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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android by Pebble Technology — Kickstarter.

Crowdfunding while not yet part of the investment vernacular, has gotten a major boost from the recent success of the E-Paper Watch by Pebble Technology and its Kickstarter campaign.  What started for Pebble Technology as a funds raising project looking for an initial jolt of capital to the tune of $100,000 over 6 weeks has ballooned to over $6M coming from over 42,000 backers, with nearly a month still left to go before the funding is closed.  I wouldn’t be surprised, when it’s all said and done, if this project closes with over $10M and a 100,000+ backers proving the point that when a product is hot, it’s hot, period.

There’s nothing harder for any start-up than to find seed capital.  It usually comes from family & friends, brave and slightly foolish angel investors.  What distinguishes crowdfunding from buying an equity position into a company and parlaying that position for stock, is how the crowdfunder instead buys into the promise of receiving a tangible reward (be it music, a film, a watch) once funding for a project in question has met its financial objectives.  Should it not, then no funding takes place and the crowdfunder gets his money back to keep or invest elsewhere.  Most crowdfunders invest $20.00 – $60.00 into Kickstarter projects, but this E-Paper Watch has clearly exceeded everyone’s expectations and created a huge buzz for this watch and a windfall for Pebble Technology.  It’ll be interesting to see how Kickstarter doles out such a large amount of cash to a company that’s still very much in its infancy, and with no regulations on how the money should and will be spent.

Naturally if crowdfunding works for the production of a watch, then it will also work for the production of music.  And actually it already has, many many times!!!  Except now here comes the JOBS Act signed into law by President Obama earlier this month and with it comes the heavily reworked CROWDFUND Act (Bill S. 2190), which should allow for small, even micro investors to hold equity (stock) in the crowdfunded companies they support.  The SEC has this under review for the next 9 months before it’s law, so for all of you indie artists who’ve always wanted to have your own label, here’s a perfect opportunity to rally all your musical peers and all your fans to motivate them to own a piece of the label dream with you.  And that my friends are chaordic principles in action!

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If you haven’t heard of Allen Stone, that’s OK…you will.  This is after all a music blog.  What I love about Allen is the anomaly, the defiant falsetto, and the timely lyrics of this song.  With America bitterly split down idealistic party lines, equally tugged by the right and the left, Allen is a reminder that all you need is…talent!

Copyright Royalty Board To Set Mechanical Royalty Rates For Digital Music Services | Billboard.biz.

I love the hyperbole of this story.  Leave it to music industry trade organizations to call this a major settlement.  What a crock of sh*t!  After years of acrimonious wranglings, posturing and petulance, all these industry dinosaurs could come up with to bring some semblance of sanity to the digital music licensing process was to rely, again, on the legislative intervention of the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB)…… sigh!

I prefer the frankness of Digital Music News when referring to this ‘historic’ accord:

That said, something did happen here – even if it was in a licensing corner.  In a nutshell, pre-existing mechanical licensing structures related to paid downloads, subscription services like Spotify, and ringtones will largely remain the same, with newer rates established for emerging platforms like mixed-format bundles, locker services, and concepts like Muve Music.  Most involved ‘greater than calculations’ and a rash of complicated percentages and formulas.

Thanks Paul.  In short, if you’re a music publisher, you’re doing better.  Everyone else, get in line, maybe you’ll see some ducats.

How many of you have heard of Muve Music by Cricket Wireless?  Launched in January 2011, this phone bundled with an all-you-can-eat music service topped 500,000 subscribers one year later and they’re adding over 10,000 subscribers a week.  Granted the music is stuck to your phone, but you get millions of song, all readily and easily accessible to play back via the phone.  At $65/month for unlimited talk, text and music playback that’s a good frickin’ deal.  I pay twice as much with AT&T and have no music service in my plan.  The beauty of the Muve Music service is how Cricket Wireless knows exactly what you’re downloading, listening to and how often.  The customer details they have are a gold mine and I hope they’re leveraging that information to keep their costs down when negotiating with labels directly.

It would be so much easier if Cricket Wireless had access to the ToBeDigital exchange I proposed in my previous post.  It’s going to take some time before artists and songwriters trust themselves enough to collaborate on gaining fans and dollars chaordically, however, now that they’ve finally recognized there’s gold in tending directly to them copyright fields they’re much likelier to exploit their copywares by themselves.  A similar idea comes from Ian Rogers, the CEO of Topspin Media, who proposed the construction of a machine-readable, rules based content registry into which content owners can easily opt-in or out after having set up the rules and the prices for the different use of their content.  As Rogers says very eloquently:

The upside to the industry as a whole is massive, developers willing to play by the rules can integrate media into their apps (and pay for the rights to do so) simply, and a true digital marketplace for content governed by market forces, not gatekeepers of large catalogs of content. I strongly believe the net of this will be more money to content owners more quickly than the current course we’re on today. We keep hearing “digital music needs to get to scale quickly for the music industry to succeed”; why wait for one player to scale when you could scale an industry of players?

By “players” he means you artists, you songwriters, you who actually create AND own something.  So what are you waiting for???

In the Battles of SOPA and PIPA, Who Should Control the Internet?

Every now and again a great article, like this one in this month’s Vanity Fair, springs forth from the cabals of cultural journalism to adroitly and accurately summarize what’s in play when it comes to the Internet.  More importantly this is the first time I hear of the forces of Organized Chaos being up against the forces of Order & Disorder.

While some may find this way of framing the battle for the Internet as overly simplistic, I have long argued artists have the best chances for success when they collaborate and cooperate to embrace the chaotic forces of the Internet.  This is how a Chaordic Organization functions as defined by the CEO Emeritus of Visa, Dee Hock:

By chaord, I mean any self-organizing, adaptive, nonlinear complex system, whether physical, biological, or social, the behavior of which exhibits characteristics of both order and chaos or loosely translated to business terminology, cooperation and competition.

* Dee W. Hock “The Chaordic Organization – Out of control and Into Order – 1998

In his amazing book, Birth of the Chaordic Age, Hock provides a blueprint for all artists to follow, one that requires artists to get away from music being sold solely as a product to one that emphasizes the importance of music being consumed as a 24/7/365 global service: A service that does away with sovereignty, drowns out piracy, respects privacy and provides security.  How?

Just like Hock convinced Bank of America to give up ownership and control of their BankAmericard credit card program and turn it into a non-stock membership corporation equally owned by all of its member banks eventually called VISA, I am suggesting all artists worldwide give up on sovereign copyright protectionism and embrace a global copyright exchange, called ToBeDigital, equally owned by all of its copyright bearing members be they artists, labels, songwriters or publishers.

Just like VISA facilitates EFTs (electronic funds transfers) throughout the world, ToBeDigital would facilitate ERTs (electronic rights transfers) granting immediate, redeemable access to music to fans on any playback device once they’ve paid a nominal interchange fee + the value of the music purchased set by the merchant.

For a fraction of what artists pay out today to Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) around the world, not only would artists get paid much faster on what they sell, they’d get paid on everything they sell and do away with weightings which are employed by PROs to assign a greater or lesser monetary value to music performances in broadcast media.

And for music fans there would be nothing but complete clarity, total ubiquity and pure enjoyment.