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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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Startup Spotlight: IgnitionDeck Looks to Ignite Crowdfunding by Empowering Creators with a DIY Twist—Funding On Your Terms (#WordPress)

Startup Spotlight: IgnitionDeck Looks to Ignite Crowdfunding by Empowering Creators with a DIY Twist—Funding On Your Terms (#WordPress)

Hallelujah—it’s here! Finally, an intelligent twist within the crowdfunding platform that speaks to creators (musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, etc.), and aims to put the “$-kaching” back into the hands of developers, versus middlemen. IgnitionDeck is a newly launched WordPress plugin allowing artists to self-fund their projects without asking for permission, or giving away more money than they have to when using a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or IndieGogo.

Last week I ran across a post on Facebook talking about IgnitionDeck and instantly became smitten with the “take charge, empowering concept,” so I reached out for a quick “Startup Spotlight Q&A” with the IgnitionDeck Founders—Nathan Hangen and Shawn Christenson. Super smart guys, awesome concept twist—enjoy the Q&A!

1. What is the IgnitionDeck app? Who is the intended, or target audience?

Here. We. Go. IgnitionDeck is a DIY crowdfunding platform for WordPress that installs as a plugin and allows creators to raise money without the restrictions of other platforms. The problem we see with Kickstarter and similar platforms is that if your campaign fails to raise, you end up with zero investment despite the fact that you’ve worked your tail off trying to drive traffic to the Kickstarter site. We’re building IgnitionDeck for those people, and anyone else that wants to crowdfund on their own terms, rather than the terms of the middle man. It’s perfect for musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, and anyone else that has something cool to sell.

2. How is IgnitionDeck different from Kickstarter, or other crowdfunding platforms, like IndieGogo?

For starters, it’s the only product of its kind that empowers the creator, rather than the middle man. With ID, the creator is in complete control—they get to drive traffic to their site instead of another platform, get to keep the SEO benefit of linking/sharing, and get to keep all of the money (outside of Paypal’s fees). Another big benefit is that it works outside of the U.S., so anywhere you can use Paypal, you can use IgnitionDeck.

3. Are you the sole Founder/Creator of IgnitionDeck?  If not, who are the other team members?  Backgrounds?

The team is made of two co-founders, Nathan Hangen & Shawn Christenson, who live in Florida and Alberta, respectively. We both do a little bit of everything, but Shawn, being the better designer by far, does much of the product design, while Nathan focuses heavily on development and product management.

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Björk Being Björk: There Are Apps for Her New Album ‘Biophilia’

Björk Being Björk: There Are Apps for Her New Album ‘Biophilia’

For more than a quarter century, particularly as lead singer of the Sugarcubes back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and more prominently since then, as a solo act, Björk has delivered music that’s unique enough to make her perhaps Iceland’s greatest export, musical or otherwise. At the same time, of course, she has also made headlines for everything from her swan dress at the 2001 Academy Awards to her 2008 stance on Tibetan independence, which didn’t sit well with the Chinese government. When you combine the music, the fashion, the politics and everything else about her, you can think of it as just Björk being Björk.

Bjork 'Biophilia' Cover

And just as Björk continues to be Björk with her new concept album Biophilia, which she produced, in part, on an iPad and is releasing both as CD’s and, in what’s probably a music industry first, as apps for iPads and iPhones in conjunction with Apple, she even added her own take on the music industry’s troubles in an interview with the trade website midemblog, in which she was asked whether the recent changes in the music industry have made it a better place. Björk said that the big labels “killed Elvis and will rip you off,” elaborating further on how the major labels once had unnecessary overhead, were making too much money, and now “has gone normal again.”

While it’s doubtful that the big labels really killed Elvis, Björk does make an interesting point, at least if one sign of the industry having “gone normal again” is Sony Music Entertainment having recently shuttered three of its labelsJiveArista, and J; the latter two founded by veteran music producer and impresario Clive Davis—and folding those labels’ signed artists’ contracts into the RCA label it acquired from Germany’s BMG back in the mid-2000’s. The RCA label, which Elvis once recorded for, goes back over a century, to the days of the Victrola.

A far cry from the vinyl that originally pressed Elvis’ recordings, though, would have to be the way Biophilia was done. Beyond the fact that Björk produced the album, in part, on an iPad, is that she also made each of the 10 tracks on that album into its own app. The main app for Biophilia is free, but each track/app on it is worth $1.99, or $10 for all 10, at iTunes, and those aren’t your typical “hear the song” apps, mind you. Lots of interactivity comes with each app. Björk herself told NPR’s Laura Sydell recently that on one of the track/apps, “Thunderbolt,” you can tap the lightning icon to change the speed or range of its bass line.

The Techie Minute (VIDEO 2) – 1) Facebook & the No Email, Email 2) Facebook & the Holy Grail & 3) Groupon COO & Spinal Tap

Welcome to the second installment of ‘The Techie Minute’—a ‘one minute dish’ on tech gossip of the week—like Talk Soup meets MTV News for the tech world. Yes, this is a homemade video—recorded using PhotoBooth, edited using iMovie and Picasa—trying something a little fresh here at HOLLYISCO—a boutique press site covering entertainment technology from Silicon Valley, to Silicon Beach, to Silicon Hills.

HOLLYISCO: The Techie Minute (Video 2)

Play Youtube VideoHOLLYISCO – The Techie Minute – Video 2


In this video:

BOOTSTRAPPING:

What is ‘bootstrapping’ your business? Bootstrapping is the art of building your business without much external help and on a budget. Two bootstrap concepts introduced this week on “The Techie Minute” are 1) Bootstrap Lighting—for when you don’t have the Hollywood budget, or a P.A., and 2) Bootstrap Branding—how to make a mockup product using just your business card and packing tape only—kaching! The featured mockup product this week on “The Techie Minute” is WineBeer by HOLLYISCO.

THE DISH:

#1. FACEBOOK and the ‘No Email, Email Announcement’

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Siemer Silicon Beach Summit Aims to Brand Southern California as the Epicenter for Technology Investing — Banking on the Power of Hollywood

Siemer Silicon Beach Summit Aims to Brand Southern California as the Epicenter for Technology Investing — Banking on the Power of Hollywood

HOLLYISCO is excited to be covering The Siemer Silicon Beach Summit—a premier event formulated to meet today’s hottest trends in entertainment technology. In this article:

  • Siemer Silicon Beach Summit (Keynote by Arianna Huffington)
  • The Rise of “Silicon Beach” (The Next Wave)
  • The Emerging Celebrity-Tech Crossover (Celebrity Branding)
  • The Boom of Digital Multi-Media Companies in L.A. (Global Interest in Hollywood)

Siemer & Associates, LLC—a global, boutique, merchant bank serving digital media, software, and technology companies will host a specialized invite-only conference at the famous ‘Shutters on the Beach Hotel’ in Santa Monica next week, aptly named Siemer Silicon Beach Summit—bringing together an elite group of leading players in digital media and emerging entertainment technology companies from around the world. Co-hosted by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP—a leading national law firm representing a sophisticated client base from Fortune 500 to a diverse range of emerging companies—the Siemer Silicon Beach Summit will draw 300+ CEOs, VC’s, and global media executives with a focused intent on increasing the recognition of Southern California as the premier epicenter for technology investing—banking on the power of Hollywood. Online media pioneer Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, who launched HuffPo right here in Los Angeles—aka “Silicon Beach”—will present the opening keynote.

The Siemer Silicon Beach Summit is seen as a way to foster relationships and connections throughout the burgeoning international tech community—especially those companies centered on entertainment technology that comprise a large part of the “entech” startup scene currently thriving in Southern California.

“The Siemer Summit presents tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to shape the future of digital media. Connections and networks define the new media landscape, and this Summit will build both,” said Hale Boggs, a partner at Manatt who, with firm partner Jonathan Bloch, created the Summit with Siemer & Associates.

The Siemer Summit is on the cutting edge and poised to become the premier “must-attend” conference on the West Coast—“SoCal is leading the world in digital content creation, content monetization, game development, and celebrity-focused media and commerce, fueled by the expanding focus on major film, television, and music studios who are increasingly becoming purveyors of streaming video, music, and digital content,” says Seimer & Associates, LLC.

The Siemer Summit will provide 50 industry-leading companies an opportunity to showcase their visions. A sampling of presenters in attendance include:

BuzzMedia: the web’s fastest growing entertainment publisher reaching more than 50MM monthly pop culture, music, and celebrity enthusiasts worldwide. BUZZMEDIA’S more than 40-category leading brands include Buzznet, Celebuzz, Absolute Pink, and GoFugYourself to name a few, plus the official sites for celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Whitney Port, Kimora Lee Simmons, and others.

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‘The Techie Minute’ (Video) – TechCrunch/AOL Brouhaha, Netflix Uproar, and Mea Culpa’s Oh My!

Welcome to the very first installment of ‘The Techie Minute’—a one minute dish on tech gossip of the week, like Talk Soup meets MTV News for the tech world. Yes, this is a raw, homemade video—we’re trying something a little fresh here at HOLLYISCO—a boutique press site covering entertainment technology from Silicon Valley, to Silicon Beach, to Silicon Hills.

HOLLYISCO: The Techie Minute

Play Youtube VideoHOLLYISCO – The Techie Minute (Demo)


#1. TechCrunch/AOL Brouhaha

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Crowdfunding Is Totally Punk Rock! 7 Crowdfunding Musical Sights Reveiwed.

Crowdfunding Is Totally Punk Rock! 7 Crowdfunding Musical Sights Reveiwed.

So you’re a struggling musician, and you’re looking for a way to raise money toward recording an album or going on tour. In recent years, some of these struggling musicians, and even a few well-known acts, have turned to “crowdfunding” as a way of raising such money—yes, crowdfunding is totally punk rock. While crowdfunding is as grassroots as you can get when trying to raise money from friends, fans and contacts, it can also be troubling if the response isn’t so good.

Yet that hasn’t stopped what has become a crowded house of websites dedicated to crowdfunding from springing up online. Some of those sites have been used to raise money for music-related projects. Here are a few of them in review, beginning with what is perhaps the more popular crowdfunding site for music:

1. Kickstarter.com

Many musical acts, as well as many other creative types, have used Kickstarter to raise money. A fundraising goal is set, as well as a time limit to reach that goal. If the goal is met before the time runs out, the project is funded; if it’s not met in time, no money changes hands.

Over the past summer, female musicians like Julia Nunes, whose videos have been on YouTube since 2006, and Nataly Dawn, of the duo Pomplamoose, have each used Kickstarter to raise more than 5x their intended goals to fund the recording of their albums. Even the husband/wife team of author Neil Gaiman and musician Amanda Palmer—the latter very well-known both as a solo musician and as one-half of the cabaret-punk duo Dresden Dolls—used Kickstarter to raise over $100,000—also 5x their goal—for a West Coast mini-tour set to begin on Halloween 2011 in Los Angeles.

Kickstarter is free to participate, but says that it charges fees for certain services.

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Thoughts on Amy Winehouse by a Celebrity Vocal Coach and Powerful VS. Empowered Singing +3 Harmful C’s

Thoughts on Amy Winehouse by a Celebrity Vocal Coach and Powerful VS. Empowered Singing +3 Harmful C’s

Guest post by Celebrity Vocal Coach Dot Todman (C.O.R.E. Vocal Power)

Amy Winehouse as a Singer—Powerful, or Empowered?


Powerful vs. Empowered Singing

Part of why I take an emphasis on empowerment as a vocal coach is because of the short-lived careers of many artists who fall so quickly after they rise, or never even make it to the top, because they suffer the consequences of making choices that permanently damage their mind, soul, and body. And sadly, many are deceived to feel it’s part of “living the rock star lifestyle.” Unlike a guitar or a piano, which I can replace if damaged, I only have one mind, one soul, and one voice. Why not enjoy my gift of expression with clarity, good health, abundance, and longevity?

Question: Do I just want to be a powerful singer, or an empowered singer?

Was Amy Winehouse a powerful singer? Yes. Was she an empowered singer? No. While Amy Winehouse was the perfect example of being a very powerful singer, perhaps it is clear now, that just singing powerfully does not guarantee a life full of joy and success.

Life can be tough, and it’s easy to fall into traps and develop bad habits. We’re only human. Practicing empowering principles and developing positive habits help us to become powerful masters of creativity and our unique gifts. What does it take to create the confidence, ease, and grace of a truly empowered singer?

  • Time
  • Effort
  • Persistence

Amy Winehouse was just another example of how an incredible voice and all the talent in the world alone does not guarantee personal fulfillment and self empowerment. It’s a shame…and a powerful reminder of how important your Mind, Soul, and VOICE are! It’s a tough world out there. We all need to look after ourselves from the CORE.

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10 Tips to Get Real Fans (Not Friends) to Shows

10 Tips to Get Real Fans (Not Friends) to Shows

Guest post by Madalyn Sklar (music biz coach. blogger. social media maven. fearless GoGirls leader.)

I was recently contacted by Tracy Petrucci of ListenLocalSD.com, a blog for the San Diego music community. She asked me to write about a simple yet commonly asked question, “How do I get real fans to come to local shows and not just my friends?”

Here is what I came up with…

How do I get real fans to come to local shows and not just my friends?

I get asked this question all the time. The answer is simply get out and hustle. Just because you’re playing a show, it doesn’t mean the venue will pack itself. There are many things you can do both online and offline to attract fans.

Here are 10 tips that will help:

1. Update your website calendar. There is nothing worse than a bunch of outdated gigs listed on your site. It’s a turn off and will give the impression that you are not out playing shows. As soon as you book a show, go update your website.

2. Shoot an email blast to your mailing list. You have a mailing list, right? Use it! This is your most valuable tool in your arsenal, yet I find so many bands are under-utilizing it. You can easily manage your list and send out messages through ReverbNation or Fanbridge. Be sure to collect email addresses at your shows and from all your websites.

3. Set up a Facebook Event. Invite your local fans and friends. Don’t waste your time inviting people from all over the world. They aren’t coming! Make a friends list – log into Facebook >> Account >> Edit Friends >> Create a List. Go through your friends and add the local peeps to a list and call it Local Fans. Every time you make a new friend/fan in your local area, add them to this list and watch it grow! You’ll set this up once, add people to it as you become friends, then every time you create a FB Event you’ll invite people from this list.

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Wider Wifi—”White Space”

Wider Wifi—”White Space”

Previously, I wrote about how a neighborhood in Houston, Texas was experimenting with wireless broadband [a.k.a. wifi] that used unlicensed “white spaces” between TV channels. Now, it looks like this idea, based on what the Federal Communications Commission authorized back in September 2010, has bred a standard that will increase its availability.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, who sanctioned the “wireless local area network” standard known numerically as 802.11, has given a number to this new “wireless regional area network” idea…802.22. According to IEEE’s press release, the “Wireless Regional Area Networks” that can be spawned from this new standard can cover a radius of up to 62 miles [100 km], based on flat terrain, and can deliver speeds of up to 22 mbps, which, by itself, would rival most existing available broadband services, wired or wireless.

But just because a new wireless broadband standard can provide speeds equal to much of what’s available now doesn’t quite mean it will. A more realistic scenario that could occur if twelve users are on any one unoccupied “white space” channel would have speeds at just 1.5 mbps for downloading, and 384k for uploading, on a par with DSL systems.

Even so, rural areas of the US, as well as in many underdeveloped parts of the world, are reported to be the most likely of areas to gain this new wireless broadband technology once it takes hold by 2013 or so, because those areas don’t have as much Internet access, but are certain to have plenty of white spaces due to less over-the-air digital TV channels. Larger cities, which have more TV channels on air, are less likely to have “white spaces,” though “channel bonding” [more than one empty TV channel] can increase the available bandwidth.

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Truly Independent…or In Bed With a Major?

Truly Independent…or In Bed With a Major?

In early June 2011, a rapper out of Kansas City named Tech N9ne came out with an album entitled “All 6’s and 7’s.” In its debut week, it sold over 55,000 copies, enough for it to enter in at number 4 on the Billboard 200 album charts, behind only Gaga, Adele, and the cast recording of the hit Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon.” What else was so great about it? As MTV’s website reported, Tech N9ne released the album independently, and had a strong fan base to thank for his success.

Tech N9ne, with the help of business partner Travis O’Guin, has, through their Strange Music label, released his own material independently through their Strange Music label since 1999, and has taken in about $15 million in the decade since. He says that he’s been getting calls from major labels even before his current album was released, but says he won’t be so quick to sign such a deal.

But is Tech N9ne really independent? It depends on how that meaning can be interpreted, because, on the one hand, Strange Music’s product is distributed through Fontana Distribution, an independent-level subsidiary of major-label Universal Music Group, which would put Tech and his label in bed with a major. [Sure enough, the slogan Fontana uses on its website reads, “Independent on a Major Level.”] On the other hand, if Strange Music were to own the master recordings, it would make them independent based on that standard.

By comparison, indie legend Ani DiFranco, whose Righteous Babe Records has, in the 20-plus years that her company’s been in existence, hasn’t (at least to the best of my knowledge), used a major-label’s indie-level subsidiary to distribute its product, which would make her company a “true independent.”

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Followups: Rebecca Black and Rupert Murdoch on the Fame Clock

Followups: Rebecca Black and Rupert Murdoch on the Fame Clock

A couple of subjects from some of my past blogs have been getting some press lately. The first has been doing some new things, while the second has gotten into some deep trouble.

Let’s start with Rebecca Black, whom I’ve written about twice already in light of her instant success from, as well as the controversies behind, her song “Friday.” Lately, it seems like Black’s fame clock hasn’t quite run out yet. First, she did a quickie cameo appearance in the video of Katy Perry’s hit “Last Friday Night.”

Play Youtube VideoKaty Perry: Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)


Now, just as this is being written, Black is about to release a followup to “Friday,” entitled “My Moment,” which she will put up first on YouTube and iTunes, to be followed in August 2011 by a 5-song EP, which she will release herself rather than through a label, so at least she and her mom are already learning to hang on to those master recordings.

Just a few words of advice to Ms. Black, from a layperson’s perspective…just make sure you put together a grassroots tour that would benefit you financially. Options would range from a “mall tour,” like everyone from Tiffany to Selena Gomez has done over the years, with a corporate sponsor to back it; to maybe playing some small auditoriums. I was going to suggest “house concerts,” but I think you’re a bit too popular for those.

While Rebecca Black is getting more time added to her fame clock, Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate whom I wrote about last month for his plans to innovate digital education, is loosing the fame clock. Maybe you’ve known by now that Murdoch had to shut down one of his newspapers in London after charges circulated that the paper’s staff had hacked cellphones of everyone from victims of murder and 9/11/01 terrorism to celebrities and government officials.

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Three Terrific New Net Thingies: 1) Google+, 2) Skype/Facebook, and 3) Spotify U.S. Debut

Three Terrific New Net Thingies: 1) Google+, 2) Skype/Facebook, and 3) Spotify U.S. Debut

In no particular order, here are three terrific new things that are making, or are about to make, their presence felt on the Nets.

1. Google+

MySpace was eclipsed by Facebook, but can Google+ eclipse Facebook? Currently in test mode with limited invitations, which may explain why I haven’t tried it yet, Google+ is already getting some writeups all over the Web.

Google handled its late June 2011 launch of Google+ rather modestly, with just a blog and some video demos, but it does give some idea of what it will offer. Like “Circles” that could be a modern-day variation on those “Friends & Family” calling circles that the old long-distance company MCI had way back in the pre-Net 1990’s.

Google+ is also going to feature “Sparks” that enable content to be shared, because Google considers the Web to be “the ultimate icebreaker.”

Also, in a twist on the ideas of online chats and instant messaging, Google+ offers “Hangouts” that allow for multiple, in addition to one-on-one, communication. Oh, yes, and they’ll also extend the ideas to “Mobile,” thus furthering the experience.

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Celebrity Leverage: Can Justin Timberlake Bring MySpace Back?

Celebrity Leverage: Can Justin Timberlake Bring MySpace Back?

As June 2011 was winding down, reports came out that MySpace—once the top social network on the Internet before being overtaken by Facebook—was sold for way less than a tenth of what it previously cost to purchase it.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which paid more than half a billion dollars to buy MySpace from founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson back in 2005, sold the social networking site for a reported $35 million to Specific Media LLC, whose co-founder and chief executive, Tim Vanderhook, said would build MySpace into “a digital media company on par with Yahoo, AOL, Facebook and all the other big names out there.”

One of the minority investors in Specific Media’s purchase of MySpace is Singer-Actor Justin Timberlake, who Specific’s press release says, will “play a major role in developing the creative direction and strategy for the company moving forward.” Timberlake said in the same press release that MySpace “has the potential” to be that place “where fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect.” There were also reports that Timberlake was considering turning Myspace into a talent search site, or at least considering that as one component.

While it hasn’t been disclosed how much of a stake Timberlake has in Specific Media’s MySpace purchase, his plans to help bring MySpace back is but another example of celebrity leverage. The idea of star entertainers and athletes owning businesses goes way back to the days of the silent movies, when prominent, yet controversial, film director D.W. Griffith, and stars Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. helped found United Artists way back in 1919. That historic brand name is currently owned, in part, by actor Tom Cruise.

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Music Education Startup Chromatik Is on a Three Month Funding Tour—a Slam Dunk for Any Early Stage Investor

Music Education Startup Chromatik Is on a Three Month Funding Tour—a Slam Dunk for Any Early Stage Investor

We are experiencing a bit of “June gloom” in Southern California, but that doesn’t mean we are without our requisite ray of sunshine. Last Friday here in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to visit with Chromatik Founder, Matt Sandler, who is heading-up one of the brightest startups based in Southern California—Chromatik Music—a ray of sunshine indeed. As a matter of fact, Chromatik might just be one of my favorite startups eva’ because Chromatik combines my love for music, education, tech, and yes—a ton of progressive innovation << and all that entails. Least not, one of the most important factors for any startup, the combined RAQ (relationship acquisition intelligence) of the Chromatik team alone makes this startup gleam—they’ve covered their court with cross-platform strategies and any investor interested in courtside seats should get ‘em while they’re hot.

What is Chromatik? In essence, Chromatik is doing for music what the Rosetta Stone did for languages—Chromatik (a word-play on a musical term, as in a chromatic scale) is redefining how students learn music by offering an adaptive learning platform that brings the world’s best music techniques, teachers, and resources to students’ fingertips via mobile and desktop applications. Founder Matt Sandler says,

“Our overarching goal is to blend the best practices of music education with what is possible in technology today. Tons and tons of people are learning music throughout the world, but music education hasn’t changed since Bach and Beethoven. Yes, we’re seeing the ‘gamification’ of music—Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Miso Music—and those are great stepping stones, but the fact remains we don’t have anything that actually helps you learn an instrument and approach music in a pedagogically-appropriate way.”

And in a world where schools are adopting new technology left and right (Kindles, iPad’s), whether state-funded, parent-funded or self-funded, and in a world where kids live, breath, and eat “gadgets and tech”—the melding of Sandler’s concept (education + music + tech) sits beautifully in a steady-state pocket of harmonic overtone perfection coiffing through band hall just moments after a Mozart Quintet releases its last note, um…let’s say the Mozart K452 Quintet in E-flat Major. Yes, that’s it. Sweet!

Founder Matt Sandler

Twenty-three-year-old Matt Sandler is energetic and perfectly-cast in the role of Founder. Sandler, an East Coast transplant whose father was a Salesman and whose family has roots grounded in music, attended UCLA, has his degree in Saxophone Performance (<< cool!), and has taught woodwinds in Los Angeles Unified and Huntington Beach Unified School Districts. Sandler has also worked A&R at Capital Records in Hollywood (<< the gig I always wanted!), helped program music at the “world famous” KROQ (106.7) here in Los Angeles, (plus attended a couple of “them KROQ Weenie Roasts”); and in the startup world, Sandler curates the Los Angeles Startup Digest and was on the early team of the social media marketing startup CitizenNet.

For a twenty-three-year-old relatively new transplant, I’d say Sandler has transitioned exceptionally well to the Los Angeles lifestyle (currently residing in Santa Monica). When we met he was adorning the “native Angelino uniform,” aka Hollywood Casual, which consists of a great pair of blue jeans and an even greater pair of flip-flops (that all non-natives adopt the minute their ship sets sail, their anchor strikes pay-dirt, and their heart docks somewhere between the worlds 18th largest Port in Long Beach, the 18th hole on Trumps National Golf Course in Palos Verdes, and the 18 bikini-clad ‘girls gone wild’ in Malibu).

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Touche To The Douche TechCrunch—From The Silicon To The Silicone

Touche To The Douche TechCrunch—From The Silicon To The Silicone

A TechCrunch article today announced a new Silicon Valley douchebag: “There’s a new douchebag in town. We’ve written several times about how easy it is now to start a company in the Valley, and this new gold seeker isn’t the biz dev guy. He’s the knock-off wunderkind.”

Funny—just yesterday while attending an AIMP (Association of Independent Music Publishers) lunch at The House Of Blues in Hollywood, I sat next to a native Angelino in the independent music publishing business and yes, I proceeded to chat his ear off—that’s what I do best—great conversation ensued, including that of “the douchebag.” We were there for a panel called “Show Me More Money” (reviewing royalty statements, questioning PRO’s, conducting royalty audits, etc.), which I suppose is oddly appropriate for a quick-blip commentary on “douchebagery,” plus nary I waste a face-to-face opportunity to meet and greet industry people—relationships are king. Although, make no mistake, yesterday’s AIMP panel was the bomb—brilliant minds in the fields of finance and litigation, including the creator of (David) Bowie Bonds, coming together on a serious subject. I merely found the panel title, “Show Me More Money,” somewhat humorous against the douchebag backdrop of this post.

Anyway, during our conversation when I found out my ‘new best friend’ was born and raised in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills to be precise, I asked him how he felt about all of the transplants, i.e. non-natives, who manage to follow the yellow brick road, making their way to a place where dreams come true and only the tough survive—welcome to Hollywood. On the whole, he said that he loved the influx of new people into the L.A. scene, but very keenly noted that yes, there was a Hollywood Douchebag, often a transplant, and it wasn’t pretty.

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Gamification—What Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

Gamification—What Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

Gamification. It has become one the top buzz words in tech advertising. Every agency that makes websites or apps for non-gaming products have started looking at the advantages and disadvantages of this new concept.

New Concept?

Yes, for those outside of gaming, this concept of gamification is BRAND new. The idea of game concepts in a serious business doesn’t seem to be a normal leap. First, let’s examine the concept of gamification.

Definition: Gamification is the integration of game theory or concept to non-gaming environments to increase engagement, loyalty, and entertainment values. Simply, engage users in a better way. This can be applied to any industry from health and fitness to education and transportation.

How to apply this to your needs. First a basic understanding of your customers is key. People want to feel accomplished and recognized. Then they like to share within their social circles. Games are the epitome of the Risk/ Reward system. To apply these to your business will most likely yield great results. So let’s take imaginary company X and apply this:

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Rupert Murdoch…Digital Education Innovator?

Rupert Murdoch…Digital Education Innovator?

In one of my previous blogs, I wrote about school being out and virtual school being in. The latest twist on this idea could come from someone you never thought would involve himself in education, but this person has what he thinks is a good reason why.

Say what you want about media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, but at a Paris forum of Internet entrepreneurs and European policymakers, the 20th Century-Fox / Wall Street Journal / Sky News owner said that education was “the last holdout from the digital revolution,” and that “today’s classroom looks almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age.” That’s the 19th century he was just referencing.

Mr. Murdoch also told this forum, the e-G8 conference, attended by everyone from Google head Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to President Sarkozy of France, that throwing money at the problem doesn’t work, and challenged the assembled to “bring to our schools the same creative force that makes businesses competitive and nations thrive.”

Rupert Murdoch

Given that this is the same Rupert Murdoch who’s had his hands in everything over the years from those naked “Page 3 Girls” in his daily Sun tabloid in London to such “wild” TV cartoon shows as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” to the “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel, who knew that he would go into the education business? And to help him out in this cause, he hired a former New York City schools chancellor named Joel Klein.

Even while he was running the schools in New York City, then-Chancellor Klein supervised a pilot project in the Chinatown neighborhood back in 2009 called “School of One,” which implies the kind of online individualized instruction that Mr. Murdoch has been pushing for, in a variation on that “Victorian age” model of an adult giving lessons to a group of young students who learn at different levels.

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Lady Gaga and the Bigger 360 Monster; Plus Backplane and Beyond

Lady Gaga and the Bigger 360 Monster; Plus Backplane and Beyond

Statistically speaking, there is no denying that Lady Gaga is the most powerful celebrity in the world. In making that declaration, Forbes magazine noted that Gaga took in $90 million in 2010. There’s also no denying how extremely popular Gaga is on Facebook and Twitter, to say nothing of what she wears, nor the stands she takes on many of the hot-button issues of the day. And while Lady Gaga is the creative master-mind behind Lady Gaga Inc., she shares the business stage with Troy Carter, her Manager and the quintessential digital strategist behind her well-oiled machine—a duo like none other who claim to practice the 95/5 rule.  [95% of the time Carter does not comment on the creative side and 95% of the time Gaga does not comment on the business side—a “real trust relationship”.]

Nor can you deny how the Mother Monster herself can also do those little things for some of her Little Monsters, like feeding pizza and doughnuts to a couple dozen fans waiting in line for a couple of days outside the NBC Television studios in New York City for tickets to “Saturday Night Live”, where Gaga was not only the musical act on that show’s 2011 season finale, but also joined in some sketches with guest star Justin Timberlake.

But have you ever wondered that someone’s been making money off her power? When major-label leader Universal Music Group [UMG], through its Interscope brand, signed Lady Gaga way back in 2007, they gave her one of those “360 deals”, in which the label takes a cut of any money Gaga takes in, whether it be through album sales, concert tickets, endorsements, website, anything. And the label still owns the master recordings and music videos, among a few other things.

Troy Carter

So far, according to The Wrap’s Johnnie L. Roberts, who cited executives familiar with the numbers, UMG’s share of Gaga’s success these last 4 years has reportedly totaled $200 million, and perhaps with the blitz that centered around her latest album, “Born This Way”, as well as the new Gaga, Google-Chrome commercial, it wouldn’t be surprising if the label’s share cracks the quarter-billion dollar mark.  Of course, we wonder if her label also has a “360” claim in the development of the yet-to-be-unveiled, integrated social platform for celebrities called Backplane, which is led by Troy Carter and a team of seven, including technology investor and entrepreneur Matthew Michelsen [with Lady Gaga acting as an informal consultant with a 20% shareholder stake] and described by Carter as “a platform meant to power online communities around specific interests, like musicians and sports teams, and to integrate feeds from Facebook, Twitter and other sites,” in a recent interview by The New York Times.  Oh who are we kidding, we’d hedge a bet the label has some claim on Gaga’s shares of Backplane—unless there was a legal wrap-around loophole found on behalf of Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Germanotta.

As powerful as the Mother Monster is, I’m thinking, were it not for that 360 deal she has with the Bigger Monster that is the major record label, she would have gotten millions of dollars more than she’s getting now.

Bob Donnelly, of the law firm Lommen, Abdo, Cole, King & Stageberg, wrote about why artists should “do a 180″ on a 360 deal. In addition to extending on the analogy that signing a major-label recording contract is like “taking out a mortgage on a house, repaying the mortgage in full, but the bank winds up owning your house,” Bob says that long-term recording contracts of 8 years’ duration are that way because the labels want that “reasonable return on their investment.” Terms that, as Bob elaborates, motion picture companies and book publishers don’t require.

The record label’s cut from a 360 deal are based on gross revenues, but Bob wonders why that is when the artists and their managers don’t get paid on gross. And if an artist, hypothetically, has to give 20% of tour income to the label, after paying all the production costs and commissions to manager, booking agent, lawyer and business manager, Bob figures that artist is left with half of every net touring dollar, while the label pockets the other half.

Mr. Donnelly also makes some arguments in favor of the 360 deal, if the label used it as collateral against what they spend on the artist, and then revert the 360 rights back to that artist once the debt is paid back, it would make more sense. However, as Bob also writes, many 360 deals extend the label’s rights beyond recoupment, probably to the extent that the label would still take a cut of the artist’s earnings even if the label chooses not to release any more recordings.

What’s to say if Lady Gaga would have gone with one of two alternatives that Bob recommends—either a “Net Profits Deal” [label and artist split profits after manufacturing, distribution and marketing are deducted] or a “Self-Release Deal” [finance your own recording and own the masters, which would be a more truly independent deal]? And what’s to say if, a few years from now, Gaga will come out and say that she lost millions on that 360 deal she signed in 2007 and wants to do that 180?

And if she does, perhaps the time will come when those millions of Little Monsters get asked to “crowd-fund” a future album for their Mother Monster. Or perhaps, going a step further than crowd-funding, what if the Little Monsters could get an actualized monetary return on their investment; which is exactly the vision of start-up company ROCK STOCK, which aims to educate fans on investing and money by providing an opportunity for a fan to invest in their favorite artist, thus providing a new revenue stream and a new economy for artists, industry, brands, and fans by measuring parts and monetizing the sum of an artists career—where artists are stock purchasable by fans. In essence, Rock Stock is Kickstarter with equity.

Well…until that happens, Gaga has to put up with the Bigger Monster that is the 360 deal.

Music and Money: Exceptions and Empties and ‘The Internet’s Half-Million Dollar Man’

Music and Money: Exceptions and Empties and ‘The Internet’s Half-Million Dollar Man’

An NPR blog calls Jonathan Coulton “The Internet’s Half-Million Dollar Man”, and for good reason. Jonathan, a Yale-graduated software designer whose music is described as “nerd-folk”, and whose song “Code Monkey” got some run from the Slashdot discussion board back in 2006, took in over $500,000 in 2010, mostly by him selling his unique songs directly from his website.

Granted, half a million bucks isn’t that much money, but consider this statistic: For every $1000 in music sold, the average musician makes $23.40. If Jonathan Coulton were on a major label, instead of getting the half million dollars from sales of his recordings, he would be getting only $11,700, assuming he were part of a 4-member band, which is what this average was, to that extent, based on. And if you counted just him, multiply that by 4, and it would be $46,800. Whatever the amount, chances are it would get eaten up by recoupable expenses.

By doing it himself, and keeping overhead costs low,  Jonathan was able to keep most of that half million he took in. All in all, not bad for a guy who challenged himself in 2005 and ’06 with “Thing a Week”, in which Jonathan recorded a song every week for a 52-week stretch.

Despite the thinking of some that Jonathan is an “exception” to the old ways of breaking a musical act, if he can develop his own market for his own musical material, then anyone can.

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Cheaper By the Groupon

Cheaper By the Groupon

If you’ve seen Groupon, you’ve noticed that their online offers, usually for restaurants and businesses, are generally given at a discount of between 50 and 90 percent. It’s those kinds of offers that have made Groupon one of the Internet’s newest and hottest things going, as well as has inspired competitors ranging from LivingSocial and Bloomspot to even discount offer ventures from Legacy Media, such as the Tampa Tribune’s “TribRewards.”

So what’s Groupon got up their sleeves next? How about offering discounts for concert tickets? Live Nation, by far the leading promoter of major rock concerts and other events, as well as owner of 117 venues worldwide, including the House of Blues chain; plus a fledgling record label; the artist-management firm Front Line Management; and the ticket-selling enterprise Ticketmaster, has been in a slump lately, with seats to many of their concerts left unsold due to high prices. Those unsold seats have been a big factor in Live Nation continuing to lose money.

With the usually-big summer concert season approaching, Live Nation has joined forces with Groupon to offer concert tickets at half off face value, on a limited-time-only basis.  The venture, called Groupon Live, is expected to launch just in time for that summer season, and will, according to Live Nation executive Michael Rapino, “help artists and others to reach ever larger audiences” while “driv[ing] value for fans” and provide venues “with another option for driving ticket sales across a wide range of events.”

So that $50 concert ticket could end up being worth a decent $25, maybe less. But I’m not sure I would expect those discounts to be available for every ticket or every event. Nor would I expect every act whose tour is promoted through Live Nation to agree to such discounts. But even so, it’s what many, myself included, think is a step in the right direction as far as concert ticket prices go.

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Cap the Net…Spoil the Competition? Super Wi-Fi, Broadband Co-Op’s, and Mesh Networks? And Could Google Become the New Word for ‘Internet Service Provider’?

Cap the Net…Spoil the Competition? Super Wi-Fi, Broadband Co-Op’s, and Mesh Networks? And Could Google Become the New Word for ‘Internet Service Provider’?

So AT&T is about to join Comcast and a few others by imposing limits on how much wired broadband subscribers can download per month. While 150-250 gigabytes a month isn’t as extreme as smaller caps in other parts of the world, never mind the caps imposed on many wireless broadband subscribers, it renders the idea of unlimited broadband service all but irrelevant here in the U.S. And that’s on top of the fact that U.S. broadband customers pay more for slower broadband than most other industrialized nations.

These same companies also provide cable TV service that isn’t subject to the imposition of limits on how much a subscriber can watch.

When another cable concern, Time Warner, which hasn’t imposed any downloading limits as of yet, is said to have made, from its revenues, 30 times what it spent on providing broadband service to its customers, then on the surface it could be suggested that the caps that service providers are imposing on Internet downloads is a money grab.

True, AT&T suggested that only 2% of its subscribers will be affected by the caps, and the average consumer downloads 18 gigabytes a month. But when everything from cloud computing and storage to Netflix is either already happening or in the process of happening online, that means more gigabytes to download, and more people at risk of breaking the cap and having to pay more, if not get their service cut off.

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Will School Be Out…And Virtual School Be In?

Will School Be Out…And Virtual School Be In?

Back in 1972, legendary rock star Alice Cooper recorded a song that has since become an anthem for the end of the school year. “School’s Out” contained in its lyrics an old childhood rhyme in which the end of school meant no more pencils, books, or teachers’ dirty looks.

A couple of decades after, Lewis J. Perelman, who served as a strategic consultant to industry on matters of technology, published a book entitled, interestingly enough, “School’s Out: Hyperlearning, the New Technology, and the End of Education.” He also wrote a lengthy guest column based on that book for the debut issue of Wired magazine in early 1993. What Perelman touched on in both his book and his Wired column about how “hyperlearning” would replace a 19th-century based “worker-factory” model of education that, he wrote for Wired, has “as much utility in today’s modern economy of advanced information technology as the Conestoga wagon or the blacksmith shop,” is beginning to come true in the early 2010’s.

In one of my previous blogs about how one high school in my home area started replacing hard-copy printed textbooks with the same on electronic Kindle readers, I also mentioned about “virtual schools” that are being tried in practically every state in the US. Some are private, while others are public, but the purpose is the same—to provide students from kindergarten to senior year of high school with an online alternative to on-campus education, particularly when it comes to subjects that aren’t available on campus because certain schools can’t afford to bring in teachers who specialize in those subjects.

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The Countdown Begins: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…PlayStation Network Hacked

The Countdown Begins: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…PlayStation Network Hacked

Will Sony PlayStation Network get back up off the mat?

It has been six days and Sony PlayStation Network is still down. Initially, the outage as reported by IDG, Sony said the outage was caused by an external intrusion, but for five days Sony had yet to provide details.

As a gamer, I found that troubling. I could imagine the service being down for a day, but at that point, since there wasn’t any news on what was happening—the frustration was mounting.

Then Tuesday night of day five, Sony announced that PlayStation Network has been hacked into and revealed that information of PSN user accounts was accessed during the intrusion—names, addresses, birth dates, passwords, security questions and answers.

There is no way of telling the effects to the user base Sony will incure at this time, but if all things being equal, they have a long, hard uphill battle to face. The real question is how this will change the perception that Sony can compete with Xbox in the network space.

PlayStation users have been vocal on Twitter and Facebook, perhaps Sony will have to appease the angry villagers some way.

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Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Yesterday, O’Reilly Media researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden released an article exposing a hidden file that records every movement  of an iPhone. All iPhones store location data in a file called consolidated.db. Warden released an OS X application to show users the significance of their discovery. The application shows each user where they have been since last July. Not only is the data stored on your phone but also your computer.

This database of your locations is stored on your iPhone as well as in any of the automatic backups that are made when you sync it with iTunes.

This isn’t the first time we have heard of the file. In fact in February 2011, Sean Morrissey and Alex Levinson previewed Lantern 2.0 at a Cyber Crimes Conference in Washington DC.  Lantern 2.0 however is a commercial forensics product that retails from $600-700. And before that, Alex Levinson began work on the vulenerabilities of iPhone and iPad. Check that out by clicking here.

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