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Short takes: Music industry trends in “recommendation & discovery”

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I spent a good portion of Monday at the latest edition of the SF Music Tech Summit. My name tag this time said “SF Weekly” instead of “Deciphering Culture” (I asked for dual identification) so a lot of people buttonholed me to get coverage for a new service. Not surprisingly, most of them fell into the “recommendation and discovery” segment although none of the pitches left me convinced of the efficacy of any of the new spins on the work of the established players. Also,  not surprisingly my blog post for SF Weekly’s All Shook Down blog focused on a SRO panel that featured some of the heavy hitters in R & D. The relevant excerpt below.

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S.F. MusicTech Summit: How Do Listeners Want to Discover New Music?
All Shook Down

  • by Jeffrey Callen on 5/10/11 @ 7:29 pm

….The standing-room-only “Recommendation & Discovery” panel offered one of the more interesting glimpses into the internal logic of the music industry machine. Chaired by Kevin Arnold of IODA (also creator of S.F.’s annual Noise Pop festival), the panel brought together some of the heavy hitters in the music search business, including MOGRovi CorporationThe Filter (a Peter Gabriel brainchild), and Slacker.

An interesting discussion on the nuts-and-bolts of music recommendation and discovery services offered some contradictory food for thought. Music consumers looking for recommendations “prefer a man-to-machine to a man-to-man relationship” (David Hyman of MOG), and if you focus on personalized user specs, you get information that is increasingly “granular” (David Roberts of The Filter). Yet R & D is a “human-centric task,” said Adam Powers of Rovi. Powers also asserted that when Rovi, a giant in the R&D world, was looking at other companies to acquire, it found 250 that thought they had R&D nailed. But from the number of R&D company reps in attendance at the SF Music Tech Summit, it seems that either that news hasn’t gotten out, or nobody’s actually nailed it.

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All Shook Down

  • by Jeffrey Callen on 5/10/11 @ 7:29 pm

SF MusicTech: Has Over-Tweeting Killed the Mystery Around Musicians? (SF Weekly)

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My first contribution to SF Weekly‘s All Shook Down blog:

SF MusicTech: Has Over-Tweeting Killed the Mystery Around Musicians?


By Jeffrey Callen, Tue., Dec. 7 2010 @ 8:09AM
The only discernable displays of emotion at yesterday’s S.F. MusicTech Summit — the seventh such gathering of musicians, techies, and industry types — came during the artist panel at the end of the day. Moderator Tamara Conniff (founder of The Comet and former editor-in-chief of Billboard) set the stage for a discussion of how the artists on the panel used social media to build their careers — but the panel took this subject and ran with it.
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​In response to Conniff’s question about whether musicians had ended the “mystery” that stars used to have through over-tweeting, Evan Lowenstein (of Evan and Jaron, the twin brothers responsible for 2000’s “Crazy for this Girl“) said the “romance needs to come back between artists and fans,” and plugged his website StageIt, a social media site designed for musicians, as one means toward that end. Oakland’s own Del the Funky Homosapien said all that was needed to bring back the mystery was to create “good product.” Lebo (of ALO) and singer-songwriter Raul Malo (formerly with the Mavericks) said what solidified their relationships with their fans was playing live, not tweeting or Facebook.
After some theorizing about where and how it had gone wrong, the entire panel agreed that the industry was ready for change, and stressed the need for creating one-of-a-kind musical experiences: live internet concerts (Lowenstein), a return to albums with artwork and credits (Del) and bringing back vinyl and analog sound (Malo and Lebo). Showing that they’d all talked with an MBA or two at some point, the panel disagreed about whether “the long tail model” had gone too far in opening up the music market, but agreed with Malo that, “we don’t need the wizard behind the curtain anymore.” It’s a new day for artists and fans; where it will take us is hard to say.
My interest at yesterday’s summit was captured by what the changes — tech, biz, and social — mean for the music-makers themselves. Is the landscape for creativity opening up or closing down? Are the new revenue streams offering creative independence for artists, or is “the new boss the same as the old boss?” (for the rest)

Short takes — The changing face of social media (4)

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Two interesting articles on social media:

  • First from Kyle Bylin of music industry site Hypebot.com on  how the pervasive use of social media to promote new bands is a double-edged sword, at best.

A New Age Of Extremes: Why The Social Media Hype Machine Kills What It Creates Too

An illuminating excerpt:

The emergence of the social web, one fueled by Tweets, status updates, and blog posts informs the same audience of what they should be listening to right now. This very minute. Artists that get caught in the stream, however delighted they are to be plucked from obscurity, oftentimes lack the resources to properly capitalize on their newfound stardom. Some have have the sites and the widgets. Some don’t. That or they’re just not mentally or emotionally ready to deal with it.

The slayer of these types of breakout artists—major label represented, indie, or otherwise—that same unfortunate paradox, is that the media hype machine that created them will likely kill them before it makes them stronger. Some may make it out alive. But, sadly, for most artists, the odds aren’t stacked in their favor.

 

  • And an interesting article by Jay Baer over at Convince & Convert on when the social media winners and losers will begin to appear — great opening line (see below). Baer predicts it will begin to shake out in about 18 months.

When Will the Social Media Losers Emerge?.

Today, social media is like a soccer league for seven year-olds: everyone gets a trophy.

The vast majority of press coverage and conversations around social media centers around the fact that businesses are DOING social media, not necessarily doing it EFFECTIVELY. Do you know why every article or blog post with even a scintilla of information about success metrics goes supernova? Because we’re still in the social media head-patting phase, and we’re handing out participation ribbons by the truckload. Thus, anything with real data snaps us to attention like a Taser. (read on)

Related Article:

Short takes — The changing face of social media (3)

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iTunes Icon

Image via Wikipedia

An email sent to iTunes users this morning touted its Ping music social network which “lets you follow your favorite artists and friends to discover the music they’re talking about, listening to, and downloading.” Unfortunately many independent artists are still left out of the conversation. That same email from Apple stated that just over 2000 artists were on Ping. This low level of artist participation is not, however, usually by choice. (from Hypebot.com)

Short takes — The changing face of social media (2)

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Image representing MySpace as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

 

The much-hyped inevitable demise of MySpace may not be the done deal that many commentators are presuming. MySpace has carved out a niche for musicians that may not be easily replaced. Contradicting much of what has been written on the site lately, Bruce Houghton of Hypebot offers 6 Reasons Not To Quit MySpace:

 

1.  Eyeballs

Nearly 60 million unique visitors viewed 500 million pages on MySpace last month. Those numbers may be smaller than a year ago, but they are are still significant. And I don’t buy the argument that most of them are other musicians.

2. Search Rank

Search for most bands and MySpace will usually appear as one of the top 5 results.  Can you afford to have fans click on that link and find a dead or out of date MySpace page?

3. MySpace Is Still Mostly About Music

There are some good music add-ons for Facebook, but MySpace is still about music at its core. A place about music attracts fans and bands should want to be where fans are.

4. It’s Easy

MySpace not be pretty, but it is easy. Services like Hoote Sutie to Sonicbid’s ArtistData make it simple to keep multiple social networks up to date simultaneously.

5. If Other’s Aren’t There…

Be a contrarian. If some artists are quiting MySpace or leaving pages unattended, that decreases the competition for those 60 million pairs of eyes.

6. The Makeover

MySpace is in the middle of a major makeover.  I’m as skeptical as you are that it won’t help. (Check out their absurd new logo). But is it smart to delete your account before we find out?

 

And David Harrell of Music Think Tank offers a nuts-and-bolts analysis of #2  — why MySpace has and will probably maintain its high search result rank for music acts: MySpace Still Rules Google Search Results for Music Acts

Social Connectivity & Innovation — “Where Good Ideas Come From”

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The trailer for Steven Berliner Johnson‘s new book, Where Good Ideas Come From, offers some food for thought on the role of social environments in the creation of innovative ideas.

The book is built around dozens of stories from the history of scientific, technological and cultural innovation: how Darwin’s “eureka moment” about natural selection turned out to be a myth; how Brian Eno invented a new musical convention by listening to too much AM radio; how Gutenberg borrowed a crucial idea from the wine industry to invent modern printing; why GPS was accidentally developed by a pair of twenty-somethings messing around with a microwave receiver; how a design team has created a infant incubator made entirely out of spare automobile parts. But I have also tried to distill some meaningful—and hopefully useful—lessons out of all these stories, and so I’ve isolated seven distinct patterns that appear again and again in all these innovative environments. (Each pattern gets its own chapter.) (from StevenBerlinerJohnson.com).

If  you want a longer version, here’s a talk Johnson gave at TED, starting with the role the introduction of the coffeehouse (and the replacement of alcoholic beverages with coffee) had on the development of innovation in the U.K.

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 28, 2010 at 9:11 am

Short takes — the music industry’s process of re-invention (@Hypebot.com)

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A great list from Kyle Bylin of Hypebot.com

12 Books That The Record Industry Needs To Read

Grab a book off the list and enjoy it.

image from tsaum.comOver the last few months, we’ve been asking some of the leading voices in our field to send in their summer reading lists for the Hypebot community. I won’t go as far as to say that this is a definitive list of the books that the music and record industries needs to read, but it’s certainly a good start. There’s a couple of great titles missing that I’ll try to call attention to in my own reading list. That is, when I get around to putting it together.

In this book, Johns explores the history of piracy and reveals that it is far longer and intertwined with our cultural lives than we had imagined. It explores the intellectual property wars from the advent of print culture in the fifteenth century to the reign of the Internet in the twenty-first. This title provides a needed context into the claims that the sky-is-falling on the recording industry and makes chicken little look like he’s been screaming bloody murder for centuries.

Communications scholar and online music fandom analyst Nancy Baym said itbest, “Like Kot’s book, this is a readable analysis of recent changes in the music industry, but where Kot focuses on case studies to make his case, Wikström offers a critical theoretically-grounded perspective and a rich analysis of the changing nature of the many industries involved in the industry.”

12 Books That The Record Industry Needs To Read:

1. Rework
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

This book is written by the founders of the software company 37signals; it explores new ways of looking at working and living and challenges the behaviors we call normal. As well, the book gives a great overview into the reality of starting a company and the lack of resources that are needed with the proliferation of digital technologies and the emergence of the social web.

2. Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates
by Adrian Johns

3. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
by Seth Godin

Never one to mince words, Godin flat out tells readers that they are remarkable — that something that they do matters much, much more than they believe it does. After spending years in an education system that’s almost designed to squash out all creativity and uniqueness from people, preparing them for the ultimate corporate bargain, Godin urges us to wake up and use our full potential.  Not because we are some special butterflies, but because right now, in this instance, the world needs us to be remarkable and use those very talents.

4. You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
by Jaron Lanier

Lanier has written a cautionary tale that challenges us to think about whether or not the web is transforming our culture and society for better or worse. He argues that we take every day technology for granted and don’t truly understand the biases of the mediums we use — that they were designed at very specific moments in history by people with specific intentions. The operating system that our world and computers work on is just one representation of reality and many minor design decisions in it have real and unintended consequences.

5. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
by Clay Shirky

Whether you read this book shaking your head or nodding in agreement, Shirky provides much food for thought and interjects a theory about how the abundance of our free time could be used. In the digital sphere, we are active participates in our cultural lives and if we spend our surplus of downtime working on something that matters, rather than watching reruns of Lost, something great could emerge. If harnessed properly, we can produce value that benifits society as a whole and not just our own lives. Embbrace the chaos and don’t look back.

6. Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
by Greg Kot

From the perspective of a music critic and journalist, Kot analyses the cultural and organizational shifts that underpinned the profitability of the record industry long before the proliferation of digital technologies revolutionized it. He weaves together a brilliant narrative about the decline of traditional social institutions and talks about how the young and the digital are redefining the roles of cultural creators and their art. Contrary to Knopper’s title, Kot explores the new music business from the musicians who shaped and changed it forever.

7. Fans, Friends And Followers: Building An Audience In The Digital Age
by Scott Kirsner

We talk about the DIY movement, but Kirsner goes into the trenches and gains insight into the careers of those whom are actually doing it and making a living off their works. Rather than relying on the gatekeepers of yesteryear, the people outlines in this book have gained access to the tools needed to produce, market, and distribute their work. This book features of range of interviews across a broad number of disciplines in the cultural industries; it provides practical strategies and resources for the reader to stand up and join the movement — if they so wish.

8. The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud
by Patrik Wikström

Communications scholar and online music fandom analyst Nancy Baym said itbest, “Like Kot’s book, this is a readable analysis of recent changes in the music industry, but where Kot focuses on case studies to make his case, Wikström offers a critical theoretically-grounded perspective and a rich analysis of the changing nature of the many industries involved in the industry.”

9. Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture
by Aram Sinnreich

I will admit, I haven’t read this title yet. So, I will have to leave you with the Barnes and Noble description: “Mashed Up chronicles the rise of ‘configurability,’ an emerging musical and cultural moment rooted in today’s global, networked communications infrastructure. Based on interviews with dozens of prominent DJs, attorneys, and music industry executives, the book argues that today’s battles over sampling, file sharing, and the marketability of new styles such as ‘mash-ups’ and ‘techno’ presage social change on a far broader scale.”

10. Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry In The Digial Age
by Steve Knopper

Knopper explores the rise and fall of the record industry through a people and executive driven narrative that gives insight into many of the organizational problems they faced. This provides a much more historical perspective into specific periods of time during the last few decades of popular music. He looks much more into the business side of recorded music than Kot and the many characters that drove it into the ground. This is a tale of short-sighted capitalism and greed and luddite ignorance, where Kot tells of the more music based story.

11. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars
by William Patry

This book is still one of my favorites to date; it gives a scathing review of the cultural industries and tells how they often only want to give consumers what they want to give them — not what they actually want. It studies the language used in the Copyright Wars and gives an in-depth argument as to why those in the industries, whom piracy has been a problem for, tend to demonize their opponents, rather than answer the much broader question of why they refuse to innovate. Creative destruction is a force of change — lobbying government and issuing massive lawsuits are just methods to deny the future and hope that things stay the same forever and ever — freezing business models in the present.

12. Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music
by David Suisman

Suisman provides a much needed history of the rise of the commercial music industry, ranging from Tin Pan Alley to Black Swan, the first major black-owned record company, charting its immense complexity on the way. He tells of how music become a commodity in America and gives deep insight into the truth that the music that permeates in our everyday lives has much less to do with our preferences than of the deep pockets and marketing budgets and tactics that the record industry has employed for decades. In reality, it’s the music they want us to hear, not the other way around. Sadly for them, most of us quit buying it.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

Back story of the “Bed Intruder”s song

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Follow-up on a  post from September 13, 2010 — It’s a new game — the music industry’s process of re-invention (part 1). The Gregory Brothers talking about their surprise hit and their Auto-Tune The News project. Fascinating with some great quotes: “Joe Biden is the Beyonce of the Executive Branch” and great clips of “Bed Intruder” covers (I love the N.Carolina A & T marching band and shamisen versions).

Reposted from Hypebot.com

Video: Gregory Brothers Share Business Back Story On The Bed Intruder Song

image from www.tifr.usSouthwest Virginia’s Gregory Brothers, better known as the “Auto-Tune The News” band, shared the story of how they created and monetized the “Bed Intruder” song at Google’s Zeitgeist conference this week. “Bed Intruder” was the first totally d.i.y. tune to break Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart completely on the strength of YouTube play.

via MediaMemo

It’s a new game — the music industry’s process of re-invention (part 1)

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The changing face(s) of the music industry

The recording industry has always been dragged kicking and screaming to adopt new technologies and business models (see ). Often the big boys were educated to what was possible by the appearance of new competitors on the margins who responded to new opportunities provided by new technologies or new music markets the majors ignore (and sometimes both). Typically, the big boys eventually swallowed up their upstart competitors and the same thing may happen this time but it seems less likely. And some of the upstarts are convinced the solution must come from somewhere different this time. The memorable quote below comes from an August 22, 2010 edition of “Broken Record: Music in the Download Era”, the LA Times occasional column on the current state of the music industry.

“I don’t want to hear some guy chomping on a cigar in Beverly Hills telling me it’s all gone pear-shaped. The people who invented the paradigm and were trusted to run it let it run afoul. We have to fix it.”Jeff Castelaz, co-owner of LA’s Dangerbird Records quoted in L.A.’s string of indie labels succeeds with a jack-of-all-trades approach.

Castelaz’s Dangerbird Records is one of a new crop of independent record companies that have sprung up and are giving the majors (or what is left of them) a run for their money. And this time it is different — there are new big boys providing low-cost distribution: Amazon, I-Tune… — and new free or low-cost marketing outlets: Twitter, Facebook… It’s no longer simply the independents vs. the majors.

A little historical perspective from Mark Mothersbaugh (from Verbicide Magazine)

I’m in the music industry, so I’ve had to listen to people moaning, lazy record executives who are saying, “Oh no, people aren’t buying our records anymore.” And I want to say, you know what, that is not how people historically have disseminated and listened to music in the history of mankind. It has only been a really short window since Thomas Edison invented the wax disc and then the record companies could start selling platters and then tapes and then digital discs. It has only been a short time. Record companies could control the process of what kids could listen to, which influenced what artists were able or allowed to create. I think the internet… is the most amazing thing that has happened. As far as being an artist, I think now is the greatest time to be an artist…  Now, kids can wake up in the morning and say I want to hear some “cowboy Chinese computer death-metal.” You put those four terms into a search engine,something is going to come up. Some band is playing that kind of music. That is so amazing to me. That is so exciting. It is so inclusive… And now kids who are 16 have cell phones that have more powerful recording systems inside their telephone than the Beatles had to do their first album. The technology is amazing. And who needs a record company? You start a website and people from every corner of the planet now have access to your music.

& New routes to success

Inspiration (local TV news) to Pop Song (“Bed Intruder Song”) to Viral Video (YouTube) to Internet Sales (I-Tunes) to Hot Single (Billboard Top 100)

New York Times coverage

More to follow — the game ain’t over yet

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

“William Gibson On the Future of Publishing: Made to Order Books” (@ Speakeasy)

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Interesting interview with innovative author William Gibson (think cyberpunk) in the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. Thanks to Julie Norvaisis of All This Chittah Chatter for turning me on to it.

An excerpt from the interview by the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Kurutz:

Will you mourn the loss of the physical book if eBooks become the dominant format?

It doesn’t fill me with quite the degree of horror and sorrow that it seems to fill many of my friends. For one thing, I don’t think that physical books will cease to be produced. But the ecological impact of book manufacture and traditional book marketing –- I think that should really be considered. We have this industry in which we cut down trees to make the paper that we then use enormous amounts of electricity to turn into books that weigh a great deal and are then shipped enormous distances to point-of-sale retail. Often times they are remained or returned, using double the carbon footprint. And more electricity is used to pulp them and turn them into more books. If you look at it from a purely ecological point of view, it’s crazy.

How would you do things differently?

My dream scenario would be that you could go into a bookshop, examine copies of every book in print that they’re able to offer, then for a fee have them produce in a minute or two a beautiful finished copy in a dust jacket that you would pay for and take home. Book making machines exist and they’re remarkably sophisticated. You’d eliminate the waste and you’d get your book -– and it would be a real book. You might even have the option of buying a deluxe edition. You could have it printed with an extra nice binding, low acid paper.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

September 11, 2010 at 8:01 am

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