Mary Meeker Shows Us Where We Are Headed

Mary Meeker is a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. She consistently does a terrific job of contextualizing web trends and their business ramifications.

SAI has just released a 56 page presentation that Ms. Meeker has completed — it makes for great reading.

Top 10 Mobile Internet Trends (Feb 2011)

View more presentations from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
The Final Take: For Digital Music thinkers, at least five main take-aways become clear:

1-Our business will live or die on how well we address the mobile  consumer.

2-Social Networking & Recommendation Marketing will continue to drive the most effective engagement strategies.

3-We have fallen far behind other industries in three key tactical areas: Gaming, Virtual Goods, & Freemium.

4-The tethered download is out-of-step with trends.

5-Investing time and money in established companies, at the expense of jumping in with new movers, is a historically poor strategy in this space.

That's a Bummer Man — The Week That Was February 4th 2011

The Clash turned into UFC avatars, Luke Wood picks up his cans, Citibank takes control, Twitter & the Mideast, remembering the Steve Jobs firing, and Hulu meets their enemy. The week that was —Digital Music style — February 4th, 2011.

It was quite the week here in Digital Music land, wasn’t it?

Here you g0 — the week that was, February 4th 2011.

Things started innocently enough on Saturday night with Jesse Eisenberg, Adam Samler, & Mark Zuckerberg generating enough pop culture heat on Saturday Night Live to (almost) make up for a football-less Sunday. Speaking of which…Sunday was a slow day around my house, slow enough to dive in to a vintage Newsweek 1985 “Steve Jobs You’re Fired interview and an email from MySpace asking me to come on back. For serious.

On Monday, Midem issued a great white paper recapping the Midem music conference and I weighed in…On Tuesday things turned, uh, weirder. Harmonix announced that The Clash’s London Calling was premiereing on Rockband, where I noted the computer generated Strummer stand-in looked more like the loser of a hard fought UFC title bout, than anyone in The Clash, iTunes promoted some actual hit songs and albums, Luke Wood from Interscope left label-land for Beats Electronic and Citibank kicked Guy Hands hard to the curb, and simply bought out/took over EMI. Whew.

On Wednesday I couldn’t help but think of  Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” in contemplating Amos Lee’s #1 album setting a new record for lowest selling #1 album ever at Soundscan. That’s a bummer man.

Thursday saw Twitter & the worlds attention turn to an increasingly volatile Egypt. Sobering stuff. I dusted myself off after a while, and started thinking about Football — specifically how much better of a job the NFL had done recently than the Music Biz in responding to challenge and changes.

We then rolled into Friday deeply immersed in a full-on-brouhaha between Hulu and, well, Hulu. Or at least their corporate bosses. We have met the enemy and they are us….Enjoy your Superbowl, for if you are a Digital Music person, it might be the most restful four hours you get.

The Football Commissioner & The Music Biz–Change Before You're Forced To.

He embraces the new. “Change before you’re forced to”, Goodell told owners. “Find a better solution”.

This from Sports Iillustrated’s  cover piece on the trailblazing and enormously successful NFL commissioner, Roger Godell.

Pro Football makes an interesting case study for the music industry. It’s not a perfect analogy — The NFL pre-Godell was already a thriving business. But, I’ll argue, that for record labels and new model music companies, there are many good lessons to learn from the tactics and strategies the NFL has employeed, especially under Godell.

First, some facts and figures regarding the NFL:

Pro Football is the most popular and the most lucrative sport in the United States. It is run by a charismatic and innovative leader, who has advocated for change, placed consumer experience at the top of his priority list, and delivered new thinking consistently during his tenure.

Let’s take a look at four tactical things the NFL has done — and how the strategies behind these tactics could inform a music company:

1- Embrace multiple partners & multiple touchpoints. Choose ubiquity over scarcity:  For most of it’s history, the NFL was built on a two network approach, with games only played on Sundays and Monday Nights.  Over the last decade, and especially under Godell, this has broadened dramatically with games on  Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays, carried by multiple networks.

This multi-partner approach is interesting as the labels and sites wrestle with the idea of licensing multiple partners, or new music companies look at  multiple experiences such as streaming just on computers, streaming to mobile devices, or owning the files outright.

2- Embrace gaming, and gaming technology: While gaming such as Madden NFL is more than a decade old, the Goodell era has seen a much closer link between gaming and the league. Broadcasts now are filled with computer generated graphics that approximate the look and feel of gaming, not to mention the deep linking between Fantasy Football and the NFL’s websites and broadcasts.

The music business with a few notable exceptions like Guitar Hero and Tapulous, has done a horrible job of leveraging gaming. Think about American Idol — it’s the ultimate music business “game”. People love American Idol, Karaoke, music message boards and blogs, etc…yet labels and new services are rarely part of the economic equation around these behaviors.

3- Broaden the demographic you appeal to: The NFL has employed a series of tactics to broaden it’s appeal — most notably by catering to women. More American women watch the NFL than any other team sport, and not just the Super Bowl. In the past decade the NFL has launched several marketing and outreach programs, including coaching clinics, apparel that fits women and donning pink during breast cancer awareness month. The league has amplified the idea of watching football tends to be a social event, with people watching in groups of varying gender composition.

Think back 10-15 years. The best sellers of the old-guard music business were truly mass-appeal hit-makers — Christina Aguilera , Dixie Chicks, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Metallica, Linkin Park etc. These acts were for Mom’s & daughters, Dad’s and sons. Songs from these albums were on four to five formats of radio, and all over TV. But the last ten years have seen tremendous erosion of teen radio listening, and increased dominance of  niche albums at the top of the charts –Susan Boyle, Sade, and Josh Groban representing the adults, and countless 1-week Soundscan winners representing the hard rockers and rap communities. The industry desperatley needs more than one Taylor Swift — it needs multiple all-things-to-all-people stars.

Which brings us to….

4- Make more stars, and then make them bigger. Build star-making into the DNA of everything you do:  From Nielsen; “In 2001, journeyman Trent Dilfer led the Ravens to a Championship, creating the perception that a team can win a Super Bowl without a marquee quarterback. Most NFL teams now subscribe to the belief that the quarterback is the most critical cog, both on and off the field. The Cowboys, for example, lost QB Tony Romo to injury and saw their season and ratings go south. In recent years, the NFL has tried to safeguard their stars, implementing rules to ensure that the QB isn’t tackled low, hit in the head or after the whistle. And to a large extent, the quarterbacks this year were healthy and able to serve as the marquee names for their teams.Interest in quarterbacks goes beyond the stadium: they are making news off the field too. Many have been linked romantically to supermodels, actresses and singers, creating news in celebrity magazines and other non-traditional media.”

This should be the music business’s greatest advantage. The faces (and bodies) of our stars aren’t hidden by helmets and pads. Music stars have fashion stylists, gauzy lighting, and PR-handlers. But our star-making machinery is broken. Sure it’s partially broken by piracy, partially broken by radio and retail lameness, but I’d argue it’s also broken by ourselves. The labels, and even the newer model companies like Spotify, Rhapsody, etc. have underestimated the power, even the necessity, of big stars. The labels have slashed their marketing budgets so dramatically, that it’s a miracle they can develop any stars at all. And the new model companies have only learned half the story from Steve Jobs…yes, great design and an amazing consumer experience are key, but look at all the marketing Apple does. Think about what those Coldplay, U2 and Mary J. Blige ads have done for both Apple and those artists. Think about 5 million Beatles tracks sold in just a few weeks, when almost every digerati turned his or her nose up on the very idea that The Beatles on iTunes even mattered. The music industry needs to spark superstar creation, nurturing and  amplification, and that means money, marketing and partnerships that understand this have to coalesce.

Final Take:   Pro Football is the biggest it’s ever been, a multi-billion dollar industry lead by a charismatic, change friendly, evangelist. The (traditional) music business is the smallest it’s been since 1991, feeling more like a once exciting candidate or a company hanging on past it’s prime, than an industry with momentum. But entertainment is much like politics and pure business — a comeback, while difficult, even highly-unlikely, is always possible. Just ask Bill Clinton, Bob Dylan, or even Steve Jobs.

Perhaps on the eve of Superbowl weekend, the music business should take a big page from  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s playbook.

Strummer & Jones… Just Another Story? –The Clash Comes To Rockband February 1st.

London Calling, arugably the greatest double album in Rock history, is coming to Rockband February 1st. The songs will integrate with XBOX 360, Wii and Playstaion 3 according to parent company Harmonix.

The Final Take: It would be kinda easy to just take the pithy blog way out, and juxtapose The Clash’s leftist leanings with the overt capitalism of Rockband. Instead, let’s just hope that some kids get turned on to one of the greatest rock bands ever, in between learning the chord progressions to More Than A Feeling and Cold As Ice.

DMI Tip: Sill, enjoy the, um…. contrast — between the Rockband promo clip and the vintage Clash and Joe Strummer videos below.


The Clash I Fought The Law:

Joe Strummer:

Did You Notice? — The avatars in the Rockband clip don’t look remotely like any members of The Clash. The lead singer also appears to have some sort of UFC injury, with the body bandages and all.

Bonus Verse from Death Or Glory:

‘n every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock ‘n roll,
Grabs the mike to tell us he’ll die before he’s sold,
But I believe in this and it’s been tested by research,
He, who f***s nuns, will later join the church.

Death or glory, becomes just another story.
Death or glory, becomes just another story.