Category Archives: management

Loving Music in a World of Shifting Business Models

I love music.

I probably listen to music 4-6 hours a day, much of it while I am working.

And I am not an expert on music, digital business models, digital technology, or the music business.  I am simply a humble, passionate user.

I am worried that the “market” for music is going to evolve away from what I want.  Is downloaded music over?  Is streaming dead? Or doomed to being a loss-leader for larger behemoths like cell phone carriers or Amazon?

Ever since digital music and downloading emerged, I have been happy to pay for music.  Most of my iTunes library was built from ripping my CDs.  And as the RIAA and its business allies screamed and shouted and whinged about illegal downloads in the era of Napster, I seethed that all those freeloaders were making life difficult for me by provoking various forms of DRM (digital rights management).  For example, I couldn’t copy music from a first generation iPod from the iPod to a second computer.  I paid for the music, and now this wall of property rights was inserted in MY TECHNOLOGY.

Models evolved.  Pandora came along and at first I loved it.  But then, I realized, I wanted to be able to play the song I wanted when I wanted.  Too many hours were spent trying to “trick” Pandora into the perfect mix of alternative, folk, americana, jazz, and bluegrass.

I tied to get off iTunes with a Songbird experiment.  But something happened and it mixed up meta data and then I had songs with the wrong titles.  I am still looking for an iTunes alternative, preferably one that folds lyrics in.

RDIO came along, and I happily signed up.  $10 a month for unlimited PC streaming of anything I wanted?  Yes, please.

I learned about emusic.  Which has been around for awhile, in turns out.  I can often get songs for $0.49 or $0.79!  The model also constrains my spending to $15 a month on new music.  I listen to music on RDIO.  When I hear something I like, I pop over to emusic.com and buy it.  If I want to make a mix cd for a friend, I go into iTunes.  It all works just fine.

But emusic changed its catalog to focus only on “indie artists and labels.”  Fine.  But, really, no Indigo Girls?  So, am I back to buying from Amazon or iTunes?  Are the artists even seeing anything fair in these purchases?  Spotify et al have big revenue streams, but most of that goes to the labels, not the creators of the music.

Rdio won’t make the details of its revenue public, but Spotify took in more than half a billion dollars last year. Nevertheless, its losses grew from from $60 million to $78 million. Spotify executives say 70 percent of its revenue went to paying licensing fees. (From NPR).

eMusic, through its editorial, magazine-like portal, Wondering Sound, is trying to make music discovery and curating a service you want.  That is fine, as far as it goes, but the link from listening to buying then becomes too convoluted.  I hear a song I like on Rdio, or through its pretty good social media features, and then I have to hunt for it on eMusic.com, and if not there, maybe Amazon?  Maybe iTunes?  But pay more?  And also feel like I am no longer supporting emusic’s love-of-music ethos?  It is like buying music from Wal-Mart instead of a record store.  I _LIKE_ hanging out in the record store.

One jazz music writer covers some of the emusic changes and what it means for his tastes.

Meanwhile, vinyl is making its little comeback, even in our house, led by my music-phile son, Elijah.  Music I love, like The National, or San Fermin, or Sharon Von Etten, I’d be willing to buy and own as vinyl for the audio quality.

Why are labels so powerful still?  Because they control the back catalogs?

Why can’t there be a stream-and-purchase model?  Emusic.com has a stream part, but you are capped at like ten hours a month.  Why wouldn’t musicians seek out a label-free distribution platform so they can record music and have it available to stream, download or hard copy purchase without going through a label?  A platform that also catalyzes concert-going and other revenue streams for them?

UPDATE:  Pandora seems to have some ideas along these lines, as here Fortune describes Customer Relationship Management for artists…

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Filed under Creativity, digital culture, Future of Technology, Information and Communication Technology, innovation, management, Media, music, Network Society, Social Networks, Uncategorized

A Clutch of Random Goodies- finance, net neutrality, deficit…

Here is just a clutch of good randomness that has been accumulating on my desktop…

PS featured image is Simon Johnson.

Bucknell and Truth

Bucknell gets unexpected reward for being honest about a mistake.  Is this worthy of an ethical snap?

Net Neutrality?

What the hell is net neutrality?  Baratunde Thurston  one of our tech/no speakers, explains it so well, it got picked up by Raw Story.   I love how Bucknell can be a producer of information and wisdom and not just a user. 

Organization Theory is Cool

A book review about organization theory I really need to read.  Orgtheory.net is the one blog I wish I read more.

Learn from Nice Rich People

Lessons for failure and management from philanthropists.

We are drowning in deficit! (are we?)

Compare your answers to the US public and, um, the reality.

Change Doesn’t Happen.  Until it Does.

From AFL-CO vs Home Depot, through Frank-Dodd, to Citigroup.  Is corporate governance and executive compensation changing?  Maybe.  Read abotu some pretty big changes at the link.

Is a Tax Better than Regulations?

You want policy ideas?  You like finance? You dislike “regulation” that tries to dictate firm behavior?  Try this one.  Instead of trying to tell financial firms what they can or can’t do, how much capital to have on the books, and so on, how about you tax a vice- like we do with alcohol and tobacco- and simply tax financial transactions to make trading for the sake of microscopic gains on immaterial price shifts non-economic?  Read. here about Europe’s experiment with a different, and I would argue,  less intrusive form of regulation to change financial markets and firms.

You want even more financial regulation news?

You are really, really troubled.  I hope Vinny, Loukas, Mike, and… (who else are finance jocks?) are reading this. Simon Johnson.  yes, THAT Simon Johnson, had this blog post about the 12 “angry bankers” of the Fed and their ideas to push for transparency in money market fund valuations as part of the (yes, that same one) Frank Dodd bill reforms that created the systemic risk council.  In a nutshell, the financial industry does NOT WANT such valuation while the regulators do.

I am never surprised when practicing “capitalists” fight against actual free markets (with liquidity and transparency).  Businesspeople are often, perhaps usually anti-capitalist if you define capitalism not as maximum wealth accumulation, but as free markets that expand the prosperity of a society.  Am I alone in seeing this?

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Filed under Business, Government, innovation, macroeconomics, management, organization theory, policy, Political Economy, Politics, Power, Activism, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship [SiSe]

Natural Capitalism

I am just now picking up Lovins, Hawken,and Lovins Natural Capitalism book.

I am wondering if I could use it in a module on alternative perspectives on capitalism module. I also was wondering what has happened since it was published in 1999.

There is a is a website called natcap.org.

Here I found a more recent edition with a new introduction. http://www.naturaledgeproject.net/NatCap2005.aspx.

What I like best about it is the focus on solutions. I feel like that would mitigate people who dismiss change as naive idealism.

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Filed under Books, Business, Great Companies, management, Political Economy, social innovation

Through the looking glass: Putting a Value on a C.E.O.

January 28- Update:

Maureen Dowd Agrees with me:

“If you don’t pay your best people, you will destroy your franchise” and they’ll go elsewhere, he said.

Hello? They destroyed the franchise. Let’s call their bluff. Let’s see what a great job market it is for the geniuses of capitalism who lost $15 billion in three months and helped usher in socialism.”

My father in law sent me this article from two weeks ago int the NY Times.

Dealbook – Putting a Value on a C.E.O. – NYTimes.com
“By itself, more share and retention-based compensation is not the magic bullet, because it certainly didn’t stop us from running up very large losses,” Mr. Bischoff said.

This ranks up there with all time statements lacking any humility or self-awareness.  If you look at the explosion in financial sector profitability (much of it inflated) and bonuses and other stock-based payments, and then at the continued pay out of bonuses even as the financial sector sank, then the premise of this statement by the Chairman of Citigroup, which is that more of the same compensation schemes _may_, (may!) not help avoid large losses is weirdly up-is-down through-the-looking-glass logic that can only make sense to the world of Wall Street and high finance.  If you are the CEO, of, say, I don’t know, a car manufacturer, and your firm looses more than half of its value in one year, than you d not get a bonus.  You probably lose your job.

The article goes on to repeat the logic of more of these compensation ideologues several times that if firms do not continue to pay out huge bonuses tied to stock options, than they will lose the top management talent they need to compete.  ha ha, ho ho!  I am drying my eyes.

Let’s list some accomplishments of this great management talent (all are sarcastic, BTW)

Because they have done such a great job so far.

Because they did not create the conditions for this financial mess by advocating deregulation and obfuscation of financial systems under the guise of free market theory.

Because they designed and staunchly defend as in the general interest stock option compensation that creates clear and perverse incentives to smooth earnings, game financial accounting, and other malfeasance (whether deliberate or convenient).

Because they have not hijacked the very governance mechanisms meant to curb the abuses of greed in a free market- corporate boards and regulatory agencies.

Finally, is there a labor economist in the house?

The argument is that if not, as a group, paid super premiums over all other types of organizational leaders, from medicine, higher education, the frickin’ president, manufacturing, and every other sector of American economic activity, then oh no! there will be a mass exodus of CEO and top management.  Really?  And where in the hell where they go work?  Boeing?  Chrysler?  Schering Plough? Best Buy?  Given the vast pool of educated and experienced mangers and even financial managers in the world, you don’t think we could possibly find people willing to work for $2,$4,$6 million in total compensation? Especially if that is twice what they ear now (or more) and not any better than what they could get elsewhere.

The notion somehow massive bonuses and total compensation are the only way to keep people performing as the CEOs and top leaders of banks, brokerages, investment banks, and so on just seems laughable.

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Filed under Banking, economics, management

Long Tail Debates

Wish I had more time now to review this:

Long Tail Stops Wagging.

Matt Stoller over at Open Left argues that this means that technoutopian libertarian dreams are dead and there is a necessary role for government.

Maybe.  I have never read enough of the Long Tail arguments to have a Strong opinion, but I do want to point out that there maybe radical inequality in revenues between a Google or Facebook and other web services that aim to make a profit.  In fact, a long tail is premised on that.  But, the question was whether a business can survive in the long tail, as opposed to have equal revenues.  If you have the head and not tail then you have an oligopoly which was never the merit of the long tail.

Finally, aggregators seem complicated.  They get a little revenue from a massive volume of transactions, but if those transactions are distributed to a number of smaller players (ebay, Amazon marketplace, emusic, and so on), then you may have a viable market where one did not exist before- again, it is about viability, not equality.

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Filed under digital culture, management, organization theory, technology

Is this for real?

A direct mail marketing message came to me today ahead of the Academy of Management meetings.

Is this for real?

Do you have questions about life?

Stop by the McGraw-Hill/Irwin booth Sunday, Aug.9 and Tuesday, Aug. 12 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and get lifes questions answered by our psychics!

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Filed under conferences, humor, management, Marketing

Soc Net Books to Explore

Charles Kadushin sent out an email awhile ago asking for reviewers for Social Networks.  i would love to see the network folks sink their teeth into the explosion of general audience/practitioner books out there.

he listed the following at the time as possibilities:

Social Networks and Marketing, by Christophe Van den Bulte and Stefan Wuyts, Marketing Science Institute, 2007.

Andy Sernovitz and Guy Kawasaki, Word of Mouth Marketing: How smart companies get people talking. Kaplan Publishing, 2006 Mark Hughes, Buzz Marketing, Penguin 2006 Dave Balter and John Butman, Grapevine: the new art of word-of-mouth marketing. Penguin 2005.

Add Seth Godin’s Tribes: We need you to Lead us (2008) to the list.

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Filed under Books, management, Marketing, Social Networks

Last Chance to Apply to Be an Obama Organizing Fellow!

Maybe some current or former students check in…

Maybe this campaign is going to be a case study in managerialism in politics married to netroots.  Centrally controlled message and tight finances (managerialism) with people2peole tools and emergent organizing on the ground (netroots).  so, this counts as an OT post also.  :<)

Barack Obama : : Change We Can Believe In | Sam Graham-Felsen’s Blog: Last Chance to Apply to Be an Obama Organizing Fellow!
Today is your last chance to apply to be an Obama Organizing Fellow this summer. This is your opportunity to be on the frontlines of this movement for change, bringing Obama’s message to voters across America, precinct by precinct, block by block…

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Filed under activism, management, Org Design, Orgs Stuff (theory, science, studies), Politics, Power, Activism, Social Networks

Applied SNA-ASNA 2007 // Call for Papers

ASNA 2007 // Call for Papers
ASNA 2008 will primarily provide an interdisciplinary venue with focus on applications of social network analysis; however, submissions on theoretical and methodological issues regarding SNA are also welcome.

I don’t know how many times I can bounce over to the EU in the Fall, but this looked interesting.  I have been itching for awhile to get a better handle on applied SNA.   Outside of Valdis Kreb’s InFlow and Rob Cross’ Network Roundtable (and The company Visible Path), I don’t know much about applied SNA over here.

I should find out what kinds of meetings are over here of this nature.

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Filed under conferences, management, Network Visuals, Research, Social Networks

Plaxo Is Said to Be for Sale

Social Net Site Is Said to Be for Sale – New York Times

They were getting beat out by Facebook and LinkedIn.  What has happened with Orkut, Friendster, Tribe.net, and other SNS (social networking sites)? Will they adapt, consolidate, or disappear?   Seems like a good case study of an emerging field of competitors.  Do new rules apply, or the same old industrial organization and strategic evolution? Or, like the persistent synthetic worlds Castronova described (like Ultima Online), will they persist due to the stickiness of social ties?

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Filed under economic evolution, economic sociology, innovation, management, Social Network Sites