My friend was excited. Excited enough that he would send a text knowing I was probably still in bed. His business idea, which he had thought would take a few years to become viable, was already picking up steam in the collective consciousness. There is nothing better than the wave arriving earlier than you had anticipated if you are prepared to hop up on your board and start surfing. He asked if someone would fund a young guy who had not finished college on a capital-intensive venture. I told him yes, but he would need killer advisors and mentors that had the experience that he lacked.
His response, quite typical of our generation, was, ”So pretty much I just have a shitload of networking to do?”
Nothing against my friend, but we have collectively become the networking generation. As a group we are constantly reaching out for the weakest connections and the ambition of breaking 500+ on LinkedIn. After being involved with startups and the music industry for a while now it has gotten a bit frustrating.
I texted back, “You need to build relationships. To me, networking always feels like flies jumping from one pile of shit to another.”
My friend laughed and agreed.
The value you can extract from a relationship is directly related to the amount of value you put in. Think about that person you are meeting for the first time as a human being, not just a pile of flesh you can pitch your startup to. The entire entrepreneurial community thrives on meaningful relationships. Let’s become the relationship generation.
I’ve never actually watched a Star Trek movie outside of the modern JJ Abrahams interpretation but this moment in The Wrath of Khan has become part of our cultural lexicon:
Yelling “Khaaaaan!” is a way to express dispair and frustration.
Just 10 minutes ago I saw I had received a Facebook message from my friend Kyle Billings about PG’s most recent essay titled How to Get Startup Ideas. Kyle had outlined some insightful thoughts in multiple paragraphs so I attempted to address all of them in my own extended Facebook message.
The problem was not FB’s messaging system, but with the user interface on the Facebook iPad app. I accidentally tapped outside the sliver of a messaging column and POOF, my paragraphs-long response was gone. I futilely looked to see if Facebook had saved it in the message history between us but sadly they had not. “KHAAAAAAAN!”
I told Kyle I needed to get to a computer before I could rewrite my response because I feared the same problem reoccurring. Instead of responding to him I’m writing this blog post.
What’s your “Wrath of Khan” Moment?
No one is waiting for you
Doors open and doors close.
They don’t open for you but there is the chance to get inside - or outside if you want some air.
When an opportunity arises there will be no marching band declaring it loudly for all to hear. You need to look for signals and be ready. So much of success comes not from a handout but from being able to detect the opportunities that few else are able to perceive. It’s about looking at and playing every angle that could work.
There is no room for being unethical but simply deviating from the norm can sometimes be misconstrued as such by the majority. These are the people that want to color inside the lines and it frightens them when they see someone who dares to color outside of them.
How do you know when the door is open? Sometimes it is unlocked and you will not know until you try the handle.
This is exactly how I got to Midem, the world’s largest music industry conference, for free. I pushed and received a grant from my college then hustled my way to a free conference pass using a combination of LinkedIn and email. The entire time I was respectful but firm. Present a value proposition for all parties, tell your story and move fast. I almost didn’t move fast enough-I found out I had been granted a conference pass the day before I flew from Boston to Cannes. If I hadn’t made it to Cannes I would have lost nothing but a few hours of time.
No one is waiting for you. Quit waiting for opportunities and instead seek them out.
They may not say it but you can tell.
It’s the way they look at you when you when you are talking.
It’s when you know that as soon as you get off the phone they are turning to their friend or co-worker and saying, “those guys are insane.”
They see risk. You see opportunity.
We saw a big problem. Physical album sales were sinking. Ease of access was trumping ownership, causing digital downloads to lose traction to subscription models.
The music industry has long been a fairly pessimistic one. We did not want to look at it in this light. Instead of fretting about the problem we decided to act on a big opportunity for artists.
We created Bundio, a direct-to-fan subscription platform where artists could easily create their own subscriptions, choose how much they wanted to charge per month for access, and make the process convenient and straightforward for all parties. It is built on top of Dropbox, making distribution painless.
A big opportunity lies in monetizing content that isn’t ready or able to be placed on Spotify or iTunes. An artist creates much more than what ends up on the official release. Since the inception of the iTunes store and the ability to purchase single tracks, many artists are moving towards creating incremental releases. Periodically releasing new content works very well with a subscription model. Bundio not only helps to keep fans engaged, but gives an artist a recurring revenue stream and a quicker feedback loop.
We will be launching very soon.
I was watching a Danish film on Netflix a few weeks ago called Klown. I had never heard of the movie but after reading the synopsis I decided to give it a try. From watching the film I discovered comedians Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen. I learned the film was based on their TV show called Klovn and ordered the entire series on DVD. Now I’m (cautiously) looking forward to the American remake by Todd Phillips starring Danny McBride.
Why am I talking about Netflix when I typically discuss startups and the music industry? The ability to consume any and all content has become essential to discovery of the next thing we will love. From Spotify to YouTube, the cost of experimenting with brand new content and creators has been lowered considerably. We no longer need to buy an entire album only to realize we like nothing but the single. We no longer need to worry about being fiscally cautious when it comes to discovery. While the source of discovery will often be on a blog, Twitter, or other social media platform, we instinctively use these services to immediately experience what we just heard about. With these services, we can graze on a plentiful pasture of content; continuing to chew on what we find palatable and spitting out what is not to our taste.
There will continue to be a debate over sensible compensation for streaming content. It is a very real problem that needs further discussion and research. At the same time, artists need to realize that any all-you-can-eat service, free (YouTube) or paid (Spotify), will never be the ideal platform to seek out their biggest revenue streams. It is simply impossible for a fraction of a user’s monthly subscription to equal a CD sale. What is often lost in the discussion about streams is that the user is not paying specifically for any one artist’s music or else they would just buy a handful of albums and be done. They are paying for an ocean; a place to swim deep and see what lies below the surface of familiarity.
While all-you-can-eat content consumption enables anyone to experiment with little risk other than time wasted, there is notably less intimacy between creator and listener. The casual listener gets whatever is available and then either moves on to the next creator or becomes a fan and wants more. When a casual listener changes into a fan this is the time to move them off of the buffet line and convert them into both a customer and evangelist. This is the type of person that will want more than the average listener. They will seek it out at live performances (or movie screenings in the case of Netflix) and online in the form of behind the scenes footage, exclusive tracks, and demos.
It’s time we looked at all-you-can-eat services differently. They are a place for your future fans to find you. Once they do, it becomes time to grow the relationship and move it outside of the cluttered landscape.
I’m not a fan of “best of x” lists. Instead, here are some of the things I experienced this year that were remarkable.
Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson paints each scene with vibrant textures and colors. The movie takes place in 1965 on an island off the coast of New England and tells the story of two pre-teens that fall in love and run away together into the rough wilderness as their town goes searching for them. It tests the belief in the innocence of childhood. Anderson usually has old characters that behave like children so it is fitting that he finally had two child protagonists.
Beasts of the Southern Wild - The story of a little girl living in an off the grid town in Louisiana with her dying father. The water is rising and the town has the very real fear of being swept away. The girl and her father are played brilliantly by untrained actors. It brings another layer of grit and reality.
Klown - Technically not a 2012 release but that is when it finally reached movie theaters in the United States. This is the sort of movie that Judd Apatow aspires to make but, in my opinion, almost always falls short of. This film was considered very raunchy but the amount of heart and range of emotion that the characters display is what makes it so special. The Danish version of Curb Your Enthusiasm in film format.
The Icarus Deception - Seth Godin is at it again with this book about how everyone should be aiming higher and thinking of themselves as artists. The Icarus Deception is that Icarus was only told not to fly too high. He was actually told not to fly too low to the water either. If you want to soar in the new year you should read this book.
The Founder’s Dilemmas - This book is essential reading if you want to build a business with others. Whether a startup or a band, being on the same page with regard to goals and ambitions is crucial. Noam Wasserman examines thousands of companies and the struggles they faced.
Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City - Brad Feld (TechStars) knows a quite a bit about building amazing entrepreneurial communities. This book is an important read for the hacker that feels like they are living in isolation. Few towns are as nice for startups as Boston and Cambridge.
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas - “I love to speak with Leonard. He’s a sportsman and a shepherd. He’s a lazy bastard. Living in a suit.” The opening lines to the ethereal Going Home, the leadoff track to Old Ideas explain exactly why I love Leonard Cohen. His mood is always heavy and he can be a sarcastic ass but he has the wisdom of a saint. Unlike Bob Dylan’s recent music, this album sits comfortably next to older works. Cohen has lost nothing. If anything, he’s has gained an even deeper perspective.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, St. Peter and 57th St. - One of the best New Orleans jazz groups took over Carnegie hall to celebrate their history. They are joined by Del McCoury, Allen Toussaint, Steve Earle, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Trombone Shorty, and many others. The best NOLA jazz is recorded live because it captures the spirit, joy and sorrow of the moment in which it happened.
Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan - A mixed bag (Kesha singing Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright?) but containing more than enough goodness to make a it a must-listen. Look at the track list yourself. My favorite tracks include Mark Knopfler’s Restless Farewell, Elvis Costello’s License to Kill, and Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band’s funky take of Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.
The Dwells, Fortieth Floor - After Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings there came a flood of folksy duos but few came close to what made them so special. The Dwells are less inspired by Welch and owe more to cosmic Americana such as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Their music is slow, even-tempered, and sparsely arranged. Good for an early morning or at the end of a long night.
Charlie the Most, self-titled - I’ve followed this group grow from the very beginning when they were known as the “Boylston Collective” and it’s been amazing to watch their growth. The songs meet at the crossroads of southern blues, old school funk, and Zappa crazy. Keep an eye out for this band because they will be playing in your town soon.
Eleven Dollar Bills, self-titled - This is another group that has me very excited for what is happening in Boston-even though they’ve since moved to Chicago to spread the gospel. Indie rock is far from dead but there are plenty of artists trying to drown in out. Eleven Dollar Bills has a timeless sound; they could have been playing this music in the 70s but they were born later and this decade still suits them fine. Imagine heavy rock and roll mixed with bandleader Jordan Casty’s voice that sounds like a distant relative of both Roy Orbison and Jimi Hendrix.
I have no regrets,” Melancon said. “I never do. This game is built on failure and I feel like what I went through will make me a better _______. I know it made me a better person.
Fill in the blank. This is a quote about baseball but it’s applicable to anything including startups and bands.
Former Red Sox pitcher Mark Melancon in the Boston Globe.
Some people find every decision difficult to make. Others with very busy lives find even the most simple decisions taxing. In a recent Vanity Fair piece, President Obama described why he only wears blue or grey suits:
“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,”
The President of the United States should not be spending his time thinking about what suit to wear when there is so much to be considered. There are likely things you can do to remove unimportant decision-making from your life.
But sometimes you need to make a decision.
There will be moments in life that force you to choose between what you were doing and what you could be doing. There will be times where you cannot choose to do it all.
The above Facebook comments were in response to a sophomore’s status about feeling like he was stretching himself too thin at Berklee College of Music. They were made tongue-in-cheek but both were serious. My comment meant that you should always be prepared for change.
I don’t know the young man very well but I do know how involved he is with many activities both in school and out. There is nothing wrong with huge ambition and I respect him greatly for that. Outside of classes and 3 (THREE!) ensembles he has done an internship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, works at the Box Office for the Berklee Performance Center, and is the Musical Theatre Orchestra Assistant Manager.
College is a place to experiment both academically and, for some, in other ways as well. It’s a time to discover what you really care about. There’s a good reason so many college students transfer, take time off, etc; curious individuals seek to use this time to learn about themselves and what they want to be.
After you find out what that is, it becomes the time to focus. That doesn’t mean you cannot change your mind later. Be completely open to pivoting because you probably will need or want to at some point in life.
Yes, many people have heard that Facebook’s Poke app looks strikingly similar to one built by a company that declined to be acquired by them. That’s an entirely different topic than what I am touching on today.
The brilliance of SMS and email is that they aren’t fleeting.
I’m pretty young but my elders have from time-to-time waxed nostalgic (or complained) about waiting by a phone for a highly anticipated phone call-a significant other, business associate, etc. Answering machines only somewhat diminished the need to be nearby since there was no way of knowing if you had missed a call when you weren’t at home.
Facebook’s Poke app eschews the positives of modern communications systems and forces us to look at a message, video, or image quickly before it “self-destructs.” The app forces immediacy on us and what is even worse than this element is something that should be glaringly obvious:
The content of the poke IS NOT IMPORTANT.
It simply cannot be important. Why? Well, who in their right mind would send an important message with the very possible chance that the recipient will not see it? That would be idiotic.
This is terrible. It means Facebook (and the user Poking you) is pushing you to look at something of little importance immediately upon receiving the message. They want you to drop what you are doing to look at a picture of a cat making a derpy face.
They’ve changed the poke from a suggestive (playful? sexual?) action to an(other?) irritating online behavior lacking of any particular meaning.