Thursday, June 17, 2010

Using the "IKEA Effect" to connect with your audience

In his new book, The Upside of Irrationality - The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, behavioral economist Dan Ariely describes the psychological effects of ownership and creation, what he calls “The IKEA Effect”. In a nutshell, we tend to overvalue what we create or work on. This phenomenon is well documented and anyone who has put together IKEA furniture or lovingly shown off pictures of their kids understands this immediately.

Marketers have exploited this human trait for years. A classic example cited in the book: the instant baking mix products introduced in the 1940s. Initially these all-in-one mixes did not catch the interest of housewives, but when the formula was changed to require adding eggs and oil the market took off.

This effect partially explains the popularity of blogging and user-generated-content on the Internet. Musicians have built strong connections with their fans by encouraging them to contribute, through remixes, blog comments, videos, graphic design contests, etc.

As musicians, do we overvalue our creations? Of course. Music is an extension of who we are and what we stand for. It will always have a unique flavor to its author.

All artists need to put in the hours every day; creating the conditions necessary to welcome The Muse, irrespective of the marketplace. See Steven Pressfield’s classic, the War of Art for the definitive word on this subject. When we change hats to take care of business we must be very clear that making something for others to use is different from making something for yourself alone. Not such a problem when getting paid to write music for a commercial, but a little more challenging when trying to figure out what to do with original work.

Good, objective feedback from trusted collaborators and partners is essential. “Trust" is the key word here. The most meaningful insights come from people who understand business but also truly get your vision and your values.

If we cannot distinguish the two processes we run the risk of compromising our work in an attempt to be more “commercial” or repeat past successes, or we simply give up on taking care of the business side of our careers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Netflix plan is to stay focused

This is an interesting slideshow from Netflix (repost from 37signals blog). Their strategy continues to be focusing on their unique niche and great customer experience. Worth a look!

Netflix plan is to stay focused

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Composer John Adams on concentration..

Here is a nice post by composer John Adams on the challenge of Concentration when composing music. From his blog: Hell Mouth.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jazz as a business model

OK, let's face it. It's not easy making money as a jazz musician. As a matter of fact, today it is probably more difficult than it has ever been. The audience is understandably small because the music is sophisticated. It requires the listener's complete attention and an inherent interest in the format. Nonetheless there are two things the mainstream music industry can learn from jazz:
  1. The artist and the music are the central focus rather than the particular revenue stream or distribution vehicle.
  2. The music has to be truly extraordinary to differentiate the artist and attract an audience.
Look at the big guys. I'm sure Keith Jarrett has done very well selling CDs over the course of his career yet there are myriad ways he can make money because it's all about who he is and what happens when he sits down at the piano. No one else can offer the world what he can.

Ask yourself, how many mainstream pop artists pass that test? There are entire genres of music that are intentionally imitative and mediocre; trendy, lightweight, stylized fluff. 

Let's get our perspective straight. Sure, if the sugar water industry suddenly collapsed it would be a huge financial adjustment for many people, but let's not forget, this stuff is not actual food. It's unhealthy for regular human consumption.

Since the traditional record industry is collapsing why don't we think about rebuilding our business models on something substantial, something that really matters and adds value to the world. 

Taking care of business - We're all self-employed

Reading Paul Resnikoff's essay this morning it occurred to me that the 'vehicle' for the future of the music business will be a completely individualized start-up mentality. Everything has changed; what it means to be a performer, a recording artist, a songwriter, an instrumentalist, a composer, a music publisher, a record label... As long as we hang on to the old paradigms we won't see opportunities for the future.

Apple dropped Computer from their name because they're about something bigger; challenging the status quo and and building things that empower individuals. They practically own the word, "i". Computers, smart-phones and music downloads are manifestations of their larger identity. Think like a start up or a game-changing company. Why do you do what you do, how do you add value to the world, and how can you make money with the gifts you give?

Professional musicians have always worn multiple hats and been less dependent on CD sales as their primary source of revenue. Ask yourself what your favorite musicians stand for. What is their vision of music and how have they organized their lives around that commitment?

CDs are a by-product of something much bigger. If we continue to focus on the rapidly shrinking 'what' and 'how' of the past we'll miss the opportunity to do something exceptional today. Get back to why you make music. Forget about how the music business is supposed to work and visualize creating something unique, powerful, and profitable.

Thursday, June 3, 2010