October 9, 2007
Yahoo's Music's Head Honcho, Ian Rogers, recently posted a blog that has got me all fired up again. Thank's Ian. He's rightly upset at the music industry and he is not going to take it anymore. AMEN.
Let's all stop pussy-footing around the issues and let's make the tough decisions to deal with them. I want to bring up what I think are 4 fundamental rules for succeeding in selling recorded music. First, here are the facts. Music distribution cannot be controlled. If you think otherwise - you are wrong. You should pack up and go home. The world has passed you by and you're either too stupid or lazy to GET IT. Technology has changed the music industry AGAIN, and if you are a music exec you MUST adapt to it. Granted this is hard to do if you happen to be a lawyer. Which brings me to:
RULE #1 for thriving in the new music economy: If your company is headed by or overly influenced by a lawyer, fire him! These people support business strategy - they don't guide it. The fact that so many lawyers are top executives in the record industry is probably the biggest reason the recorded music industry is in the shitter like it is.
Lawyers will simply NEVER get their head around the facts which was originally rule #1, but got moved to rule #2, when I realized we had to get rid of the lawyers first. So, if you want to survive in the next 18 months let alone 50 years - you have to embrace this reality:
RULE #2: You have no control over music distribution.
You don't. ALL RECORDED MUSIC EVER MADE is now sitting on hard drives and flash memory sticks around the globe. The Internet exists. As the world gets more wired with near-free wireless internet access music will eventually flow like water as, Gerd Leonard likes to say. The vast majority of new bands are now offering their music freely on sites like MySpace, Project Opus, and Garage Band to their fans. They want it heard.
The reality of Rule #2 unfortunaltey has a nasty outcome that people really don't want to come to terms with either. Even though we are witnessing it today!
RULE #3: The value of an audio file will approach the cost of delivery. The cost of delivery is our Internet conectivity, which as I mentioned is approaching near zero.
Rule # 3 is the reason the RIAA is suing people. If people can get a song for free, they eventually will. It is already almost as easy and as reliable to browse and download from P2P networks as it is from iTunes or Amazon. When the convenience gap closes between the "illegal - free" versus the "legitimate - $" modes of music distribution, we would be naive to assume that a significant proportion of the population will not use the "free' alternative.
So we sue. Perhaps fear will keep music fans in-line and buying from the legitimate music sources. This "suing-thing" has been going on for 8 years and well the recorded music industry is closer to DEAD today than it was then. Suing music consumers has not changed anything and it WILL NOT save this industry. It's a strategy dreamed up by a lawyer. PLEASE, go see RULE #1.
RULE #4: Know what you are selling. And it ain't audio files. It's music experiences.
Music executives - which are mostly lawyers think they are selling audio files. They would be wrong. Let's remember that audio has for the most part ALWAYS been free for the fan. We listened to radio and got mixed tapes/CDs from friends. Yet, my generation was the largest purchasers of music in the industry's history. We bought music that we generally already had free access to. Why?
- Convenience. If we bought the vinyl or the CD, we could listen to my favorite songs on demand.
- Social interaction. Back in the eighties and nineties, listening to music was almost always a social interaction. Buying a new album or CD was a reason to invite your friends over. We listened together. We shared the experience.
- Packaging. We got something else other than the music. We got stuff like liner notes, and artwork, but more than that, too. KISS ARMY, you know what I'm talking about! Hey, even Led Zeppelin's last album had an album sleeve that changed colour if you added water. It wasn't advertised, I FOUND it, which made it cooler than perhaps it was.
- Connection. The social interaction and packaging gave us something else. Connection. We were more connected with the artists work, and subsequently with the artists themselves.
The above provided CONTEXT and CONVENIENCE to our music. It is WHY we bought music.
P2P, MP3s, and the iPod have improved convenience dramatically. How could we have been prepared for it? We had no idea how inconvenient it was to get music until it was at our finger tips. In our stampede for convenience, we have ripped all context out of music. Music files on our hard drives are devoid of context. Social interaction around our music has declined with the iPod's earbuds. We have no tangible stuff around our music. Without context music is missing much of the value. It is more disposable.
We still want context. We just don't want to give up our convenience to get it. Make buying music valuable - not because distribution is controlled, but because you are giving me a music experience. This is what we want and we will BUY it. Ian Rogers at Yahoo! is looking for it, and in doing so he has given a polite finger to the industry's lawyers. If we embrace technology rather than fight it, we can create experiences that will make those KISS ARMY tats seem cheesy in comparison, and those were cool!
October 1, 2007
So I bought the scooter. A 2005 Honda Jazz to commute to and from the office. It kind of looks like this:
I am not into cars and find driving to be a tedious chore. However, I love this scooter. Lyal Avery was/is giving me grief as the scooter driving CEO. Sure, I don't look very cool on it as a 40 year old, in fact I probably look quite dorkish, but this thing is awesome. It's perfect for a commute and is fun to drive. I actually like driving now. I thought that would never happen. It gets as far as I can tell over 200km on 5 liters of gas!
As I live on the North Shore, I have to travel the Lions Gate Bridge twice a day. It was a concern but it is not really a problem. South bound is quite a steep approach and the scooter peaks at 47km/h on the climb. However, I make it up on the down run where I can get up to 70km/h. The north bound approach is more gradual so I can maintain 50-55km/h. As I am in rush hour traffic each way most cars can't get over 60km/h for any length of time anyway.
September 30, 2007
This is Jacob Keith David Gratton:
He was born on Wednesday September 26 at 12:50 pm weighing 8lbs 5oz. (I think body weight is the only measurement I can't relate to in metric.)
So, like my father before me, I was blond from birth through my early 30s and Mandy was mostly strawberry blond (we are both an interesting and dare I say exciting shade of gray brown now.). We both have what some would call pale complextions. Others might call it pastey white - Mandy even has freckles. Our first son, Nathan's appearance is pretty much what would be expected: blond with red highlights, and ivory white skin.
Not so with Jacob. Jacob was born with DARK BROWN hair and a gorgeous OLIVE complexion (it really doesn's show up in the pic). Damn he looks healthy. Now, normally I might get a little inquisitive about this 'result'. I had been on a number of business trips late last year, and the local mailman does seem to take special care when delivering our mail - it's seprated into personal and official notice bundles with all the junk mail removed. Though on reflection, I am sure this is probably standard practice from our ever customer focused Canada Post. My sister Nicole, was also born with dark brown hair and olive skin - she kind of looks like Cher - from the 70s before the plastic surgery. So naturally we weren't too surprised with Jacob's appearance. It's one of those lucky genetic things that pops up every so often in our family to keep life interesting and diverse.
I'll write more about Jacob later, I have to go make a phone call. The mailman wanted me to pass his father's regards on to my mother. Wow! They knew each other some 43 years ago. Gee, small world eh?
September 21, 2007
So I got my .mac renewal today from Apple Canada:
Check it out. The service is going to cost me $139.00. In the US it costs $99. An Exchange rate of 1.4000. Last I checked the exchange rate for Canadian / US dollars was let's see $1.0000.
APPLE CANADA, You suck and I am not renewing.
August 31, 2007
Earlier this year I was on a business trip to New York, and my wife joined for some shopping and sight seeing. She visited one of her favourite stores Ann Taylor to buy a pair of shoes (Really, what else could it be, but shoes). When she went to buy them, the clerk asked suggested she sign up for the Ann Taylor Card and get an extra 10% off the shoes. Mandy explained we were Canadian. The clerk insisted that this wasn't a problem - she could pay over the Internet using her existing Visa. Mandy was very hesitant, but the clerk was quite insistent that it was a no-brainer. So, we did it.
Bill comes in the mail 4 days before due date.
Mandy goes on-line to pay.
Nope. Won't accept Canadian Credit Card addresses.
Mandy calls store to pay.
Nope. It has nothing to do with them. Call Ann Taylor corporate.
Mandy calls Ann Taylor corporate.
Nope. Has nothing to do with them (??? what ???). Call their bank who issues their credit card.
A few days pass.
Mandy calls bank.
Yep. banks says, "This is us. You're late on your payment. That's a $20 charge on your account. Please pay us."
Mandy, says will you take a credit card. Banks says, "yes."
There is a $7.00 service charge for paying by credit card that cannot be covered by the credit card payment (??? what ???). You will have to issue a US check. As you are Canadian it has to be a US bank draft or US money order.
Mandy, says "Well I may as well pay the whole thing by money order."
3 days pass. Mandy books time off to go to bank. Pays $10 service fee plus crazy exchange rate for US money order.
Mandy sends money order. (For those who don't know a money order = CASH. Meaning they can't bounce.)
Bank receives money order.
Puts a hold on money order for one month. (Meaning they did not pay off Mandy's bill.)
Another month late another interest charges PLUS $20.00 fee for late payment.
A month passes.
Money order is eventual applied against bill.
A month passes.
Our purchase is paid off.
$60 (late payment charges) plus interest is on the new bill.
Mandy write letter explaining story you read above.
A month passes.
Letter back saying "your late payment charges are due to your late payments. If you pay them now you won't be charged late payment charges."
Bill is now close to $90.00.
Mandy calls bank. Explains above.
Banks says we will deduct two late payments, but please pay balance.
Mandy (now very frustrated) "FINE!, I want this taken care of. This is not right, but I don't want this hanging over my head. Can I pay by credit card?" Yes but there is a $7.00 fee that must be paid by money order.
Mandy, says "And if it is held for a month by the bank that $7.00 charge will result in a $20.00 penalty correct? Can you SEE what's happening here?" (This is a paraphrase from what can only be described as a frustrated women who is 8 months pregnant and at wits end.)
Banker says let me talk to my Boss.
Boss comes on line. His name was Ben.
Ben hears the above in respectful but not what one would call a calm voice.
Ben does the RIGHT THING.
"There is something we can do here. I can understand what you are going through. We will remove all charges from your bill. Sorry for the trouble this has caused you."
YEAH ANN TAYLOR!
As mad as we were at you and even though it took a lot of time for us to get it sorted out. You did the right thing. Good on you.