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.

[ted id=1682]

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

Google Now for iOS, Amazon vs. Netflix, & Surprising Twitter Study – Episode 19

Netflix vs. Amazon punching bagsTopics

  1. In response to Netflix‘s exclusive programming featuring their hit series House of Cards, Amazon announced in March 2013 that they were creating a Zombieland pilot. On April 19, 2013 they released Amazon Original Series as fourteen original pilots available free to Amazon Prime members. Users vote on their favorites and Amazon will likely produce two winners as full series. I share my thoughts on House of Cards and two of the Amazon pilots: Those Who Can’t and Betas. Follow-up from Episode 14. P.S. Downton Abbey fans, by the end of 2013, Prime Instant Video will be the only paid streaming service to offer Downton Abbey. Hulu Plus and Netflix are out.Google_Now_iPad_and_iPhone_610x414
  2. Google Now comes to iOS. Available since July 2012 for some Android users, Apple device owners now have access to the clairvoyant Google Now by signing into one’s Google account in the free Google app for iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
    The nascent Google Now is a more predictive digital assistant in ways that Siri can’t compete. Because Google records its users’ actions in all of its products (from web search to Maps to Gmail to Google+ and more) it has access to massive amounts of data and can triangulate personal information, behavior patterns, calendar events, contacts and more. There is major potential for Google Now. Some users have concerns over privacy issues. But personally, I’m happy to benefit from the data I’m already sharing with Google in exchange for predictive, personalized assistance. How will Apple and Facebook compete?
  3. Instagram app update: 5/3/13: Now you can tag other Instagram users in photos like you tag friends in Facebook photos. Tags must be approved.
  4. Best Brands on Twitter: Social Media startup Nestivity released their list of the top 25 most engaged brands on Twitter – we look at the top 10 and why they are successful.

About the List:

  • Brands were selected based on the results of a study that examined how brands cultivate relationships with influencers, customers, and advocates on Twitter.
  • Primarily using push marketing on Twitter doesn’t work (obviously)
  • Conducted by Evolve Capital Inc. (private equity firm) and UCLA Anderson School of Management, the study looked at the top 100 most-followed brands on Twitter, analyzing over 739,000 tweets over one month.
  • Significant: study was backed by a private equity/venture capital fund. Investors are paying attention and putting money into researching the success of brands on Twitter. Investor attention is often a barometer of the times; the players who have a major say in the lifespan and ultimate success of companies and industries are making a real connection between brand engagement on Twitter and a company’s bottom line.
  • High follower count also did not necessarily equate with an engaged audience: “While all of the 25 most engaged Twitter accounts had over a million followers, so did the bottom 70% of the same.”
  • 76% of content that was shared (RT’d) had a photo attached, and 18% had a video.

Top 10 Brands on Twitter:

  1. Notebook of Love
  2. Disneywords
  3. ESPN
  4. Playstation
  5. Disney
  6. Chelsea Football Club
  7. BBC Breaking News
  8. NASA
  9. CNN Breaking News
  10. Instagram

Tips on Tap:

  1. Twitter Keyboard Shortcuts:
    M = new direct message
    N= new tweet
    R = reply
    T = retweet
    GR = Mentions
    GH = Home
    GM – Messages
    . = load new tweets
  2. Tips to resize and optimize layout of web images:
    A. Two free tools to resize web images: Picresize and Resize Your Image
    B. When resizing, c
    hoose small file sizes: Upload a PNG or JPG not too much larger than your desired image size. Choose PNG or JPG over BMP as the file format. Your site load times will benefit.
    B. Have subjects (people, animals, products, etc.) facing in toward the block of text instead of outward and away from the text.
  3. Smartskin Condoms for Smartphones
    Sex sells. This thermoplastic skin slips on and stretches to fit and protect your iPhone 4/4s/5 or Galaxy S3. Water-resistant plastic wraps retain touchscreen and call functionality and 98% camera clarity. Note that neither headphones nor cables can be used with Smartskin. Up to three uses per tab/pack. Smartskin from Firebox costs $18.50.

Show Notes:

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CYBER ATTACK! – Episode 18 – The Digital Dive Podcast

cyber attack

News reports of major corporations falling victim to cyber attacks flood the media. What does this mean for us as individuals? As consumers? As a society? How serious a threat are we facing, and how much of it is media hype?

I. Boston Marathon Bombing media coverage: Twitter’s integral role. From helping runners notify their loved ones amid the chaos, to hospitals communicating occupancy information, to the Boston Police Department announcing the capture of the suspect — Twitter played an important role in the devastating event. To find out ways to help the victims, click here.

II. Spamhaus and other recent/notable cyber attacks. The list of companies that have fallen victim to cyber attacks reads like a Fortune 50 list — Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times, Sony, and even government entities such as the US Federal Reserve, South Korea, North Korea, etc. have reported major security breaches linked to hackers. Recently, the infamous Spamhaus attack caused a global Internet slow-down by what some experts are calling the biggest cyber attack in history. Click here to see the Cyberbunker building image referenced.

III. Portrait of a Hacker. So, who are the men and women behind cyber attacks? Melanie and Emily discuss hacking history, a common type of attack (denial-of-service attack, or DDoS), and three types of hackers: ethical hackers, hacktavists, and organized cyber crime groups. Is there a such thing as a good hacker?

DDOS

IV. What we’re doing about it. Governments and corporate executives are beginning to realize the severity of a potential cyber attack. We review the ways the EU, U.S., and others are taking protective initiatives.

Tips on Tap

I. FireMe! App – New app which tracks certain negative phrases about bosses and jobs in social media and rates how likely they are to get the poster fired.

II. Vine – My love/hate relationship with Vine, a sometimes bagbiter new Twitter-owned social media platform that allows users to create six-second looping video mash-ups. Less than three months after its January 2013 release, the video-sharing service topped the U.S. App Store’s list of free iPhone apps. I found one paragraph of John Constine’s 4/20/13 techcrunch article about Vine quite poignant about the general experience of using smartphones to memorialize moments in our lives:

It’s when Vines disintegrate that I get truly angry, though. It’s blatant violation of the implicit value exchange between a human and an app. Rather than live a moment, I recorded it. When I ended up with nothing to show for it, I feel cheated.

III. Shopping for Flights Online: When to Buy – Melanie offers tips on how and when to get the best deal on airfare online.

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Love in the Digital Age: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly – Episode 16

online-dating-heart-mouse-the-digital-dive-podcast

This week on the Digital Dive, we discuss the way technology has radically changed the world of dating and relationships – for better and for worse. Take a walk through the good, the bad, and the ugly ways that social media, online dating sites, search engines, and apps impact the experience of romance in modern culture. Is the level of transparency afforded by technology a good thing?

I. “Facebook me.” – When first meeting, how soon should you share your social profile? Is sharing a social profile more intimate than sharing a phone number? (I say yes.)

II. Online dating websites – The popularity of online dating sites has ballooned over the past few years, and the average age of users is dropping. Melanie and I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of meeting organically vs. meeting online. Is there still a stigma to online dating?

III. Breaking up digitally – “Out of sight, out of mind”is increasingly difficult as individual online presences grow. Avoiding an ex online can be almost impossible when you have mutual friends. Listen for websites and apps that can help ease the pain.

Online Dating

Tips on Tap:

I. Block Your Ex – Browser add on that blocks you from seeing your ex on social media, search engines, and blog networks. blockyourex.com

II. Never Liked it Anyway – Online marketplace to sell gifts from exes that are too hard to keep. neverlikeditanyway.com

III. What to do if your site gets hacked: Informative videos from Google Webmaster.

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Can Twitter Gauge Happiness?

Obviously social media opens new doors for marketers, but it also provides us with new sociological survey data. Only the subjects aren’t aware they’re being studied. It’s like that valid research method, natural observation. If inherently subjective ethnographies based on very small sample sizes are valid in anthropology and I am a technological anthropologist (Angela Natividad’s wonderful term) then surely I can liken all U.S. or global Twitter users to a tribe. I can measure their operationally defined behaviors in their natural habitat, the Twitterverse. This is the new anthro.human-emotions-collage

This stems from reading a recent study by the Vermont Complex Systems Center, who created a “hedonometer” for 10 million geotagged tweets:
The Geography of Happiness According to 10 Million Tweets – TheAtlantic.com, 2/19/13

(First I must note the correlation between religiosity in the Bible Belt and lack of happiness.)

Second, this is not the first study to link Twitter sentiment to mood:

Traders seem convinced that social chatter from a specific group or about a specific event (like a new Apple product or changing Netflix service) can be a predictor of where stocks are headed. Yet it was more than a year ago when Indiana University’s Johan Bollen found that his team’s Twitter sentiment analysis predicts changes in the market with 87.6 percent accuracy…. his work suggests that collective social mood leads the DJIA closing values by a few days’ time.
-Jill Noble, Dr. Johan Bollen on Twitter, Mood and Socionomics, Elliott Wave International 2/16/12

Bollen’s findings suggest that mass Twitter sentiment can predict the economy. There is validity to such studies despite the inherent sample bias.

What should be explored is that with Twitter, we can endeavor to gauge sentiment for groups on such a larger scale than is possible with typical surveys and limited sample size. This is what Bollen is doing with computational social sciences – and this is so important for marketers. Think neuromarketing. Granted, you’re only getting subjects who use Twitter – huge caveat. In certain states, depending on culture, it’s possible that Twitter tends to be used by people who are happier, sadder, or who tweet certain trigger words more often.

Mississippi is one of if not the nation’s poorest state. That must contribute to it being the #2 saddest. But the economically depressed state of my alma mater, Michigan, may be even sadder and they don’t have Southern cooking to eat their feelings. You are what you eat…

If I were a food marketer, I would go to town over this kind of data. Market your product as a solution to three struggling economic problems to start:
1. Lack of happy sentiment in the aggregate
2. Loss of community pride
3. Need for grocery value in communities with high unemployment rates

And as one might predict,

…happiness data correlates with income and the prevalence of obesity in an area.

Not hard to figure out those relationships: less education –> lower income and less knowledge and culturally sanctioned attention paid to nutrition
Lower income –> likely to only afford less nutritious food
Eat too much unhealthy food –> gain weight, have more (expensive) health problems, feel depressed emotionally, physically, and economically.
All –> tweet sadder.

On with the social-as-qualified-sociology:

  • Financial difficulties do not preclude Twitter use as many might guess – look at the rise of mobile-only households in lower income brackets. It’s also possible that even if mostly middle to upper class residents use Twitter, the general morale of an economically depressed state would make even those who are financially stable tweet more sadly.
  • Also, marketers who target angry and/or crass customers (with something like anger-management products): play up the offensive in your ad copy, you’ll be speaking your customers’ language and mirroring is effective:

For individual cities, the Vermont researchers note, the amount of swearing contributed substantially to their final scores. They think it’s worth investigating this phenomenon, which they call “geoprofanity.”

In Jill Noble’s 2011 interview with Johan Bollen, he explains the unique opportunity that Twitter offers as a glimpse into immediate, focused, raw emotional output. With limited characters and the immediacy of tweeting (especially on mobile) it offers a more targeted and insightful view into millions of everyday moods as they change around the globe.

Marketing, Technology, Society