Tag Archives: distribution

UCSD: Accountability for oversights?

ist2_393610-approved-rejected-stamps

A while back I discussed the ever-annoying “reply all” emails that lazy individuals e-vomit into inboxes. In those cases the senders are aware of their messages, albeit possibly only semi-consciously.

So what about accidental emails like the one I sent in college to a non-responsive interviewee in which I was complaining about said interviewee? It was meant for my instructor, and it got to her eventually, but not before I angered the unintended receiver and made him think twice about speaking to my class ever again. Shit. 

Some of goof-ups are harmless, sure. And sometimes flub ups simplyteach us the hard way to be more careful.

But some of these mistaken messages could be harmful. Take the congratulatory email the University of California – San Diego sent to 28,000 rejected students (in addition to 18,000 accepted students) last month. Ouch! While apparently the admissions staff “acknowledged the pain” they caused and spent time replying to every inquiry,  I have to wonder: If they aren’t sued for this, when will the next similar situation occur wherein the faulty sender is?

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Soso Free Music (in China…)

So today’s big news in the digital music realm is that Google will start offering links to free music download sites—but only in China. Check out The New York Times coverage and the article’s comments, like this one:

“When 99% people are not paying for music, you can’t simply accuse all of them as pirates.”

It seems like Kodak could learn a think or two about how free is the key. I guess we’ll see how this all pans out over time for the rest of the world.

soso2What’s more, and somewhat along these lines, today I also had a moment to delve into Miller Theatre’s (a music presenter, mind you) web stats. I was initially amazed to see that a good chunk of our web traffic is from China. (This is not necessarily in sync with our in-person audience demographics.)  And that Soso Music is a big referrer to us. But now, after learning a little more about internet use and music popularity trends in China, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at all. Fascinating.

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Not Kodak’s Moment

Christy, age 3, and Shannon, age 7

Christy, age 3, and Shannon, age 7

Here is one of my parents’ favorite old pictures of me and my sister. The quality is poor because it’s old, it’s not digital, and my dad xeroxed it and then snail mailed it to me.

I prefer to use and was happy with Kodak Gallery for my picture sharing. And, when I finally got a Mac, I was even happier to learn that there is an easy upload application for Mac users. But some bad news came this week—Kodak jumped on the “strengthening” the Terms of Services bandwagon. Here are the basics of their new policy, which is also oh-so-cutely highlighted on their homepage:

  1. You must spend $4.99 annually if you use 2GB of storage or less.
  2. You must spend $19.99 annually if you use more than 2GB of storage.
  3. If you don’t follow rules A/B, your pictures may be deleted.

Yikes! The good news is that I’m covered for this year. But, now I’m nervous. The phrase “may be deleted” is a bad thing when it comes to priceless memories. Will Kodak notify me prior to cutting me off? I assume so, but still…the beauty of the Kodak Gallery—the ability of freely share photos with everyone with an email address, including my dad—is gone.

I was thinking of switching to Snapfish, but it turns out they have a similar policy. Hmm… On one hand I don’t blame these services for trying to make a buck. And, minimum purchase requirements seem less stingy that annual fees I suppose. Then again, I believe that some users might prefer the peace of mind of just paying for use up front; the alternative as it stands now a) seems like a hassle to stay on top of even if your status is communicated clearly and b) comes across as purely restrictive and negative with the deletion threat.

In broader terms, what is really happening here is an older company trying to hold on to an old fashioned (i.e. hard copy) way of doing business.

The solution to this issue? I haven’t a surefire one. But, I bet it lies somewhere in between considering the free service as a branding investment more than as a storefront and rewarding users who pass on their pictures (and the brand) to others and do spend money, rather than punishing those who do not.

Now, look at this: a video highlighting the Kodak brand in general and, by default, the Gallery in particular, too. (The longer version is even more touching, and is the thing that compelled me to dig up the ol’ photo above.) Consider the core message—it boasts a strong story, yet is almost laughable considering the new Gallery codes.

“Keep me, protect me, share me, and I will live forever…Keep it Kodak.”

For now I will just ensure all of my pictures live in iPhoto on my hard drive. Over time, I will probably shift my dollars spent on prints to be through this site, too, because it will become my new photo home base. The only problem now is that sharing high resolution images from iPhoto to non-Applers (i.e. my dad) becomes tricky.

Clearly, I’m on the market for a new picture portal. I want to have my cake (free storage) and eat it (be able to share via email), too. Does anyone have any recommendations?

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Removing the Earplugs

This evening I attended an event hosted by New York’s Center for Communication entitled Marketing Music in an iPod World. The description was simply: Illegal downloading has forced the music marketers to create new ways to shore up dwindling profits.  What are they doing to breathe new life into a moribund industry? And will their new strategies entice freeloaders to pay for play?

While this post may also be well-suited for my friend Shira’s blog, the state of the music industry has undoubtedly been impacted by online sharing, and so I would like to touch on a few interesting tid bits from this evening here:

The moderator, Bill Werde of Billboard Magazine, mentioned the term “sync licensing,” which Brooke Primont, VP of creative services and marketing at Cherry Lane Music publishing described as an overarching music license for music  placed against pictures or moving images. (I immediately thought of Sharon’s Remix.)  An example she gave would be when she pitches electronic music to the TV show CSI Miami. Such “syncing” means exposure for the artist and good audio for the images.  (To me, it seems like an offshoot of product placement, but, hey, in going with what would become a theme of the evening, they’ll take what works.)

Mike Worthington, the head of sales at Tommy Boy Entertainment, represented a more independent label. For his company, “360 degree deals” are the way to go.  This means Tommy Boy works with their artists on everything: publishing, recording, booking, tours, branded entertainment, and more. His point was that artists and their reps are “fighting as a team.” In the olden days (aka the 1990s) record label profits were the banks for the other initiatives, but today, he says, “we are looking at the bigger picture” and finding “no pushback from artists.”

Also on the panel was Perry Bashkoff, who does digital sales and marketing for the Warner Music Group.  The forward-thinking guy in a backward-looking company, he somehow came across as burying his head only halfway in the sand.  The moderator asked him about free distribution models and he said it depends, that they “weigh each situation” with the goal of “making sure the music is available where the fan is, as long as it’s transactional because it in the end it all goes back to making sure the artist gets their fair share.”  His example was ensuring iTunes can sell a certain song the day  it airs in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. (Good point, but I say his example barley harnesses the power of digital marketing, and still denies the fact that “fans” nowadays seem to be where the music is free. The dismal show of hands by people who paid for ring-tones exemplified this.)

Worthington jumped in on the free question. “We love to give music away… Independent labels have gotten into working with the artists in distributing their content this way because without the content you wouldn’t have any of the digital stuff.”  (Um, say again? I think you’re being warm and fuzzy, but your reasoning seems off..)

In what might have been the most elitely oblivious comment of the evening, Bashkoff chimed in yet again with “There is a model for everyone, and for some people it is free. And then you find people at the next level.” (Along with Radiohead and Chris Anderson, I bet No Doubt would beg to differ on this one.)

There is no surprise that the focus was on the conversion aka the transaction. Phrases such as “ISP taxes” and “ad supported artist branding” surfaced, if only briefly.

My question to the panel involved peer to peer music sharing. I asked those in attendance to raise their hands if they obtain new music from their friends. Hoping to make The Sharing Cyclone case for everything from direct e-connections to word of mouth, I asked what, if anything, they allocated to leveraging word of mouth marketing, peer to peer sharing, etc. and also what they do to measure the impact of these things on an artists’ brand. In a nutshell, they pointed to MySpace and social technologies which somewhat placated me.

But any satisfaction about the state of things was squelched by the guy after me, who claimed to be an artist manager asking for advise. He was stupefied when the panelists suggest he Google is client. And was even more dumbfounded when they suggested he create a website entry for the artist. Geesh.

Finally, and probably most significantly, the panel never addressed head-on the notion of illegal downloading.  They talked about the importance of loving the art and cultivating and supporting artists as paramount. But in their plea for creating “conversions” so that everyone could get their fair due, they never tackled the ultimate issue—the item that makes everything from this very blog to Wikipedia successful—and this is the notion that so long as duplicating and sharing music is free and easy, the public isn’t going to unplug from that. Face the fact, that’s how it is and how it’s going to be.

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Throwing Sand

sandboxAt my first job sharing was important business. I worked at a pre-school, my alma mater.

It must be from those summer days on the playground that I gained an appreciation for the sandbox, and for how it has since morphed to facilitate a totally new kind of sharing. Google docs, Open Office, Wikis, and countless more act as valuable labs for learning from and building on one another in the adult world.

(I find also it interesting that, like physical sandboxes, the new ones are not without drama about playing fair.)

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In Rainbows = Pot o’ Gold

I’ve been thinking about the Grammys all day and must ask: Why didn’t they recognize Radiohead‘s pay-what-you-want In Rainbows a bit more?

(At first I was surprised that it was in this year’s running, but I learned that it was because the album’s “hard copy” was released on January 1, 2008. But they didn’t talk about the digital release last year much either…hmm…)

Many organizations, such as the Metropolitan Museum, have taken this route for years—and they’ve found long-term sustainability in not quantifying the arts. Judging by the fact that I rarely see anyone at the MET without their colored aluminum tag “en lapel,” people are not willing to be perceived as cheapskates even though the minimum donation is merely “suggested.” 

This leads to why I am proud of the outcome of Radiohead’s “little” experiment. No one knows if you download In Rainbows for free—there’s simply no shame in it. But most people paid anyway, affording the music makers viable compensation for their work.

Distribution costs are out. Perfect infinite copies are in. People know this and so I’m also not surprised to read that as many as 60% of listeners may have downloaded for free. If 60% of something in the traditional model was stolen that would be a problem. But in this model, so what? The option was provided to do so and the band-mates were better off in the end anyhow.

I’m not arguing that it should have won album of the year; I did not even listen to all the options.

However, I might argue that it was downplayed during the awards ceremony out of fear. General fear of the content-makers who bravely turn away from “this decaying business model.” And fear by those struggling to run the show that soon there will be no need for music categories when everything is blurring anyway, televised “live” performances that can be rewound with DVRs over and over, or high-brow awards when public rankings and reviews are what mean the most to consumers in the end.

So, thanks for sharing, Radiohead (because I know you’re reading this).

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Note, added 2/11/09: So the video at the top of this used to work…case in point!

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