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About Bas Grasmayer

Founder & Editor of MUSIC x.

Posted on Techdirt - 25 June 2015 @ 12:36pm

Sell Features, Not Songs

from the no-scarcity-of-music-innovation dept

The recording is old news. Last century. Dead. The Access versus Ownership debate should have finished 10 years ago, but we're still bickering. Access models (eg. streaming) are not supposed to replace Ownership models. They're supposed to power a new reality, a new age for the Music business, in which the record industry possibly has no place.

"The Music industry" has become synonymous for the recording industry, just as it was synonymous for sheet music publishers prior to the rise of the recording companies. With new technology, come new companies, and the old companies move into the background. The new Music industry will likely not consist of those that depend on the recording (eg. major labels, or even Spotify), but those that apply technology to change what it means to listen to or interact with Music, just as the recording did in the 20th century.

Even the creative process will have to change.


Prior to the invention of the record, Music was far more participative than it has become throughout the age of mass media and mass consumption. Back then, if you wanted to hear your favourite song, you better know how to play an instrument, or have a member of the household who sings well, or you're simply not going to hear it. That sounds extremely restrictive given our current reality, but it also gave Music certain characteristics that made it richer:

  • Music was participative
  • Music was mostly a social experience
  • Music was more intimate
  • Music sounded a little bit different every time
  • Music belonged to everyone
I believe these are natural characteristics of Music, that got temporarily pushed into the background in the age of Mass Media and Western individualism. Entertainment and Culture became passive, and the ownership of Culture became less ambiguous, economically. A Creating Class arose, and a Consuming Class. The companies selling the output of the Creating Class benefited from the passiveness of the Consuming Class, because you couldn't consume high margin products while you create.

The KLF's Bill Drummond about Recorded Music

The KLF's Bill Drummond about what the recording took away from Music. From 1:23. Quote below.
"As the technology to record music evolved through the twentieth century, it sucked in and seduced every form of music around the world. They all wanted to become recorded music. They all wanted to become this thing that could be bought and sold. And that narrowed the parameters of what music could do and be. And it took away from music a big part of what can make music powerful, which is about music being about time, place, and occasion."
Brian Eno about Recorded Music

Ambient-pioneer and creator of the famous Windows 95 start-up sound Brian Eno said of Music in 1996:
"Until 100 years ago, every musical event was unique: music was ephemeral and unrepeatable and even classical scoring couldn't guarantee precise duplication. Then came the gramophone record, which captured particular performances and made it possible to hear them identically over and over again. […] I think it's possible that our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: "You mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?""
Introducing Interactivity

The recording is not the end of the line for Music. Every medium is a transition to the next medium.

Most people call performed music "live music" — 
some people call recorded music "dead music"

The Media evolved and spawned Computers, the Internet, Video Games. The latter a highly Interactive example of Culture that went on to give birth to MMORPGs, where large Communities of players Interact and define their own Meaning, participatively. A particularly good example of the aforementioned elements coming together is Minecraft, a world-creating game where players work together to build whatever they can dream of. Deadmau5 uses this to enter a digital world of fan art and interact with his fanbase. Imagine what that's going to look like with the unstoppable momentum Virtual Reality currently seems to have. The Consuming Class has become the Creating Class: Consumption and Creation are becoming, in part, synonymous.

Why is Music still static by default?
Why am I not being offered more ways to interact with Music?

Look at the gaming industry. It's a 1,000 times easier to get someone to pay to unlock a 'special ability' than it is to sell them a piece of content.

Intimacy and Immediacy

The old Music industry is not interested in creating Intimacy. It's hard to scale. The dominance of the recording industry's model depends on hundreds of thousands of well-timed sales, and a long-tail that provides income until 70 years after the death of the Creator.

Yet the fact that we carry computers in our pockets that are more powerful than the PCs on our desks a few years ago, and always connected to the Internet, offers amazing opportunities for Intimacy and Immediacy, ones that fans are happy to pay for. It means that Kevin Kelly's theory of a 1,000 True Fans will become increasingly easy to apply for a growing number of Creators.

The rise of Intimacy and Immediacy will benefit those Creators who work with small teams, who are open about their creative process, and involve their fanbase early on in this process. This enables them to secure funds through crowdfunding, as opposed to trying to secure investment from large corporations, whether recording companies or brands.

One can create dynamics of social competition within a fanbase. Who can recruit the most new fans, or active members? Who are the most valuable contributors to the Creator's wiki? Who spend the most money on merch and who have the most complete collection? The ones that rank highest, get access to perks. A weekly 1 hour video chat with the top 10, weekly 10 minute preview of what you're working on for the top 50, 20% discount on merchandise for the top 200, etc.

An app that has a great idea for how to get people to actively discover new Music, engage with it, and feel part of the artist's success is Tradiio. It gamifies Music discovery and lets users invest virtual coins in songs they believe in. This helps artists rise to prominence on the platform and earn rewards. If this platform evolves from a reward-based game, to a real economy where users can purchase coins and artists can cash out, it would be a good example of the type of company the new Music industry will be made up of. Just to mention some other exemplary companies for music's future: look at Smule and Sonic Emotion.

More on Games

The Gaming industry got into the same mess, at the same time, that the Music industry got into, brought about by the fact that what they thought was their product could suddenly be communicated through networks at zero cost. A whole new Gaming industry emerged with the arrival of connected devices: smartphones. Instead of charging money for the game, they made the game free to play and highly social, and instead charged for a limited set of actions.

Treat money-poor, time-rich fans as well as the money-rich, time-poor, because it's the former that provide value for the latter.

Music needs a new format that's feature-oriented, rather than content-focused. The content remains central to the experience, but the interaction around the content is what brings in the money. Likewise, playback of recorded music will remain important in the future, but perhaps not as the part of the industry that rakes in the most important part of Creators' incomes.


There are countless examples of companies pioneering the future of Music. From aforementioned Tradiio, to ones started by game developers, Music business serial entrepreneurs, and artists themselves. First let's start with an example from another part of the entertainment industry.

Example: Affectiva & Portal Entertainment

The former is an emotion analysis startup spun out of MIT Media Lab in 2009. The latter is a studio which produces 'movies' for interactive devices. According to a recent article on Wired, using Affectiva's software, Portal Entertainment is creating a horror series that's "exactly as scary as you want it to be":
"The software will read your emotional reactions to the show in real time. Should your mouth turn down a second too long or your eyes squeeze shut in fright, the plot will speed along. But if they grow large and hold your interest, the program will draw out the suspense."
Imagine applying that to music… Some companies are already closing in on that.

Example: Inception, by Hans Zimmer and RjDj

Music producer and film composer Hans Zimmer collaborated on an app for the Inception movie, with RjDj, a company that specializes in Context Aware Music and Augmented music, founded by one of the co-founders of, Michael Breidenbruecker. Hans Zimmer on the project:
"There's a thing I've been searching for and I've been working on forever now, is a way to get beyond recorded music. To get beyond 'you just download a piece of music and it's just always the same'."
The application they made draws information from the world around the user, and transforms it into fantastic music. It seems as if you're being immersed in dreamlike worlds, as happens in the movie.

They continued their collaboration and made another app for The Dark Knight Rises. RjDj also created a Reactive Music game called Dimensions, which owes its name to the trippy effects of the Augmented Music that make it feel like you've just crossed into another dimension. The game is free-to-play, and offers in-app purchases to unlock new experiences or further augment existing ones.

I asked two of the people behind RjDj whether people are ready for adaptive music. This is what they had to say.

Michael Breidenbruecker:
"I think many of them are ready. Apps like Inception or Dark Night Rises show that people are really into this sonic experience. The problem is how this is presented packaged. I can tell you from experience that not many people hear the difference between 5 hours of generative music and 5 hours recorded music. So really... no one cares if your music changes all the time through an algorithm and never sounds the same or if [it] is a preproduced track. Music has to have a reason why it is dynamic and not linear... that's why we sync it to real life."
Robert Thomas:
"I think Inception especially proved that if the experience is delivered in a way that makes sense, perhaps within a bigger conceptual framework, then millions of people can understand it and really like it.

As for people understanding the depths and details of how reactive music changes. It is very very easy to lose a huge part of the audience here. I think its fair to say that only musicologists and very serious music listeners could pick out the ways in which detailed generative music is changing for instance. Making a reactive music experience meaningful requires that the listener can tangibly feel that the change in the music is linked to his / her activity or life in some direct and hopefully emotionally powerful way.

Often making linear music is about manipulating the emotional state of the listener into particular states of mind over time for dramatic effect. Reactive music poses a different set of possibilities - what if the music is manipulated by them / their emotional state? As a composer this is totally different - its like using a sniper rifle instead of a shotgun - you can make your music hit exactly the right spot for the moment."
Adaptive soundtracks are actually quite common in games, where the Music transforms depending on the player's absolute and relative position (it's called Dynamic Music). Some developers are chucking all the other game elements aside to focus fully on that.

Example: Proteus

Proteus has been described as a non-game. The game (or 'game') was developed by one developer and one sound designer, and places you on a mystical island. There's nothing there to kill, no need to score points, and you can't die. All you have to do is to wander around the island to discover new areas and to enjoy the way objects around you influence the soundtrack. This is the literal embodiment of the phrase 'soundscape'. The changing seasons, different weather conditions, time of day, and varying ecosystems all have an impact on the Music.

I asked David Kanaga, the game's sound designer, whether this is something anyone could do, in order to understand whether this could become a more mainstream medium for Music:
"Yes, anyone could do it. It's maybe even more natural than writing static music in a way. That said, very few people are doing it, and maybe it takes years of UNLEARNING, which maybe means everything needs to be played again, to stop fixating on what's successful and beautiful in recorded music, in Sgt. Peppers and Pet Sounds, to find the play aspect of those and to move on, to stop admiring recordings.. improvise only, this is the tactic that i've been practicing myself to try this unlearning.. no serious learning is needed, really, but the UNLEARNING is totally necessary."
Example: Biophilia, by Björk

In recent years many artists have taken to releasing albums as apps. Björk had a particularly interesting take on it, releasing her album as a 3 dimensional galaxy that can be navigated and interacted with. The app even became part of MoMa’s collection.

Through the use of in-app purchases, the user can unlock new parts of the galaxy, which provide new Music to Interact with.

Example: Don't Be Scared LP, by DJ Vadim

Ninja Tune veteran DJ Vadim released an 'immersive album', which allows users to interact with different elements of the song, recomposing it according to their own wishes. What better way to create a sense of Intimacy between your fans and your Music.

Example: Central Park (Listen to the Light), by BLUEBRAIN

Then there's Bluebrain, a musical duo that produced their own apps, location-aware albums, one of which can only be used in New York's Central Park. In a way it's similar to Proteus, except in this case, the soundscape is mapped to physical locations rather than virtual.

Example: Weav

Recently a new music startup by one of the creators of Google Maps started making waves: Weav. Weav's aim is to simply make music elastic. Unlike Spotify's new feature which picks songs that match your tempo while running, songs on Weav's platform will actually adjust to your pace. The team created tools for musicians to create dynamic music: you don't just write the song, you also program rules for it to recompose itself and adjust to different tempos. Co-founder Lars Rasmussen:
"We believe that as our lives become increasingly digital, and as our increasingly powerful mobile devices play greater and greater roles in our lives, having a song that can change and adapt -- in real time -- to what you are doing will become increasingly important. And delightful. This is why we built Weav."

If you're waiting for disruption in the music industry, don't look at the big platforms like iTunes or Spotify. They belong in the Age of the Recording.

Look at platforms that offer actual Interactivity, Immediacy, Intimacy, and Involvement. Now more than ever can Creators help give shape to future formats of Music, and to new ways to connect the listener to the Music.

Imagine Music in the Age of the Internet of Things.

Music may be static, but it doesn't have to be. And the relation between Creator and Fan certainly shouldn't be.

Bas Grasmayer (@basgras) is a music startup consultant, and former Product Lead of Zvooq, the leading music streaming service in Russia & CIS. He’s best known for his thesis The Answer is the Ecosystem: Marketing Music through Non-Linear Communication and has previously spoken at conferences such as Amsterdam Dance Event, European Lab, Midem and Sochi Winter Music Conference.

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 February 2012 @ 12:13am

EU Member Bulgaria Halts ACTA, Minister Of Economy Offers Resignation

from the ACTA-la-vista-baby dept

Following a long list of countries including Poland, Latvia and the Czech Republic, Bulgaria's government has now announced it's halting the ratification of the ACTA-treaty. Bulgaria's Minister of Economics and Energy even went as far as offering his resignation, while commenting:

"Since there are no damages for society, I believe the move is sufficient as a sign of assuming responsibility. I was convinced that this agreement would be beneficial for Bulgaria. Even now experts say its positive effects would outweigh the negative ones."

It's unclear which 'experts' the Minister is referring to. It's also a little hard to believe that someone would offer their resignation when they were convinced they were doing the right thing. Especially when the Prime Minister instructs his party to vote against ACTA in the European Parliament:

"The PM further vowed that the Members of the European Parliament from his ruling, center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, would not endorse the ratification of ACTA."

What is certain is that the nationwide protests last weekend such as in the video below, which saw impressive numbers on the streets of 16 cities in a country of 7.5 million people, have startled the government sufficiently to understand they need to be more wary about the types of treaties they sign, especially when those treaties infringe on civil liberties. While proponents of stronger IP protection get more audacious, an increasing amount of people are taking to the streets to hold their governments accountable for signing these treaties or comparable laws.

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Posted on Techdirt - 14 February 2012 @ 9:38am

Why Music Is Not A Product & Three Reasons Why That's A Good Thing

from the check-your-assumptions dept

Perhaps the biggest illusion in content-centric industries is the belief that the content itself is the main product. For the end-consumer, music is not a product or a service. End-consumers rarely pay for music. They put down money for copies of music, such as CDs, sheet music or music downloads. They put down money for tickets to live experiences. They put down money for subscriptions to music services. Those are all products, but music itself is not. Arguably, the only way to directly 'pay for music' is through commission or donation.

So what is music, or any other type of content? It's what adds value to the CD in the box. It's what makes 2 covers separated by a stack of paper worth buying from the book shop. It's what brings hundreds of people to one place for a shared experience. But it's not a product.

For people that have effectively programmed their minds to see their content as a product, this might be an uncomfortable revelation. Yet while uncomfortable, it can also be very empowering and here's why:

  • Digital-proof. For a long time the music industry 'got away' with believing that the content is what people buy. However as music went digital, an increasing amount of people were able to separate the content from the product; thus leading to an uncontrollable proliferation of the content through unauthorized networks. Understanding that music ≠ the product fully acknowledges the digital reality, which is the first step to finding viable alternatives for products.
  • Flexibility. Understanding that music is not the same thing as the product which creates the financial reward is a great way to rethink the products that are created surrounding your music. Music is neither a CD nor a download. It can add value to anything. Some people actually create content around physical things to make them more valuable and easier to sell (it's called Significant Objects).
  • Fan-centrism. Separating product and content means you no longer have to sell fans what you want them to buy. You can sell them what they want to buy and let the music add value. By understanding who your most avid fans are, you can provide them with something they'll be happy to spend money on. Example (oversimplification alert): got hipster fans? Sell subscriptions to exclusive content via an iPhone app. Got teenage girl fans? When doing a live show, give them a number to send a text message to for an x amount of money & give them exclusive backstage content from the show when they return home. You can do anything; just understand your audience by being connected with them and realize that it's not the content itself that's being sold.

This way, everybody wins. The fans win, because what they pay for is more relevant to them. The artists win, because not only do you have increased chances to monetize, but you will also create a stronger connection with your fans by giving (or selling) them what they want.

Some great, classic examples of artists & labels that 'get it' are:

In short, the value of the products you sell can be raised dramatically by attaching your content to it. Your content is valuable, but for end-consumers, it's not your product.

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 December 2011 @ 6:46am

Dutch Collection Society Found To Be Source Of Infringing Content

from the everyone's-a-pirate dept

Remember the story about the composer who found his music featured in anti-piracy ads and had a difficult time getting paid out, triggering a corruption scandal at collection society Buma/Stemra? It was obviously a bit ironic that the music in question was used in anti-piracy ads, but it appears the irony truck forgot to unload a package - filled to the brim with humiliation.

Using YouHaveDownload, a tool that tracks torrent transfers on various public torrent trackers and matches them with IPs, a popular Dutch weblog has uncovered piracy at that aforementioned collection society. They scanned the IP range of Buma/Stemra's HQ and among the pirated material they found:

The tool only covers about 4 to 6% of what's available on the networks it tracks, so it's possible that there's a lot more sharing evil piracy going on from their offices as well.

If anything, this scandal really shouldn't be a scandal. Anti-piracy lobbying and campaigning has led to sharing becoming a taboo, while the money spent could have been used to facilitate sharing and to build sustainable business models on top of that. Despite pirates among their own ranks, organizations like Buma/Stemra feel that the Dutch policy of downloading from unauthorized sources for personal use being legal should be altered (read their statement). Even though the Dutch parliament disagrees, the Dutch government is trying to get exactly such laws altered citing EU pressure, even though the Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes (herself Dutch), has stated opposite goals. With people in parliament who do not know "what or who is a torrent," it's not entirely unlikely that the govt actually manages to get the law changed after all.

Buma/Stemra was quick to respond and acknowledge that IPs are not reliable to determine infringers. Apparently the IP addresses used for piracy (ending in .246 and .248) cannot be used by employees to access the web internet, so the collection society claims they were spoofed. (Update: their, now removed (cache), statement said internet, instead of web - apologies). Oddly, the IP from which the email with the press announcement was sent, ~.247, hasn't been spoofed. Did I mention they brought up spoofing after a spokesperson first claimed that the IP addresses could have originated from anywhere in the business park even though everything from ~.240 to ~.255 is linked to Buma/Stemra's office?

Sure, this scandal is humiliating, but it's not as embarrassing as the war against innovation. You can use this moment to better understand the human nature of sharing, to understand that downloads don't translate directly to lost sales, and to rethink your lobbying strategy to push for a more sane framework. Or, you know, you can continue to upset fans whilst amusingly tumbling from one scandal into the next.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if there are more pirates in disguise amongst hardline politicians, RIAA & MPAA folks, and other classic opponents of more flexible copyright legislation. You all know where to find the tool now, so perhaps it can happen through a lesson about crowdsourcing. That is, have fun and see what you can find...

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Posted on Techdirt - 6 December 2011 @ 8:06pm

Attention! Monetizing Spotify Apps Is The Same As Monetizing Music

from the now-that-I-have-your-attention... dept

Recently Spotify launched its app platform, a significant step into a future where music licensing can function like an API. Which of course should have been made possible a long time ago, but corporations' loss of control was preventing that until they finally found a way to out-leverage the indies - or maybe that's just a coincidence.

So recently we've been seeing a phenomenon I like to call the Rage Against The Stream, where artists & labels have been pulling their content from services like the aforementioned. I probably don't have to point out that in a reality where everyone is competing with free, attention has become more scarce and valuable than ever before and thus the categorical dismissal of access models such as subscription services is unlikely to pay off in the long run (p.s. I love understatements).

The day after Spotify launched its platform, articles started popping up, commenting on the fact that it's impossible to 'monetize apps' and there thus being "no clear upside to developers." And that's where I grab my BS-defense-stick and start drawing the line.

No, you can't put ads in your app.
No, you can't charge for the app or create in-app purchases.
No, Spotify doesn't give you part of the revenue of music streamed through your app.

It's the same lack of creativity of coming up with innovative business models that can be seen in other parts of the music industry... what's new is that this time it's coming from the tech side. What it comes down to is the same as competing with free - and saying you can't compete with free is saying you can't compete period.

Want to make money by building a Spotify app? Build one that uses Facebook Connect for user registration, focus on building a great experience that's non-obtrusive, make it easy to share this experience and funnel that back to your main platform (that's outside Spotify) - focus on discovery and then sell the premium. The SongKick app is a good example, but it can be applied in many more ways. Since it's going to be primarily power users and music geeks using the apps for now, items like vinyl copies come to mind. Focus on gaining & holding the attention - which is scarce, then build your way towards monetization by doing something that Spotify is not.

Spotify Apps are highly monetizable, you just have to be creative. Just like with music.

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 November 2011 @ 8:10pm

For VPN Provider HideMyNet DMCA's ABC's Not As Easy As 123

from the you-are-the-weakest-link-goodbye dept

Besides circumventing censorship, one of VPN services' main functions is safeguarding users' privacy. To find out how far these services go to protect their customers' privacy, Torrentfreak conducted a 2-question survey among VPN providers, with mixed results.

As I was looking for a VPN provider myself and got tipped about HideMyNet, which is missing from Torrentfreak's overview, I decided to ask them the two questions myself:

Your service has been recommended to me multiple times, but before I start using your service, I have two questions.

1. Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you or a 3rd party to match an IP address and a time stamp to a user of your service? If so, exactly what information do you hold?

2. Under what jurisdictions does your company operate and under what exact circumstances will you share the information you hold with a 3rd party?

A few hours later I received their response:

 1) Yes, any serious company would. I would be concerned about the quality of a company who did not. If no logs are kept it'd be impossible to respond to a DMCA complaint which puts the company liable for a 100,000$ fine. I highly doubt you're going to find any company willing to risk that sort of liability on a 5$/month vpn account. Good luck!

2) USA - Also, it's the jurisdiction of the server endpoint -- Not the company itself.

A baffling response which, besides being rude, also shows the company is completely clueless about the DMCA. We got in touch with a lawyer who's a DMCA expert who had the following to say:

"Sounds bogus to me. 17 USC 512(m) says the safe harbor is not conditioned on "monitoring the service." However, the service provider will be asked for evidence of its takedown practices, but the service provider only has to give what it's got. The $100k fine is made up too."

Classy, HideMyNet. Inventing a $100,000 fine to scare potential customers into using your service instead of a competitor's. Lesson learned: always make sure a service actually knows what it's talking about before handing over your money and beware of VPN providers that will sacrifice your privacy regardless of whether you are in violation of some country's copyright laws or not.

So what was it HideMyNet: simply unaware of the law? A case of untrained sales representatives being allowed to make up facts? Scared of the weight and money the entertainment industry's lobbies are throwing at suing the hell out of honest companies? Or do you have other motives to hide behind the DMCA?

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Posted on Techdirt - 4 November 2011 @ 9:57am

Why The Internet Has Been Awesome For Both Musical Artists and Fans

from the cool-story-bro dept

One phenomenon we often write about on Techdirt is how the internet has completely killed the music industry and how it has turned our world into a culturally barren wasteland, deprived of art and even joy. More accurately, we write about people who say such things and point out the inaccuracies, ignorance or basic flaws in their logic.

Critically acclaimed pop culture critic Simon Reynolds was recently interviewed by Andrew Keen and made a bunch of generalizations and claims that are in seeming contrast with his progressive outlook previously shown in musings about punk and post-punk, as well as rave culture.

The interview starts off as you expect it would:

"It's much less likely that you'll be able to make a living doing it."
And how have you measured that 'likelihood'? Even if there are less people making a living from making or performing music, a claim for which I have yet to see good proof, is it really less likely that anyone will be able to make a living off of it?

Instead of backing up his claim, Reynolds continues and discusses the way things used to be in a romantic tone which doesn't change as he compares the old label-centric model to a "lottery", with artists usually having to get "in the red." Misplaced nostalgia. What a long way we have come from that - from a world where artists were at the mercy of corporations to a world of empowered artists in which they are at the mercy of their fans, their customers.

In fact, people have a much larger chance to make a living from music these days. This can be witnessed very clearly in electronic genres, where it is the norm for people to start as 'bedroom producers' and, if they're good enough, they'll get picked up by blogs, then labels and will then be able to build a proper studio and make a living from touring. If they're good enough, according to fans and curators within their niche - not according to label execs or music journalists. Anyone can become a producer and anyone that manages to find an audience and connects with them properly has the opportunity to start making a living from it. It's not easy, but at least it's not a lottery.

Next claim:
"A generation has come along who don't think they should pay for music."
Then explain Justin Bieber. Where does the demand for his merchandise come from? Who is attending his tour events? About 30% of all music recordings are still bought by people under 30, the generation that grew up with the internet. Even the RIAA's numbers show it. That does not take into account live shows or other ways of 'paying for music'. True, the same group used to be responsible for 45% of the purchases, but that still doesn't mean they don't believe in paying for music. Just because only 20% of teenagers will clean up their room out of their own free will, that doesn't mean an entire generation has come along who don't think they should clean. Then again, where would music be without people talking about new generations they do not understand.

Reynolds continues:
"I think there's something about paying for music that makes it more intense; you've got to listen harder to music. If you pay for it you're going to pay attention to the record you bought and get your money's worth."
Does music that depends on the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance really deserve to be bought? At the end of the day, music being available in a 'feels like free' manner, for instance via YouTube or Spotify, means that your music has to stand out. Either by being really good or by having a unique sound. Preferably both. Quality gets rewarded with attention and attention is what can be monetized down the line. No more lotteries.

Then follows a breakdown of mash-ups. Two lines really stand out:
"A mash-up is not something that you'd really want to listen to more than a few times because it's like a joke, isn't it, really?"

"And they're not adding anything. They're not adding--they're not a contribution to the future of music, I don't think."
Come on! That's what my parents said about house music when I first heard it as a kid. Those statements, especially the latter, sound like an echo of the criticisms early rave innovators like Shut Up And Dance and The KLF received from the previous generation that did not understand the new revolution in music.

Perhaps some explanation is needed. Part of the mash-up culture is indeed like an out of control meme - nerd humor at its finest, focused more on the joke than on the art. However that's definitely not what all mash-ups are. Take a look at this live mash-up by Madeon, which we covered a while back:
Or look at Girl Talk. Or look at absolute classics like De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising album, which is basically composed of intricate mash-ups layered with raps. The same for the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique album, of which someone composed a great Spotify playlist with all the tracks that were sampled on the album by the way.

Many new, trendsetting genres, such as dubstep or moombahton, rely or have relied heavily on remixing, altering or mashing-up previous works. The outright dismissal of mash-ups as a contribution to the future of music is nothing new though. This dismissal was false when hiphop and house DJs started mashing up disco and funk records in the late 70s and early 80s, and it is false today. Mash-up culture is pop art on steroids.

After Keen notes that "you're not allowed to be on TechCrunch and be too miserable," they aim to end the interview on a cheerful note and start talking about radio (yes, really).
"Anything that can take on the role that radio used to have and deliver new things to people that they're gonna like. It's gonna prosper."
I think he's on to something there. Personally I have very high hopes for something called... the internet. It's common to see people looking for ways in which 'new technology X' can replace 'old technology Y', although that's never the people that grew up using the new technology. The internet's purpose was never to create a way to replace old technologies with some a single new alternative. What the internet has done is take all the different roles of radio such as curator, broadcaster, gatekeeper, commentator, critic, entertainer and more, and it has separated or perhaps eliminated some. Now anyone can take on one of those roles or any combination thereof. It's no longer something exclusive.

Hope you don't mind the sarcasm here and there, Simon. You've got a great mind, but I couldn't let these claims go by unchallenged. If you'd like to retort, please get in touch. We'd be glad to feature it on here.

Personally, I think this is an awesome time for both musical artists and fans right now. There is so much opportunity and freedom. I think it's a great time for music and perhaps it will take some more years and further disruption for some folks to finally be able to see that -- just like the general music industry's shifted opinion about that De La Soul album mentioned above, which was initially met with plenty of animosity from the traditional industry. Luckily, true pioneers ignore such animosity, move on and set the standards for tomorrow for both musical artists and fans.

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 July 2011 @ 1:09am

While In Cuba, Venezuelan President Supposedly Rules Via Twitter

from the #140charactergoverning dept

While Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was recently in Cuba to undergo cancer treatment, several media outlets reported on Chavez using Twitter to run Venezuela. Tweets included an approval of a million dollar garbage collection program and the announcement of a new park in Caracas. As fantastic as the headlines dealing with this news sound, a little nuance is probably needed. Any of the actual decision-making was obviously done in more than 140 characters, and only the actual announcements of decisions were made by Chavez on Twitter. Instead of using it to 'run Venezuela', it would be more accurate to say that Twitter has allowed Chavez to retain a strong image in the run up to upcoming presidential elections. Probably a better strategy than censoring the internet.

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Posted on Techdirt - 19 July 2011 @ 7:01pm

Can Innovation Through Business 'Solve' Issues That Legal Repression Can't?

from the making-music-worth-paying-for dept

If you follow music industry news, you probably didn't miss Spotify's launch in the US last week. Prior to this launch, a Swedish music executive was interviewed about what to expect when Spotify launches in the US. One part of the interview stood out in particular:

[Spotify] has eradicated music piracy almost on its own. Sweden was the home of Pirate Bay. They even had their own political party and made the prime minister in national television declare "Off (sic) course the youth shall be able to download music for free".

Three years later, The Pirate Bay is not mentioned by anyone anymore. Spotify is, on the other hand, mentioned by almost everyone - including the old Pirate bay fans.

This did not happen because some new radical law or brutal police force were implemented. Neither because a confused prime minister changed his mind again and embraced the music industry. It all happened simply because the users found a new legal service that they actually thought was much better than the old Piracy one.
What is interesting here is that innovation through business helped reduce 'unauthorized consumption' of music, while many a record label exec prefers to invest in legal changes that have not really made all that much impact so far. Personally, I think the recording industry missed a huge opportunity 10 to 15 years ago. Instead of using the legal system to fight Napster and the wave of peer-to-peer filesharing that followed, innovation through business would probably have been more worthwhile (and a lot less costly). Besides that, legal changes on the scale some of the folks in the recording industry envision would create a market that's even more broken than it already is, preventing other business (like Spotify) from driving innovation and competing in their industry, and would be threatening to civil rights (the rights to free speech and privacy in particular). Enforcing the interests of one group or industry by sacrificing innovation and civil rights surely must be one of the most undesirable things we as a society face today.

Even though Spotify displays a good model for success, it does have its drawbacks. One rights organization highlights an important issue with Spotify: the inability to port data.
Because streaming customers do not own their music, they cannot take it with them. Should they decide to try another service (or if a service goes under), users should be able to easily export titles of songs in playlists they created or a list of favorite music, etc. Users should also be able to choose independent add-ons that make the service more valuable, such as alternative means of organizing their music "collections." Without this kind of functionality, users are going to be disappointed, and we are unlikely to see the real competition that helps drive innovation.
The content industry is a volatile industry. Only two years ago MySpace bought imeem (the first platform in the US licensed by all 4 major labels) and shut it down the same day, replacing all playlists with ads. For this reason owning copies of music, whether through legal downloads or unauthorized alternatives, will stay attractive. As a matter of fact, according to the music exec mentioned above, digital sales in Sweden were up 17% last year compared to a mere 3% growth in the US.

We're only just entering the digital age. Blocking innovation with legislation and lawsuits is a shortsighted approach, especially with innovation proving to solve issues that legal changes can't. If the recording industry doesn't live up to their responsibility to innovate and service their fans, others will.

That's how business works.

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Posted on Techdirt - 8 July 2011 @ 7:39pm

Marketing Music Through Non-Linear Communication: Accepting The Full Reality Of The Digital Age

from the i-just-can't-hide-it dept

I'm so excited to finally present the public version of my thesis, which investigates the problem of record labels' adjustment to the digital age and provides a solution. One of the key inspirations while composing the thesis was Mike's Trent Reznor Speech at MIDEM. Throughout the two years I spent composing my thesis, some of the thesis' content was already posted to Techdirt. There was the Shpongle case-study, in which a band went from yelling at fans to embracing them in a remarkable way. Then there was an analysis of the unique way in which deadmau5 connects with fans. Most recently, I posted a case-study of Fulkultur's The Ugly Dance, which is really a genius way to get your music discovered. Oh, and there was a white paper with music business model case-studies, but it was not directly related to my thesis. Thank you, Mike!

Today however, I can finally launch the entire thesis! It is free, it should be shared and I would love for folks to remix it!

Go for it.

Personally, I have some favorite findings that I will further explain here on Techdirt.

The "Pirates-Buy-More-Music" Chart

This chart seems to indicate that there are different groups within pirates. As is obvious from the chart, the group on the left side is more likely to have bought music recently than 'non-pirates' (people who engage in filesharing less than once a month or never). I thought this was an interesting result from the survey, especially since some people are generally too quick to disqualify pirates as economically interesting music consumers.

One size price fits does not fit all

I asked surveyees to respond to the statement "One US dollar ($1.-) is not too much to ask for a song." This resulted in two groups that were almost evenly split. Around half of the respondents agreed, and the other half disagreed. This indicates that prices of music should perhaps be much more variable than they are today and real attention needs to be paid to one's target group when trying to sell copies.

Instead of inventing numbers to argue how things should be - as a marketeer, I'm much more interested at looking at the reality and using that reality to maximize the potential. So what do you do when your business model (that relies on control) gets disrupted through peer-to-peer filesharing and other types of non-linear communication? You adjust to the new reality and make use of that non-linear communication.

The solution that originates from this non-linear communication is 'the ecosystem' and this excerpt from my thesis probably describes it best:

The ecosystem is an active fanbase which is interconnected through non-linear communication. This means producing a story worth telling to turn the internet's non-linear communication and loss of control over distribution into an opportunity to get discovered. The second step is retaining the attention by connecting with listeners and connecting them to each other like the host of a party would with guests. Turning the ecosystem into a fun party helps energize the fanbase and amplifies the aforementioned "story that's worth telling". Marketing opportunities come from listening to the ecosystem and releasing the products they want, as opposed to the classic approach of pushing the product that you want them to buy. Internet-enabled concepts such as pre-ordering and digital releases allow labels to offer their ecosystem abundant choice to play into all the different expectations regarding price and product characteristics. This most likely will involve a mix of (feels like) free and publishing products or services that are better than free.
The answer is the ecosystem. Note that in the below picture, both the artist/label as well as the target audience are part of the same ecosystem.

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Posted on Techdirt - 1 July 2011 @ 9:34am

Music Exec Says Too Many Silly Things To Put In This Headline

from the 34%-of-statistics-are-made-up dept

If anything, Apple's announcement of iTunes MusicMatch has made opposing sides equally uncomfortable (a sign of disruption?). Whereas some are concerned about its possible use as a tool to identify infringers, others are more concerned about it 'legitimizing piracy' and are not afraid to pull numbers out of thin air to back up their claims.

One of these people is PRS for Music's chief executive Robert Ashcroft. Ashcroft claims collection societies like PRS for Music could experience an 80% drop in online licensing revenue if unauthorized downloads were to be admitted in locker services and then legitimized. It seems very unlikely that collection societies would even exist if one innovation would cut 80% of their business, but I'm very curious to see evidence to back up this claim.

I've been trying to come up with a scenario that would warrant this 80%, but most would be too far-fetched for a non-fiction blog like Techdirt. The existence of these locker services would have to lead to governments deciding there is no reason to keep downloading illegal. Then either new 'pirate' platforms would have to start outcompeting already existing platforms or most legitimate platforms would have to decide there is no value in having good relations with the artists and labels their users adore. Then most users must stop spending money on music. Why is this not realistic? Despite the increasing convenience of unauthorized downloads, authorized platforms such as Netflix are beating piracy in terms of traffic. If the suggested 80% decline would be realistic, it would have already happened. It didn't.

He further stated that:

“We are at a turning point. Either the internet becomes an economically viable replacement to CDs or else there is an admission you can’t get fair value from the internet, which would lead to lasting damage to the music industry.”

No, just no. Either the internet becomes an economically viable replacement to CDs or else? The internet is a revolution in computer networking and communication - it was never intended to be a replacement to CDs. The internet is a disruptive technology which among many great things has helped thousands (if not millions) of artists and musicians reach global audiences they would otherwise not have reached. It has helped artists gain exposure and popularity to generate the licensing revenue which helps pay for the salary of collection societies' staff. For this reason the new generation doesn't blame the internet (although sometimes they forget where they came from). Just recently I interviewed Para One, a successful French electro producer, who said:

“I personally see the internet as a blessing. It would be unfair to hate it, since it pretty much kickstarted our careers through forums, then MySpace, etc, a while ago.”

Let's just label the part where he says that the internet should be a CD replacement "or else" as the FUD that it is and move on. Actual research into this suggests there's actually money to be made for the music industry. Of course that remains to be seen and depends on a few factors such as how good consumers are at predicting their own behaviour. It's also dependent on the moves of other competing platforms such as Spotify and Google Music.

However, these are intelligent platforms, built in a reality where they have to compete with free and in which they must convert 'free users' into paying users. This is why I cringe when I hear people from a less reality-based side of the business say "piracy" needs to be stopped in order for these startups to succeed. A piracy-free internet would have to be so restricted (three strikes is not enough) that it would devastate these startups and most other future innovation along with human rights.

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Posted on Techdirt Wireless - 3 May 2011 @ 3:29am

Trying To Limit Net Access, Dutch Telcos Accidentally Force Government To Speak Out On Net Neutrality

from the backfire? dept

Although the below image has been circulating the internet as a satirical warning for some time now, Dutch telco KPN recently announced that it's actually going to implement something like this due to declining revenue.

The company stated that starting this summer it will be blocking chat-messaging applications such as WhatsApp (competes with SMS), VoIP services (competes with calls) and heavy streaming services. All these services will get their own price tag, just like what is currently the case with calling and text messaging. The problem with that logic of course is that calling and SMS are actually different services that the telco offers; but in the case of creating pay packages for internet services, probably none of the services are from the telco itself. Some other telcos, such as Vodafone, already stated that it, too, is interested in plans like these (Vodafone is already blocking VoIP and selling access to VoIP services for 5 EUR per month).

Unfortunately for KPN, this plan might actually backfire. The majority of the Dutch parliament has spoken out against the plans and have urged the Minister to protect net neutrality. Currently the Dutch Telecommunications Law does not provide a good safe harbor for net neutrality, but it soon might... because of this. One parliament member who is part of a ruling coalition party even suggested that if telcos are going to charge more for usage, perhaps the tariffs for normal phone calls should be lowered. Sadly, the Minister is less outspoken and has claimed that "mobile internet is really something different than an internet connection at home".

It will be interesting to see what happens next. Will service providers like Wikipedia start charging telcos for "using their content for free?" Will Skype start demanding royalties? As we've said before: "it's a pipedream for [...] some mobile operators, but the likelihood of it actually becoming the norm seems pretty damn low."

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 April 2011 @ 12:59pm

Dutch Publishing Organization Says Filesharing Should Be A Criminal Offense

from the bad-idea-of-the-day dept

Even though The Netherlands' plans for copyright enforcement are quite far reaching, the Dutch Publisher Association, which includes about 90% of Dutch publishers among its members, says it does not go far enough, and is now asking for criminal prosecution of filesharers. The Association also claims that the new policy justifies sanctions against downloaders, such as fines, "if only for the preventive effect." What stands out, is that the Association also wants equal rules for "paper and digital copies," which could possibly equate counterfeiting to filesharing. To top things off, the statement also opposes the state secretary's plans for introducing a fair use policy in The Netherlands.

While much of the response is predictable and needs no further discussion on my part (comments are open, discuss away!), I would like to highlight again the fact that they're arguing for bringing filesharers to criminal, instead of civil, courts. This, in my opinion, clearly displays the way current copyright law and its developments clash with certain civil rights (and perhaps human rights). This is not the first time such a measure has been suggested and it will not be the last time; the lobbies and the companies they represent are rapidly draining money. Making this a matter of criminal prosecution instead of civil suits would mean that these lawsuits would rapidly decrease in cost for the industry -- but puts that cost on the taxpayer. This burdens the overall government and taxpayer, but enables organizations to continue their fight against the internet, third party innovation and the loss of control.

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Posted on Techdirt - 12 April 2011 @ 2:44pm

Dutch Gov't Speaks Out Against Exporting Internet Filters; Then Introduces National Internet Filter

from the you've-got-to-be-kidding dept

On the same day that Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Verhagen announced efforts to prevent the export of internet filters to repressive regimes, State Secretary of Justice and Security Teeven announced the introduction of the national blacklisting of websites. The press conference expressly 'filtered out' critical Dutch civil rights organization Bits of Freedom and consumer rights organization Consumentenbond.

The Minister of Economic Affairs stated Monday that companies should support internet freedom and that the danger of exporting filters to repressive regimes is that they can be used to withhold information from civilians. A good start of the day for Dutch cyberactivists, breathing a sigh of relief to see that the government actually seems to understand what theyre talking about.

However, later the very same day the State Secretary of Justice and Security announced a 'download ban' making the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted material illegal. Although it was stated that the privacy of internet users who only download limited amounts of copyrighted material from unauthorized sources is protected, the actual definition of 'limited' has not been given.

Whereas a previous parliamentary commission told the entertainment industry that they should innovate before any such ban would be introduced, this government decision turns it around, saying they'll make it illegal first in order to stimulate motivation.

Of course there are a lot of parties who have criticized these plans. Holland's biggest consumer rights organization, Consumentenbond, has claimed that the law doesn't protect users from getting sued for downloading. In the past they have argued for an internet levy and making both uploading as well as downloading legal.

Dutch civil rights organization Bits of Freedom argues that the state secretary's plans are aimed at repressing individual internet users, since it is already possible to prosecute platforms that spread files commercially. Both Bits of Freedom, as well as the Consumentenbond, were subsequently banned from the state secretary's press conference (or filtered, if you will).

Some bloggers even warn that the system of blacklisting websites and adequate enforcement of other parts of this proposal are only possible through total government control of the national web traffic.

Instead of forcing copyright monopolies to adjust to the realities of recent technological developments, the government has opted to try to protect them, while at the same time extending their own power and control over society and the internet. Instead of spending these resources to stimulate innovation, they'll now be spent to limit freedoms and put a further strain on the justice system.

Meanwhile nothing will change. The traditional concept of copyrights is dated and has to be altered drastically. We're only just entering an age where anyone can make a copy of nearly any type of information or culture at basically zero cost and effort. Legislature or no legislature, the giants of copyrights will crumble. Technological progress is relentless. Which is why it's even more sad that laws like these are introduced.

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Posted on Techdirt - 22 March 2011 @ 4:15am

Why The NY Times Paywall Business Model Is Doomed to Fail (Numbers)

from the dude-where's-my-math dept

Not considering technical details (every wall can be brought down), even by its own business model the New York Times' paywall is doomed to fail.

Last Friday's Financial Times had some interesting numbers.

  • Fact 1: According to analysts, the New York Times only needs to convert 1 to 10 per cent of the online visitors in order for the model to pay off.
  • Fact 2: NY Times chief executive Janet Robinson has stated that they only expect about 15 per cent of visitors to encounter the paywall, since visitors can read 20 articles per month for free.
  • Fact 3: Full website access and the mobile app are bundled for $15 per month. For the iPad app + web you pay $20 per month. $35 for all three.
  • Fact 4: One analyst argues that the NY Times could earn $66m per year if it converted just 1 per cent of the visitors. This would mean they go from paying nothing, to paying (at least) $195 a year.

There is no way these numbers add up. Consider fact 1 and fact 2. First of all only 1 per cent might actually not be all that easy, let alone 10 per cent. Secondly, the 1 per cent is misleading, as they'll actually have to convert 1 to 10 out of every 15 visitors to encounter the paywall. So they actually have to convert 6 to 66 (!) per cent.

Next, the pricing might be too high. $15 per month is a lot for consumers who are not used to pay for news online, especially since there's no additional value as Mike commented last week. I'm not saying nobody will pay, but dragging in the 6 to 66 per cent of the visitors will be challenging, to say the least.

I cannot imagine this paywall to be successful. They can probably kiss the $40m investment in the development goodbye.

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Posted on Case Studies - 18 March 2011 @ 1:45pm

How Dance Music Producer/DJs Connect With Their Producer/DJ Fans

from the sharing-is-caring dept

One of the spectacular developments in music in the last 20 years or so, has been the democratization of the means to produce music. Combined with the internet and the social web, this democratization has enabled a lot of people to create and publish music that probably wouldn't have been able to otherwise. As Seth Godin says:

"This is the greatest moment in the history of music if your dream is to distribute as much music as possible to as many people as possible, or if your goal is to make it as easy as possible to become heard as a musician."

So what some producers do when they blow up, make it big, or (for the 'haters') sell out, is they start sharing their expertise with their ecosystem of fans. Being a professional DJ/producer is very intense and time-consuming, so I figured I'd highlight some exceptional cases of DJs that free up their time to engage with a part of their ecosystem in a language they all understand: that of making music (and English).

The first is simply connecting with fans by asking them to send in demos which will be critiqued publicly. There are a couple of examples I've come across, such as dubstep-producer Plastician, Steve Angello's Size Records (apparently), but most notably Swedish electro house producers Dada Life. The latter replied to their fans via video, shown below, but also via a much more detailed blog post.

Prior to this, Dada Life encouraged fans to remix their work, featured their favourite results on their blog and spread them via social media.

A second way in which some producers connect with their fans is by actually revealing their production methods. My favourite example of this is dubstep-producer High Rankin's 'sub bass tutorial', which isn't just a good lesson in production, but also highly entertaining like all of his YouTube videos (even for those that have and will never produce music, so check it out!).

Finally, there is a more DJ-specific way of connecting with fans. Dutch house-producer Chuckie recently did his second 'DJ drops' (embedded below, warning: NSFW). On Facebook, he asked DJ fans to drop their names and he'd give them shout outs that they will be able to use for their own mixtapes.

What these guys are doing is building a very strong connection with an influential part of their fanbase. Personally, I prefer the phrase 'ecosystem' since fanbase suggests a distance between fan and artist, whereas an ecosystem places an artist right in the center of it. They are not just "connecting with fans", as Mike would put it, but they are participating in their own ecosystem. As said before, when you have a strong ecosystem, that's when business opportunities start presenting themselves.

Some call it a tribe, others say 1,000 true fans, but it all boils down to one thing: finding original ways to engage with the most valuable people around you... your fans.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 March 2011 @ 8:38am

Dutch Chief Of Police Suggests National DNA-Database For All Citizens

from the bad-idea-of-the-day dept

The chief of police of the greater Rotterdam area has called for the creation of a DNA-database for all 16.6 million Dutch citizens. There is already a DNA-database in existence, but it only contains the DNA of 11,000 people since the policy is to only take DNA from people sentenced to prison for at least four years.

According to the chief of police the privacy of civilians is not as important as tracking down criminals, stating that society is "too careful" and that "if you want to make the world safer, there's a price to pay." In a statement released later he added that safety is partly paid for by reducing privacy.

Of course, one could argue that it's not the privacy-concerned people being "too careful," but that there are some people that are so obsessed with security that they're willing to have others pay the price in giving up their privacy. Such a database will not prevent crime, since most crimes don't originate from rational risk-calculation. Any errors in the database could also have disastrous effects on people's lives in the case of a mistaken identity for instance, not to mention the implications of potential function creep. It really is a big price to pay for a small piece of security in one of the safest places in the world.

After a few hours of outrage from civilians and politicians, the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security released a statement that they do not support the plan and stated that it was not the first time such ideas have been suggested. It is probably not the last time, either.

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Posted on Case Studies - 8 March 2011 @ 1:37pm

Case-study: When Getting Your Music Discovered Gets Ugly

from the ugly-is-the-new-pretty dept

I go through huge amounts of links and information each day when it comes to the music business, but this is by far the coolest and funniest way of getting your music discovered I've seen in a very long time (OK Go, eat your heart out).
The idea of The Ugly Dance is very simple. You go to the site, upload your picture, it's placed on top of a (slightly customizable) body and you can choose all kinds of maniacal ways of dancing. Here's yours truly dancing like nobody’s watching:
It’s a project by Swedish band Fulkultur and appears to have been around for about half a year right now. Obviously, this type of thing spreads; getting their music heard by a lot of people (and what a catchy song it is). When I wanted to create a second dancer (to send to a friend), I got the following message: 
A very reasonable thing to ask... and since I was in such a great mood and figured the donation would not be much effort anyway, I went ahead and gave them some money, even though I believed clicking the Donate Nothing button would still allow you to create more dancers, although I later found out that this is in fact not so.
There are even a bunch of tribute videos and remixes out there (yes, every one of those words links to a unique video, have fun).
These videos are the result of the ecosystem at work! It's a fanbase that co-creates, amplifies and adds value to your original message.  It's a perfect example of using something viral to getting your music discovered, but also of creating a movement which is easy to join, because it’s obvious what you have to do to participate (also read Derek Sivers' post about this).
I got in touch with the band and asked about the success. Anders Tjernblom, one of the band members, filled me in (even though he was on holiday!):
" was actually not a result of some great promotional master plan. It just happened.

It started off as an idea to get visitors to my band Fulkultur's (meaning Ugly Culture/Crap Culture) Myspace page. I have had this idea about a dance application for about a decade. In January last year I started programming it in my spare time, and a couple of months later I wrote the song Fuldans (Ugly Dance) specifically for the application. It was not the other way around, as most people think.

On May 17 we released and sent the link to some friends. When I checked the stats a couple of days later a few thousand people had made their own dancers. I could feel something was about to happen. Just the day after someone shared a link on a Swedish blog, and it generated a tsunami of visitors. 30 000 people rushed in in just a few hours. The week after we hade a few hundred thousand hits, and it was a continous struggle to keep the server alive. Two weeks after the release, and 700 000 visitors later, I thought everything was under control. Then the Americans came.

Someone had written English instructions for the website, and had published it on some major American website. Our current server could not handle that amount of visitors. We decided to close the server for international visitors, to find a better solution.

During June/July we created an English clone of It was going to be called Even the music was translated, and our aim was to raise money for the band to write and record more music. The clone was released by the end of August. 

Now, to answer your question: have had 7 milllion completely unique visitors. A few very kind people have donated, but they are very few. If we should have done anything differently, we should probably have sold T-shirts or something. Something real for the massive amount of visitors to buy. But we are still very happy for what we have accomplished. We will try to keep the website alive for as long as possible, although it is not a cash cow at all."
I think partly due to the fact that this success "just happened", they never really got the chance to think things through very well. They did a spectacular and exemplary job at getting people's attention and making the initial connection, but there appears to be no focus at all on retention. There appears to be no link to the band's MySpace, which they were trying to promote. Due to the fact that most people are on Facebook and Twitter now, I think it would have been a better idea to put those links in the foreground, but most importantly; there has to be a way for people to connect. A simple Facebook 'Like' button below the Flash application would have gone a long way.
The second part is the business model. I think it's great that the band went into this without a very clear picture of a business model. They just had an exciting idea and executed it and this genuineness shows in the final result (and echoes throughout the ecosystem as you can see through the fan vids on YouTube). From a marketing perspective, asking for a donation or getting people to buy your music out of sympathy is a bad business model. As Mike always says, it's about giving fans a reason to buy. A good thought experiment is to imagine a totally selfish consumer and to see what you could offer them so that they spend money on you. They should spend it for themselves, not for you.
This means making sure you retain as much of the original traffic as you can without getting obtrusive. This means shining a light on the early followers and encouraging them in what they do, because they're helping you amplify your message and are providing social proof. At the same time you should connect these people to each other, forming an ecosystem. You're still the reason why these people are connected, but the communication in the fanbase should be non-linear (as opposed to artist-fan), because that's how the ecosystem can start to come alive (think of it as hosting a party where nearly nobody knows each other). The business models simply come from listening to the ecosystem and playing into their desires (just like Younger Brother did).
In the end, giving fans a great reason to buy is the ultimate way of connecting with them.

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 January 2011 @ 9:14am

Tunisian State Secretary Says Censorship Is Fine Because The West Does It Too

from the being-a-rolemodel dept

This weekend we came across a post by Karin Kosina which highlighted the problem in saying that sometimes it's okay to 'filter' (censor) certain websites.

"Tunisian state secretary Sami Zaoui just announced (mirror) that they will keep blocking websites that are "against decency, contain violent elements or incite to hate". When criticised that this is inacceptable in a democracy, he responded (mirror): "Wrong! Even the countries that are most evolved when it comes to freedom block terrorist sites"."

In the case of Tunisia, which just had a revolution or perhaps is still in the process of a revolution, it becomes immediately clear what the problem with such filtering is. Basically, the government is keeping a tool in place which has been used to silence critics in the past. Also, the conditions for which websites are censored are quite vague. Inciting hate and containing violent elements seem quite clear, but as we've seen in Turkey, such conditions can easily be stretched and that's without even taking the 'decency' condition into consideration.

Both the US and the EU are obviously failing to be a rolemodel when they should be. Many politicians in the EU have embraced the idea of an internet filter to block child pornography. As for the US, they could be seen seizing domain names of 'rogue websites'. On the one hand, politicians of the west love talking about the principles of freedom, but on the other hand they hate to actually live up to their own standards when something like WikiLeaks or a music blog comes along. The problems of this for the US and the EU have been discussed here in detail before.

What such censorship also does, is create a dangerous precedent, because it allows for repressive governments to create excuses for censorship. This is to be expected, and we've predicted similar things in the past. If Western countries are really serious about stopping internet censorship (and they're probably not that serious), they need to actually learn to live up to that ideal. Otherwise, we're going to see more and more state-supported censorship defended by the fact that Western nations are just as bad.

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Posted on Case Studies - 18 January 2011 @ 3:01pm

Case Study: How To Have Fun Connecting With Fans Like A Superstar DJ

from the take-that,-management dept

deadmau5 (pronounced 'dead mouse') is a great example for artists that want to make it in the music business. He is famed for his great production and unique style, which helped get him noticed and separated from the crowd. That's a good thing, because then it's worth talking about. What's remarkable about deadmau5 stretches further than his unique production style and performances (he wears this huge mouse-mask on his head). His level of engagement with his ecosystem (or fanbase, if you will) is exemplary.

Minecraft has been talked about before on Techdirt. Back in November, deadmau5 set up his own server for this sandbox-game in which players can craft their own world. His fans love it, and deadmau5 regularly pops in to hang out with them in 'mau5ville.' In a way, both deadmau5 and his fans emerge themselves in fan art. There are tons of videos of mau5ville online, so you can take a tour. One user even used the game's tools to make a cover of a song by deadmau5, which deadmau5 then shared with over 2 million of his fans. Other artists sometimes prefer to go the way of a takedown notice when a fan puts his energy into making fan art -- but deadmau5 prefers to promote it. You can see both videos below:

However, deadmau5 is not like other artists, and recently he showed this by buying about 20 Minecraft accounts and posting the gift codes on his Facebook page. He understands that having fun with your fanbase and spending a little money on it can be much more important than telling them to buy your music. He listens to his fans, and he informs them when they can buy new music, because that's what his fans want. But it's about more than just pushing what you have to buy.

In the beginning of December, deadmau5' marketing team decided they should get involved in communicating to his fans.


Apparently deadmau5 didn't like the fact that his management was disturbing the trust and rapport he had built up with the ecosystem, because those status updates were followed by deadmau5's:

 Then he checked the backend of his Facebook page…

Excellent choice, in my opinion. This is the best thing he could do to earn back the trust of the ecosystem, because you really don't want to get on the bad side of the ecosystem. The ecosystem can reject you, the ecosystem can move on, the ecosystem doesn't need YOU in order to survive.

And the cool thing is, he wasn't thinking about marketing or self-preservation or strategy in the process of making his choices. It's just him, genuinely. And I guess the status update he posted 1 minute later shows just that:

It looks like deadmau5 recognizes his fans have more value than just a few purchases. Instead of complaining that his fans should buy his album for 15 euros, he is actually buying them Minecraft accounts for 15 euros a piece. This might be hard to understand for his management and a lot of other people in the industry, because if fans are free, how can they have value?

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