Thursday, February 23, 2012

I wanted to watch a movie...

Or maybe even a good TV episode. That's why I'm paying for Netflix. Right?

They have a few good things: Sherlock (BBC), Downton Abbey (BBC), Top Gear (BBC)... notice a trend?

Now I'm surfing the comedies... and I just can't find anything. I'm sitting at my computer with a (small) bowl of (melting) ice cream watching film after film pass by. Doesn't Netflix know what I want to watch before I do? Why aren't these choices better?

Where's the good stuff?!?

I start looking... searching by actor (why am I doing this work again, Netflix?) So I search for "Tom Cruise." This is what comes up:
One. Film. From 1994. This is the web's premiere streaming service??

Contrast this with the IMDB listing for Tom Cruise's films:
The film I'm itching to watch is "Tropic Thunder". So I hit Google:
See that link where Netflix claims "Watch "Tropic Thunder" Online?" That's a lie. They don't have it. Why would they claim otherwise?

I guess I'm not going to watch anything tonight. Instead I'm up, pissed, writing a blog post about how shitty Netflix's streaming choices are. SO much Good Stuff missing from their streaming offering... why am I paying for this again? What are my options?

(The Oatmeal totally called this.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More on Spotify, YouTube, etc

Some quick bulletpoints:
  • Spotify needs to figure out how to convert "listeners" to ticket buyers. One-click. That means all players have to be welcome: TicketMaster, Brown Paper, Eventbrite, etc. Is that even possible?
  • I've watched Spotify in the wild now, and I'm even less convinced of its actual utility to artists. I've so far seen two (anecdotal, yes) instances where the listener has the volume turned down so low as to be un-hearable, but the system still auto-posts the playlist to their Facebook wall. Bad data here.
  • Conversely, YouTube engagement is practically 100%. Sure, sometimes, people will have a song open in one tab and surf in another, but when they watch a YT vid, it's the only thing they're doing. THIS is where you convert people to ticket buyers.
  • Forget iTunes - the days of paying for mp3's is over. Yes, Apple may be writing big checks to certain licensors, but that's only possible with a legacy catalog and scaling to sell everything. 
  • I know there are still people with legacy devices, but don't worry about that: the price of connected devices is falling to practically zero. The cloud is free (except access), but you have to pay to get in the show and for a t-shirt.
  • Network congestion is going to make media-on-smartphones difficult to deliver, but ala-carte apps are the future. The day HBO severs themselves from the cable co's and goes directly to subscribers is coming. Netflix may remain a legacy clearinghouse, but the bulk of content owners will want their own subscribers. Look for Netflix to spin off a turn-key mgmt company that does exactly that.
  • He (or she!) that builds an all-ages venue that's clean and doesn't retail alcohol as its primary income source will be at a massive advantage. What are all those old Border's anchors doing empty? There's plenty of room for a chain of clean venues in the country. Why isn't someone building this?
  • Right now, the best venues are either in casinos or churches. What does that say about this country??
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Bret Victor - Inventing on Principle on Vimeo

Bret Victor - Inventing on Principle on Vimeo

I hate to give you an hour of homework, but this is really worth watching.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brainstorming Doesn’t Really Work : The New Yorker

Brainstorming Doesn’t Really Work : The New Yorker:
The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that if people are scared of saying the wrong thing, they’ll end up saying nothing at all. The appeal of this idea is obvious: it’s always nice to be saturated in positive feedback. Typically, participants leave a brainstorming session proud of their contribution. The whiteboard has been filled with free associations. Brainstorming seems like an ideal technique, a feel-good way to boost productivity. But there is a problem with brainstorming. It doesn’t work.

worth a read, Creatives.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to play Superstition on Clavinet? Stevie Wonder's funky part dissected

How to play Superstition on Clavinet? Stevie Wonder's funky part dissected

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brown M&Ms on Vimeo

Brown M&Ms from Van Halen on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Outgrowing Old

The older we get, the more expensive we get.

How do we resolve this tension? Does experience have value? Everyone wants a raise at their day-to-day, but a band increases their ticket prices and suddenly they're "greedy" or "out of touch?" Huh?

I know, I know - I'm old. I'm out of touch. I'm hurting, too, and lashing out. So don't listen.

So many people are pissed at Madonna for justifying her $300 ticket price. "I earned it" she says, boldly.

And boy, isn't that a slap in the face of lazy America? And you, too? Because you thought this was *magic.* You keep believing that bullshit about "just make great music and the Universe unfolds before you."

Sucker! You have to fucking FIGHT for it! You don't even have to be that good - tenacity and spectacle will go a long way in this line of work.

But you're getting all kinds of different signals right now - everyone's telling you to play ball. Be nice. Keep your mouth shut and don't make waves.

Sucker! That just makes you a spineless weenie! Real people have conviction, scars... and enemies. Play-alongs hand out gold stars for showing up - the reward becomes meaningless. Set a bar and weed out the tourists.

“People spend $300 on crazy things all the time, things like handbags. So work all year, scrape the money together, and come to my show. I’m worth it.”

Is she? Her fans/ticket sales will tell.

Are you worth your last raise?

The Game is the Same - The Game Has Changed

The Game is the Same: Lock up distribution and collect the rent.

The Game has changed: scale changes everything.

I hear the hype - I see it on Facebook and Twitter  (who reads that anymore?) I get the comments and emails telling me how I "need to be on Spotify" or I don't exist. Telling me how good the iTunes deal is (80% of my sales!) compared to old major deals when the Apple is doing 2% of the work.

I'm not buying it... the contrarian in me is too strong.

I don't think we can build longevity on the lowest denominator. I know the Internet theoretically democratizes everything, but people still want tribes. This is neurological in origin - nature, not nurture. That's where longevity lies for music makers: the Lizard Brain.

A tribe has barriers of entry. Weed out the tourists.

But we're up against other forces right now: In the US, the "real" unemployement rate hovers around 20% nationally, and the racial breakdown of that statistic is both sobering and heartbreaking. The vast majority of rent-collecting is distributed to license owners of cultural back-catalog, not the new. This may not be a new phenomenon in itself, but now there's 100+ years of cultural history coming online - we're competing with our own aural memory for attention.

Don't even get me started on the logistics/economics of opening/running  venues. I used to hate venue owners so much (and in some ways, I still do), but I've recently had some eye-opening insight into the environment in which so many of these entities operate. My heart goes out - you really have to be dedicated to make anything work in this business right now.

I wish I could tell you I see a clear future, but I don't. Today, I don't see iTunes or Spotify paying anyone's middle-class mortgage1.

Then you tell me that's not the point: it's the *exposure* that counts. "It's a small price to pay" (RENT!) for the opportunity to be in front of so many people so quickly (give us your music for free and you too can be famous/rich.).

The game is the same. (lock up distribution and collect the rent.)

The game has changed. (put your music out for free and IF YOU'RE GOOD ENOUGH you can be famous/rich.)

Go find your flock.

1 I'm dying for data that contradicts this. If you or someone you know is paying a middle-class mortgage (or better) with iTunes/Spotify royalties, by all means, send an email or comment.

[Update #1 via FB: ]
"Live Music will, of course, always be the key. However, less and less people buy my physical CD at my shows because they would rather have it digital. I earn about .65 per iTunes .99 download. Considering that they are the 'agent' and own the largest music store in the world, that is not a bad return as compared to what I received on my physical CD through a retailer (after physical costs were summed in)

Without giving away a name, I have a very close friend (smooth jazz artist) who earns north of 100K per year just on music downloads and Streaming royalties. He plays live because he loves to. It's not his main source of income. He, like myself, is not a big fan of Spotify's model when it comes to the royalty payment, but it has become a necessary evil. More people are hearing our songs than ever before. When I look at my streaming royalties, the 'spins' are better than when I paid somebody to 'work' my record on radio. But, via a monetary royalty percentage, I earn much less. Remember the famous "Lady Gaga only earned $175 from 1 million plays on Spotify article." We are all in the same boat, and I think Gaga has way more pull than you and I.

IMHO: The key is offering premium product / services to your listener. Offer songs on Spotify et all, and then sell a special song or remix with limited art, or whatever on your site.
The worst decision I ever made in the business of music was becoming too full of myself, and I got lazy. I passed up opportunities because I didn't want to 'eat beans out of a can and ride in van.' As a result. I lost footing, blamed others, and ended up 12 years later finally resurrecting my music. How did I do it? With Pandora, Spotify, CDBaby, and iTunes. I am making more money now (from my music) than I did when I was 'working' my record with real dollars, and playing live every chance I got.
The 'access model' is the new 'eating beans out of a can, and living in a van' - maybe I went off thread a little bit, but I thought I would share real insight rather than pull up google stats or something that is not tangible until you actually live it…"
- Tony Windle
[Update #2 via email]
"Your assertions about tribal behaviors being rooted in neurology are only partially correct. While there is strong research to indicate correlations between neurological activity and stimuli that are thought to induce a tribal response, it's not causative. I get the "Lizard Brain" reference, but it's a little flimsy to build a business philosophy, IMHO. Then again, I'm not a musician!"
- anonymous sociologist
[Update #3]
"On my deal with Amazon and iTunes, I do make money on sales. If you're looking for the old industry model to make new industry money.. give up. Did we become musicians to get rich? I've signed major deals as an artist and I've never been rich. After the advances were gone (usually to pay debts) touring was the only way to generate income while hoping radio would pick up the record and make it a hit. And if you were so lucky to pay the label back their advances, their percentage split on profits was a lot worse than it is now with online retailers. Not much has changed for the artists. We are all hoping for one of our songs to hit. Except in the new industry, a hit can be measured by how many downloads it has, not how many live performances it's had. Make great music and good things will happen."
- Nathan Dale


Lefsetz on RayWJ:
What if we don’t need radio. What if we don’t need television? What if we don’t need record companies and movie studios? What if we don’t need money?
Let’s say you had a thriving business. Wouldn’t you do your best to protect it? That’s what all of the foregoing entities possess, a beachhead, profits, and they [...]

In other words, you’re better off going on YouTube than "American Idol". But on YouTube creativity is king. To have big time success you must write your own material.

Except RayWJ isn't really doing either of those things any more than Bob Saget and America's Funniest Home Videos were. In fact, this is an exact rehash of that same formula: build on other people's work and collect the rent. RayWJ isn't even really finding unique content: he's just talking about videos that are already popular. This is the new game? Huh??

Reddit is doing most of the heavy-lifting when it comes to filtering online media, not someone "making videos for a hobby." High-production value is not a "hobby": it's a commitment. RayWJ is most certainly, fully, "in the game."

But Lefsetz gets caught up on the money and misses the point: the creators of the videos RayWJ uses as his material base are not participating in Ray's millions.

The (awful) Yahoo! article makes this startling claim: "He doesn't have the backing of a traditional media conglomerate. He's a lone comic with a YouTube channel."

Just to be clear, YouTube is most certainly a media conglomerate, and now that it's over a decade old, it's "traditional" too. RayWJ's been front-page featured: it doesn't get any more "backing" than that.

Meet the new boss....

Monday, February 6, 2012

Leonard Cohen, With a New Album, ‘Old Ideas,’ Was Never Popular But Always Profound – Tablet Magazine

Leonard Cohen, With a New Album, ‘Old Ideas,’ Was Never Popular But Always Profound – Tablet Magazine

Cohen’s ideas were not only old but radical. His peers all insisted that salvation was at hand. To go to a Doors concert was to stare at the lithe messiah undressing on stage and believe that it was entirely possible to break on through to the other side. To see Cohen play was to gawk at an aging Jew telling you that life was hard and laced with sorrow but that if we love each other and fuck one another and have the mad courage to laugh even when the sun is clearly setting, we’ll be just all right. To borrow a metaphor from a field never too far from Cohen’s heart, theology, Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, and the rest were all good Christians, and they set themselves up as the redeemers who had to die for the sins of their fans. Cohen was a Jew, and like Jews he believed that salvation was nothing more than a lot of hard work and a small but sustainable reward.
Worth a read.