Thursday, December 30, 2010

20 years ago...The Web, the Internet's "Killer App" and Mosaic, the Web's "Killer App"

Well it was 20 years ago today,
Sargent Pepper taught a band to play...

The web as we know it is less than 20 years old. 

Using concepts from earlier hypertext systems, English engineer and computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, now the Director of theWorld Wide Web Consortium, wrote a proposal in March 1989 for what would eventually become the World Wide Web.[

1] At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, Berners-Lee and Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau proposed in 1990 to use "HyperText ... to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will",[2] and publicly introduced the project in December.[3] [Wikipedia]

The web exploded. But only in 1993 after a young team (notably including Marc Andreesen) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, began developing Mosaic - the first popular graphical browser for the World Wide Web. And from that time forward the universe that is the Internet and the Web has continued to expand at a rate that seems, at times, to approach the speed of light. This was the Internet's Big Bang.

What is happening at this very moment that in 20 years may be comparable in scope to the revolution brought on by the Web?


----------------
Tom Higley
303.570.8888

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bye Bye to Books (as we knew them)

In ten years or less, books will be gone. Not completely, of course. A few will remain. The poor will have them. And the rich will have them as well, for very different reasons. The poor will have them because they won't be able to afford to carry around the devices that most people use for consuming content. And the rich will have them as collectors items. Beyond that, a few printed books will still turn up here and there, but the industry and the experience as we knew it has joined the "walking dead."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Aspen Live 3: Tie Your ___ Shoes!

Just Tie Your Shoes.

Day 3 of Aspen Live unfolded a bit differently than the previous 2 days. We assembled in the fireside lounge of the St. Regis, and Jim Lewi began the proceedings. Someone had missed the intros of a previous day, so we did that again. (Don Strasburg embraced his bestowed title of "scariest guy in the room.) When the intros were out of the way, Lewi began . . . . 

We heard these past two days that '
talent is overpaid.' We've heard that before.
We heard that tickets are overpriced. We've heard that before.

At this point, Bob Lefsetz stepped in. Taking control of the meeting, he seemed determined, as moderator, to get more specifics from people in the group. He began interviewing group attendees, one at a time. This was great in a couple respects. It got people talking who might not have been willing to speak out, and Bob didn't always settle for the "soft" response. He pressed people to provide real answers to the questions. 
  • You just signed with Average Joe Entertainment; did you get an advance?
  • If you didn't get an advance, why did you sign with them?
  • Response: because they really understood the artist, and they had real assets that we could use. 
Of course that sort of prodding has always been a part of Aspen Live. A promoter will say one thing, and an agent will jump in with a vocal objection. An agent will say another thing, and a promoter will chime in with "WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, come on here, you're missing the whole point!!!!" while the agent pleads, "Let me finish!" That's part of what makes these things interesting. 

And that's part of what made the systematic approach a bit problematic. The culture of the group may be the most important thing here. And I'm not looking for a more sanitized, well organized experience. That just isn't who we are. The trick for future Aspen conferences is going to come down to growing the base (slowly, carefully) and managing the process without choking off the character (and characters) of the proceedings.   

This time, I'm not going to share the details of the conversations, but I will mention a proposal we discussed. The idea put forward was that we try, as a group, to select an artist or two or three that we would agree to support. (Dan Steinberg of Square Peg Concerts pointed out that we can't even agree as a group on where to go to dinner [at least not without Jamie Loeb's help].) We'll see. I'm not persuaded that this is how we function as a group. I think it's more about relationships and learning from each other.  

The afternoon session ended with these words of simple, common sense: "Just tie your shoes." Before you start to run, before you get all excited and get carried away, just tie your shoes. Of course, since this is Aspen Live, it isn't quite that simple. Because we are who we are in the music business, it's not so much "Just Tie Your Shoes," as "Just Tie Your F*cking Shoes."

Since the conference ended, I've been thinking a lot about one thing. This business of music - built during a particular time, based on particular sets of circumstances and conditions - is operated at the top by experienced people who learned how to make things work. And they're still learning, still paying attention to things that are affecting the environment - disruptive changes that range from technology to legal to demographic / cultural. Still, it seems to me that the only thing that keeps this part of the business from going the way of the recorded music industry is the "live" and "in-person" nature of the experience. And this is fortunate for the folks who built this business from the ground up, the promoters, agents, managers and artists that played to the baby-boomers and reaped the rewards of larger rooms with much higher ticket prices.    

As a rule, those who run significant businesses are wary of change. And that makes a certain kind of sense. You don't want to be the person responsible for destroying or losing a business that took decades to build. But sometimes change whacks you upside the head. It is almost impossible for players in an established industry to adapt to disruptive change. Read Clayton Christensen's "Innovator's Dilemma." 

Just when you've finally learned to tie your f*ing shoes, someone invents the damn loafer. 

 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Midemnet Lab unveils International and Innovative Music Startups - and Next Big Sound is Included!

This is wonderful news. Just last year, Next Big Sound was a young, up and coming TechStars company. Now with Midem's announcement, they've begun to find a place on the world stage.

This line-up, which brings together some of the most promising digital innovations of the moment, covers every aspect of the music sector and forms a palette of services responding to the music industry’s changing needs. The selected companies will pitch their activities to a respected panel of judges of industry experts, Venture Capitalists and digital media during the five days of MIDEM. Following the pitch sessions, a winner will be chosen by each of the three judging panels.

-------------------------------

Tom Higley
President & CEO
Pavlov Games, Inc.
415.488.5040 (w)
303.570.8888 (m)

TechCrunch: World-Map of Social Networks Shows Facebook's Ever-Increasing Dominance

Aspen Live! Day 2. Google and Facebook and Apple, Oh My!

Yesterday, at Aspen Live Day 2, we talked about MTV doing things online again. Innovative, interesting things. Some of the thoughts expressed at the meeting:

  • If you're good, really good, people will find you wherever you are
  • Fans have to have someplace where they can talk about the problems they're having with you or your service
  • Some of marketing services - Constant Contact was mentioned, along with ReverbNation - are driving people completely nuts with their persistence and spammy characteristics
  • "I think filtering is the big challenge"
  • "We're advertising an old prodcut." (Our James Taylor TV spots still show James Taylor with HAIR!)
  • TV can work if its good. (But much of it suffers from bloat - stuff that gets added that no one (other than Roger Waters) seems to be able to say "NO" to any longer.
  • Artists are now selling a show out as far in advance as possible. (And the ad budget isn't up to the task, at least here in the US, but the Europeans have it wired!)
  • What's the mix of your marketing budget, how many ways is a $1.00 split and in what proportions, and how is that changing?  
  • We're moving away from a web based world to an app based world. 
  • There will soon be an app for everything we want to do with the fan - promotion, ticket sales, etc.

Don Strasburg talked about turning his Facebook page into a forum for promoting. It's still personal, but instead of becoming upset about all the people who want to be his friend, he's opened the floodgates. And he said he's always been an admirer of Crazy Eddie. He wants to do things that are different, interesting. Stuff that gets people's attention. And he doesn't think AEG's customers are like Michael Rapino's - attending an average of 1 or 2 shows a year. "People we do business with go to a lot of fucking shows."

One of the artist managers asked whether Facebook would go the way of MySpace. Don't bet on it. MySpace, as Goldstar's Jim McCarthy pointed out, was never what Facebook has become. 

Don Strasburg voiced a strong complaint seconded by others: the first thing you see when you type Bon Jovi tickets is StubHub. Sometimes that's right. Don asked me if I'd talk to the group as the "Internet expert." (I might well be the group's startup expert; I'm probably not it's Internet or SEO expert, but I didn't quibble.)  I talked briefly about the three parts of a current search result: 

  • the paid results in the shaded portion of the main search (these are paid listings, and they are not determined based on Google's page rank algorithm); in the example below, TicketsNow.com, TicketLiquidator.com and TicketZoom.com bought their way to the top. 
  • the main search results (determined by Google's page rank algorithm); and here Ticketmaster comes out on top followed closely by Bon Jovi's own site and StubHub. 
  • the key word search driven ads (which is less about SEO, search engine optimization, and more about SEM, search engine marketing.  


But the main point I wanted to make to the group was this. We tend to be fighting last year's battles. Google created a powerful tool that everyone uses. As you use the web, it's often far faster to use Google to get to a site - even if you already know its URL - than to type it in yourself. Google solved a huge problem by giving us almost instant access to anything we're looking for just at the time when nearly all the things we might want to look for were beginning to turn up on the web. 

The next wave of value for the consumer - and the next opportunity for those at Aspen Live - is more about leveraging friend networks, particularly Facebook. And this is not just about advertising on Facebook. It's about understanding and using social tools to create powerful communities of co-promoters. 

If you still have doubts about whether Facebook matters in the music space, check out "Facebook Director Of Platform: Spotify *Is* Facebook Music

When asked on stage today whether there will ever be a “Zynga of music” i.e. a company that leverages social in order to disrupt the music space Director of the Facebook Developer platform Ethan Beard said that Facebook is in fact in the music business.

Spotify is Facebook Music,” Beard said, revealing that when Spotify, which has not yet launched in the U.S., integrated social features into its own site, traffic increased 4 times. Facebook is now the Spotify’s number one referrer of traffic.

Beard emphasized that there is a lot of room for growth for music companies that integrate Facebook’s social features as well as Spotify has. “We want to focus on building out the building blocks of the social graph so companies can build on top of it,” Beard said.

The much buzzed about Spotify has been talking about a U.S. launch for well over a year, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Aspen Live! Day 2. Google and Facebook and Apple, Oh My!

Yesterday, at Aspen Live Day 2, we talked about MTV doing things online again. Innovative, interesting things. Some of the thoughts expressed at the meeting:

  • If you're good, really good, people will find you wherever you are
  • Fans have to have someplace where they can talk about the problems they're having with you or your service
  • Some of marketing services - Constant Contact was mentioned, along with ReverbNation - are driving people completely nuts with their persistence and spammy characteristics
  • "I think filtering is the big challenge"
  • "We're advertising an old prodcut." (Our James Taylor TV spots still show James Taylor with HAIR!)
  • TV can work if its good. (But much of it suffers from bloat - stuff that gets added that no one (other than Roger Waters) seems to be able to say "NO" to any longer.
  • Artists are now selling a show out as far in advance as possible. (And the ad budget isn't up to the task, at least here in the US, but the Europeans have it wired!)
  • What's the mix of your marketing budget, how many ways is a $1.00 split and in what proportions, and how is that changing?  
  • We're moving away from a web based world to an app based world. 
  • There will soon be an app for everything we want to do with the fan - promotion, ticket sales, etc.

Don Strasburg talked about turning his Facebook page into a forum for promoting. It's still personal, but instead of becoming upset about all the people who want to be his friend, he's opened the floodgates. And he said he's always been an admirer of Crazy Eddie. He wants to do things that are different, interesting. Stuff that gets people's attention. And he doesn't think AEG's customers are like Michael Rapino's - attending an average of 1 or 2 shows a year. "People we do business with go to a lot of fucking shows."

One of the artist managers asked whether Facebook would go the way of MySpace. Don't bet on it. MySpace, as Goldstar's Jim McCarthy pointed out, was never what Facebook has become. 

Don Strasburg voiced a strong complaint seconded by others: the first thing you see when you type Bon Jovi tickets is StubHub. Sometimes that's right. Don asked me if I'd talk to the group as the "Internet expert." (I might well be the group's startup expert; I'm probably not it's Internet or SEO expert, but I didn't quibble.)  I talked briefly about the three parts of a current search result: 

  • the paid results in the shaded portion of the main search (these are paid listings, and they are not determined based on Google's page rank algorithm); in the example below, TicketsNow.com, TicketLiquidator.com and TicketZoom.com bought their way to the top. 
  • the main search results (determined by Google's page rank algorithm); and here Ticketmaster comes out on top followed closely by Bon Jovi's own site and StubHub. 
  • the key word search driven ads (which is less about SEO, search engine optimization, and more about SEM, search engine marketing.  


But the main point I wanted to make to the group was this. We tend to be fighting last year's battles. Google created a powerful tool that everyone uses. As you use the web, it's often far faster to use Google to get to a site - even if you already know its URL - than to type it in yourself. Google solved a huge problem by giving us almost instant access to anything we're looking for just at the time when nearly all the things we might want to look for were beginning to turn up on the web. 

The next wave of value for the consumer - and the next opportunity for those at Aspen Live - is more about leveraging friend networks, particularly Facebook. And this is not just about advertising on Facebook. It's about understanding and using social tools to create powerful communities of co-promoters. 

If you still have doubts about whether Facebook matters in the music space, check out "Facebook Director Of Platform: Spotify *Is* Facebook Music

When asked on stage today whether there will ever be a “Zynga of music” i.e. a company that leverages social in order to disrupt the music space Director of the Facebook Developer platform Ethan Beard said that Facebook is in fact in the music business.

Spotify is Facebook Music,” Beard said, revealing that when Spotify, which has not yet launched in the U.S., integrated social features into its own site, traffic increased 4 times. Facebook is now the Spotify’s number one referrer of traffic.

Beard emphasized that there is a lot of room for growth for music companies that integrate Facebook’s social features as well as Spotify has. “We want to focus on building out the building blocks of the social graph so companies can build on top of it,” Beard said.

The much buzzed about Spotify has been talking about a U.S. launch for well over a year, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Venture Money Flows to Games and Gamification

VentureBeat's "GamesBeat" featured a post today by Gabe Zichermann, the author of Game-Based Marketing and organizer of Gamification Summit 2011.

Gabe had this to say:

 

In the last twelve months alone, over $10 million in seed capital has flowed into a series of disruptive, gamification-centric startups, over $25 million additional capital has gone to businesses betting big on gamification as a core customer strategy, and at least one $100 million fund dedicated in part to gamification has been launched. (Last year, more than $600 million was invested in game companies).

 

Read more at: http://venturebeat.com/2010/12/10/vcs-level-up-with-gamification-investments-...:+Venturebeat+(VentureBeat)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Music? It's alive and well at Aspen Live

Every year a small group of music business people get together up in Aspen. It's more conversation than conference, and it's rarely dull. [Images: Don Strasburg, MGMT, Skrillex, Bob Lefsetz, Jamie Loeb.]

Some may come to Aspen Live just for the skiing. But most come for the give and take that develops between promoters, managers, ticket sellers, marketers, tech people and more. Jim Lewi, who organizes the event, is a always good for interjecting lively elements into the mix, and the cast of characters includes everyone from the notable blogger, Bob Lefsetz, to the outspoken AEG promoter, Don Strasburg. This is a great cast of characters, that includes the former manager of the Doors, the VP of Marketing for Nederlander Concerts (The Greek, The Grove) the manager of MGMT, the owner of the Belly Up here in Aspen, and many more, and everyone has an opinion. Or two. So what were the big topics of conversation on Day #1?

Goldstar and Discount Ticketing

MGMT's manager asked if we wanted to talk about ticketing. No one responded. At first. Then things began to warm up a bit. To kick this segment off, Jim McCarthy, the CEO of Goldstar and Editor of the Live 2.0 blog, talked a little bit about his company. Goldstar has a membership list of 1.3 million people who are interested in attending live events. What do the members want? They want to know what's going on, what's available, and they want a great price. Most of Goldstar's ticket selling business is in sports, theatre and performing arts. Live music has been a more difficult nut to crack. But the company has grown consistently and now has a substantial presence in LA, San Francisco and eight other cities, and they expect to enter 10 new markets in 2011. 

Godstar's deal is pretty straightforward, and while it's not for everyone, it has proven to be a real winner in some contexts. The ticket normally costs $100? With Goldstar, you get that ticket for $50. Why would a promoter do this? If those tickets weren't going to sell anyway, it's better to sell them at a discount (and have people come to the show, buy a beer, pay for parking, etc.) than let the seats go empty.  

One of the things I love about this group is its willingness to listen to input from those outside the music business. They're not closed - at least not initially. They may be a bit skeptical at first. But if anyone has a useful perspective to bring to the group, they are welcomed and encouraged.

Pretty early in the conversation, Don Strasburg talked about the problem of "the middle." The seats in the front sell quickly because they're great seats. The seats in the back sell because they're cheap. But the middle, that's a different story. The middle is hard. Many others agreed. 

What's the average number of shows a person goes to each year?

Jim McCarthy did a good job addressing this one. He compared it to the average height of a basketball team. That number might be 5'6" - but it obscures the fact that the key players on the team are 6'10," 6'7" and 6'3." So it is with the live entertainment business. Some people don't go to any shows. Some go to more than 10 a year. Goldstar's goal is to move everyone up just a bit - to get the people who went to 10 shows last year going to another 2-3 shows this year; to get the people who went to just 2-3 going to 5 or six; etc.

How much do you spend to promote a show?

One notable promoter: we spend 8% of the gross proceeds on promotion. Another prominent figure in the industry: "That's not enough! You've got to spend at least 10%! The first promoter: "We actually think that in some cases 8% might be too much." Another: the figures for marketing budget in other parts of the entertainment industry - e.g., film - are much higher - 25%.

What works today in terms of reaching fans?

Radio still seems to have significant life left it in. It isn't what it used to be. But Jamie Loeb from Nederlander sharted the data: a surprising number - 50%+ - of respondents to a survey (all under 24) said they discovered new music via the radio. And this was terestrial radio. Internet radio came in as the source for discovery among 14%.

Interesting artists were the subject of discussion, some of them new and not yet wideley known, some far more established.. Passion Pit, Zac Brown Band, Skrillex, Phoenix, Boombox. How did they get their start? The manager for the Avett Brothers: a great artist with a great show generates word-of-mouth. 

And we talked for awhile about electronic music and the growing popularity of more DJ-driven shows with younger audiences. 

Someone noted that younger audiences can't afford tickets to classic rock shows. (To which one of the participants responded: "[Even] I can't afford a ticket to classic rock shows!")

What about compensating the fans themselves for promoting the shows? 

Don Strasburg talked about compensating fans for promoting shows. He looked at me for a moment and said "Remember that idea?" He was making reference to a conversation we had many years about about starting a new legitimate, but "Napster-like" P2P service. The idea: the record stores are no longer needed. The new model in the new digital world would allow us to compensate the fan directly for the digital redistribution of great music. I thought long and hard about building a company to do that and decided against it. (Another company, Passalong Networks, did try to make a go of this, but it closed up shop a few years ago.)

The reason I rejected the model was pretty simple. I didn't like the world it would create. If a fan is urging me to listen to the latest recording of Artist X, I want to have some confidence that the fan isn't on the take. 

So I reacted pretty strongly to the idea that we should compensate fans for promoting a show. Same problem. But I am not suggesting at all that fans are unimportant for promotion. Quite the opposite. Friend-based promotion is becoming more and more valuable by the day. Given what we're doing with Pavlov Games, I strongly believe there is a way to harness fan-driven promotion without, in effect, "killing the goose that lays the golden eggs."  The right way to do this, I argued, is to make sure that we reward fans in ways that boost their credibility within their online and offline communities. 

By the way, you can get a feel for what goes on at these conferences just by reading Bob Lefsetz's newsletter; go ahead, subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fun Inc.

"One of the most profound transformations we can learn from games is how to turn the sense that someone has failed into the sense that they 'haven't succeeded yet.'" Tom Chatifield, author of Fun, Inc.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mr. Anonymous Addresses Growing Attention Deficit - Personally

This morning I invited Mr. Anonymous, AKA "Jeep" from The Samples, to talk with me about Mr. Anonymous, attention and promotion. 

First, an introduction from his website: Mr. Anonymous is a.k.a. Jeep Macnichol. 

Jeep started his music career as founding member and drummer of the Colorado based pop/jam band The Samples. For a decade, his musical journey included 6 national album releases, national touring for 9 months a year in every venue imaginable in every state, sharing the stage with Sting, Dave Mathews, Steel pulse, Flaming Lips, The Wailers, Sonic Youth, Blues traveler, the Horde tour, and a performance on the Jay Leno show.  After 10 years, Macnichol decided it was time to follow new creative endeavors and dive into his love of Jamaican dancehall and reggae music. 

This in turn has spawned a flurry of activity, including two album releases under the Mr. Anonymous name, a radio show, numerous performances and more. 

Since Mr. Anonymous seems to be everywhere lately, I wanted to ask him a few questions about how he thinks about promotion. Some of the answers are what you'd expect. Others are surprising. 

He started the conversation by talking about what he doesn't do. He's old school. He doesn't text. 

Tom: So, you seem to be everywhere these days. What are you doing in terms of promotion?

Jeep: 

"Facebook is my #1 thing," he said. Of course I also use my mailing list - from my website - and a bulletin I send out regularly. I try to keep things short and simple. People appreciate short, simple emails with no art. They don't want to work. They have a short attention span. That's why the title is so important. The other thing I've learned: making it personal. It comes from me. 

The biggest feedback I get on promotion is from the radio station. We ask them to login now, tell their friends. And we can see the results! It's almost as if we were playing a video game, watching the numbers rise! 

I owe all of this [success with promotion] to the band Pretty Lights. Their music was free. And Mr. Anonymous has taken the same approach: more people are buying now that it's free. 

Tom: In terms of promotion, what has changed the most for you in the past 5 years?
Jeep:

I basically feel like the combination of YouTube + Facebook has caused most people's attention span to decrease from 10 seconds to 1 second (or less). And you want people talking about what you're doing. I think of my fans as my record label. They're the promoters. 

Tom: What do superfans of Mr. Anonymous want from you?  
Jeep: 
A personal relationship. 

Tom: That sounds a lot like that notion of "authenticity" we were talking about. But it seems like you might have a little trouble scaling that over time . . . 
Jeep: 
Grins.

Tom: Anything else?
Jeep: 
Well I have my music on CD Baby. I'm sure you know Derek Sivers. I learned a lot from him and his "Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy."

A plug for Steven Blank and His Blog

I'm a Steven Gary Blank fanboy. Why? Because so much of what he describes in his book The Four Steps to the Ephiphany and writes about in his blog rings true with my experience as an entrepreneur.