A couple of years ago I set up a music blog called Upside Down Stupid Hat (awesome name right?) and through it I got to meet all sorts of awesome people – bloggers, bands, pr kids and also some dude called Anthony who had set up a music blog aggregator called the Hype Machine – Anthony has come a long way since then especially if you’re into interweb rumours. Anyway he said he was going to be hanging out at OpenMusicMedia tonight so I went down to check it out.
OpenMusicMedia is a kind of likemind, Tuttle or Techcrunch UK meetup but for the music industry set up by Jonas from LastFM and some dude called Dave (there’s always one right?). I have to say for a first event they had an awesome turnout and the William IV was a great venue. Basically Anthony gave an overview of what the Hype Machine is and what they up to and people interjected with questions of varying degrees of sensibility. It looks as if Hype Machine are looking at ways of licensing music that features on the site in a way to feed back some of the ad revenue to bloggers and bands – sounds good but all I can think is that this is one huge fucking minefield – anyway more power to them. The really interesting thing was listening to the questions / statements that people were making and I have to say for a digital orientated gathering a lot of people seemed way off target – one guy (a musician) kept bleating on about how music bloggers were sitting up in their ivory towers counting their big piles of money received from promoting major label artists – dude, if your music was any good bloggers would write about it – end of. Other people seemed to have never actually read a music blog which I found surprising. There was lots of talk about Sellaband and Slicethepie which was semi sensible but to be honest I feel that a lot of these guys still don’t understand the internets and the advantages that it brings (there was one of these guys at the Matt Mason talk the other day – Priyanka called him ‘Audience Man’ – awesome – I heard he was big at the BMI)
As is often the case at these sorts of things the best chats were after the main event – my boy Aaron who runs all tings digital over at Vice/VBS was there and we had some good chats about managing multiple communities with Matt from samuari.fm. Good chats with Jaz from Shinyred about pregnancy / parenting 2.0. Also a couple of the guys from SongKick were in the house and we had some good chats about virtual worlds and their general awesomeness.
All in all a really good evening and I’ll defo be going down to the next one but maybe next time I’m gonna print out some articles by Chris Anderson & Seth Godin – at the very least it’ll have the pigeons ruffling their feathers and squarking a bit more.
Bite ‘em in the hip hop sense that is – thats the way Matt Mason, ex founding editor of RWD magazine and author of The Pirate’s Dilemma, sees the options companies have when facing piracy. Matt spoke today at the RSA and it was pretty good – the main points were essentially that piracy is everywhere and always has been and that it needn’t always be a bad thing. Essentially it seems of a battle between established business models and the intersection between technology and the barriers to entry that technology reduces – Music Industry Vs P2P or rapid prototyping vs the sneaker industry. Pretty standard stuff for Freeconomic readers out there and his solution of ‘if the pirates don’t add any value fight them but if they come up with something useful nick there idea and compete with them’ is also simplistic but I liked the cut of his jib. He gave the same talk recently which you can see below.
The nice thing is that he’s not an academic or really an economist – he grew up DJ’ing for pirate radio stations across LDN and then editing RWD so he has fresh approach (even if much of this field has been covered already).
I bought the book and so far its actually way more interesting than the talk – focusing on the DIY nature of punk and how it was influenced by the situationists and then on punk DIY ethic in relation to Warhol. It actually reminds me of an awesome book I read a while ago called DIY – the rise of Lo-Fi culture but also Pirates Dilemma also seems to be a lo-fi remixed version of Smart World by Richard Ogle. Mason focuses on the transition between underground and overground and it seems to offer the idea that piracy or ‘remix’ culture (I FUCKING HATE THAT SAYING) can act almost like an outsourced open source R&D lab – I guess that it what the Wikinomics people have been saying for a while.
I get really excited when I read about Guy Hands – here’s this private equity dude buying up EMI, a record label, and trying to run it like an actual business! I love that Robbie Williams, Jazz Summers et al got really upset – I really think that they believe they’re special, that musicians are a special breed of artist that cannot and should not be tamed – I think they want him to fail so that they can say ‘see, we told you musicians are different’.
Hands seems to be doing some things right though – his recent announcements about getting A&R to work closer with the marketing department seems like a really sensible idea – the other awesome thing is the hiring of Google CIO Douglas Merrill (read his blog here) – digital is obviously so central to the future of EMI and someone like Merrill has the right credentials to take that lead. I don’t know much about Merrill but in an interview with the Telegraph he describes himself as an ‘experimenter’ which I think is awesome, thats what most of us working in the digital sphere are – also I love the way that he’s open about not knowing exactly what the answer to the industry’s problem is.
One episode of the awesome Hugh and the Rabbi podcast featuring Johnnie Moore and Mark Earls they discuss the fact that within marketing there is no ‘special sauce’ or one true answer – you can create random acts of traction but its really for the public to decide what works and you don’t really have much influence over their group decisions. I think this really resonates with digital – who said iTunes would work over eMusic – facebook over imeem or bebo – twitter over pownce – its sure as hell not the companies themselves.
This is why I like Hands and also Merrill – no one knows the answer and no one knows how its all going to turn out but at least they accept that something radical must be done, they’re not waiting for anyone to give them permission or guidance they’re just going for it – and yes thats going to put some people’s noses out but seriously who even cares about the Verve or Robbie Williams anymore? Hands is like the music industry’s canary in the tunnel – if he finds a new way to make it work it’ll be awesome and everyone will follow – if he dies along the way then, well, I think we may all be too far down the tunnel to get out alive!