Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Why The Internet Has Been Awesome For Both Musical Artists and Fans

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Excerpt from my newest article on Techdirt, refuting pop music critic Simon Reynolds’ claims that the internet has been mostly bad for musical artists and fans. I think the opportunities artists have these days are amazing and highlight that in my response to Reynolds.

In fact, people have a much larger chance to make a living from music these days. This can be witnessed very clearly in electronic genres, where it is the norm for people to start as ‘bedroom producers’ and, if they’re good enough, they’ll get picked up by blogs, then labels and will then be able to build a proper studio and make a living from touring. If they’re good enough, according to fans and curators within their niche – not according to label execs or music journalists. Anyone can become a producer and anyone that manages to find an audience and connects with them properly has the opportunity to start making a living from it. It’s not easy, but at least it’s not a lottery.

Read the entire article on Techdirt: Why The Internet Has Been Awesome For Both Musical Artists and Fans.

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.

The Ugly Dance Case-Study Expanded – Now On Techdirt

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Bas doing the Ugly DanceA while ago I posted a case-study about The Ugly Dance on here as an excerpt of my thesis about marketing music in the digital age. After I published the case-study, the band replied to an email of mine, so I decided to write an expanded version of the case-study for Techdirt.

You can read the full version over there.

Here are some excerpts from the band’s email: was actually not a result of some great promotional master plan. It just happened.
On May 17 we released and sent the link to some friends. When I checked the stats a couple of days later a few thousand people had made their own dancers. I could feel something was about to happen. Just the day after someone shared a link on a Swedish blog, and it generated a tsunami of visitors. 30 000 people rushed in in just a few hours. The week after we hade a few hundred thousand hits, and it was a continous struggle to keep the server alive. Two weeks after the release, and 700 000 visitors later, I thought everything was under control. Then the Americans came. have had 7 milllion completely unique visitors. A few very kind people have donated, but they are very few. If we should have done anything differently, we should probably have sold T-shirts or something. Something real for the massive amount of visitors to buy.
Obviously I have one or two ideas of what they could have done and still can do:

They did a spectacular and exemplary job at getting people’s attention and making the initial connection, but there appears to be no focus at all on retention. There appears to be no link to the band’s MySpace, which they were trying to promote. Due to the fact that most people are on Facebook and Twitter now, I think it would have been a better idea to put those links in the foreground, but most importantly; there has to be a way for people to connect. A simple Facebook ‘Like’ button below the Flash application would have gone a long way.

From a marketing perspective, asking for a donation or getting people to buy your music out of sympathy is a bad business model. As Mike always says, it’s about giving fans a reason to buy. A good thought experiment is to imagine a totally selfish consumer and to see what you could offer them so that they spend money on you. They should spend it for themselves, not for you.

This means making sure you retain as much of the original traffic as you can without getting obtrusive. This means shining a light on the early followers and encouraging them in what they do, because they’re helping you amplify your message and are providing social proof. At the same time you should connect these people to each other, forming an ecosystem.

The business models simply come from listening to the ecosystem and playing into their desires (just like Younger Brother did).
In the end, giving fans a great reason to buy is the ultimate way of connecting with them.

But seriously, just head over to Techdirt and check out the full version. While you’re at it, let’s connect: Twitter | Quora | LinkedIn (be sure to include the fact that you found me via my blog when adding me on LinkedIn).

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

Reinventing the Match through Marketing: a Match Made in Heaven

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

MatchesWhile I do not know much about the match-industry, I imagine it’s in decline. In societies where easier solutions such as lighters are cheap, why use matches. The other day I had a marketing idea, and since I don’t know anyone in the match industry, I’ll just put the idea up here for grabs.

I think you can mass-market matches and give them a sexy image. First of all, you would use a slogan such as “[Brandname], the original matchmaker” to hook into the singles lifestyle trend, which is part of the greater megatrend of individualization. Then you capitalize on a huge opportunity that I feel has not been capitalized on properly (at least in Europe).

The smoking ban annoyed many, but it also created smoking areas inside or outside clubs. The social dynamics of smoking areas are great; it’s a new and easy way to meet people in bars or clubs. So for your commercial, you show pretty boy/guy and a pretty girl in such a smoking area and one of the two strikes a match… Insert cheesy catchphrase like “Every time a match is struck, a match is made. [Brandname], the original matchmaker.” One should position the match as genuine, fashionable, sexy, original, authentic, individualistic, determined… Let’s face it, typical plastic lighters are just boring.

You can also do a lot when it comes to product design. For instance, on the back of the pack there will be certain instructions (which will differ per pack… let’s say 15-20 different packs). The match will be split into two colours. For instance normal colour on the upper half and blue at the bottom half. When you light something and blow out the match, you break it in two with your match. The one that has the other person’s colour on their half of the broken match, will have to perform the instructions on the back of the pack.

For every one of these ideas, I have another 10 and I didn’t spend much time thinking about this yet.

I think it’s time the match reinvented itself. The next time I use a match, I would like it to be a match made in heaven.


By the way, if anyone in the match industry reads this (I can’t imagine, but who knows)… I’m almost done graduating, so if you want to execute this get in touch with me and let’s work together and let’s turn your industry upside down.

or @Spartz on Twitter

Image shared under a CC license on Flickr by Svenneman.

Why the announcement that radicals would hijack Dutch student protests is just spin-doctoring

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Protester holds a sign that says "smart does not equal rich"Leading up to the organized student manifestation against the financial cuts in higher education, there were a bunch of news reports about there being ‘signals‘ that radicals would come and hijack the protest and try to create riots. Radicals was obviously never defined, but at the time I didn’t think much of it. A little while later, I realized what a genius piece of spin-doctoring it had been.

What the message did, was create an expectation of radicals getting violent. For one, radicals can mean football hooligans, for another it can be anarchists, or communists, or foreigners, or anything else which they perceive as dramatically different than them. The manifestation itself was more like a political rally more suitable for election time. When students decided to go to the political quarters to let themselves be heard, they were met by police and violence ensued.

The spin makes it seem like the violence was caused by radicals. I think it was caused by upset students. The difference?

For any government, it’s important to create the impression that the general population is content with the government. The label ‘radicals’ was defined by a set of actions and expectations (mainly disobedience and perhaps violent actions or rioting), so when normal people acted this way, they became radicals. This makes sure that ‘normal people’ don’t identify with these radicals (formerly known as normal people).

Identification creates understanding creates support. The last thing a government which plans to make drastic financial cuts and reforms wants, is people supporting a disobedient protest movement.

Most of the (25) people arrested last Friday were obviously not radicals. They were students. They were normal people (they still are). They were people like you and me.

The Ugly Dance! How to get your music discovered! (Case-Study)

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I go through huge amounts of links and information each day when it comes to the music business, but this is by far the coolest and funniest way of getting your music discovered I’ve seen in a very long time. (OK Go, eat your heart out)

The idea of The Ugly Dance is very simple. You go to the site, upload your picture and you can choose all kinds of maniacal ways of dancing. Here’s me dancing like nobody’s watching:

Bas doing the Ugly Dance

It’s a project by Swedish band Fulkultur and appears to have been around for about half a year now. Obviously, this type of thing spreads. Getting your music heard by a lot of people (and what a catchy song it is). When I wanted to create a second dancer (to send to a friend), I got the following message:

Donate and get music + VIP service!

A very reasonable thing to ask… and since I was in such a great mood and figured the donation would not be much effort anyway, I went ahead and gave them some money, even though I think clicking the Donate Nothing button would still allow you to create more dancers (can anyone verify this?).

There’s even a bunch of tribute videos and remixes out there (yes, every one of those words links to a unique video, have fun).

These videos are the result of the ECOSYSTEM at work!

Perfect example of using something viral to getting your music discovered, but also creating a movement which is easy to join, because it’s obvious what you have to do to participate (also read Derek Sivers’ post about this). Not sure if they’re making any money out of it directly (from the donations), as it might take quite some bandwith to keep this site online, but at least indirectly, by creating an ecosystem and giving them what they want (new music, live shows, merchandise, signed albums, perhaps an Ugly Dance at your own party?).

If you haven’t done it yet, go create your own Ugly Dance!

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.

Thesis Excerpt: Connecting With Fans deadmau5-style (Mini-Case Study)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

When I first heard deadmau5‘ work 3 or 4 years ago, I was immediately excited. Here was a guy doing something new, developing a sound that was completely his own. Even though he was only known by perhaps a few dozen people per country, it was obvious that this guy was going to be influential and blow up.

He has pulled it off in a spectacular way (awesome branding) and when I finally started following him on Facebook, I was thrilled with his level of engagement with his fanbase, or ecosystem (remember?).

In the beginning of December, this interesting development took place, where deadmau5′ marketing team decided they should get involved in communicating to his fans.

Poll: what is your favorite track on the new deadmau5 album?

Apparently deadmau5 didn’t like the fact that his management was disturbing the trust and rapport he had built up with the ecosystem, because those status updates were followed by deadmau5′s:

Who thinks polls suck? 1. Me. 2. Not me.

Then he checked the backend of his Facebook page…

deadmau5 removing page admins

Excellent choice, in my opinion. This is the best thing he could do to earn back the trust of the ecosystem, because you really don’t want to get on the bad side of the ecosystem. The ecosystem can reject you, the ecosystem can move on, the ecosystem doesn’t need YOU in order to survive.

And the cool thing is, he wasn’t thinking about marketing or self-preservation or strategy in the process of making his choices. It’s just him, genuinely. And I guess the status update he posted 1 minute later shows just that:

Take that marketing, in yo face!

Lesson learned: keep it personal and have fun in the process!

Oh, and I do not recommend everyone to get into a fight with their management, because you can get fired from your label, but maybe you’re better off without that particular label anyway.

Now, let’s chat on Twitter.

P.S. Ok, it’s not a thesis excerpt, but it will find its way into my thesis somehow. Click here to subscribe to email updates on my thesis (for excerpts, subscribe to this blog or just bookmark it).

P.P.S. Yeah, the formatting and text sizes are a bit off. I suck at screenshots, sorry. ;-)

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