Category Archives: Marketing

Modern Music: The Money at the End of the Rainbow

“We should stop asking, ‘how do we make people pay for music?’ and start asking, ‘how do we let people pay for music?‘” -Amanda Palmer, TED Talk: The art of asking (February 2013). I don’t want to discuss Palmer’s controversial, record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, which asked for $100,000 and ended up generating $1.2M from 25,000 fans. What’s more interesting is the paradigm shift in the music industry that most markedly began with Radiohead’s 2007 free digital release of their newest album. Artists are asking and fans are giving. Sometimes.

Radiohead Thom Yorke cover of Rolling Stone issue 1045 February 2008

Palmer’s opposite of Metallica M.O. is more salient to the reality of music consumption today than the traditional pricing, touring, and record label model. In a vacuum of capitalism where the Internet didn’t allow such easy piracy, standard pricing and control over content would make sense like it used to. But we don’t have a vacuum, and smart artists adapt.

Radiohead Let Us Pay

Public Enemy (1999 – paid download), Smashing Pumpkins (2000 – free download), Radiohead (2007 – free download), Trent Reznor (2008), Amanda Palmer and others have released their music first online with varying price structures before iTunes Store opened on April 28, 2003. But in 2007, iTunes had just become the third largest music retailer in the U.S. and online music was exploding. Radiohead blazed the trail on October 10, 2007 in the first major album release in which consumers could name their own price. Radiohead’s contract with their label EMI ended after 2003’s Hail to the Thief. After four years of turning down offers from other labels, in October 2007 Radiohead took a bold step in releasing their next album independently and digitally with a pay-what-you-want model.

Thom Yorke told Time,

“I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘F*** you’ to this decaying business model.”

Radiohead beat the album leakers to the punch by basically leaking their own album. Fans went to the band’s website inrainbows.com to download the 15-song MP3s. Big Radiohead fans, my college roommate and I were blown away and totally impressed when we clicked the download button and saw the prompt “It’s Up To You.” Click again and it refreshed with, “It’s Really Up To You.”

Including $0 payments, the average fan paid $2.26 per download, meaning Radiohead came out ahead compared with the ~15% they’d receive via the standard record company release model.

“People made their choice to actually pay money,” [Radiohead manager Chris] Hufford said. “It’s people saying, ‘We want to be part of this thing.’ If it’s good enough, people will put a penny in the pot.”

The CD release followed at the end of 2007. A year later, In Rainbows had sold more than 300 million copies worldwide in digital and physical formats.

Creative musicians will continue to find ways to circumvent the technology that has made it irresistably easy to pirate their music. But Amanda Palmer’s asking/giving/taking and Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want models aren’t new; they are a return to the organic way street musicians and entertainers exchanged their art with others, as Palmer points out in her TED Talk.

Now We Expect Free Music

Trent Reznor Nine Inch Nails on stage singing 2009Following In Rainbows, in November 2008 Trent Reznor took a shot at a different online release model when he co-wrote and produced Saul Williams’s album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust. Fans could download it for free or pay $5 for a higher quality version. The results were disappointing. As of January 2, 2008, 154,449 people had downloaded NiggyTardust and 28,322 of them paid the $5.

… the way things are, I think music should be looked at as free. It basically is. The toothpaste is out of the tube and a whole generation of people is accustomed to music being that way. There’s a perception that you don’t pay for music when you hear it on the radio or MySpace. -Trent Reznor, cnet.com

Radiohead’s free offering compelled us to pay a $2.26 average, but Reznor’s tiered free/premium model had less lucrative results at first.

For artists to follow Radiohead’s model en masse with success, our entire culture of music consumption would need to resemble the one Amanda Palmer champions. Unlikely for now, and unfathomable for less famous bands without dedicated followings and years of successful marketing and albums behind them.

I haven’t bought a hard copy album in years. The last I can remember was Tool’s 10,000 Days in 2007. The unique hardcover album case with stereoscopic glasses and Alex Grey’s art was simply incredible (and it won the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package). I have dabbled in iTunes and Amazon MP3 purchases but the closed environment and lack of ownership always bothered me. You’re leasing, not buying. I have no need to illegally download music now. Spotify is revolutionary. And mind-bogglingly cheap for the universal multi-device access you get to nearly all recorded music. Spotify hardly pays the artists, but overall it’s a more reasonable solution to the problem at hand than expecting consumers who won’t pony up $5 for an album to keep paying 99 cents a song. Maybe the Spotify model will make fans more willing to pay in other ways. It’s certainly the most convenient and instant access I’ve ever had to music, especially brand new music. Plus, with the Copyright Alert System, who wants to risk illegal downloads anyway? Instead, I’ll attend concerts and — after our Digital Dive Podcast interview with Zoroaster’s Dan Scanlan — I’ll buy plenty of merch.

 

Sources

Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want. Time, 10/1/2007

Public Enemy Makes Friends Online. EW, 5/14/1999

Pay What You Want for this Article. NY Times, 12/9/2007

Social Media Blunder? Going Dark During A Crisis: NRA & Sandy Hook

Politics aside, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is a brand. Because of social media, the horrific Sandy Hook, CT school shooting this month was a PR crisis for the NRA in a different, more intense way than past violent events involving firearms.

Moments before the news broke on Friday 12/14/12, at 9:35AM EST the NRA Facebook page posted about a giveaway. Shortly thereafter, news outlets announced the Sandy Hook massacre that killed twenty-six people, including twenty children. That evening, the NRA took down their page. They withheld comment until they reactivated it on 12/18/12 with a post explaining their silence:

…Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting…

flames on black backgroundI see the reasoning for preventing intense flame wars:

“As a PR professional, it goes against my instincts and the recommendations I make to clients who stop posting on social media channels in times of crisis,” says Stu Opperman, chief strategist at Impact Players. “[But] with the nation’s collective emotions as raw as they were, any immediate post the NRA made, short of a complete reversal of their long-held position opposing nearly any form of gun control, would be demonized and seen as callous and unfeeling…” –prweekus.com 12/20/12

One could argue that going dark demonstrates a lack of understanding of social media (focus on transparency). The avoidant reaction was meant to halt the onslaught of an emotionally and politically charged conversation and the demand for a response they did not have.

Going Dark Sends Two Possible Messages

Message 1: We don’t know how to handle this crisis.

Could be interpreted as a blend of:
  1. Mea culpa (intentional or not)
  2. Silencing the conversation to avoid further controversy (a temporary and singular solution)
  3. Kneejerk reaction demonstrating lack of crisis management plan
Message 2: This is our crisis management plan.
My initial reaction: Hiding the page was not a sign of respect, as claimed. Merely having a Facebook page is not an implicit sanction or approval of current events, the opinions of its fans/detractors/page commenters, or a sign of anything more than having a second WEBSITE. Simply, a Facebook page is another brand website which enables more public conversations. Of course there is more risk involved. Is that risk the primary differentiator between your website and your page? I.e., NRA.org would not go down during a crisis. Techcrunch explains why merely disabling comments would not suffice – this makes sense.

Being present on social is not a switch you turn on and off as it suits your brand.

But was this instance an exception?

Retail analogy: Your Facebook page is your storefront – your business address. It’s what you post on that page (i.e., what you stock on your shelves or display in your windows) that sends a message.

Have a crisis gameplan. Learn from the multitude of social media blunders. This was new territory. What would you do?

*My sympathies go out to anyone grieving over this tragedy. This post is about social media and is not meant to take a stance on violence, gun control, or politics.

Texting During Dinner: Multitasking, FOMO, and Smartphone Etiquette

Emily PostSocial etiquette is becoming murkier everyday. Half of all adult Americans now own either a smartphone or tablet, and one-third use their mobile devices to view news stories and video clips at least weekly. –Half of U.S. adults own a smartphone or tablet, 2012 Pew survey Everybody’s on the phone. But they’re not just talking on the phone.

Instead of reiterating the obvious, I will dive into the implications for IRL interactions.

Cultural mores dictate certain things you shouldn’t do because they’re rude. And usually there are exceptions to these rules. Common sense used to suffice in this realm. Mobile technology has introduced a host of new implicit rules and exceptions, not to mention the generational divide over what’s considered rude. The key is whether the other person knows you have an exception (assuming they care or loosely adhere to the following). Common scenarios:

Bad Tech Behavior Exception Caveat/Details
Texting during a meal/date/outing Texting a friend who is on the way/lost/running late. Instagram can be fine if the other person gets it or joins in Instagramming the fire hydrant or heart-shaped coffee froth. Mention to present company that the other party is the person you’re texting. Generally, just give your undivided attention to the other person.
Using your phone while watching/listening to a presentation or speech Taking notes; taking a non-flash photo of the speaker/event; tweeting about the presentation Even if you’re just notetaking on your phone (and do use Evernote), it would look better to use a tablet, seemingly more public and when so, associated with single tasks like notetaking, whereas a phone screen is smaller, thus less conducive to notetaking and more private. Phone is better at hiding your potential bad tech behaviors. Ongoing tweeting is acceptable if the presentation is meant to be live tweeted- definitely if the event has a hashtag. But try and look up.
Texting, web search, or checking Facebook while on a date Showing something on Facebook that is relevant to the conversation. Googling/texting a mutual burning question to an authority. If you want to get away with any of these behaviors undetected, do not post anything. The person may now be or may end up your Facebook friend. A simple calendar check would let them put two and two together: you were multitasking them, as in digitally double-booking them.
Forgetting to turn your phone on silent or vibrate in the movies or at a meeting Movie theatre: no exception. Meeting: Vibrate is acceptable if expecting an important call or email but only if the phone is in your lap, pocket, or purse — not on the table. In a meeting where others are aware (and better yet, mutually affected by the outcome) of your expected call or email or text, vibrate mode on the table is fine.




 You know who you are.

I don’t want to be always on. I want to be in the moment even when the moment is paused for a bathroom break. It’s part of the bigger picture: we need to silence our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Multitasking is addictive because it produces dopamine. We instinctually want to multitask because the big DA is a powerful reward-based neurotransmitter. It’s what makes cocaine and methamphetamines such fun. We bathe in dopamine for that neurological reward and in order to supposedly maximize our experience of all the available technology. But digital stress on the brain from multitasking makes us perform worse. We really can’t handle more than two tasks at once. We really should focus on the main task at hand: each other.

Digital Presidents, Skeuomorphism, and Commerce With a Side of Content – The Digital Dive Podcast Episode 7

This week, we offer our insight on a variety of topics, including the ousting of Apple iOS miracle worker and polarizing executive Scott Forstall, the design debate over skeuomorphism, presidential campaigns and voting in the digital age, and commerce as content.

Topics:
I. Adventures in Mobile Payments Part 3: SUCCESS
Melanie and I share a happy update on our ongoing pursuit of mobile-friendly vendors. Square and Level-Up

II. Apple Kicks Scott Forstall to the Curb; Skeuomorphism

thermo app thermometer skeuomorphism design
Skeuomorphic design

After refusing to sign a formal apology for Apple Maps, among other things, iOS chief Scott Forstall was ousted from Apple. We discuss one of his Jobs-like signatures, skeuomorphic style (replicating the shape of necessary parts of old forms in a new medium where those elements are no longer required). Forstall was a mobile software leader and prolific inventor but also a divisive figure. “Forstall’s name is second on the patent that lays out exactly how the iPhone and iPad work. The first name on that patent is Steve Jobs.”

III. Commerce as Content (and vice versa)
Pinterest, Fab, and Shopkick

IV. Digital Media and the Presidential Election
Electronic voting, ballots, and recounts. Security and hacking at the polls. The future of voting.

Show Notes:

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iPhone 5 Upgrade – AT&T Customer Service (Part 1 of 2)

iPhone 5 pre-orders set a sales record last week, selling out in less than one hour following the smartphone’s September 12, 2012 debut. I ordered mine from AT&T. This two-part post will cover 1) my AT&T customer service experience and 2) why I upgraded to the iPhone 5.

Lily Tomlin SNL Ernestine the Telephone OperatorAT&T iPhone Orders

How do I change my shipping address from my billing address? Many AT&T customers have been searching for answers about why you can’t ship your att.com or apple.com iPhone 5 order wherever you want. These sites offer free shipping to your account billing address only. This is supposedly to prevent fraud. (Oh how easily I could have committed fraud on my eventual call center order.) Online, the only way to request a shipping address different from your billing address is to actually change the billing address on your AT&T account. Not ideal. And if you can trick the system that easily, not sure how they are preventing fraud. Your other option (what I did) is to order by phone from AT&T. Shipping then goes up to $9.95.

Calling AT&T

Ambience: The call center on-hold song is a muzak version of “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor. The lyrics could be interpreted as reflecting on not taking risks in new relationships for fear of getting hurt, then wondering what could have been. This amused me; start playing the song as you read on so you can join me on the call.

Senseless upgrade fee: AT&T’s reasoning for a $36 upgrade fee on my contract eligible upgrade from iPhone4 to iPhone5 (while maintaining my same unlimited data plan) is that “they have to charge a fee in order to provide the phone discount.” Please. At least give me an excuse such as, “it covers the cost of internal processing for updating your line’s new capabilities such as 4G.”iPhone 5

Customer recognition and retention: The least the call center agent could do was to greet me with, “Hello Ms. Binder, thank you for being an AT&T customer since 2005, we appreciate your business” like my credit card company does. But the seven years of our relationship was unrecognized. Successful customer rewards clubs and frequent traveler programs and any company trying to engender loyalty through suggested exclusivity or recognition recognizes length of patronage as a basic given. (The best custsvc companies have a purple goldfish.) The loyalty years thank you is one sentence an agent can read from a prompt that can change the entire tone of the conversation for the better. Especially as a wireless provider, you better be thanking a customer who’s stuck with you for seven years, especially considering that you’re the main print yellow pages robber barons company.

This is why I keep one foot on the ground in our contracted affair; I hear Verizon’s voice in my head, I hear Sprint’s music serenading me, but still, AT&T, I pay you an extra $45.95 so you can “prevent fraud” and ship the phone to my office…

I never loved nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting my heart truly
I got lost in the sounds
I hear in my mind
All these voices
I hear in my mind all these words
I hear in my mind all this music

And it breaks my heart…

Fidelity – Regina Spektor (AT&T’s call center hold music)

Check back for Part 2 of this post on Thursday 9/20/12.