Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

How Not to Be a Social Media Expert

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

The recent Presidential Address regarding withdrawals from Afghanistan spawned loads of reactions on Twitter. One of them was from a boy who seemed to be from the Christian-right side of the political spectrum, which simply called for Obama stepping down. I notice it, probably because I didn’t like the attitude, but when I clicked it I saw that there were others that didn’t like the comment too. However the top-reply is from a (probably self-proclaimed) ‘social media expert’ (it says “Fuck you bitch”).

While I get that this is the internet, where trolling, cursing, insults and threats are far from uncommon… I was surprised to find out that the first insult came from someone who describes himself as a “Social media expert, your spokesperson, and lover of humanity.”

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster have mercy on the poor soul that hires this person to manage their social media.

My views on “The Next MySpace”

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Why do we need a “next Myspace” anyway? At the last edition of SF MusicTech, I heard a great quote which I’m not sure who to attribute to (sorry), but someone stated that the music industry is trying to find “new ways to do old things, while it should be finding new ways to do new things”. The rise of the internet has meant a fragmentation and loss of control over the music landscape. MySpace was a stronghold for online music for a while, until that landscape got further fragmented too. The closest we will ever get to a “next MySpace” will be either a music network or a social network that manages to gather, organise and integrate the fragments in spectacular fashion. That, however, is still radically different, since it only unites the decentralized. Meanwhile further fragmentation is unpreventable. 

Click here to read the full article on Hypebot.

Thesis Excerpt: The Price and Value of Music

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Just heard a great audience comment on the livestream of the Rethink Music Conference in Boston:

Value is not price. Price comes from value but u have to think of redefining value outside of price.

Thanks to Eric Hellweg for eternalizing it.

In trade group IFPI’s Digitial Music Report 2010, the following quote can be found:

We are in danger of creating a world where nothing appears to have any value at all, and the things that we make… will become scarce or disappearing commodities.

- Stephen Garrett, Chief Executive, Kudos (source)

The concept of something becoming free (or feeling like free) decreasing the value of it is an often repeated logic in the music business and needs to be addressed. A lot of the common medicine we use now, used to be a lot more expensive, but their value has remained the same or perhaps even increased due to their availability. It has not become scarce or disappearing as their costs fell; they became abundant and more widely used.

A report by the trade group Recording Industry Assocation of America reveals that as (physical) CD prices dropped 9% between 1996 and 2006 (inflation-adjusted), concert ticket prices rose 86%, suggesting that that which is easy to reproduce reduces in (commercial) value and that which is not easily reproduced has actually gained commercial value. This has very important consequences for the marketing mix and will be discussed in the solutions section (thesis coming very soon, I promise).

Some are even suggesting a more radical drop in price for that which is easy to reproduce (this is where the financial cost versus mental cost discussion comes back). Rob Dickins, former boss of Warner Music UK and former chairman of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), suggested that album prices should be slashed to about 1 euro, arguing that:

If you’re a fan of REM and you’ve got 10 albums and there’s a new album coming out, you’ve got to make that decision about whether you want it or not. If we lived in a micro-economy, that wouldn’t be a decision. You’d just say ‘I like REM’ and you’d buy it.

Music manager Jonathan Shalit retorts:

Right now if you buy a bottle of water it’s £1. A piece of music is a valuable form of art. If you want the person to respect it and value it, it’s got to cost them not a huge sum of money but a significant sum of money.

Again, the cost/value point is made, but refuted by San Francisco Weekly’s music editor, Ian S. Port:

Several have argued that selling an album for less than a cup of coffee or a bottle of water would devalue the art of music. But people — at least, young people who don’t buy much music anyway — don’t judge the artistic value of music by what it costs. If they did, they would look down on artists who give away free MP3s and whose albums were obtainable on file-sharing sites. They don’t.

The devaluing-the-art argument misses two other important points: First, coffee and water bottles can’t be downloaded quickly and anonymously at no cost, while digital music can. Second, paying $3 or $4 for a tangible good (i.e., a cup of coffee you watched a person make especially for you) seems intrinsically reasonable in this day and age, even, I would guess, to a 13-year-old. But paying $10 to download a digital file that’s a copy of a copy of a copy — all of them made at no additional cost — somehow doesn’t.

And that is basically how I feel about this whole discussion.

Recent articles + news about my thesis!

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Hi everyone!

I recently started blogging for Techdirt, so keep an eye on that blog or my profile to see more articles by me. Of course, I’ll throw out updates like this one every once in a while, so you don’t have to follow me in 3 different places.

Two articles I recently did for Techdirt:

There will also be an expansion of The Ugly Dance case-study soon, so keep your ears and eyes open (I suggest by following me on Twitter).

The main reason many of the readers of this blog found me, is my thesis on digital communication strategy for the new music business. I am almost ready to publish it and send it out, so if you’re not on my distribution list already, put yourself on there. I promise not to spam you too much. ;-)

Also, I’m moving to Sofia, Bulgaria next week and I would love to find a job that let’s me apply my knowledge and expertise in digital communication strategy and leveraging the power of the ecosystem. If you can help me out or know anyone that can, please get in touch.

Twitter: @Spartz
My LinkedIn profile

Companies, employee blogs and the ecosystem

Monday, January 10th, 2011

I’ve been writing a lot about the concept of the ecosystem lately (don’t worry if you haven’t been following, it’s explained again in this post), but only applied to the music business. Obviously, this can be applied to any type of brand, service or product which has a ‘fan’ potential.

A good example of this application of the ecosystem is with companies stimulating their employees to blog. In a reply to a question about this on Quora (GO SIGN UP!), I wrote the following:

What has been enabled in recent years, is the socialization of brands.

It’s no longer about one-way communication via TV and other media, not even about two-way communication (like customer service, mail, emails), but about non-linear many-to-many communication. This creates a new situation.

What few companies could successfully do pre-digital age, almost any company can do now. Starbucks had a massive following and ‘fanbase’ before the digital age, but now all of the members of this following (or ecosystem as I like to call it) can be connected to each other.

The following can be turned into a community. Now, why is it good that large organisations encourage their employees to blog?

These organisations have to be part of their own ecosystem. This works best when it’s done authentically and genuinely (such as via employees). This will strengthen the ties between your ecosystem and the brand, which adds tremendous value for the brand (as well as the customers). It’s a bit of a cliché phrase, oft-repeated by ‘social media experts’, but one has to be part of the conversation.

A brand that is well-connected with their users or customers, is a flexible brand. In times of rapid change, the greatest strength if flexibility. No matter how strong your pillars are… If they’re rigid and get torn down, they will break and shatter.

James Hargreaves made a good addition, which simplifies it even further:

Just to add in more laymen’s terms, a blogging employee adds the ‘human’ element to the ‘face’ of the business, showing a non-corporate means of communicating with consumers, clients, etc.

I firmly believe that anything that can be done digitally will change the system it’s part of, whether that’s a political, economic or social system. The ecosystem is one of the basic rules and models for success in the digital age (if one thoroughly understands the concept, which is easier for digital natives than others). This is not just about the music industry; if your industry has not been impacted yet and part of it is digitizable, then it will be impacted.

Nickelback’s Lead Singer Replies to “Can this pickle get more fans than Nickleback?” Facebook Page

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

And he’s somewhat immature about it.

Yet another reason to become fan of the pickle. ;-)

Edit – it is claimed that this is a hoax. Consider yourselves warned. :-)

Why Google SideWiki is not the source of all evil – and how it will make the web a better place

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

With this post I hope to address some of the misunderstanding and fear mongering which surrounds Google SideWiki and other annotation services. First of all, let me explain what Google SideWiki is exactly. Basically, it’s a plugin that you install (via the Google Toolbar) that enables a sidebar on the left side of your browser. In this sidebar, you can comment on any website you visit – whether that site has enabled comments on their own site or not. This means that the website author loses control over the comments placed on the website. The video below shows how it works.

This is not the only annotation service (I prefer AddATweet), but is catching most of the attention since Google’s name is attached to it.

The response to SideWiki has been very mixed. Especially small entrepreneurs seem to be worried, voicing concerns like “what if my competitors start leaving fake negative reviews”.

Here’s how I see it…

It was never your RIGHT to control comments in the first place.

The Internet enabled this and now it’s disabling the control again. In real life, you cannot control what people say about you or your business. Since the Internet makes sharing ones opinions and reviews so easy, you better make sure you adapt to it and do a great job for others and always stay ethical! If not, sooner or later you will be called on it. This is why I also think we shouldn’t worry about competitors that try to spam your site’s SideWiki with negative comments – because if that’s their business mentality, the Web will destroy their reputation.

Google SideWiki and other annotation services make a more transparent web.

For instance, go to any hotel’s website and usually you can see customer reviews. Of course the hotels moderate these reviews, but with the Internet becoming more central to our lives by its increasing mobility (laptops, netbooks, mobile devices), it will get harder and harder to rip people off by not delivering what you promise. You have to meet expectations and exceed them if you want to succeed in a transparent world.

It’s inevitable.

To be honest, I think the cries for a ‘ban’ of Google SideWiki are absolutely ridiculous and show a complete lack of understanding of the Internet. Within the next ten years, augmented reality will become common. This would let people aim the camera of their mobile device at a restaurant and instantly receive reviews in an overlay on the screen of their mobile device – but this will be possible for every and anything. For an example of this, check out Layar in the video below.

People are already leaving comments about your business in channels you don’t own or control.

For instance on Twitter. It was just a matter of time before someone brought the reviews and the subjects of the reviews together. AddATweet has doen that, which is why I prefer AddATweet over Google’s SideWiki; it combines existing social networks with annotation… plus it doesn’t require me to download some toolbar I really don’t need or want.

The problems will solve themselves.

Yes, anonymous commenters might be a nuisance, but how much weight do people really give to such comments compared to a non-anonymous comment? Also, your personality reflects in everything that you do, so if you’re a troll, people will have trouble trusting your business and they’ll leave non-anonymous comments about this through annotation services. Perhaps there are other concerns – let’s talk about them, leave a comment!

In the end, I think these annotation services will do many times more good than bad (if they’ll do any bad at all, besides create a little more clutter to sift through).

So in short, here’s how I think annotation services, like Google SideWiki, will make the world a better place:

- Increased transparency; you can no longer say A and do B. The web will catch up with you.
- Democratization; we get to say what we want, about who we want and make others listen.
- Creating conversation; this will force any business to converse with and listen to its (potential) consumers.
- Collaboration; you can leave helpful hints for others on any website. For instance, if a website is unclear, you can point others in the right direction.

So, suck it up people. You no longer control the conversation – and you never have. If you’re worried about this, adapt your business model to something more ethical and aim to exceed expectations. Be confident! :-)

Comments? Let’s have a discussion. You can also reach me on Twitter.

Within minutes of posting this, somebody called “SidewikiSux” already tweeted that there’s a lot of “BS” here in his or her honest opinion. Not sure why. Figured I would share this to show the amount of animosity towards Google’s annotation service. Opinions don’t convince me, arguments do… Let’s DISCUSS like mature people.

Follow Friday: blogs that keep me up to date on the new music industry

Friday, October 9th, 2009

I’m borrowing one of my favourite Twitter memes called Follow Friday, though I hardly ever participate. On Fridays, many Twitter users recommend their followers to follow interesting people that they themselves are following. It’s kind of like networking. Actually, it’s more than just ‘kind of’ like networking!

I always find it really tough who to recommend, but I love the principle. That’s why I have decided to recommend some of the blogs I subscribe to so I stay in the know about developments in the (new) music business. Maybe you can recommend some to me too?

A rather traditional source of information – not too forward thinking, but has some interesting case studies every now and then.

Looks at trends in music & the digital world.

Digital Audio Insider
Describes itself as a blog about the economics of digital music and I think that’s quite an accurate description.

Digital Music News
Definitely one of the best blogs out there on this topic! So I gave it some sweet italic loving!

Digital Noise
A CNET blog about music and technology. Hightlights lots of interesting innovative initiatives in the digital music business.

A blog about filesharing, piracy, torrent sites, lawsuits and other fun stuff.

Future of Music Coalition
A non-profit organisation looking at the future of the music business and how artists can cope with the rapid changes.

A blog about the new music business. Hardly misses a thing. Very impressive!

Make It In Music
Artists have to take more and more control of the tasks record labels previously used to take care of. This blog educates them on how to do that. Also interesting for people who are simply interested in the music business, but not as an artist.

Kind of a monitor of the music business blogs. Everything in one place here, but I prefer visiting the individual blogs / reading their RSS feeds.

Media Futurist – Gerd Leonhard
The blog of Gerd Leonhard, who’s a media futurist. He appears to be touring constantly, speaking at conferences about technologies and how our society could adopt them. He shares many of his presentations, slideshows and ideas on his blog. Great material! Also check out the interview I had with him about the future of music distribution.

MIDEM(Net) Blog
MIDEM is one of the world’s biggest music business conferences. MidemNet is its simultaneous digital music business conference. The blog is filled with interesting analyses by industry experts.

Music Ally
The corporate blog of this digital music business information and strategy company.

Music Business and Trend Mongering
A blog about the great ideas and trends in the new music business.

Music Think Tank
Awesome blog about what works and doesn’t work (and why!) in the music industry. Highly recommended.

MusicBizGuy Speaks
A music business veteran’s view on the new music business. Very impressive track record and highly insightful articles.

Net, Blogs and Rock’n'Roll
A blog about the digital discovery of music and entertainment.

New Music Strategies
The name more or less speaks for itself. Sporadic posts, but high quality guaranteed.

P2P Blog
Lots of news about innovation in peer to peer technology.

About filesharing, peer-to-peer technology, RIAA madness, and innovation in the sharing of digital information.

Remix Theory
A blog about remix culture.

Rocketsurgeon’s Music 2.0 Directory
A listing of all the tools and services participating in the ‘new media revolution’. Very cool.

RouteNote’s Blog
RouteNote’s a company specializing in the distribution of artists’ music to (digital) music stores. Their blog offers a great look into the world of digital music distribution.

About innovations in technology and how this affects government policy and the economy around us. Probably my favourite blog of this whole list.

The Daily Swarm
A bit like me*dia*or, in the sense that it aggregates content from other places and links back to the full articles. Sometimes they catch something I had missed, so I try to keep up with them as much as I can.

The Forrester Blog for Consumer Strategy Professionals
Not necessarily about the music business, but definitely gives great insight into marketplaces that are changing because of technology. These guys are really on top of the trends and give valuable insights into them.

Another favourite blog. They ask some very tough questions to the music business about how they deal with filesharing. Also has a lot of news about torrent trackers, politics, what’s hot in the filesharing networks, and much much more.

TuneCore also specializes in distributing signed artists’ music to digital music stores. On their blog, great tips about music and technology, insights into the new music business, and how to use the web to your advantage.

Wired | Music
Wired is a technology news website and has a music section too. Great read! They have a very talented staff.

Another (good) blog about filesharing.

Whenever I spot a great article worth reading in one of these (and other) sources, I share them via Google Reader, so have a look at my shared items and subscribe to them!

What are blogs you would recommend? Did I miss any good ones?

Training Our Kids to Be Hackers

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Due to the recent case against The Pirate Bay in The Netherlands, which could render The Pirate Bay inaccessible to Dutch internet subscribers, I decided to look at ways that I could access the site if it were to get banned. Not because I want to download copyrighted material from it, but because it’s one of the best ways to distribute my DJ sets to fans. If it were to get banned, the Dutch court would sever a great distribution channel that can be (and IS) used in legal ways too.

It’s not just this case that makes me wonder, but also the fact that Dutch ISPs are required to store the surfing history of their clients for 12 months. They are required to keep a whole list of information, which can be seen at the previous link. Since I don’t trust my backwards, Christian democrat government with my data, let alone the possibility of a right-wing extremist gaining access to it after the next parliamentary elections, I decided to look into proxies.

Then I realized something. Monitoring users and infringing on their privacy, but especially restricting a medium like the internet, turns users into hackers. For instance, a lot of kids are fascinated by hackers – not just because of the picture Hollywood paints of them, but also because they face a lot of restrictions on the internet. Filters on their computer or browsers at home, even worse filters at libraries or their schools, etc. So they figure out how to dodge these filters.

It’s no coincidence that in countries like Iran, or China, which have some of the most restricted internet connections in the world, there are very high amounts of hackers. This should be a warning to those trying to control the flow of information on the internet by banning sites: we, the Internet users, will become better at dodging your filters and will become even less trackable than we are now.

What this means to the content industries (movies, music) is that right now there’s a huge database of information on the use and downloading of music. If the ‘pirates’ weren’t so scared of the industries, they wouldn’t be so anonymous and the information would be even more useful for things like testing popularity of music, but also marketing music to the right people.

Another example are the recent calls in Germany to block right-wing extremist websites. The problem with this is that it will only drive this movement underground, making it harder to track them and to prevent hate crimes. They’re already getting more internet savvy. Instead of spending so much time discussing how they can censor such websites (which will NOT decrease the amount of people with right-wing extremist tendencies), maybe they should look at how they can profile different types of people that fall prey to extremist thoughts and think of ways to integrate them into society, instead of alienating them further and making them more extreme.

By blocking our access, we’re turned into hackers. We go underground. At that point, you lose your opportunity to monetize or to influence us via our favourite medium. You’re not disconnecting us from our favourite sites, you’re disconnecting yourself from us.

Image by LShave, shared under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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What the Ban of The Pirate Bay could mean for The Netherlands

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

This afternoon a Dutch court ruled in favour of Dutch copyright protectors, BREIN, in a case versus The Pirate Bay. Within ten days, The Pirate Bay must block access to all Dutch users. BREIN’s head honcho, Tim Kuik, is happy about the verdict, because The Pirate Bay (TPB), according to him, is simply illegal.

What does this verdict change though? Internet users can make TPB’s servers think they’re not in The Netherlands simply by using a proxy. The less tech-savvy users can simply use one of The Pirate Bay’s clones. Those that are getting paranoid can be relieved that people are constantly working on increasing the quality of filesharing and making it harder to track (see this article about HydraTorrent, which, by the way, has already copied all of TPB’s torrents). Now that The Pirate Bay is gone, will the market for music in The Netherlands suddenly be a little bit bigger? No, no, no. Only the lawyers are profiting from this.

So what does it achieve? It makes it easier for people to get websites banned if they disagree with the content. The Pirate Bay doesn’t host any copyrighted content, it links to it. It also hosts a lot of legal content, I personally use it to distribute my DJ sets, so thanks BREIN for killing one of my best distribution channels.

While living in Turkey I witnessed horrible web censorship. I couldn’t use YouTube, one of the most popular sites on the web, unless I used a proxy or some other workaround that simply kills the user friendliness. Why was YouTube banned? Because the Turkish government didn’t like the content of one of the movies on YouTube, because it was against the law in Turkey. When YouTube didn’t remove it, the government had ALL of YouTube blocked via the courts. For years! In an older post I already mentioned that the whole YouTube ban is pointless anyway. Research in’s traffic ranking system has shown that YouTube is the 10th most popular site in Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan surprised everyone when he stated that even he uses YouTube.

Not only was YouTube banned, at some point ALL of blogger/blogspot was banned, because some blogs contained copyrighted material. The website of atheist Richard Dawkins was blocked, because somebody found it to be offensive.

In Holland, blasphemy is also illegal, so is disturbance of the peace, or insulting people. These could all be precedents to take down websites now that that door has been opened. Tim Kuik is proud, but he’s only keeping lawyers paid and limiting the freedoms of the citizens of The Netherlands.

The Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde wants to appeal, but they’re looking for a lawyer that can do the job for free, since they’re out of money. Besides that, they’re suing Tim Kuik for slander, because he accused them of hacking BREIN’s website, which was a hoax by the way, BREIN was never hacked.

Help us out. Spread the word. Understand that blocking sites like this does not help artists make more money, it only helps LAWYERS make more money. When they killed Napster, 10 things came in its place. There is no more stopping it. The business model needs to change. That’s the only way.

Besides that, don’t buy from artists that support this. I personally won’t buy anything anymore from any artist supporting or represented by BREIN. Especially artists shouldn’t align themselves with freedom-infringing practices like this. Art is about expression, not repression and free expression only happens in free environments.

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