A new media leader and a rock star come together to talk about The End of Business As Usual –Brian Solis and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.
We are in a new age of music consumption. Napster was a watershed moment for the music business, and Corgan says record labels attacked instead of recognising need, and suffered for it. The net worth of the music industry has plummeted by tens of billions in the last ten years.
So how can artists make money now?
“You can no longer think of the thing you make as your main source of income!” Billy says. “The greatest artists are adaptable. Picasso did movies and plays. What’s wrong with that?”
We are used to seeing movies stars and pop stars selling perfume and coffee and cars. Maybe we need to start accepting that rock bands and other musicians need something “commercial” to keep producing the music we love as well.
Corgan is calling for fans to be more sophisticated, and go on a journey with the artist. Let them try new things, and sometimes mess up. The current culture of condemnation kills this; musicians would rather be picked on for lip syncing than suffer the embarrassment of being a YouTube laughingstock.
And while it might be easier to rise quickly to celebrity status via the “Bieber route,” if you don’t have the talent to back it up, you’re not going to go to the next level. Or even worse, “If your inspiration is fame, then you’re not invested in culture at all.”
Corgan is passionate and clear in his thinking, but one point he made I really disagree with. He says you can’t get people interested who aren’t interested already, and they are going to follow the herd so just let them. He’s not interested in pandering, thanking people for listening to or buying his music, which is fair enough. But I think to completely ignore a section of society because they haven’t heard of you or don’t listen to stations that would play your music is really underestimating people.
We love to be acknowledged, our time is precious, and if you go to the effort of reaching out to us on a personal level, we will give you a lot more attention than someone who doesn’t. There are so many channels and duties and marketing messages flying at us on a daily basis, we need to shut some of it out, don’t judge us. And hey, maybe we’ll like it.
We are Generation Connected, so why not take advantage? Just no spamming. We hate that.
What is the solution?
Corgan is clear – the solution is to create content that goes behind the recording, but this is not the Behind the Scenes video. Five thousand people care about that, but a million don’t. That’s not going to cut it against cat videos.
Spotify is a step in the right direction but it is a “transitional technology,” says Corgan. “Artists need to create their own worlds,” and it needs to be visual and self-sustaining.
Thanks to being nominated employee of the year at PN Sydney (I’ll pay everyone back), last week I was both honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to visit Siem Reap in Cambodia – home to the world famous temples of Angkor and most importantly the Green Gecko Project.
The Green Gecko Projectwas originally set up by Australian-born Tania Palmer in 2004, who read a touching article during a Virgin in-flight magazine about an orphanage in need in Siem Reap. Tania walked off the plane and straight into a travel agency to book a flight. Several years of perseverance and tireless dedication towards making a difference for beggar children resulted in the birth of Green Gecko.
Now a home, school and family for 70 children who previously lived and begged on the streets of Siem Reap, Green Gecko provides security, education, love and opportunities to these children.
Through their younger years into adult lives, it empowers each and every child to achieve their full potential. Not only this, the project also supports the children’s families and the broader community through long term health, education and training initiatives.
Since its inception, Green Gecko unashamedly acknowledges that out of seemingly nowhere came the abundance of advice, support and brilliant ideas –all from simply from doing the right thing.
At Green Gecko, the children’s days are filled with a wide-ranging timetable, from English and Khmer lessons to living values, computers and the ancient Khmer martial art of Bokator. As well as this, there’s a schedule of specialised activities through volunteers – I was lucky enough to meet the pretty impressive pink-haired hoop lady, Jules, who was preparing the children for a hooping hip-hop performance for friends and family. I didn’t realise you could do so much with a hoop!
During my week there, I was taken aback by how much it really did feel like one big family. Every child has suffered a great deal, yet from the small children, right through to young adults – there’s so much laughter, love, smiles and support for one another and the wider community.
Green Gecko describes the children as having ‘boundless potential’ and this is no fabrication. I walked through the Green Gecko gates feeling horrified at the thought of each child’s past and how much they have suffered, but I left wearing a smile, feeling moved. In Tania’s own words ‘the kids are such incredible human beings. They inspire us daily with their strength, courage and their innate ability to roll with the punches and come up with a beaming smile’.
Thank you to the Green Gecko crew and children for such a memorable week and to Porter Novelli Sydney for giving me this opportunity.
Despite what you may have read, Pinterest wasn’t created a few months ago; it has been a long slow road of pins and people since 2009. How much market research went into coming up with the concept? How about none. In this session, co-founder and CEO Ben explains how Pinterest was just something he really wanted to see built.
How it came about
Taking a cue from the simplicity and success of Twitter, Ben decided to concentrate on just three things people, boards and pins. They went the venture capital route in order to delay discussion on monetisation. Making money was not the focus, and is still not the focus. Yet.
Labouring over the design stage, they had 12 fully coded versions before deciding on the final. If your collections didn’t look awesome, why would people spend time to build them? he says.
“The average consumer has really high expectations. If you don’t give them something that is worth their time, then they shouldn’t give you their time. They can watch TV or play Angry Birds.”
Pinterest has also put boards back on the map. While they had been very unpopular within the tech community, Pinterest persisted as Ben explains – “Boards are a very human way of looking at the world. I’ve always loved folders; they are a way to make sense of chaos.”
Then, why did it take so long to take off?
Ben doesn’t have an engineering or tech background, and I don’t think Pinterest would have been created if he had. Pinterest is unusual in that it wasn’t embraced by the tech community. Silicon Valley didn’t understand it, didn’t see a need for it. There was also no celebrity to join that made it go from 0 to 60, ala Ashton Kutcher with Twitter.
“I’m glad I didn’t read the proxy book on when to give up because it took a long time to get going. People ask me why I didn’t, and I think I just didn’t want to tell people that we blew it.”
It was just the everyday people that made it popular. And Ben made sure that these people were happy.
“I personally wrote to the first 5,000 users. I gave them my cell phone, and would meet them in person. People say that’s a lot of commitment, but I was just really happy people were using it and wanted to know what they thought.”
How did he know people would like it?
Ben was very much on the ground in developing Pinterest. He would peruse newsagencies and the amount of lifestyle magazines indicated that there is a great interest area and market for it.
“I loved the idea that you could take an offline activity and create an online service that could aid that.”
What is the actual purpose of Pinterest?
“The mission of Pinterest isn’t to keep them on the site, it’s to drive them out to get what they want, go to the places they want to go, cook the recipes they want to try. With or without Pinterest people have hobbies and interests, what we want to do is make sharing and collecting these easier. Helping people to discover things they didn’t know they wanted, he said.
“I also wanted to create a service that was timeless. If something’s your favourite book now, it’s going to be your favourite book in five years.
How has Pinterest been embraced that he didn’t expect?
“First to come to mind satire boards. A Fake Mit Romney account has already been created, with his suggestions on what yacht to buy, and how to take a San Pellegrino bath. You can find it here http://pinterest.com/fakemittromney/
“Museums have also started joining to showcase upcoming collections, and travel boards were also a surprise, as people created spaces to document their desired destinations.”
For SxSW I was particularly impressed with advertising agency GSD&M (who also created the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign) board with their Pinterest Guide to Austin http://pinterest.com/gsdm/, which is where is where I discovered Austin has a Pop Culture museum. I am in heaven.
What’s coming up for Pinterest?
Pinterest has reached the tipping point of mainstream success, and now the race is on to make sure Pinterest is the one and only pinning service worldwide. But Ben is not concerned about racing the clones: “We just want to make sure that what we release is of really high quality.”
Look for an all new profile design expected to be launched this week. We wanted to make it more beautiful, he said.
The team of 20, which was 10 people until a few months ago, wants it to be very different to your Facebook and Twitter profile – a snapshot of what you’re about.
You will also be able to see who people pin from and who is influencing others.
And something I am really looking forward to, they are expanding to include video. Sometimes you just need all your YouTube cat videos in one place, you know?
They are also working on platform expansion, with an iPad version, and planning to open up API, but no set date as yet.
I want Pinterest to feel like a human service.
He also values his workers; he is not looking to be the next figurehead of a company, the next Steve Jobs. The team is the most exciting product that we’re building.
Above all, Ben wants to celebrate people’s interests. Preferably on Pinterest.
Create more value than you capture – a session by Tim O’Reilly, Founder, CEO O’Reilly Media
Many companies start off and succeed because they are providing value to society. Microsoft and Apple, for example, connect people with easy access to desktop computers and smartphones, and made lives a whole lot easier. Like these companies, however, a trend is emerging as companies grow and succeed, the need to look after themselves seems to far outweigh the desire to keep providing value, and suddenly the only responsibility they have is “to the shareholders”.
The problem with this? Shareholders aren’t making your company money, customers are.
O’Reilly is concerned about this. “Wall Street firms, which got their start trading on behalf of clients, then began trading against them, then created vast Ponzi economies to drain the value from entire segments of the economy.”
When companies have absentee owners, no one is really responsible for their actions; they are just doing their jobs. When jobs are cut for a short term profit, the long term consequences are ignored because that will be someone else’s problem.
In times of history, people like Lincoln and Roosevelt have stood up and said “We need to change the system because we have gone off the rails.” We have gone off the rails.
“If you look at the great companies,” O’Reilly said, “they almost always have a higher sense of purpose. Investors do not create jobs, customers create jobs.”
Vested interests always have the loudest voices as they are the most established, take for example the SOPA incident. “People say we have to worry about protecting Hollywood. No we don’t. We need to find a solution that’s best for society.” Yes some people won’t pay for content, but would they ever have? Reach and awareness can generate business, and if you’re providing something of value, most people will pay for it.
O’Reilly believes that “policymakers need to focus on protecting the future from the past instead of protecting the past from the future”.
So what is the way forward?
-Create products that work for your community -Companies need to take ownership of their actions, look after employees as well as shareholders, provide value and think long term -Human creative touch is going to be more and more valuable. The success of places like Etsy and user generated videos on YouTube demonstrate this This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.
After hours of planning, my schedule took a six block detour when I found out my social media crush Gary Vaynerchuk scheduled a last minute #eatup (eat and tweet). And I was not the only one, after tweeting the location, a crowd gathered instantaneously, lining up in an orderly fashion to speak to and take photos with the man himself.
Granted, this is his space, this is a crowd that knows his work and his charm. He has never had a TV Show (he turned it down as he feels cable is dying), never been in movies, but he has written books, made countless online videos, and if there is a world record for the amount of people an individual has replied to on Twitter, he would have it.
At the #eatup Gary had time for each and every person, and will not leave that space until everyone has had their turn. He knows the value of connecting with your audience directly, and his reputation shows that. It is interesting to compare this to the traditional “celebrity”.
For most celebrities, when they allow themselves to be available to the public, it is because they are promoting their movie/TV Show/album/tell-all book/perfume range. At that point, the time of showcasing your completed work, is it too late to expect them to care? What story have they told? How do they know how much work has gone into what they’ve produced? Did any work go into it or did they phone it in for a paycheck?
Looking back at the People’s Choice Awards, pretty much everyone who walked away with an award not only has a large presence on twitter, but tweets regularly. Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev was the first person to win an award when she wasn’t even listed on the original nomination ballot. How has this never happened before? Perhaps because previously stars didn’t have the almost 2,000,000 followers that they can mobilise in an instant like Nina can. Many stars still don’t, but the saying goes – “Build your network before you need it”, and she has dedicated hours and hours of time engaging and speaking to her followers. If public figures are not building their network now, and dedicating real time to it, they could find themselves being eclipsed by stars who previously weren’t even on the radar.
Or as Gary Vaynerchuk says – “whoever cares the most, wins.”
People from the age of two to the age of 60 use iPads. My parents didn’t even like The Beatles.”
Is it true? Do we have more in common with our parents than ever before? Do we like the same things? Use the same things? Are we Facebook friends?
The digital evolution has been credited with breaking down many barriers – between brands and customers, PR professionals and journalists, politicians and their electorates. But what does this mean for the future?
Don Tapscott, author of “Macrowikisnomics,” believes we are not in an Information Age, but an age of collaboration and participation, enabled by social networks. While social networks might begin as weak ties in your life, they can grow into strong ones, ones that will make a difference in your life, and potentially the lives of others. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. We no longer need leaders for a revolution; self-organisation by communities and peers will contribute to change.
Leaders of the old regime are always the last to embrace the new, and business can’t succeed in a world that is failing. Vested interest might resist change, but it is inevitable and history dictates it will be powered by the youth.
So it’s a good thing those two-year-olds are already practicing with communication technology.
From our times roaming the halls of high school we’ve been taught that popularity equals success. Don’t offend anyone, smile, and you could be the next prom queen.
But how do you inspire loyalty and evangelism when you are, you know, pretty boring?
The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napoletano, is a new book about to come out this month which encourages brands to go where no brand ever wants to go: out of the middle of the road. Because as Erika described it while launching her book at SXSW this morning , the middle of the road is “where people get run over.”
Capturing people’s attention is harder than ever. Social networks have been around for a while now, and the tolerance for self-congratulatory and boring content is about to plummet. Brands and companies have had years to experiment and get this right, and now is the time to push the boundaries, not link to your press releases.
The first step is to have personality. Who are you, what is your story, what do you have to offer? Don’t be afraid to show the people behind the organisation, or have a little fun. But there is a line between having personality, and being a jerk. Shock jocks might get the ratings, but being unpopular is not the same as being unlikeable, and this will do no favours for your company.
Next is accessibility. Are you really there? Do you care what people want to say to you? As mentioned above, capturing people’s attention is difficult, so if they take the time to contact you, they will not appreciate being ignored. Research has found that people are turned off by brands when they can see that people’s comments, questions and complaints are being blatantly ignored on social networks.
Sharability. Why not let people spread your content to your own networks? This is the very foundation of good PR – unbiased endorsement. Don’t make it hard for people to do this.
And finally, profitability, because really, if no one is getting paid, having all the above is not going to put food on your table. Focus on the channels that are working for you, cut out the things that aren’t. Social networks can also be a great place for market research, find out what your customers think and what they want, and have fun while doing it.
Not everyone will like you and what you are doing. That’s just the way it goes, even for prom queens. Don’t waste time on people who will never come around, and focus on entertaining and providing value for everyone else.