people hungry to say all that goes unsaid. Its a place where you and a few hundred thousand of your closest friends can answer one simple question; “What are you doing?” Thats it, nothing else. Yup, Web 2.0 all over. Simple, straightforward, discovered through usage not planning and amazingly addictive. Just like any good conversation. Doppelgangers: Happytxt, Justanger


Amazin Phasin’ hipped me to Grandcentral last year and I’ve used it as my main phone number ever since. The basic idea behind the site is to provide users with “one number to rule them all.” The simple way to think about it is Internet based call screening, with a bunch of features layered on top.

Want all the calls from a boss or co-worker to go directly to a voice mail? Done. Want calls from a talkative parent to be forwarded to the cell phone of a favorite sibling? Done. Grandcentral highlights the fun that can be had when one can apply online controls to multiple offline devices.


No discussion of Web 2.0 can occur without someone saying AJAX at least 10 times and in three different parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective). AJAX is the new HTML, its the basic building blocks of the new super cools webpages. I first took note of the power of AJAX when I started to play with the SideStep. It’s heavy use of AJAX makes finding the fare you want a much simpler process then Orbitz or any of the other travel meta-search engines out there. Farecast takes Sidestep to the next level, not only providing ticket information but also predicting the way that ticket price is likely to move. Both make heavy use of what anyone, excluding developers and techies, would most likely call AJAX (Farecast uses flash for most of its visualizations). If being an expert on Web 2.0 is important getting comfortable navigating around sites  like Sidestep and Farecast is  a good first step.


In the “early days”, way back in ’95, everyone was rushing to build beautifully gilded prisons within which to lock away users, or more specifically their eyeballs. Ironically these gilded prisons were called “portals”, although they didnt take you anywhere. Netvibes is one of a growing list of services that have taken a twist on the portal idea. Rather then gather everything into one place for you, they provide you with the means to build your own start page and litter it with what ever you find valuable. From gmail accounts and news sources to Flickr images and net videos, Netvibes gives you a way to bring them all together on one page. A start page that requires nothing to get going and only an email address to save. Where the old portals attempted to be the gatekeeper of your Internet experience these sites seek to be the concierge. Doppelgangers: Google Personalized Home, SuprGlu


Myspace, a collection of 159 million random profiles and musings by a lot less then 150 million random people, was sold for more then half a Billion non-random dollars. Why? Because it had 150 million random profiles, a ton of traffic and lots of press buzz. If you’ve ever thought you could build a social network of the same scale then Ning is the site for you. It started as the place to build lots of weird little social applications, from polls to “Hot or Not” like sites, and has evolved (or devolved) into a place to build weird little social networks. Rather then having to fuss with some geeky software, expensive developers or arcane technologies, Ning provides a simple page where you can drag and drop the features you want on your social network, pick its design, its privacy level and launch it to the public. Think of it as the WordPress of social networks.

Bonus:

Where do you go in this ever shrinking world for some alone time? How do you disconnect from the overly social networks, the ever twittering devices and the ubiquitous pings of email? Thankfully there is a site that helps you do just that. This site express the nature of Web 2.0 better then any Doc Searls rant or Clay Shirky lecture. If you want to be were others arent, isolatr is the site for you.


The Formula of Web 3.0 (is it Wrong?)

February 20, 2007

Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS)

According to a great post by Sramana Mitra this formula is the future of the web. The four C’s in this formula are content, community, and commerce with a fourth C representing context. The P is for personalization and the VS is for vertical search. Sramana believes that Web 1.0 was all about commerce and Web 2.0 is being built on community but Web 3.0 will evole into a personalized, vertically searchable, contextualized tool for accessing commerce, content and community. I’m not convinced.

While I love the thinking Sramana has put into the formula I cant help but think its wrong. Not in the elements she has put together, but in how she has combined them. Like any good recipe its not enough to have the right ingredients you also have to combine them in the right order and proportion. Sramana provides the shopping list but its left to entrepreneurs to figure out of to make a killer dish.

Read the rest of this entry »


Blog Castes: The Real Ranking of the Blogoshpere

November 7, 2006


In ancient India, along the scenic Indus Valley, someone came up with a system of social control so good it survives to this day. It was called the Caste system and basically it codified the privileges reserved for the in-crowd and the drudgery dished out to everybody else. While the Caste system is no longer socially acceptable in most places, in a few dwindling pockets, where the light of meritocracy has yet to shine, it thrives. Rural India is one such place. The Blogosphere is another.

Despite the thousand of years that separate the beginning of the Caste system in India and the beginning of personal logs on the web, there is only one major difference between the two systems; in rural India you can never change your Caste while in the Blogosphere it only seems that way.

Read the rest of this entry »