Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Marketing Music Downloads – Coldplay Gets It

Amid the babble of how music downloads are killing the recording industry, I offer a personal experience of how artists profit from appropriate marketing of download content.

A year ago, I had heard of Coldplay, and although I could recognize some of their hits, I could never identify them as the artists behind any of the hits. Then, in June, 2008, their “X & Y” album in MP3 format went on sale on Amazon. The reviews were good, not great, the samples sounded interesting enough, so I purchased it. After a couple of listens, I wasn’t all that impressed, so it dropped off my regular playlists.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when Coldplay offered free MP3 downloads of their live album, “LeftRightLeftRightLeft.” No-brainer, I say, and downloaded it – as soon as the server was no longer pegged and unavailable. (Oopsie!). “LRLRL” was produced as a short “live best hits” album, which is marketing genius. There was no filler musical crap or lengthy banter between the group and the audience: just a tight set of good tunes. For a listener like myself, I could quickly capture the essence of Coldplay’s music and the energy created between the group and the audience.

Then – here’s the marketing genius – based on several cuts off the live album, I purchased another album, “Viva la Vida – Prospekt’s March Edition.” So, in the end, from a single free album download, Coldplay got me (1) to buy another album, (2) to start listening to the other album I purchased, and (3) to ponder whether I really like this group.

Regarding the last point, I do like some of their music, which will end up in several of my playlists. In the end, I probably won’t buy another Coldplay album. Just not my musical taste. If I want to hear riffs from the likes of U2, Genesis, Supertramp, The Beatles, Paul Simon, and young Joni Mitchell, I’ll just listen to the originals.

The mileage Coldplay will get out of “LRLRL” will go much farther than my measly contribution. Was it a coincidence that “LRLRL” was released during the initial leg of Coldplay ’s concert tour? Hardly. The energy level in “LRLRL” will entice many to consider concert tickets, and guess where most successful artists make their money? Right – on tour.

So, even though I’m not a new fan, they did escape with some of my money, so “Point – Coldplay!”

For some background reading, check out The Grand Unified Theory On The Economics Of Free. Pretty much sums it up as far as where music is heading, with or without the Recording Industry.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Proposition 8: Shame on Us, California

The ongoing irony of Californians amazes me. We overwhelmingly pass a bill to guarantee minimum space standards for the livestock we eat (Proposition 2), and we narrowly pass a bill which prohibits how two consenting adults can define their relationship.

The most bizarre pro-Prop 8 poster I saw leading up to the election exclaimed, "Keep Government Out of Marriage!" Huh? The whole point of Proposition 8 was to establish a law (i.e. "Government") which placed restrictions on civil unions between adults.

But that was one of the main points of the Prop 8 supporters, that the California Supreme Court somehow "made law." Go back to Civics class, folks, and refresh your knowledge of Constitutional Law. Basically, it goes like this: The State should have no interest in the civil relationships between consenting adults, so long as personal and property rights of others is not infringed. Furthermore, since we have anti-discriminatory statutes on the books for sexual orientation, then, well, you can't discriminate! Being "offended" by or "fearful" of gay couples, or what many refer to as the "Ick Factor," does not affect your personal rights. So, the California Supreme Court ruled correctly that banning marriage between a particular class of people is wrong, wrong, wrong.

But never mind, I'll just keep rambling. Keith, as usual, puts everything in proper perspective. It's six minutes long, but worth every second:

U.S. Auto Maker Bailout: There Better Be Major Strings Attached

The US auto industry has been in decline since the first oil crisis in 1973. Even during the heyday of SUV's and big trucks in the 90's and 00's, anyone with a serious forward-looking focus could see that any major blip in oil prices, oil supply, or macroeconomic health would send the industry off the cliff.

Why? Because American consumers change their buying habits quickly, and the American auto makers have never built a diverse enough fleet to satisfy consumers' changing whimsy.

The major foreign makers, like Toyota, Nissan, and (yes) Hyundai have built and maintained a diverse fleet of vehicles of useful features and high quality that meet customer expectations. You can buy a bad-ass pickup or SUV from them, and you can also buy quality subcompacts and alternative fuel vehicles.

Meanwhile, Detroit has fought long and hard against improvements in the most basic standards for safety, fuel efficiency, and emissions. They claim that better standards will cripple the industry. At the same time, they spend years developing buggy, butt-ugly vehicles that fewer Americans are willing to buy. Just look at Honda and Toyota, and what they have successfully done on their own in the same areas, using the same market forces that Detroit seems unwilling to heed.

Here we are now, and Detroit has been caught off-guard again, with a huge inventory of big clunkers and no answers for consumers' current demands for highly efficient and high quality vehicles. Auto dealerships for American cars are closing at a fast pace, too, and that's no wonder. I have rarely received good service on either the front or back ends of a car sale through an American dealer.

So now, Detroit has joined the mantra: "Bail us out!" Now, I certainly don't want the auto industry to implode, at least not right now. Job losses will be mounting over the next few months, anyway, and a few million more added to the jobless rolls would be nasty.

That being said, we can't just give money to Detroit and expect them to do the right thing. Left to their own devices, they would just go back to designing 20th century vehicles for the 21st century. And, they would still complain about improving standards, the same as before. Hey, Detroit, quitcherbitchin!

So, Congress, here's what we should ask for return from Detroit before handing them the money:
  • Ownership stake in the companies (preferred stock)
  • Observer status on the Board of Directors
  • Commitment to design of vehicles which meet aggressive fuel economy and emission standards. (Additional tax breaks are welcome here.)
  • Commitment to manufacturing processes which are sustainable. (Again, additional tax breaks are okay.)
  • Retooling of the sales and inventory process, so that most vehicles are built to order. The traditional auto dealership should be moved to its proper place...a museum.
This is the short list. In any event, we should not allow Detroit to come to the trough without expecting some long term changes to their business model.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Historic Moment, and Daunting Challenges

I rarely experience chills from speeches. But tonight's acceptance speech was eloquent, humble, conciliatory, but most important, cautionary. President-Elect Obama knows full well that entering his term with a damaged economy and an obscene budget deficit leaves few options. So he asked for us to be willing to sacrifice and work harder. I hope you all heard it, too. Sign me up, let's get to work.

Part 2 of my "Screwed" series never saw the light of day. The premise was that we can't overcome the challenges we face, because we have pissed away the cash and credit needed to solve them. Over a trillion dollars squandered on the Iraq and Wall Street misadventures.

Why, with a trillion dollars, we could:
  • Provide health care to everyone in the USA
  • Educate all of our children and provide activities for them while their parents work
  • Transform our society and economy to be sustainable
  • Rebuild our infrastructure for the 21st century (it's gotta be sustainable, after all)
  • Fund a Manhattan Project to mitigate the climate problem
But, who am I to whine over squandered opportunities? What's done is done, and all those lives and money won't be coming back.

I think we have elected the right person at the right time, except Mr. Obama won't have the luxury of a budget surplus to squander like his predecessor. It will be most interesting to see how the new administration plans its strategy to address all the immediate problems that have been ignored for eight years.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making a Travesty of the Game

From the Major League Baseball(tm) rule book:

Rule 7.08 Any runner is out when:

(i) After he has acquired legal possession of a base, he runs the bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the defense or making a travesty of the game. The umpire shall immediately call “Time” and declare the runner out;
The real travesty is what occurred in Philadelphia last night, in what was billed as Game 5 of something called the "World Series." As far as I can tell, very little "baseball" was played in Philadelphia last night. Somebody needed to call "Time" and declare the travesty over much earlier than was done.

All my life, I've adored the World Series for its ideals: two teams from each league who had survived victorious after a 162-game regular season and various playoff games would square off in a best-of-7 series to crown the world's best in baseball. For teams to get this far requires skill, consistency, healthy players, and a winning momentum.

Baseball requires fair, dry weather to play. Why is this so hard to figure out? The season starts in April and ends at the end of October, with snow and cold weather possible at both ends. Cold and wet weather is bad for baseball because it requires throwing a leather ball at high speeds and playing on a field with lots of dirt. As we know, leather becomes very slippery when wet and dirt turns to mud in the rain.

So here we have the two best teams, in potentially the last game of the series, playing in conditions which would be considered obscene by anyone familiar with the game. (You can review the gory details on mlb.com.) As someone who has umpired many games at the youth level, I know it doesn't take much rain before the safety of the players becomes a concern. As a responsible official, you are expected to suspend play until the conditions allow safe play.

So, last night in Philadelphia, why wouldn't the umpires call the game after it became obvious that play was impossible? Two big reasons: Bud Selig ("the Commish") and Fox Sports. I guess Bud can't read weather radar, because it was obvious after the second inning that the rain was going to get worse. "Never mind! Play on!" And I'm convinced that Fox did not want to see the game postponed until Tuesday, an official travel day, because it would have reamed their Tuesday night prime time schedule. Sucks to be them.

Once the game became "official" after the required 4-1/2 innings, it was clear that Bud would allow this joke to continue as long as necessary until the Rays tied the game (Thank God they did) or the Phillies won out. No, wait! Bud was going to instantly change the rules so that if they had to postpone the game with the Phillies ahead, Bud would declare that the game was not "official." Ooo, let's change the rules on the fly! I'm the Commish! Another travesty!

So, as luck would have it for all parties, (a) Bud saved face by not having to change the rules, (b) Fox is still happy because they won't finish the game until Wednesday, and (c) none of the players were seriously injured on Monday night.

It's time for Bud to step down and let someone run the game who actually cares about the integrity of the game. The sorry images I'm left with after last night will take a long time to erase. What a shame for the game.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why I Won't Vote For McCain/Palin

These videos pretty much sum up the "say anything to get you elected" spirit of John McCain over the years, followed up with a plea to Sarah Palin that she's too out of touch to be "America's Mom."

John McCain and the economic meltdown:

"Drill Baby Drill"

John McCain: "I Know Squat -- I Don't Know Squat"

Memo to Sarah: "You Ain't Our Momma!"

Please don't forget to vote.