Many times, videos posted on YouTube are removed whenever anyone from a record label to a TV network to the National Football League can claim copyright to anything that infringes on their intellectual property.
But what if a record label orders an instructional video that has no music on it to be taken down? I mean, it’s bad enough that Universal Music Group [UMG] can lay claim to Zoë Keating’s works even though she never signed a deal with them. Now, there’s Warner Music Group [WMG] taking down a video posted on YouTube by one Teresa Richardson in which she teaches crocheting, and has been seen over 50,000 times. Did Ms. Richardson ever sign a deal with WMG? Highly doubtful, since that video had no music on it, but that matter was eventually resolved, and her video was posted back on YouTube.
As for UMG, they apparently haven’t learned from their Zoë Keating mistake. Now, they’ve recently ordered a takedown of a video by a rap act that isn’t actually signed to their label. Granted, this is a more interesting case because it involves the unsigned act, After the Smoke, recording a “beat,” then shopping it around before drawing the interest of a rapper named Yelawolf, who then recorded his own words over this beat just as he got signed to UMG.
But then Yelawolf’s track got leaked, After the Smoke never got credit, then recorded their own track over the beat they themselves recorded, and that version was the one that got taken down because, UMG assumed, Yelawolf got to it first. According to Techdirt’s report, it turned out that neither UMG nor Yelawolf had officially licensed the “beat,” but when After the Smoke’s complaint to YouTube resulted in them claiming UMG “owned the track,” the label realized what they made a mistake and backed off.
Accounts like these are part of what happens when major record labels that complain about Internet “piracy” decide to become pirates themselves by staking claims to material that isn’t really theirs to begin with. And it’s no surprise that UMG and WMG are among the best at bogus extreme takedowns. Some of their past efforts were enough to put them in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Takedown Hall of Shame.”
by Kathleen Blackwell
Welcome, 2012. I, for one, am happy 2012 is underway and look forward to a year of opportunity and change, even amidst global uncertainty. On my holiday reading list was a pay-it-forward book passed to me by a friend: Who Moved My Cheese, a New York Times business bestseller since it’s release. The book describes change in one’s career and life and the four typical reactions to change by two mice—Sniff and Scurry—and two “littlepeople”—Hem and Haw—during their hunt for cheese. Cheese is a metaphor for what we want to have in life, such as a job, a relationship, money or a big house. Cheese can even be an activity, like jogging or golf—or starting a business, or investing in one with traction.
2011 brought widespread disruption across the globe on all levels, from the Occupy movement in the U.S., to the tsunami devastation in Japan, to the Grecian fallout, and the ending of the U.S. invasion in Iraq—this list barely touches the surface and left many people wondering what 2012 would bring against the backdrop of events that will undoubtedly lead us into a new future—yes, change. When the only constant is change, how you manage change can make all the difference in the world. How do you handle change? How do you lead your business into a new year and navigate the high seas amidst uncertainty? Do you “sniff and scurry” or do you “hem and haw”?
Let’s check in with David Siemer, Managing Director of Siemer & Associates LLC, a global boutique merchant bank, and Managing Partner of Siemer Ventures, its early-stage investment arm and an active investment fund in Southern California, to see how he handles change with some Q&A on the global M&A market, 2012 venture capital trends, the LA tech startup scene, plus Siemer’s golden nugget advice for success as an entrepreneur.
Prior to the mad-dash holiday rush, I had an opportunity to interview David Siemer, and while it’s common knowledge the Mayans predicted the end of the world as we know it in 2012, Siemer and company have another perspective. Siemer sees ample opportunity in the right places, in the right sectors, and at the right time. Pursued with excitement and armed with data—moving with the cheese is Siemer’s golden ticket to success in 2012. While Europe is in a funk, Southeast Asia is wide open, brimming with momentum for investments and growth, and the LA tech scene is stamping its mark. Change is your ally—welcome to the future. Now let’s get cozy with Dave Siemer:
While Microsoft decided to make their presence at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas their last, and Apple chose not to exhibit at CES this year, that didn’t mean thousands of others stayed away. CES 2012 was not complete without technological newness. Here’s five newbie-gadgets that I thought were noteworthy:
Mobile computing, at least the kind that has keyboards, has progressed over just the last 5 years from notebooks [laptops] to netbooks to ultrabooks. After Intel revealed last year that it was putting new processing chips inside these ultrabooks, made them 4/5 of an inch thick, combined elements of netbooks, tablets and notebooks, and priced them around $1000—give or take a few hundred, depending on the features—companies like Dell, Samsung, and HP began showing off the new machines at CES 2012.
Inspired by Apple’s MacBook Air—whether these thinner, lighter machines will sell, never mind work—as good as the other types of mobile computers that are around, remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if by next year a unique enough market for ultrabooks establishes itself.
No way would you pay $79 for an ice cream sandwich that can be had for a fraction of that price at your favorite convenience store. But you could pay that much, perhaps slightly more, for a tablet that uses Google’s new Ice Cream Sandwich [code name for Android 4.0] operating system.
Chinese firm Ainovo showed off their Novo7 Paladin tablet to Engadget's Brian Heater at the CES, and while there's nothing high-end, in terms of video display or the lack of a camera or GPS, he wrote that it's good for casual gaming and watching YouTube videos.
Ainovo's website says theirs is the first tablet to make use of the Ice Cream Sandwich OS. It list-prices the Novo7 Paladin at $89, and the Basic [with the front and back cameras] at $99, and has not yet made available their Swordsman and Legend tablets. With a 7-inch screen, built in WiFi and 3G networking, the battery power for their tablets can last anywhere from 6 hours, if you're playing a game, to 25 hours if you're listening to music, to as much as 300 hours if on standby. Storage is 1 GB internally, but can be up to 4 with an external drive, though there has been talk of expanding that to 8.
It wouldn't surprise me if Ainovo were to develop a tablet that takes advantage of 4G wireless.
By Kathleen Blackwell
Last Thursday night, I attended the second installment of one *badass* Meetup event: Tech Cofounder Dating L.A. featuring Google AND Justin Timberlake funded “Miso Media,” a developer of music education apps for Mobile/iPad devices, held at BLANKSPACES LA. Organizer, Aaron Abram brought his A-game—securing Miso Media’s Founder/CEO, Aviv Grill, and VP of Engineering, Brandon Goldman, for an upfront and personal discussion on what it takes to build a successful tech startup company. Aviv and Brandon shared their “off the record” journey—from flat-broke living with their parents to $3 million in Venture Capital (VC) funding.
In one word…WOW! Don’t take your butt off your seat until you read this inspirational story of Miso Media—it’s all about “the CEO hustle.” Do you have what it takes? Hang on for the ride.
Organizer Aaron Abram’s opening remark: “Tech Cofounder Dating L.A. is designed for people who are looking to join, build and expand their tech companies—we are a resource to help you succeed, and Miso Media is committed to our endeavor.” It was a sold-out crowd with 51 participants. Many familiar faces returned to the “cofounder matchmaking series,” which debuted as an instant hit this past November. As a matter of fact, at a recent fireside-chat I attended hosted by DocStoc, featuring TechCrunch Founder, Michael Arrington, Arrington himself mentioned that if he had the extra time, he would help develop a series focused on connecting up founders. […seems like Organizer Aaron Abram is ahead of the curve!]
Tech Cofounder Dating L.A. also saw the return of the trendiest mini cupcakes in town sponsored by BIGMANBAKES—(serving up fresh, moist, mini cupcakes in assorted flavors like “old school,” “red velvet cake,” yummy “carrot cake” and “black & white”—delish!) which attendees cleaned off by the event’s end, leaving no crumbs in sight. Also making the rounds that night, was celebrity/corporate photographer, Jonah Light, whose long list of loyal clients include: UCLA, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Warner Brothers, Forbes, Virgin Records, Creative Artists Agency, National Geographic, ESPN, LA Dodgers, Carl’s Jr., Robbin’s Brothers…just to name a few.
Miso Media is a Silicon Beach-based startup that develops ground-breaking music technology and mobile/iPad applications. By combining polyphonic note detection and real-time feedback, Miso Media is revolutionizing music education and music notation, and teaching people how to play music in creative, new ways. Think Guitar Hero with real notes, real instruments and real learning.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 labels—Jive, Arista, 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.
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.
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.
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 & 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
Okay, so I should probably entitle this article “Tech Bitch,” as that’s the way I’m going to sound, alas I can’t hold back anymore. I suppose I am prompted to let go here based upon an article I read earlier today that was posted in the Los Angeles Startup Digest Reading List for this week. The article? “Getting Users For Your New Startup,” in which author Philip Kaplan (Pud’s Blog), simply states to “Start Controversy.”
Here we go. Ready?
I have three big beefs and it’s in regards to another article I read today. TechCrunch writer, Alexia Tsotsis, wrote about 500 Startups-backed Kibin in an article titled, “Editing Community Kibin Helps You Proofread Your Writing Fast And For Free.” Tsotsis writes, “Kibin is an editing community that allows you to upload a piece of writing and get it edited and proofread for free in a matter of 24 hours.” Tsotsis then goes on to make this statement, “You have no idea how much I want this to succeed.”
Great! Me too. The problem I’m having with Alexia Tsotsis’ statement is that I don’t believe she really wants this startup to succeed and as a practicing editor and writer myself, that totally bums me out. Why do I feel this way? To be honest, it’s because I think an editing service like Kibin is desperately needed. They are aiming to fill a market void with a creative approach and when I heard the concept emerge as one of the favorites at 500 Startups Demo Day earlier this week, I was thrilled…until I read Tsotsis’ TechCrunch article today.
1. EDITORIAL RESPONSIBILITY
The proofreading example provided by Tsotsis showing how Kibin works had a huge, glaring, grammatical, this-is-not-rocket-science mistake. Whether the example provided was insisted upon by Kibin, or not, or whether Tsotsis drummed it up herself, I feel that since Tsotsis appears to post her own articles, she had an editorial responsibility to at least review the example, find the this-is-not-so-rocket-science mistake and as a common courtesy to Kibin, ask that they provide another example.
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.”
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.
In no particular order, here are three terrific new things that are making, or are about to make, their presence felt on the Nets.
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.
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.
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!
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).
This blog is a tale of two recording artists who have been involved in recent disputes over their recordings. The first of these is about the aftermath of one of the most-watched videos ever on YouTube.
Back in April 2011, I wrote about the hubbub surrounding Rebecca Black’s YouTube sensation-of-a-song entitled “Friday.” Part of the hubbub concerned ownership of the master recordings of that song, for which—reportedly, I stress—Rebecca Black’s mother, Georgina Kelly, paid $4000 in production costs to Ark Music Factory—whose co-owners, Pat Wilson and Clarence Jey, wrote “Friday”—in exchange for that ownership.
In conjunction with that issue were charges of copyright infringement and unlawful exploitation against Ark by Black’s lawyers, who sent Ark a letter to that extent back in March. The lawyers specifically noted in their letter that Rebecca Black never got the master recordings and that Ark didn’t have any rights to promote her.
During a video advertising summit meeting held in New York during the first week of June 2011, representatives from Comcast/NBC, TimeWarner’s Turner, and Disney’s ESPN, predicted that TV “everywhere” was imminent, and that by 2013, three-fourths of TV content would be available online and on mobile devices.
The representatives are already aware of the impact that Netflix is making, but they also think that broadband caps could be what would hold it back, to say nothing of trying to clear the rights for much of that content.
Since Comcast is both an owner of cable-phone-broadband systems, as well as a content provider through its ownership of NBC, USA, Syfy, MSNBC, CNBC, Versus, Golf Channel, Weather Channel, Bravo, Oxygen and a few other channels, it can be argued that the idea of “TV everywhere” advocated by Comcast, among others, could clash with their own idea of capping their subscribers’ use of broadband.
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.
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:
No, not that Mark Zuckerberg might change his relationship status as all the news channels have been reporting. There is something more ominous for the social giant. Facebook is losing ground in the U.S. As reported by Inside Facebook, the company has lost more than 6 million users in the U.S. and more than 1.52 million in Canada. The drop is only significant in North America. Meanwhile in UK, Norway, and Russia the drop was less significant with just over 100,000 users.
TO BE CLEAR: Facebook is still growing. Countries in emerging markets are coming on strong (i.e. Mexico, Brazil, India, Indonesia, etc.) Facebook is closing in on the 687 million user mark.
The trend in the U.S. is what is more significant to evaluate. Nothing really seems to be clear about why this happened. Some noted that June comes around and students are leaving their respective schools, Facebook accounts get cancelled. Whatever the reason, this may have a larger impact if the trend continues.
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.”
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.
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.
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.