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Strange Bedfellows: Can Gaga, Madonna, and Katy Perry Coexist? UMG to Buy EMI’s Record Labels—When 4 Really Become 3

Strange Bedfellows: Can Gaga, Madonna, and Katy Perry Coexist? UMG to Buy EMI’s Record Labels—When 4 Really Become 3

Back in May 2011, I wrote about Citigroup-owned EMI facing a possible buyout from Len Blavatnik’s recently-purchased Warner Music Group [WMG] and some implications of what would happen when 4 major recording companies get narrowed down to 3.

But when the sale of EMI’s recorded music product was announced while Americans were honoring the people who have served their country’s military, the big winner turned out to be someone bigger than WMG. It was Universal Music Group [UMG], once co-owned with the Universal Studios motion picture business but spun off into its own company back in 2006 by its current owner, France’s Vivendi, which, until 2000, also owned water and waste systems in addition to entertainment.

UMG put up almost $2 billion for EMI’s catalog of recordings, just a few weeks after WMG, which had put up a $1.6 billion bid that many thought would have been enough to win, but pulled out over unresolved pension liability issues for EMI’s office employees.

IMPALA, the European organization of independent record labels, is pushing the European Commission to not only block Vivendi/UMG’s purchase of EMI, but also prohibit UMG from distributing recorded music released by the new record label owned by concert promoter LiveNation, which includes a forthcoming album by the legendaryMadonna.

Katy Perry, Madonna, Lady Gaga

IMPALA might be right to be concerned, because the EMI/UMG merger, plus the latter’s partnership with LiveNation, could make for strange bedfellows. For instance, can Gaga, Madonna and Katy coexist? Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are perhaps two of the most popular singers over just the last 2 to 3 years, each with catchy chart-topping hits and successful, yet sensationally-staged, concert tours. And then, there’s Madonna…what’s been said about this Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and mother of self-reinvention that hasn’t already been said over the last three decades?

Gaga, as mentioned previously, has that “360 deal” going with UMG and its Interscope label, while Katy Perry is signed to EMI’s Capitol on what could be a standard contract, and Madonna’s $120 million deal with LiveNation, signed way back in 2007 while she was still under contract to Warner Music Group, but now in full effect and given even more weight by LiveNation’s new partnership with UMG, also falls into that 360 realm.

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Golden Nuggets of Wisdom for Startups by VC Mark Suster from The Startup Conference LA – #startupconf – Plus 5 Cofounder Mistakes

Golden Nuggets of Wisdom for Startups by VC Mark Suster from The Startup Conference LA – #startupconf – Plus 5 Cofounder Mistakes

By Kathleen Blackwell

Last Tuesday I attended The Startup Conference LA as an entrepreneur looking to continue my learning curve and carve a local networking niche with other like-minded business people. The Startup Conference LA was organized by Alain Raynaud, Director of the Founder Institute in Paris, who delivered a fun opening line to kick-off the days events…“Having wifi work in a room full of crazy geeks is really, really hard.”

The Startup Conference LA was centered on delivering experienced talent and straight-forward rules of engagement to a room full of, naturally, startup geeks, where Raynaud said the headlining activity included “a mix of famous speakers and soon to be famous speakers” in order to give attendees a balanced perspective [and to get to know the ones on their way to the top]. The speakers were fantastic—ranging from a keynote by Mark Suster (GRP Parnters / “Both Sides of the Table”), to gamification wizard Gabe Zichermann (Gamification for Startups: Supercharging Engagement), to Rebecca Woodstock (Cofounder of Cake Health / “From Bootstrapped to TechCrunch”), to Paige Craig (Cofounder of Better Works), and an Elevator Pitch Competition, to highlight just a few.

Before introducing the keynote presentation, Organizer Alain Raynaud, who also runs a Cofounder Meetup in Silicon Valley, had some excellent tips on the subject of cofounders. First, Raynaud said that most people ask the following two questions about cofounders:

1. How do I find a cofounder?

2. How do we split equity?

Raynaud said the best cofounder is usually someone you’ve already worked with. That sentiment was echoed by the Founder of Cake Health, Rebecca Woodstock (“From Bootstrapped to TechCrunch”), when she gave an open talk about the “dating” process she went through to secure a cofounder, who turned out to be someone she had known and trusted in the end.

5 mistakes people make in a cofounder search:

Mistake #5: I can’t tell you my idea

  • Raynaud suggested that most people are not going to go out and copy your idea and even if they tried, they do not have the same blueprint in their mind as you—the creator of the idea. So, don’t worry, just do.

Mistake #4: We split the equity equally—25%/25%/25%/25%

  • Raynaud said, “Splitting equity in this manner shows that you have not had frank discussions with your team. A 50/50 split would mean that the company could not exist without that other person. Usually, you do not split equity equally.”
  • [If you’re looking for a tool to help you calculate equity, Raynaud created a Cofounder Equity Calculater, which is very cool because it acts like a middleman, or a counselor, between you and your cofounder(s). Raynaud suggested that you each use the calculator independently, then compare your results with your cofounder(s)—a great tool for determining how you each think up front.]

Mistake #3: We haven’t decided who the CEO is yet

  • Raynaud said frankly, “You need to have this discussion.”

Mistake #2: I’m full-time, everybody else is part-time.

  • “Part-time people will be left on the side of the road quickly—it’s just a natural byproduct,” said Raynaud.

Mistake #1: We have lined up a great team! All we need now is a developer.

  • So, how do you convince a developer to join you? Raynaud pointed out that showing traction helps significantly—1) show that you have customers signing up, 2) show that you have investors lined up, and 3) show that big names are partnering with you.

Enter keynote speaker, Mark Suster (GRP Partners / “Both Sides of the Table”), with a stream of experienced insight, practical knowledge, and golden nuggets of wisdom for startups. I really enjoyed Suster’s energetic keynote, where he opened with a term called “wantrapraneurs.” What’s a “wantrapraneur”? Basically, there are a whole lot of “wannabe entrepreneurs” out there who talk the talk, but don’t get down and dirty—they don’t get the doer work done. (In the music business, as a former executive at Sony, we used to call those types posers.)

Suster had this to say about entrepreneurship: “98% of people think they need an epiphany, like they need to beat the Google search engine algorithm,” when in actuality, all you need to do is have a great concept and simply…start. “You just need an idea, you don’t have to be a genius, just get started.”

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Millionaire Matchmaker Meets (her) Match…

Millionaire Matchmaker Meets (her) Match…

By Kathleen Blackwell

Move over Pattie Stanger, there is a new matchmaker in town. Scratch that…a new “matchmaking group” in town. Last Wednesday night I attended one *badass* meetup event: Tech Cofounder Dating LA. Organized by Aaron Abram and sponsored at BLANKSPACES LA, the evening was the first “dating kind” on the burgeoning L.A. startup scene—and much like a first date, too, all sorts of tech people were in attendance looking for their better half…their cofounder. A Wiki-moment in the making, file-stamped “Cofounder Matchmaking,” Wednesday, November 9, 2011 marked the official launch of Tech Cofounder Dating LA.

Organizer Aaron Abram says he founded this concept based on a “selfish need to find a cofounder who actually wanted to build a tech company rather than just talk about building a company.”

Yes, like many of us who have run up against the “douchebagery” types—the “I’ve got a million startup ideas” person (yet, never seem to actually start anything)—Tech Cofounder Dating LA was actually founded on the premise that somewhere in our land of silicone in the Silicon Beach, there does exist…doers.

Aaron saw a problem in the market based upon his own need and wanted to fill that void by creating a viable solution, his meetup group. He quickly determined that there were a slew of people seeking their “better business half,” for as quickly as he posted the event on meetup.com, they were over-capacity and had people on the wait list chomping at the rope to get in—as if this was their “only hope” for a true business hookup.

I discovered Tech Cofounder Dating LA through a Google search, as I, too, was looking for that proverbial “significant other, left-brain business development strategist” to round out my creative energy and the moment I stumbled upon this meetup—I signed right up! I couldn’t help but hope my new business partner in crime was right around the corner. And guess what? The über-sweet news is the Tech Cofounder Dating LA event was every bit as cheeky-geeky cool as I imagined it would be because the people who showed up were there with a serious intent to make a connection—yes…doer!

In his opening remarks, Aaron said to “think of this group like your Y-Combinator.” The format was warm and welcoming, as if a large group of friends were sitting around a campfire…lots of camaraderie.  Everyone was mingling (and snacking on the trendiest cupcakes in town sponsored by BIGMANBAKES—serving up fresh, moist, mini cupcakes in assorted flavors like “old school,” “red velvet cake,” and “black & white”—delish!), then moved into what I would classify as an open mic session for entrepreneurs whereby everybody had an opportunity to introduce themselves “on the mic,” and explain their business model and/or startup, along with their “dating” needs, i.e. “I’m looking for a full-time CTO or business person to backup our frontend development on a major social networking platform that we have investor interest on.”

I was duly impressed with the array of entrepreneurs present, from tech to business savvy, veterans to new-bees, all with the intent on building awesome technology companies here in Silicon Beach, Los Angeles.

What were a few general themes that popped up in the open mic sessions? Well, 1) the word “content” was used frequently, 2) there were what seemed to be a handful of “groupon-esque” related businesses attempting to isolate and dominate a niche, as well as 3) crowdsourcing in a niche, like crowdsourcing around the concept of getting a tattoo, or in one humorous moment, “crowdsourcing a boob job—boobfunder.com,” (which in Hollywood, well, almost seems natural nowadays, plus aligning the concept in support of breast cancer), 4) there were a few location-based travel ventures, and 5) in several instances many presenters were marketing the fact that their startups empowered people by giving individuals a new economic opportunity.

"BORAT"

"GREGG"

What were the most unique pick-up lines? I’ll highlight two: 1) “Hi, my name is Gregg and I look like Borat.” (Insert crowd laugh here, because Gregg did look like Borat.) And for the record, (one of) Gregg’s businesses is boobfunder.com. So, now you can put a face to the concept—meet Gregg Martin! And, 2) “Hi, my name is Tracy, and I’ve been a licensed nerd for 30 years.” (Insert intrigue here. Tracy definitely led the room in all around experience—a former executive at toy-giant Mattell—with a cutting-edge vision for whether a consumer-based product would actually work. Tracy also claimed to be a “professional naysayer”—which is a great quality in business.)

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Stopping Online Piracy: 5 Internet Injustices of #SOPA Bill

Stopping Online Piracy: 5 Internet Injustices of #SOPA Bill

Democratic Congressmember, Zoe Lofgren, represents a constituency in central California that includes parts of San Jose and the Silicon Valley. In late October 2011, after some of her colleagues in the US House of Representatives, led by Congressmember and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith of Texas, introduced a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act [SOPA], Ms. Lofgren declared her opposition to the proposals as “the end of the Internet as we know it.”

SOPA, sometimes known as E-PARASITE [Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation], is the House’s equivalent of the Senate’s PROTECT-IP [Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property] bill, in that both are meant to put a stop to websites that carry content that infringes on copyrights, combined with Senate Bill 978, which would criminalize online streaming even of people who sing others’ songs on YouTube. Whatever kind of anti-online piracy legislation gets passed, there is the thinking that it could do more harm than whatever good may come of it. How so? Let us count some of the ways:

1. No due process.

Under the proposals, any copyright holder can get a court order to shut down a website that posts any infringing material without giving the accused website an opportunity to challenge such a shutdown in court. On top of that, the owner of such a website could even be denied Internet access…again, without due process.

2.  Guilt by association.

Prof. Mark Lemley of Stanford told the public radio program “Marketplace” that if you so much as put up a link to a website that carries the infringed copyright material, you’ll end up just as guilty of “facilitating infringement” as the website that infringes copyright. Even Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube could be all but put out of business as a result.

3.  What constitutes a ‘copyright infringement’?

David Sohn of the Center for Democracy & Technology commented that under SOPA, “a central issue is that the bill’s definitions of bad websites are vague and broad.” So much so that the Future of Music Coalition commented that even legitimate sites, both within and outside of the US, could be held for violations of SOPA, thus making the Internet “too wide for comfort.” On top of that, copyright owners, by filing a court order against an infringing website, don’t have to go to court and explain their actions, which adds to there being no opportunity at justice for the accused.

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