aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Today that same market is telling rappers to please shut up. While music-industry sales have plummeted, no genre has fallen harder than rap. According to the music trade publication Billboard, rap sales have dropped 44% since 2000 and declined from 13% of all music sales to 10%. Artists who were once the tent poles at rap labels are posting disappointing numbers. Jay-Z’s return album, Kingdom Come, for instance, sold a gaudy 680,000 units in its first week, according to Billboard. But by the second week, its sales had declined some 80%. This year rap sales are down 33% so far.
Longtime rap fans are doing the math and coming to the same conclusions as the music’s voluminous critics. In February, the filmmaker Byron Hurt released Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a documentary notable not just for its hard critique but for the fact that most of the people doing the criticizing were not dowdy church ladies but members of the hip-hop generation who deplore rap’s recent fixation on the sensational.
Both rappers and music execs are clamoring for solutions. Russell Simmons recently made a tepid call for rappers to self-censor the words nigger and bitch from their albums. But most insiders believe that a debate about profanity and misogyny obscures a much deeper problem: an artistic vacuum at major labels. [...]
Hip-hop now faces a generation that takes gangsta rap as just another mundane marker in the cultural scenery. “It’s collapsing because they can no longer fool the white kids,” says Nickels. “There’s only so much redundancy anyone can take.”
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Prince: The model of a modern stager General
Prince is offered up as one template for a pop star in our file-sharing era by the NYTimes:
Prince has remade himself as a 21st-century pop star. As recording companies bemoan a crumbling market, Prince is demonstrating that charisma and the willingness to go out and perform are still bankable. He doesn’t have to go multiplatinum - he’s multiplatform. [...]
Like most pop stars, he goes on major tours to coincide with album releases, which for Prince are frequent. But he also gets out and performs whenever he chooses. Last year he took over a club in Las Vegas and renamed it 3121, after his 2006 album “3121,” which briefly hit No. 1 and spawned multiple conflicting theories about the significance of the number. He started playing there twice a week for 900 people at $125 a ticket. In February he had an audience in the millions as the halftime entertainment for the Super Bowl. He has gone on to play well-publicized shows at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood for a few hundred people paying $3,121 per couple, and another elite show last weekend in East Hampton for about $3,000 per person.
Meanwhile Verizon put Prince in commercials that use “Guitar,” another song from “Planet Earth,” as bait for its V Cast Song ID service, making the song a free download to certain cellphones. On July 7 Prince introduced a perfume, 3121, by performing at Macy’s in Minneapolis.
In Britain he infuriated retailers by agreeing to have a newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, include the complete “Planet Earth” CD in copies on July 15. (The album is due for American release this Tuesday.) Presumably The Mail paid him something in the range of what he could have earned, much more slowly, through album sales. British fans have remunerated him in other ways. On Aug. 1 he starts a string of no fewer than 21 sold-out arena concerts, 20,000 seats each, at the O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) in London at the relatively low ticket price of Ã‚Â£31.21, about $64. The O2 ticket price also includes a copy of the album; Prince did the same thing with his tour for “Musicology” in 2004. Those “Musicology” albums were counted toward the pop charts, which then changed their rules; the “Planet Earth” albums will not be. But fans will have the record.
Prince’s priorities are obvious. The main one is getting his music to an audience, whether it’s purchased or not.
On Prince and the record labels:
Prince ended a two-decade contract with Warner Brothers Records in 1996 after a very public falling out with the label. During the mid-1990s he appeared with the word “Slave” painted on his face and said the label was holding back material he wanted to release. For a while he dropped the name Prince - which was under contract to Warner Brothers and Warner/Chappell Music - for an unpronounceable glyph; when the contracts ran out, he was Prince again. And since leaving Warner Brothers he has been independent. He owns his recordings himself, beginning with a three-CD set called “Emancipation” from 1996. He has released albums on his own NPG label and Web site or has licensed them, one by one, for distribution by major labels, presumably letting them compete for each title. Over the past decade he has had albums released through EMI, Arista, Universal and Sony.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Bear Sterns: User Generated Content is not a fad
User-Generated Content (UGC) Is Not a Fad . . .
Some investors remain skeptical that UGC is more than a passing fad. However, in our recent online video survey, UGC is the No. 1 and No. 2 most popular content category among men aged 18-34 (M18-34) and among all respondents, respectively. Moreover, if we define UGC as page views only from sites such as Myspace.com, Facebook.com, Youtube.com, Wikipedia.org, Blogger.com, and Digg.com (which is quite conservative), we estimate that UGC now accounts for 13% of total U.S. Internet traffic, up from 0%-1% in 2004. Based on these statistics, we submit that UGC is here to stay.
. . . And It Can Be Monetized
Another investor concern is whether UGC can actually be monetized. We believe the answer is “yes.” From a historical perspective, we note that much of the text-based UGC (like blogs and social networks) has been monetized through paid search. In a video-centric broadband world, we think targeted video advertisement could be one monetization mechanism. Our primary market research finds over one-third of respondents have no major complaints about pre-roll video ads, while only 10% of respondents stated that a ten- to 15-second commercial was too long to watch before the video.
They go on to address the “content is king” media mantra:
[F]or as long as most can recall, the entertainment industry has lived by the axiom “content is king.” However, no one company has proven consistently capable of producing “great content,” as evidenced by volatility in TV ratings and box office per film for movie studios, given the inherent fickleness of consumer demand for entertainment goods.
Via Chris Anderson, “Bear Stearns believes (as do I; indeed a third of my book is focused on this) that in a world of infinite choice, content is only as valuable as your ability to find it. They call that “context and aggregation”, and it’s what both Google and your favorite blogger do when the filter the web according to a narrow lens, be it your expressed search term or their own sensibility.”
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
What’s popular: user-generated or corporate copyrighted?
I believe it’s true:
ON YouTube, copyrighted video clips of movies and TV shows are far less popular compared with noncopyrighted material than previously thought, according to a new study.
Vidmeter, which tracks the online video business, determined that the clips that were removed for copyright violations Ã‚- most of them copyrighted by big media companies Ã‚- comprise just 9 percent of all videos on the site. Even more surprising, the videos that have been removed make up just 6 percent of the total views (vidmeter.com).
Sunday, January 21, 2007
500 copies & the enemy is obscurity
Chris Anderson informed an audience of several hundred publishers that the average book sells 500 copies per year, “a depressing statistic” that places over a third of books squarely in the long tail.
“If [authors] are writing books to be read, how can we maximize that?,” he asked. “De-stigmatize the mid-list, de-stigmatize the long tail—999 readers is success! If you can turn that into 2,000, that’s doubling your success. Those tools typically do not require big marketing budgets from publishers. Yet if you’re expecting publishers to do it, you’ll probably be disappointed. The solution is for you [the author] to do it.” [...]
Cory Doctorow and Seth Godin have been giving their books away online for free for several years now, in some cases before the title appears in print. Doctorow, a vocal opponent of restrictive copyright protection, goaded the audience. Alluding to the file sharing endemic in music, film, and video, he asked, “Why don’t people care enough about literature to steal it? I think that’s genuinely alarming. It’s because books are Web-invisible. The Web is all about serendipity. When you’re on the Web searching for food, you should find books about food. Book search should work like Web searchÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Free e-books make commercial sense.”
“The enemy is not piracy. The enemy is obscurity. If books are invisible, that’s a really good recipe for not getting stolen from—but not for selling. The Web is the greatest distributor for the frictionless sale of books in history,” chimed in Godin.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The death of the blockbuster. Continues.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Worth a million
The simple answer is that search, recommendations and other filters tend to drive demand down the tail, from the hits down to the niches where minority tastes are often better satisfied. Aside from happier customers, this also has some clear economics benefits for Netflix. It so happens that older titles, well down the Long Tail of time, are both cheaper to acquire and tend to get higher ratings than new titles (mostly because they’ve passed the test of time and have moved beyond the fog of hype that accompanies new releases). Not only that, but Netflix can also buy fewer of them, since as you go further down the curve the demand is spread out over more titles and there’s less of a need to buy stacks of expensive new blockbusters to satisfy the rush of rentals requests around the release date.
Read on for the charts and graphs and detailed reasoning that back up his assertion.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Three Ways to Ride the Long Tail
Steve Rubel’s advice to advertisers:
Reach metrics are the currency of the advertising community. We’re obsessed with eyeballs, gross ratings points and page views. But in a Long Tail world, reach has entirely new meaning. Many niche sites, for example, can’t hold a candle to the traffic at the head of the media curve. However, what they do have going for them is credibility. If your brand is mentioned five times on a site that your 20 most influential customers trust, that’s gold. Word of mouth will only ripple from there.
In the last few years, some niches have crystallized nicely. For example, it’s easy to find thriving communities obsessed with BlackBerries and other gadgetry. The same goes for political blogs. Whether you’re a Lefty or a Righty, you have a home. However, sometimes the Long Tail doesn’t flow down into the niches you care about most. Marketers should play a role in funding the development of communities that give these birds of a feather places to flock together.
Demand more from media
Big Media has done a nice job adapting in the Long Tail environment—editorially. For example, news sites regularly link to blog posts, photos or videos uploaded by citizens. However, where they’re just getting started is in the sales side of the house. The Washington Post took a big step recently when it launched a blog ad network. Demand that your media partners help you find ways to build your brand through niches like the Post does.
RELATED: Stephen Colbert gets it.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The Long Tail today
Today marks the debut of the book. I’m glad Chris got around to answering critics, in his way. I read John Cassidy’s New Yorker review las week and found it less ”largely positive” than Chris did, but I’ll quote the same part:
[T]his is snappily argued and thought-provoking, if not quite as original as Anderson’s publishers would have us believe. Back in 1980, another futurologist, Alvin Toffler, anticipated the “de-massifying” of society in his best-selling book “The Third Wave” (Bantam; $7.99), which is still in print. “The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation and entertainment,Ã¢â‚¬Â� Toffler said in a 1999 interview. But no longer: “The era of mass society is over. . . . No more mass production. No more mass consumption. . . . No more mass entertainment.”
You might imagine that I was a fan of Tofler’s then and, given that I believe everything’s derivative, I give Anderson more credit for his insight than does Cassidy. I tell students all the time that I’m not the slightest bit interested in an orginal idea, I want an original mix, iteration or synthesis of ideas.
The Long Tail is one brilliant synthesis!
The real novelty of Anderson’s book is not his thesis but its representation in the form of a neat, readily graspable picture: the long-tail curve. For decades, economists and scientists have been using this graph, which is formally known as a power-law distribution, to describe things like the distribution of wealth or the relative size of cities. By applying the long tail to the online world, Anderson brings intellectual order to what often looks like pointless activity. The teen-ager who spends his weekends updating a blog that nobody reads and shooting silly videos to post on YouTube.com? He is, as Anderson’s chapter on “The New ProducersÃ¢â‚¬Â� tells us, a valiant citizen of the long tail.
The least convincing part of Anderson’s book is his treatment of what he calls “the short head,” the part of the curve where popular products reside. Although he acknowledges that best-selling books and blockbuster movies won’t vanish overnight, he suggests that demand for them will gradually decline: “the primary effect of the long tail is to shift our taste towards niches.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
Cassidy goes on to argue that the success of hits today and “giant, exploitative firms” dominating the network is evidence disputing the theory. I haven’t read the book, I’ve just ordered it, but I’ve been following along on Anderson’s blog for a good long while.
My understanding of the theory is and always has been that yes, hits continue. Not only do they continue, they play an important role as a stepping off point for all of us to find our niches. When I bought The Long Tail I was interested to note the suggestion of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom so I might follow that path from suggestion to suggestion down deeper into my niche.
My conservative blogger friend Basil may have been more interested to follow An Army of Davids : How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths down deeper into his.
In that way the hit that Chris’s book is bound to be can lead both Basil and me, and you dear reader and those that follow, each into our respective niches. Only to come together again for the next hit. Hits aren’t dead; it’s the rise of a new kind of hit.
Chris Anderson: Hits aren’t dead!
As I see it, there are essentially three kinds of hits, which we can call Type 1,2, and 3:
- "Top-down" hits created by the usual hit-making machine: major labels, major publishers, major studios, etc. Those fall into two categories:
- Type 1: Authentic hits: products that are excellent and resonate with a broad audience (think anything from Coldplay to the World Cup). These start big and stay big.
- Type 2: Synthetic hits: lame products that are marketed within an inch
of their life, sucessfully getting lots of people to try them even though they’re probably sorry they did. (think Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties). These start big but quickly plummet.
- Type 3: "Bottoms-up" hits, that rise on word-of-mouth and grassroots support. (think Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or March of the Penguins). These start small and get big.
I think Type 1 hits will continue to do well. Type 3 hits will do even better, since the web is the greatest word-of-mouth amplifier ever created. But Type 2 hits will suffer, as the consumers spread the word of their suckitude faster than ever.