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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Innovation in Digital Music Distribution and Promotion

August 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Following on from my recent post about the concept of innovation as something you do, and not just something you say, I came across an example of what I would consider innovation in action, courtesy of a newly launched digital music distribution / promotion service called Music2Text.

Music2text

Music2text Logo

According to their literature, Music2text is a service that provides artistes and labels with the ability to sell or giveaway music tracks direct to fans, via plain old SMS (or mobile text messages). The proposition is simple, and can be summarised in 3 steps, as follows:

 

  1. First, take an existing technology, SMS in this case, and figure out a new way to use it for mass music distribution and promotion
  2. Make sure the service is fast, free and easy to setup / use (e.g. within 30 minutes, if you already have all the prerequisite information / digital files to hand).
  3. Then monetise it by allowing punters to associate their music (ringtone or full song) with a simple keyword which the fans can then use to access it by texting that word to a number – 60444 (UK only, at this time). The service replies with a link through which the track can be downloaded, bought or shared with others.

 

The music owners can choose to distribute their music or ringtones for free, in which case the service is completely free to use, (including links to their favourite mobile and social media channels). In my opinion, this free aspect makes Music2Text an almost perfect mobile, distribution and social marketing tool, with something to offer all key stakeholders, including: music labels, publishers, artistes and their customers / fans.

 

That said, and in true reviewer fashion, I requested and was given a guided tour of the service by the founders, and I even went one better to upload one of my own tracks onto the service with the keyword ‘Bring’ (yes, I produce music in my not so spare time!). And you can try it out for yourself too, but please be kind if you spot my ringtone track, and wish to comment on it

 

Overall, I think this is an excellent proposition. However, it is still very much a start-up service, (albeit a brilliant / creative and enterprising one), with the usual minor teething problems you might expect. The monetisation element, with its 90 day keyword limit, makes this a likely vehicle for promotional / marketing applications (e.g. release promos, live tours and competitions etc.), which is no bad thing at all. The music industry revenue model is slowly embracing other sources of income e.g. live performance, streaming (see this post / infographic for recent trends), and now SMS could get onto that list, if this all works out.

 

So what makes this a real example of innovation, you might ask. Well, if you’ve heard the adage about putting new wine into old wineskins, then you might be forgiven for thinking that this proposition is doomed to failure. However, the ability to reuse / repurpose an existing, and possibly boring, technology to new and profitable ends is right to the heart of innovation, in my opinion. I say well done guys, and keep the UK innovation flag flying!

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How Can You Measure Real Value?

April 2, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since my last post, but then nothing much has changed, perhaps because, in real terms, a few weeks is really not that long, even in the fast-paced world of digital technology and innovation. However, it could just be proof of that old saying: “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, right?

Although, on the surface, it might not appear that much has changed, there are evident signs of continuous progress in several areas, including: technology and innovation; user experience and social networking / media / business; mobility and data of the large variety (aka big data). Many other experts and analysts, across various media and other channels, do a great job of observing / commenting on these topics and trends that I won’t bother trying to rehash them here.

In any case, the point I really wish to explore is that such developments, trends and indicators seem to point towards a new value exchange paradigm and/or system, sometime in the not too distant future. This notion is clearly described by Tim O’Reilly, at the last Strata Conference, where he talked about a fundamental need to find better ways for “measuring the economic impact of the sharing economy”. Among other things, he asks the key question, in my opinion, of how to measure the real value of sharing, particularly where traditional economic value yardsticks, (e.g. typical financial metrics), are no longer adequate for the task. He also described the often unmeasured benefits to be derived from the sharing economy (e.g. enriching an ecosystem of which you are part), versus the sometimes destructive impact of a profit-led, financially measured system (e.g. the contribution of global financial institutions to the current economic shambles). It would appear in this new paradigm that the way forward would involve “creating more value than you capture”, which, somewhat counter-intuitively, actually works to your advantage.

Perhaps this paradigm shift will be most realisable, (at least for the content industry), via a strategy of diversification and multi-publishing, which together increases the likelihood of better traction / success for content, via multiple touch-points, partnerships and hooks to end consumers. A couple of examples, which describe real life scenarios in e-book publishing and music licensing, are outlined below as follows:

  1. E-Book Publishing: A recent post on CopyrightandTechnology.com discusses Harry Potter’s DRM Free e-Book offering, which runs somewhat counter to conventional wisdom for publishing such valuable properties in fully DRM’ed electronic formats, for fear of piracy. However this works for Harry Potter on many levels, especially considering how this would complement and create further opportunities for their existing and future merchandising initiatives.
  2. Music Licensing: An article in the Berklee Music Business Journal examined the pros and cons of Coca-Cola’s equity stake in a music licensing startup. On the one hand, a major global consumer brand partners with a music outfit to source original musical content for its marketing campaigns; on the other hand the artistes, (often independent, unsigned and eager to be heard), get an opportunity to gain access to Coca-Cola’s global marketing might – which beats anything a record label can provide these days. Verdict: Win / Win!
  3. Streaming Movies: The key players in on-demand video streaming services, e.g.: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon (i.e. Prime and LoveFilm), and latterly Sky, all offer different value propositions to the consumer, but in my opinion, the winner/s will likely emerge from those that are willing to leverage multiple customer propositions / channels / formats (e.g. books, music, DVD and perhaps devices).

In conclusion, it is becoming increasingly harder to ignore such trends / evidence / indicators that suggest a move towards multiple consumer propositions (including pricing), multi touch points (channels / interactions) and multi-formats is rapidly gaining ground. This makes it even more imperative to find a better yardstick for measuring the real value of content, products and services for both suppliers and consumers. It seems to me that we’re likely heading for a post monetary value exchange and recognition system, and hopefully one that is more in keeping with the post-global realities of a digitally connected planet. I remain optimistic, and fully convinced that money is not, and perhaps has never really been, the best yardstick for measuring true value.

There’ll yet be music in the skies!

December 23, 2010 2 comments

It’s been a long time coming, and probably still a long way to go, but the vision of a celestial jukebox for music “anywhere, anytime and on any device”, is creeping ever closer to becoming reality. A couple of interesting, if unrelated, developments provide support for my optimism.

Ok, first of all, the means to access music, anywhere, anytime and on any device is already available (and it’s called the Internet). Thanks to file-sharing, P2P, Torrent and streaming technologies, anyone with a decent connection can do just that. However, it is not always legal, nor in the best interests of creative industries and their artistes. Therefore, the solution must be to find a legal way to harness that capability, right? The answer is yes, but the challenges are enormous for any one entity to bear alone. Imagine a target scenario whereby anyone can identify, acquire and play any song wherever, whenever and on whatever device they chose. For example, won’t it be great, if/when you hear a new song you like on the radio, TV, or anywhere else, you could seamlessly add it to your collection, or playlist, for immediate listening or later reference.

Well a colleague suggested that such identify-and-acquire services already exist with the likes of Shazam, but such services don’t deliver a truly seamless experience for many reasons e.g.:

  1. the user has to know to go to Shazam, or some other such service,
  2. she’ll need an account on iTunes or similar in order to purchase that track, and finally,
  3. She must have an appropriate device with which to play it.

Oh, and heaven help her if there are legal restrictions on that purchase, e.g. if she happens to be in a region or territory where that song is not licensed, for whatever reason. See the pattern?

There are simply too many hurdles to jump in order to satisfy an immediate desire or impulse purchase. To my mind, instant gratification is not unreasonable given that the tools with which to make it happen are already available. The following are some key pieces of the jigsaw which might just help address such a challenging picture:

1. Music in the Cloud – There already exist various services / providers like Spotify, Pandora (i.e. streaming); Omnifone, Nokia (i.e. mobile); as well as rumoured propositions from high tech players like Google and Apple. However, it’s always been a challenge to negotiate with music labels, so when a newly launched service claims to allow users to upload their music to the cloud with access any place / time / device, one starts to wonder how long it will take for the law suites to start happening.

2. Global Repertoire Database (GRD) – The GRD is a major initiative to create a single, unified database of musical works that will facilitate music licensing right across the globe. It was launched by an eponymous working group of key industry players including music publishers (i.e. EMI and Universal); collecting societies (i.e. PRS for Music, STIM and SACEM); and major digital / mobile players (i.e. Amazon, iTunes and Nokia). More information on GRD can be found at: http://globalrepertoiredatabase.com/faq.html.  So how does GRD help make the celestial jukebox a reality? Why, by reducing the burden of cross border licensing (i.e. tracking and sharing music royalties and revenue across various territories and regions) which is currently a major headache for the industry.

3. Music Ubiquity – This is the theme for next month’s MidemNet conference, and which hopefully means that we’ll all be singing from the same hymn sheet, at long last, (assuming the twin devils of profit margins and competitive advantage do not get in the way as always). With the appropriate technology available, it has become even more urgent for commercial and legislative stakeholders to deliver the primary desire, of both artistes and consumers, for easier access to music anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Have a wonderful holiday / festive period, and here’s looking forward to an even more productive and progressive 2011!

Translating Music Technology Innovation into Real Opportunities

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The Music 4.5 event in London will try to show how this can be done, by combining the main ingredients of: “music tech start-ups, serial entrepreneurs, investors, artists, band managers and key industry players” in a programme of events designed to enable them to share, exchange, inspire and network ideas with each other, and with you the audience.

It often seems like the first few months of each New Year are overrun by a veritable smorgasbord of major Events, Conferences and Summits that demand attendance (and / or attention at the very least). Presumably it’s a good way to kick-start the year and take stock of what the other guys are up to. It also helps companies to generate major buzz around new products, services and other hypeware. Some of the key yearly events of this ilk include:

  • MIDEM – January in Cannes, France. The premier global music industry event where all the big deals and announcements are made (only perhaps more-so in those heady pre-digital days. Sniff!).
  • The World Economic Forum – January in Davos, Switzerland. Annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, an international body that is “committed to improving the state of the world”. So there.
  • MacWorld – February in San Francisco, USA. This year saw the launch of the uber-hyped Apple iPad. It is the main event at which the Apple faithful gather to pray.
  • TED (Technology Education & Design) – February in Long Beach, USA. TED is all about “ideas worth spreading”, and this is where potential future Nobel Laureates come to share their thoughts / angst.
  • Mobile World Congress (MWC) – February in Barcelona, Spain. This is the mobile equivalent of the CES, and is where all new mobile products / services get prime time, (at least until next month).

So after the first couple of months, one might be forgiven for thinking that people must surely be struggling with severe event fatigue. But apparently not so, because of what can only be described as an insatiable appetite for yet more events, (and perhaps the perks thereof, think cute gift / goodie bags, air miles, and after party / networking sessions).

In any case, one can only conclude that said event organizers, speakers and attendees, (sometimes event entire industries), are still seeking answers for whatever ails them most in a dynamically converging digital landscape of disruptive technologies and beleaguered business models. To that end, it would be great if more focused events like Music 4.5 could provide some of those answers, where possible, in an environment that allows participants to roll up their sleeves and come up with real strategies and solutions to deliver the titular 4.5 percent ROI from music tech startups. Watch this space.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

Change is nigh – for Tablets, Swans and the Music Industry.

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Certainly seems like there’s a lot of change in the air, what with the threat of Apple’s latest toy to tablet PC dominance, or the challenge of streaming music services, and even news of Swans getting divorced! I wonder what’s next, and how will it affect the creative industries of music, film and publishing?

First of all, there were lots of opinions and perspectives on the ever changing digital media landscape at the just concluded MIDEM conference in Cannes, including:

  1. Perhaps as a sign of shifting attitudes, at least one major artiste and the keynote speaker did not offer the usual tirade against file-sharing, but actually appeared somewhat in favour of it as a “taste test” by end-users, (which roughly translates into something along the lines of “good quality works will be successful in spite of file-sharing”).
  2. There was also an interesting discourse on media and cultural change in an interview with the “Cult of the Amateur” author, Andrew Keen, who slated the amount of amateur rubbish being put out there in the name of reality shows and user generated garbage, erm content.
  3. Forrester’s Mark Mulligan provided some great insight on the state of the music industry and various emerging trends, challenges and opportunities, speaking of which, one panel session speaker actuallylikened mobile music apps to babies in that “they’re easy to conceive but hard to deliver!”.

But please don’t think this is just about the music industry, because here is an equally damning insight into the book publishing industry by Phil Cooke, a publisher and self proclaimed change catalyst. Interestingly, most of these observations were covered in Lawrence Lessig’s book, Remix, which I recently reviewed here for the BCS. It would seem that music, publishing and other creative industries are just playing catch-up with key messages from this book – which claims, among other things, that the future creative and commercial landscape will have room for sharing, charging and otherwise hybrid business models.

However, one dire trend that looks set to continue is the involvement of lawyers in the tensions between rights-owners and file-sharing fans or pirates, depending on your point of view. Hmmm, I wonder how much the lawyers charged those Swans for their quickie divorce! But, on a serious note, it might be easy to blame lawyers for any number of things, given they stand to make their fees one way or another regardless of outcomes, however the real problem is that, despite ongoing efforts to find a lasting solution, today’s Intellectual Property laws are still hopelessly unable to cater for digital content, Internet distribution and emerging consumer usage patterns. Period.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

Copyright, Digital Content, and the Internet

June 14, 2009 Leave a comment

The second World Copyright Summit, which took place last week, at the Ronald Reagan Conference Centre in Washington DC, was a well attended and successful event that drew great interest from all key stakeholders in the 21st Century’s fast-evolving, global creative economy.

Note: This post is taken from the executive summary of a report I have written about this event, which can also be found here:World Copyright Summit 2009 – Report.pdf
The main objective of the Copyright Summit was, as stated on the conference tag-line, to explore “New Frontiers for Creators in the Marketplace”, and this was achieved by providing a platform for the stakeholders (represented in both speakers and audience) to engage with each other in a series of dialogues, interviews, discussions, keynotes and general networking. One immediate outcome from this has been the wider recognition of a few key messages, which are outlined below as follows:
1. Time to Change Copyright
Right from the very first keynote, on day one, to several sessions on the second day, it became increasingly clear that most stakeholders are in agreement over the need for some far reaching changes to be made on the current copyright system before it can become more effective in protecting and incentivising creative works in a dynamic digital environment.
2. Need a Central, Unified and Authoritative Global Rights Registry
The above was identified in several of the sessions as a key enabler towards a more appropriate and effective rights management mechanism in a global digital context. The key issues are global / technology related, therefore the solution would appear to lie in taking a unified approach to implementing what some refer to as a global database for content rights
3. Accelerate the Shift towards New Business Models / Mindsets
The Google Books Settlement was repeatedly held up as a prime example of the art-of-the-possible in reaching a constructive and satisfactory outcome for all stakeholders. This model may be more difficult to accomplish in other media formats, but the fundamental requirements of an open, collaborative approach / mind-set by all stakeholders is mandatory for success. It is also becoming clear that content in digital / non-physical forms may be more appropriately positioned as a collaborative service, instead of the product-unit-centric worldview of the pre-digital content world.
In conclusion, and on the above terms, this summit can be deemed a success, and CISAC -the event organisers, deserve a hearty congratulation for their commitment in putting it all together. However, it might even be more of a success if and when the mid – longer term outcome of this Summit leads to some concrete changes in the world copyright system; and perhaps in the evolution of an authoritative / unified global rights registry; as well as the adoption of a more collaborative approach, in both business models and mindsets, by the content industries and all other stakeholders.
It is this author’s sincere hope, and recommendation, that the next version of this Summit will see the inclusion of more representatives from the developing world, as well as the much over-looked consumer / end-user stakeholder group, (which includes: ordinary citizens, students and the younger, next generation of users), that will ultimately deliver the verdict on any / all future initiatives on copyright..
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Jude Umeh is a senior consultant and enterprise architect within Capgemini, and is something of a rights management evangelist. You can follow his Tweet-stream here

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives. Also published at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2009/06/copyright_digital_content_and/

How About Some “Fair Trade” Music?

December 8, 2008 Leave a comment

And this time artistes get to be the wronged parties in the world-gone-mad state of the record industry. Ps. if you are a multi-platinum artiste, with a lucrative 360 degree deal, this may not apply to you.

Fair Trade music (thanks Dave Viney) is, to my mind, a succinct way of describing the enduring tension between labels, customers and artistes in the music industry. It conjures up an equitable division of both revenue and value between them along with clear cut responsibilities (e.g. artistes create music, labels promote it, and consumers enjoy it). But surely isn’t that the same as the original music industry model? Now I’ll go all consultant and answer “Yes & No”. Firstly, the original music industry value chain is not really broken, it just needed recalibration of the revenue slices in the digital music pie, and besides labels have always done a great job in marketing the artiste / work. Secondly, in the above scenario, the consumer does not necessarily have to pay money for enjoying the music; the fair trade system must be flexible enough to support non-monetary transactions.

In recent years, it has often been the province of music fans to come off as the injured party as a result of developments like DRM and illegal download law suites. However, it is really the artistes, especially newer ones, or the indie / alternative / niche variety, that have been the poor relation in the industry, (perhaps even more-so in recent times). The role of fair trade music, as already espoused by several examples, (you can google it here), is to ensure that all key stakeholders are equally represented / engaged in creating, and profiting from, tomorrow’s music industry, starting today. Some supporting evidence for this position is drawn from three very different events I attended in the last couple of weeks, as follows:

MusicAlly’s Mobile Music on the Dock – This event literally put mobile music on trial, in an attempt to understand if it had indeed delivered on much hyped promises (see full story here). The result was a draw by the way, but a recurring theme in the debate was that the mobile music players needed to engage better with artistes and their management.

The Future of Music – I presented a short lecture on this topic at the London Metropolitan University Business School, and some of the questions raised by attendees (which consisted mainly of prospective music business moguls and entrepreneurs) concerned the future of the artistes. They were clearly interested in ensuring that there remained adequate incentives for artistes to continue making the music that fueled the industry. This is also echoed in this blogpost about the upcoming music industry event, MIDEM, in Cannes early next year.

Leaders In London – This event, complete with a stellar cast of business gurus and thought leaders, dwelt a lot on the role of leadership during tough economic times. Jack Welsh, (legendary ex-CEO of GE), suggested, in response to a question from yours truly, that the music industry needed to innovate its way out of the current mess brought on by technology innovation / disruption. To my mind this simply spells out the need for innovative business models that must take into account the critical value of the artiste, among other things.

In conclusion, it would seem that the solution to the music industry’s woes could start with, or at the very least incorporate, the concept of “Fair Trade Music”, as a way to ensure the ecosystem of the future is both well balanced and in sync with the needs of the participants.

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Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.