Google Picks Kansas City, Kansas — Poor Blaine.


Today Google announced that they would be bringing high-speed connectivity to Kansas City, Kansas.

From the official Google blog:

After a careful review, today we’re very happy to announce that we will build our ultra high-speed network in Kansas City, Kansas. We’ve signed a development agreement with the city, and we’ll be working closely with local organizations, businesses and universities to bring a next-generation web experience to the community.

In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations. We’ve found this in Kansas City.

You might also find the accompanying Google video explaining the project of interest for 3 reasons:

  • While self-serving, it is informative.
  • It’s always fun to see passionate people do their thing.
  • It’s fairly rare to see Serg Birn in a media-relations role. He does well here.


No question, Google leadership is amongst the smartest in the world, but just the same, I feel sad for Blaine.



Jeff Price Tunecore Part 2 — Dishing With The Digerati #6

Jeff Price is truly a man on a mission. The founder of TuneCore, the independent digital distribution company, Jeff is passionate about “democratizing” the music business, and “righting some wrongs”.

As you will see in this two part interview, Jeff has a lot to say about the current state of the music business, and pulls no punches along the way.

Part 2 below — including our discussion on the death of artist development, and Jeff’s take on where we are headed next.


Isquith: So, here we are in 2011. The retail side of the business has been changed meaningfully through digital distribution and your Tunecore efforts to a significant degree….

Isquith: But what about all the OTHER gatekeepers?

Isquith: Radio, Press, Licensing etc.
Isquith: What are your thoughts there?

Price: the only significant gate keeper that I believe still exists is in commercial radio

Price: outside of that…..

Price: and as people move to the “cloud”

Price: The first thing you must be clear on is that, inexorably, we are moving towards an all-streaming delivery of music. Should you be interested, you can read more details about the coming streams in an article I wrote some time ago entitled, “The Stream that Snuck Up on You.” The premise is that in an era of (near) constant connectivity, there is little-to-no reason to actually have the file on your device.

Price: Soon, about the only place where (for better or worse) you won’t be online is on a subway. Combine this constant connectivity with a virtually unlimited selection of music that is available for instant streaming, and you truly must ask, “What is the distinction between ‘ownership’ of a file and streaming?”

Price: with this type of accessibility

Price: and connectivity

Price: radio will become less relevant

Isquith: I buy into the power of the cloud. It’s also clear that Apple/Google/MSFT are readying as they spend for these capabilities…

(Editors note — we spoke to Jeff before the recent Amazon Cloud announcement)

Price: outside of that the only “gatekeepers” left are old school guard trying to proclaim there is no change

Price: like Tommy Silverman

Price: Board members of the RIAA, A2IM and SoundExchage make public statements

Price: claiming music is not selling

Price: and that (not my quote) 80% of the music released via TuneCore is “crap”

Price: and is “cluttering” the market stopping the good music from selling

Price: I guess we need to tell Civil Wars, who used TuneCore

Price: and had the #1 album on iTunes for 7 days, that they don’t count

Isquith: Fair enough

Price: or Lecrea with over 2M songs sod that sorry dude, you are not real

Price: I have a list of thousands and thousands of artists that have outsold and out earned “major” artists

Price: btw – majors have a 98% failure ratio on releases

Price: I am not a label killer

Isquith: Why do you think there is weakness in other areas of the business besides old school physical retail and major labels?

Isquith: for example…Concert Revenues are down

Price: I however do believe that when Drake used TuneCore and sold 300,000 singles in 11 days outselling Lady GaGa

Price: he was on par

Price: there is no more class distinction

Price: artists are all now just artists

Price: each as important as the other

Price: weakness comes from the old model

Isquith: But if you are a promoter…either Ticketmaster or AEG or even a small Mom & Pop promoter….shouldn’t this create bigger opportunities and results?

Price: Arrested (Artist) Development

Price: a get rich quick strategy that was single based; that did not develop more catalog

Isquith: So you are saying…stopping artist development has had a trickle down negative effect to promoters, etc?

Price: oh hell yes

Isquith: OK, that is reasonable.

Price: this is why legacy artists do so well (live)

Price: they developed over time

Price: Bruce Springsteen

Price: first album sales were low

Price: it crawled up over years

Isquith: Springsteen’s 1st 2 LPs failed, U2s first 2 albums likewise

Price: developing fan base etc

Price: and they grew over time

Price: now its like opening weekend of a movie

Price: 1st album sells best and all the others decline

Price: one hit wonders

Price: This get rich quick strategy helped destroy the value of labels and the careers (and potential careers) of thousands of artists.

Isquith: I’m going to throw out 5 quick questions, and hold you to 1-2 sentence answers

Price: ok

Isquith: Here goes

Price: will limit myself

Isquith: 1- “If I had unlimited start-up $, time and energy…I would look at…

Price: music publishing

Price: cure for cancer, help Japan

Isquith: 2-” The most interesting person I’ve met lately is…”

Price: Fred Bourgoise

Isquith: tell us more…

Price: about Fred?

Isquith: yes please

Price: co-founder of Bug Music Publishing

Price: largest independent publishing company in the world

Price: sold it about three years ago

Price: he did for Publishing

Price: what TuneCore did for distribution

Isquith: ok….#3 – “Most Gratifying part of my day/week is….”

Price: honestly, it’s going to sound corny

Isquith: corny is often true

Price: but it’s when I play any role whatsoever in helping someone reach their goal

Price: and from time to time, it happens

Price: and I smile

Price: knowing i was able to contribute to that person’s dreams/aspirations

Isquith: it’s a big driver for many of my friends in music

Price: I get more pleasure out of helping someone else

Price: than myself

Isquith: #4 — Most frustrating part of day/week?

Price: when people do not know or understand the reason behind what I do are #3

Price: i did not start TC to make a buck

Price: i did it to change something i thought was wrong

Price: whether TuneCore exists or not

Price: there is no reason why any artist should be denied access to distribution

Price: keep their rights..get all the money from the sale of it

Price: so yes, cynics – who tend to project themselves onto you

Price: just b/c that’s how they operate does not mean the rest of the world works like that

Price: there are some good people in the world …(thank god!)

Isquith: last one….#5 : if you could only, god forbid, save 1 all time album (file) from a burning fire… would be?

Price: Rubber Soul

Isquith: hard to argue that one

Isquith: any parting words of wisdom?

Price: In regards to musicians

Isquith: anywhere you would like to take it…

Price: its important to understand copyright

Price: You MUST, MUST

Price: MUST

Price: this is what drives the entire business

Price: these are YOUR rights

Price: codified in the US constitution

Isquith: Know Your Rights, Joe Strummer once shouted…

Price: they are boring

Price: but its how you make a living doing what you love

Price: with this knowledge

Price: you can make decisions

Isquith: thank you again Jeff for making the time for us, and telling us the story of Tunecore.

Price: thank you for the opportunity

Price: I now have carpel tunnels syndrome

Isquith: Yup, you can thank DMI for that. Look forward to meeting in the physical world.

Jeff Price Tunecore Interview Part 1 — Dishing With The Digerati #6

Jeff Price is truly a man on a mission. The founder of TuneCore, the independent digital distribution company, Jeff is passionate about “democratizing” the music business, and “righting some wrongs”.

As you will see in this two part interview, Jeff has a lot to say about the current state of the music business, and pulls no punches along the way.

Part 1 of our chat can be found below, in which Jeff lays out his take of modern distribution, the fallacy that the real music industry is dying, and more. As you will see, Jeff refuses to be constrained by conventional wisdom, or the short form platform of AIM.

Part 2 will be posted today as well — including our discussion on the death of artist development, and Jeff’s take on where we are headed next.


Jeff Price Interview — Part 1:

Isquith: Hi Jeff

Price:  hi
Isquith: Thanks for chatting, we have many mutual friends…but believe this is our 1st meeting
Price: it may be
Isquith: Well, bless the digital world. Who knew—Digital Music Insider, a place for friends.
Price:  MySpgitial?
Price:  Facebigital?
Isquith: Nice
Isquith: I’ll stick with Q/A….
Isquith: In any case, Tunecore has had a fascinating run of late…for folks who don’t know , can you give us the elevator/RTwitter pitch
Price:  this is a long answer
Price:  you certain you want it via IM
Price: I mean this is about 1,500 words
Price: at least
Price:  I don’t like going infomercial
Price:  the company was founded on a principal and philosophy
Price: that does not get down to 144 characters
Price: it was not created to upsell – it was created to right a wrong
Price: sigh
Price: this is going to be long
Price:  but ok
Price: first its important to understand what the industry was
Price: artists needed to get signed to labels in the old days

Price:  b/c labels had the one thing artists could not do on their own
Price:  distribute their physical product across 3.7M square miles of the US to 10,000+ retail stores
Price: labels had deals with distributors,
Price: distributors had 500,000 sq ft warehouses
Price:  where CDs would be stored
Price:  they had 30 people picking/packing and shipping orders
Price: they had 30 more people out in the US
Price:  running into retail stores to convince the buyer at the store
Price: to take in copies of the CD and place it on a shelf
Price: there was limited space
Price: only so many titles could be in stock
Price:  the distributor would beg, borrow plead
Price: to get access to the shelf
Price:  they would win and dine
Price: and they would front money on behalf of the label to rent space in the store to get the CDs in
Price:  however, every CD that shipped out was on consignment
Price:  meaning they could be returned at any point for a full refund
Price:  so the distributor needed a returns department
Price: to take back all these unsold CDs
Price:  throw out the damaged ones
Price: refurbish the ones that were re useable
Price:  they also needed a finance department to deal with 30/60/90 day payment terms
Price: returns/credits etc
Price: it was a HUGE Endeavour
Price: the distributor would make money off each CD sold
Price:  for example
Price:  the distributor sells the CD for $10
Price: to Wal-Mart
Price: Wal-Mart marks it up to $17.98
Price: and makes $7.98
Price: the distributor takes 20 – 30% of the $10
Price:  lets make it 20%
Price:  so they pocket $2
Price: the label gets the other $8
Price: from that, the label pays the artist a band royalty of about $1.40 – $1.70 per unit sold
Price: they keep the rest to offset costs
Price:  band only gets paid if recouped
Isquith: Digital was supposed to change this complex Gatekeeper/Heavy Infrastructure model….
Price: the distributor earned its money
Isquith: Enter Tunecore?
Price: getting there
Price: the record label would then try to make the artists famous

Price: and monetize that fame
Price: via selling or licensing music
Price: tah da

Price:  that’s the economic food chain of the music industry
Price:  if the art caused reaction
Price:  fame would ensue
Price: CDs get bought
Price:  the machine makes money
Price:  in comes digital stores
Price:  1st napster
Price:  training people to download to music and listen on a computer
Price: then iTunes
Price: so in comes Apple to the perfect storm
Price: (10:07:49 AM) two changes to the industry
Price: (10:07:56 AM) 1) unlimited shelf space
Price: (10:08:03 AM) everything can be in stock at no detriment to anything else
Price: (10:08:12 AM) no longer need to fight to get on the shelf
Isquith: Also, the removal of the RETAIL gatekeeper to a significant degree?
Price:  2) unltd inventory that replicates on demand as a perfect digital copy
Price:  getting there
Price:  no up front cost for inventory
Price: old days, make 50,000 CDs hope to god they sold
Price:  if not you still had to eat the cost
Price:  new days – no up front cost for inventory, always available
Price:  as perfect digital copy
Price:  with those two things
Price: AND
Price:  the ability for an artist to market directly to their fans
Price: via social, youtube, FB etc
Price:  the majors were disintermiediated
Price:  so that’s the lay of the land
Price: I was approached by new music distributors
Price:  in 200x
Price: that wanted to distribute spinARTs music
Price: to digital stores
Price: they wanted a % each time the music sold
Price: like the old school distributor
Price: made no sense to me
Price: they moved a file from point a to point b
Price: they idea that they would make an unltd amount of revenue
Price:  each time the music sold
Price: for what exactly?
Price:  they pitched me on marketing services
Price:  with all due respect, marketing does not scale
Price: and I had been doing it for 17 years
Price: they had 10,000 releases a month
Price:how can you market 10,000 releases a month
Isquith: yes, nice for a solo operator, but not easy to build equity and companies behind?
Price: not to mention after the first week or two of “marketing” they would move on
Price:  so i would band my head against a wall begging, borrowing, pleading spending for the band
Price: the band would tour, lay on floors, eat ramen
Price: so when their music sold some third party took 20 – 20% oft the money?
Price:  for what?
Price:  it pissed me off
Price:  i believe artists and labels were getting screwed
Price:  you are the white stripes
Price:  you have back catalog
Price: your new album takes off
Price:  and you are going to give up x% of the money from the back catalog
Price:  b/c some company placed the songs on iTunes
Price:  ??
Price:  i mean COME ON
Price:  the digital stores will not do deals with artists for a variety of reasons
Price: (so i picked up the phone and called my friend Gary
Price: he was an engineer at eMusic
Price: i worked with him
Price: i said we should create a website where ANYONE on the planet can go
Price: upload their music, click a button and have worldwide distribution of their music.  There will be NO gatekeeper.  And the artist will receive 100% of the revenue from the sale of their music
Price: via a non exclusive agreement that they can cancel at any time
Price:we just get paid a simple flat fee
Price:  9.99 for a single
Price:  49.99 for an album
Price:  that’s it
Price:  democratize the industry
Price: let everyone in
Price: under a model that allows them to keep all their rights
Price: and get all the money
Price:  technology allows it
Price:  the business model was missing
Price: so I flipped the industry
Price:  5 years later
Price:  TuneCore is
Price: TuneCore is the largest distributor and music rights aggregator in the world.  It also represents one of the highest revenue generating and unit sales music catalogs in the world
Price:  TuneCore distributes more music in ONE DAY than a major does over THREE YEARS
Price:  TuneCOre artists have sold over 300,000,000 units of music
Price:  (300 million)
Price: in the past 24 months
Price:  generating over 140M in gross music sales revenue
Price: and another 150M in publishing income
Price:  when you set the market free
Price: (and all is available
Price:  consumers make their own decisions
Price:  and all of a sudden things that would not have been signed sell
Price:  and sell a lot
Price:  music sales are UP
Price:  not down
Price: revenue for artists is UP
Price:  not down
Price:  there is more music being bought, shared, streamed, stolen listened to now than at ANY point in the history of the world
Price: the stories about the end of the industry are just factually incorrect
Price:  album sales are down
Price:  but people buy (more) music by track across catalog now

Amazon Gets To Cloud First — Kindle or Kibble?

Last night, Amazon announced and launched their Cloud Music offering, Amazon Cloud Drive, beating Apple and Google to the punch.

It was a well-coordinated launch that included a formal Press Release, a front-page letter from Jeff Bezos, a tutorial video, positioning quotes from Amazon music leader Bill Carr, and a nicely executed Twitter campaign. Hats off to Amazon.

From the Press Release:, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced the launch of Amazon Cloud Drive (, Amazon Cloud Player for Web ( and Amazon Cloud Player for Android ( Together, these services enable customers to securely store music in the cloud and play it on any Android phone, Android tablet, Mac or PC, wherever they are. Customers can easily upload their music library to Amazon Cloud Drive and can save any new Amazon MP3 purchases directly to their Amazon Cloud Drive for free.

“We’re excited to take this leap forward in the digital experience,” said Bill Carr, vice president of Movies and Music at Amazon. “The launch of Cloud Drive, Cloud Player for Web and Cloud Player for Android eliminates the need for constant software updates as well as the use of thumb drives and cables to move and manage music.”

After spending some time with the product this morning, here are my initial thoughts:

The Good:

  • Getting there first has value. Again, kudos to Amazon. The question is — how much value? (More on this below)
  • The launch was tight.  The Amazon site, from Homepage to the Music pages were ready. While any Amazon launch lacks Steve Jobs’s touch for dramatics and flare, Amazon hit their messaging marks.
  • Amazon’s customer acquisition strategy of rewarding consumers with free cloud storage for Amazon MP3 purchases is shrewd. As is the automatic upgrade to 20gb storage for simply purchasing one Amazon MP3 full album.  (I first covered Amazon’s customer acquisition strategy on January 6th)


The Bad:

  • Lack of compatibility with iOS (Apple’s operating systems) is tremendously problematic. The vast majority of digital music fans are tethered to the Apple ecosystem.
  • The user interface is clunky. I found the Amazon steps to be more complicated than Lala. And I still feel it’s only fair to compare all streaming and cloud offerings to the original Napster in terms of simplicity and immediacy.
  • The pricing model is way too expensive for big collections.  I have 500 GBs of music…under Amazon’s model that will cost me a few hundred dollars a year in their cloud. That’s nuts.
  • More marketing and PR sizzle is needed. Apple wasn’t first in digital music, Steve Jobs just explained and marketed digital music in a way that connected. The cloud is going to be a complex concept for the average music fan, sizzle will help.

The Final Take: Is this it?  If today’s announcement is simply Amazon’s first foray into The Cloud, with plenty of tweaks to come, this may turn out to be a very important first salvo. Amazon could grab a lead, and continue to iterate as the Cloud grows, and grab a valuable advantage. Think about how well they have executed with the Kindle.

But, if this is it, at these prices and with these limitations, Amazon may get squashed as Google and Apple inevitably enter. Word has it this morning that certain label personnel are quite upset with Amazon’s announcement. If labels are able to double down with Apple and Google at more favorable terms, you may see artist-based efforts to support The Cloud elsewhere. Remember those old “I Want My MTV” ads? Imagine Lady Gaga “wanting her iTunes cloud”.

For consumers, one thing is clear — today is a good day.  Music consumption is just starting to turn “cloudy”, and with the largest technology companies in the world fighting for your attention, rest assured, more options are coming soon. For Amazon, the question is will today be the start of a Kindle like ascension in Digital Music, or simply a bit of kibble thrown at an increasingly picky and well-fed digital music consumer.






Social Media Explosion — Not The Same As it Ever Was


There is a illuminating Social Media piece this morning from Jake Hird at eConsultancy.

In it, he lays out the numerical growth of Social Media over the last 12 months.

This is explosive growth.


Some highlights:

Last Year: Facebook has 350 million active users on global basis.

Now: Facebook officially hit the half-billion member mark last year. According to figures from Socialbakers, there are now some 640m Facebook users worldwide.

Last Year: 50% of active users log into Facebook each day. This means at least 175m users every 24 hours.

Now: Still citing the 50% active rate, using the official 500m figure, this means at least 250m users every 24 hours. This is more than a 40% increase in 12 months.

Last Year: 65m users access Facebook through mobile-based devices.

Now: It may well be the year of mobile… For Facebook. Users accessing the site through mobile devices now tops 200m – an enormous 200% increase in around a twelve-month period.

Last Year: There are more than 3.5bn pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, etc.) shared each week on Facebook.

Now: Clearly, Facebook is still growing: More than 30bn pieces of content is shared each month, which is an average of 7bn pieces a week.



Last Year: Twitter has 75m user accounts, but only around 15m are active users on a regular basis.

Now: Twitter now officially claims to have 175m registered users, although it’s unclear what percentage regularly user the service.


Last Year: LinkedIn has over 50m members worldwide.

Now: Officially, Linkedin has grown 100%, now having over 100m professionals who use the platform worldwide.


Last Year: Flickr hosts more than 4bn images.

Now: Flickr continues to grow at a steady rate, having increased by some 25% in the last twelve months. At the end of 2010, it was hosting more than 5bn images.

Six other tidbits from Jake Hird:

  • More than 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • Flickr members upload more than 3,000 images every minute.
  • The average Facebook user creates 90 pieces of content each month.
  • There are more than 2bn video views on YouTube every 24 hours.
  • People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
  • People on Facebook install 20m applications every day.


The Final Take: David Byrne may have put it best…

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view

That is, you need to be careful analyzing numbers and “facts”.  As objective as you try to be, they all come with a point of view.

Here’s mine: Some broader trends are well amplified here. The ascension of Mobile as a platform, and photos and video as preferred content forms, are undeniable.

And the scale of Facebook’s penetration and user participation is almost beyond comprehension. This growth easily dwarfs the golden years (2000-2002) of AOL for example, where 25mm monthly subscribers was seen as a bellwether mark, or MySpace’s climb to 100mm accounts in 2006.

This kind of scale has tremendous ramifications for users and businesses alike. Some strategists view Facebook as a “shadow internet” — with visitors who are “always on Facebook” simply substituting their Facebook activity for all online activity. Others opine that Facebook will inevitably plateau, and to be careful about over-optimizing your web activities just to serve Facebook.

Lastly, with the rise of Linkedin, Twitter, and Flickr (or Pandora for that matter), it’s clear that highly targeted silos can scale. Businesses with great, differentiated, user experiences can grow faster than ever before.

Again, just my point of view — based solely, of course, on the facts.



Read the full eConsultancy piece here.







Lemmy vs. God, Wonderfully Arrogant Titans, Amanda Palmer, & The Known Knowns. — The Week That Was 3/25/11







“How come you never write about music…about the stuff you like? You’re one of the few guys who really really still loves music” — Jonathan Daniel, manager extraordinaire to me, March 1st 2011.

Jonathan’s question stopped me dead in my tracks. What was it about me, or my perception of the blogosphere, that pushed me away from writing about music.

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture — it’s a really stupid thing to want to do”. — Elivis Costello by way of Martin Mull.

“Music journalism –that’s people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read”. — Frank Zappa

“Most critics like Elvis Costello better than Van Halen, because most critics look like Elvis Costello, not like me”. — David Lee Roth.


Quotes like these could leave a guy paralyzed about writing about music. Check that, quotes like these should leave a guy paralyzed about writing about music.

Still, it was an unusually musical week for me, as I logged a tremendous amount of road time going from meeting to meeting.

Driving throughout a rainy Southern California this week, my soundtrack consisted of four great newish albums — Blessed from Lucinda Williams, The Dancing Monk from Eric Reed, The Greatest Story Never Told from Saigon, and Hard Times and Nursey Rhymes from Social Distortion.  Ringing guitars, hard bop, and soulful rap.  The known knowns.

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. — Donald Rumsfeld.

By the way, I feel about Donald Rumsfeld pretty much the same way I feel about Loverboy, but for different reasons. Loverboy: tremendous fashion faux pas. Rumsfeld: macho war mongering.


Loverboy and Rumsfeld — I know a great song like “Turn Me Looseor a trenchant quote, when I hear it.

So that’s it dear reader — four new release recommendations, all admittedly squarely inside my boundaries of  known knowns. For the foreseeable future, I will leave music and political criticism to others.

Now, writing about the business of music, or digital disruption, that I can tackle. Even after 12 years in the space, I’m still just ignorant enough to plow on ahead.

And plow on ahead, we did, starting Monday, with some thoughts on Barry Michels, one of Hollywood’s most notable therapists. Barry had us contemplating whether or not petulance, rage and arrogance were positive qualities for entertainment business titans, and thinking hard about lessons we had learned from Dr. Seuss. Later that day, I weighed in on why a couple of Germans might spend their time writing code to give the major labels the finger, Lemmy vs. God, and just how global our businesses have all become. As Prince once wrote, and Suzanna Hoffs sang — it (was) just another manic Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday I hit the road. I was busy, but with all the great advancements designed by Mr. Jobs and purchased from Mr Bezos, I was easily able to cover their dirty little war, as well as comment on Pinch Sulzberger’s ill-advised quote about folks who might dare to access the NY Times for free. All that and the start of baseball season too.

Thursday, now that was my fun day, as Bill Ngyuen, our colorful Lala friend reemerged with 41 million dollars of funding for his new location-obsessed company. I also was able to dive into the scientific history of the MP3 file, and spend a few minutes reminiscing about Suzanne Vega and Tom’s Diner up on 112th street near Columbia University.

We finished the week linked in to Amanda Palmer, Kurt Cobain and Jack Donaghy.  All three seemed to be wondering whether some kinds of popularity are all they are cracked up to be. I wonder if this is some kind of strange coincidence, or if our most tech savvy artist, a brilliant rock legend, and a wonderfully arrogant and petulant corporate titan, were simply coming together just in the nick of time.

Perhaps in our Rebecca Black meets Charlie Sheen corner of the digital universe, we are learning that popularity is indeed a mixed bag. So I’ll leave the music criticism, headband wearing and world domination to the real experts. At least for this week.