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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Changes to the blog

This blog is now 9 months old. It has lasted a good 8 months longer than I expected it to, and I am keen to continue. I don’t think I have found my “voice” yet but I have truly benefited from posting – both in terms of the process that goes into formalising my thoughts, and from the feedback and comments I have received. Every day I write or read another blog post, I learn something new.

Anyway, I’ve introduced a few changes to the blog. Briefly, these are:

  • A new WordPress template. I’ve switched to the Digg 3 column template by Small Potato. Reading some of Chris Brogan’s posts on personal branding, I felt it was important to have a customised header in order to distinguish myself. At the moment, I have uploaded a photo I took from the Coney Island Ferris Wheel in July 2008, but I may replace it as I’m not convinced by its congruence.
  • Still on the personal branding front, I’ve pulled in some of the content from my outposts onto the blog through RSS feeds. The format isn’t the prettiest (in fact, it is quite ugly) but I now have my recent activity on Twitter (comments and observations), Tumblr (reblogging random or bizarre content I consume elsewhere), Flickr (photos) and Last.fm (music I listen to) brought in, as well as my favourites in delicious (links to all posts) and Slideshare (presentations I like) – incidentally all of these are already syndicated on my Friendfeed. I tend to use these forums to broadcast rather than converse due to time constraints, but I hope to get more involved as I get accustomed to the intricacies and build up more contacts.
  • I’ve refreshed my blog roll. I’ve removed a couple of inactive links and introduced a whole lot more (if I removed your link, frequency was the only consideration – it wasn’t personal)
  • A Zemanta logo may appear in the bottom right corner of some posts giving the option to reblog the post. Zemanta is a tool that suggests photos, links and tags for your posts based on the content. I don’t find the picture suggest helpful, but the link and tag buttons are both very useful.
  • When I remember, I will link to the post in my signature – that way I can stay abreast of any reblogs – from real people (good) and splogs (bad)

Thanks to everyone that has contributed in any way to this blog, and I look forward to continuing my education into matters of all kinds in the coming weeks, months and years.

sk

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Measuring the success of free music

As an addendum to my prior post on free music, Kevin Kelly has posited a “true fan” model. He argues that having a core following of around 1,000 people per artist would bring in enough revenues to sustain a career. Nine Inch Nails appear to have managed this – their run of 2,500 deluxe ($300!) editions of their latest release sold out straight away, and John Otway has sustained a career this way. Of course, this requires either your fans to grow up with you, or a constant stream of new fans to replace disillusioned ones. NIN’s early music was quite angsty – will their fanbase remain loyal as they enter maturity? The evidence so far suggests they will.

I’m interested in how one can make this a robust business model. In TV land, there is increasing talk about moving from eyeballs to engagement. It is no longer enough for someone to have a TV programme switched on – they need to be attentive, to be interested, to interact. But measuring this is tricky. With music, as the methods of distribution increase, it becomes more difficult to know exactly who owns, or who listens to your music. What proportion of tracks owned by music lovers came into possession through legal (and measurable) methods? And how does ownership intersect with passive listening – through TV, radio, Myspace and so on.

Could musical success be measured by engagement? If the Seinfeld Curve is borne out, the record labels (or their successors) will need greater certainty in predicting ticket sales, not to mention advertising on artist websites and other revenue streams. A minimum number of units sold will be meaningless. Some artists (I can’t remember their names) are now getting people to pay up-front for tours or CDs. If enough people sign up, it happens. If not, the transaction won’t take place. This may work in the odd case but is too rigid to be sustainable for the majority of the market. A model of engagement therefore needs to be found.

A lot of data is already available on music consumption and engagement, but it is proprietary. Could iTunes or Last.fm become an industry currency? If they asked all of their users whether they would be willing to share their data with the music industry, a lot of people would refuse. Understandably so, given the amount of pirated and leaked music available. But if incentives were offered, I believe a a reasonable number would. Interested users could fill in an additional form for demographic information, and this can then be calibrated to the wider audience for greater accuracy. If this became an industry standard, there would be no competitive advantage. The more parties that sign up, the cheaper subscriptions could be and the lower the barrier to entry

Some of the possibilities of data analysis this could offer include:

  • Knowing number of plays, not just number of units shifted
  • Finding out the top rated tracks for each artist
  • Seeing how quickly new tracks are forgotten about and never played again
  • Profiling the most avid fans
  • Segmenting these fans by geography to plan tours
  • Getting similar artists to join the tour
  • Measuring the speed at which new music travels globally
  • Tracking and predicting popularity of different genres
  • Last.fm event attendance can be correlated to music libraries
  • Using the messageboards to gather information on buzz
  • Surveys can be used to gather opinions to supplement the raw data

I realise this is just a pie-in-the-sky idea and that there are many barriers to this actually being implemented. But if music does become the loss leader to the experience’s premium product, then there is no point in restricting the distribution to official methods. If the music can be democratized, can the information?

sk