Is music falling fast because it grew too quickly?

via Ed Cotton).  

There will be lots of talk about the end of the graph.
But I’m maybe more interested in the middle.
Music grew phenomenally from the late eighties to the end of the nineties.  It tripled in size.
But what comes up must come down.
Maybe the music industry is…
Thanks to @ImperialLeidure, who’ve pointed me in the direction of this post from Business Insider… it’s done the analysis properly, and the picture is somewhat different…
…though hardly with a happier ending.

A compact post on the compact disc



We went looking at cars yesterday. Second hand, enough space for kid and stuff, that sort of idea.

The salesman at one garage, after going through all the spec of the car, leaned over slightly, and with a conspiratorial twinkle added ‘…and it’s got a six-CD changer in the boot’. He might as well have said it was steam powered.

On Thursday, I met a lovely guy who writes music for ads, and produces bands too. So he’s got a good inside track on the music industry. “You just hear so many stories” he said “of well established bands who just can’t make the financials on CD sales stack up”.

This morning, I used this picture of my CD player as the latest submission to It looks like a lovely, friendly robot. But I realised it’s the only thing I’ve used it for in months and months… it sits dormant, the CD tray unloved & unused.

It’s the dog end of the CD days, isn’t it? And I don’t even see a small, passionate fanbase for the format like you have with vinyl.

“You can spill coffee on them and they’ll be fine” they said when they launched CDs. Very soon, all we’ll be using them for is coasters.

The Planner's Book Of Things To Make

The planner’s book of things to make

View more webinars from John V Willshire.

UPDATE – I felt a bit guilty about posting just the below.  So I’ve uploaded the presentation on Slideshare and done a wee voiceover.  Hoorah for the interwebs.


…yes, fair enough, you might click on a post expecting something interesting, but you’re going to be disappointed, because all it actually is so far is some photoshop I’ve bodged together as an intro slide for the IPA – Level One talk I’m doing tomorrow…


Sorry.  It’s all I have at the moment.

If you want to read stuff on what you thought the subject area implied, then you should wait until I write the bastard, and manage to record a wee narration and upload it here, or maybe read Mark Pollard’s post on Why Strategists Should Make Stuff again (a faster, better option, probably).

Or you could watch a video that We Are The Physics made:



Apple, Ping, Douglas Adams… and #cheeseandpicklefail

I was asked by Campaign to write a piece on Apple’s Ping social network, which was in the magazine last week.  I thought I’d post it here too.


So, it turns out that Apple’s Ping is rubbish.  Is it rubbish?  Well, yes, it must be rubbish.

Lots of people have been saying Ping is rubbish, and sharing their thoughts on its unequivocal rubbishness.  They’ve rubbished it on twitter, they’ve rubbished it on blogs, they’ve rubbished it in forums.  Some people have even gone to the bother to make films to upload to Youtube rubbishing Ping.

It’s like a new kid arrived at social network school, and the bigger kids nicked his lunch money, flushed his head down the loo and wrote ‘rubbish’ across his forehead in permanent marker.

OK, so perhaps it’s not surprising.  If I asked you what you’d want from a music social network in 2010, a closed network locked inside a walled garden might not have been top of your list.  To paraphrase The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s a social network hosted “in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’…”

We’ll come back to Douglas Adams later though.

However, in a world that’s evolving so, so quickly (Youtube is only five years old, remember), I’m inclined to think that the one thing we mustn’t rush to do is judge.  To try and make more sense of this, it’s worth stepping back a bit to see the big picture.

The past year has seen both Apple and Google start to make plays in the social space – Apple with Ping and Game Centre, and Google with Wave and Buzz. 

Now, the social phenomenon has caught them both napping a bit, and large companies find it harder than small ones to move quickly.  But they’re trying to work out how to build it in to what they do already.  They’re preparing for the future.

The problem is the media glare (both traditional and ‘social’) they both operate under.  When you’re a start-up trying to build something new, nobody is watching.

When you’re Apple or Google and you announce you’re going to the canteen to see what’s for lunch, there’s a press conference at the till and a three day post-mortem across the world on #cheeseandpickleFAIL.

We saw it last month when Eric Schimdt announced at Zeitgeist that they’re “trying to take Google’s core products and add a social component”.  Press coverage went through the roof, and commentators across the world offer a hundred and one thousand different interpretations of what this could mean for users, competitors, regulators, advertisers and so on.  Everyone is always watching.

Which is hardly the ideal climate for innovation.  If either Apple or Google had launched the first version of Facebook, we’d have probably laughed too.  It’s easy to knock people nowadays.  They always said that ‘everyone’s a critic’.  Thanks to technology, they’re now all published critics too.

But rather than poking fun at those who’ve started down the social path and have taken a few wrong steps here and there, it’s much more important to look at who isn’t “trying to take core products and add a social component”.  And I’m not just thinking about technology companies.  I’m thinking about every sort of company.

We’re on the cusp of a world where everything is “social”, from the car you drive to the toys your kids play with.

Ready for the slightly geeky bit?  Good.

You may have heard of the ‘internet of things’.  It describes a world in which every machine, product and object is connected to the internet, and the interaction between them produces a myriad of weird and wonderful services and experiences for us.

Dave Evans, Chief Futurist at Cisco Systems, recently stated that there already 35 billion devices that through some form or other are connected to the internet, and there over a trillion ‘devices’ by his estimate that could be hooked up; cars, livestock, kitchen appliances, pets… the list is endless.

The important bit is that when they’re connected, they’ll talk to each other.

Let’s take the car example.  This year Ford announced MyFord Touch, the next generation of the Ford Sync program (powered by the Microsoft Auto platform).  Amongst many other features, it has its own cellular modem built in.  In tandem with the GPS navigation device, you’ve now got a car that knows exactly where it is… and can talk to other things around it.

Want to know where the cheapest petrol is, or which restaurants are still serving breakfast?  No problem.  Want to see what songs others listen to most along your favourite drives?  Easy peasy.

Then we’ve got toys; Disney recently proposed that all toy manufacturers set out  ‘to establish a set of industry development and technology standards for web-connected toys’.  They’re looking to prevent a format war, and through making one standard for any toy that connects to the internet, decrease the costs of implementation for everyone whilst at the same time increasingly playability for kids.

Think back to when you were a kid.  It often irritated me when playing with two different toy types they didn’t ‘work’ together; Star Wars figures, for example, couldn’t hold pieces of Lego.  Copious amounts of Blu-tack solved that problem of course, though in doing so it created another carpet cleaning based one for Mum.  Sorry Mum.

Anyway, one industry standard that means any toys can talk to each other, whether to form alliances against the Evil Emperor Grrh’AAttH’TTh or to see how often they’ve taken tea together.  No doubt it’ll connect to your Club Penguin account and earn you Coins for playing in the real world too.

All this will be natural for a generation who will grow up knowing that everyone and everything can talk to everyone and everything else; ‘playing nicely together’ takes on a whole new meaning.

It will be so natural, in fact, that they won’t have a name for it.  Which brings us round again to Douglas Adams, who in a 1999 essay despaired of the term ‘interactivity’ and its emergence as a fashionable term to use when talking about the new medium of ‘the web’.  He pointed out that back before broadcast media…

“…we didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.”

Everything was ‘interactive’.  And in much the same way, when everything has ‘social layers’ built into it, so it will be that nobody will talk about ‘social this’ and ‘social that’.  Because why would you make something that didn’t have ‘social’ embedded?

So then, back to Ping; it’s just the first attempt to build a social layer into iTunes.  It had over a million members in the first 48 hours.  Would you bet against it evolving inside iTunes until its useful and fun?  There’s not many folk have made money betting against Apple. 

But maybe by then ‘social’ will be so naturally embedded into everything we’ll forget what all the fuss was about…


The international language of taking the piss

Idly through twitter this morning, I saw Ben tweeting this… why would you not click..?


It’s a link to a video on youtube by Russian boy band Steklovata.  I say ‘video’ and ‘boy band’, but I’m using the terms in the loosest possible sense…


It’s called Noviy Noviy God, and it’s Not Very Not Very Good.

Lesson one; Anyone can be a pop star nowadays.

The more interesting thing for me was the links that started appearing to other videos beside it…

…somewhat inevitably, people have started making parodies.

First up was the Swedish version…


…then there’s the Polish version…


…the Lithuanian version…


…Bosnian version…

…just when you think it’s getting a bit like Eurovision, we travel halfway around the world for the ‘Brazilian Trash Version’…


…and of course the inevitable ’50 Cent vs Steklovata’ mash-up…

Lesson two:  Anyone can be a pop star nowadays, but you’d better be prepared for the great global pisstake if you put up something like Noviy Noviy God…



The #commutebox playlist principles

While we’re talking about #commutebox

…the playlists are being successful enough (eg lots of people adding lots of songs, which is ace) that I thought I’d post up some principles to shape the playlist: 

So, without further ado…

The commutebox playlist principles.

i) Whatever the playlist theme, think of a connection for the song you add.  You may be tested.

ii) Add a track here and there.  Maybe two or three.  DON’T bulk add, it just looks greedy

iii) If you’re a-twitterin’, then tweet what you’ve added using the #commutebox hashtag

iv) At a randomly designated time, the playlist will be closed, and I will curate…

Eh?  Curate?

Yeah, I know, harsh, when people give up time to add stuff. 

But if a playlist is open to everything, it just gets WAY too long.  Just a big list of songs.  Take your big list elsewhere, sunny-jim. This is commutebox.

Each playlist will be timed, see, to be twice the UK average commute, which some old news item randomly found on t’internet suggests is 45 minutes.  Even my maths tells me that’s an hour and a half of music, put together by your peers.  Nice.

So, what’re you waiting for; see if you can make the cut at on the commutebox summer playlist


#commutebox playlist & spotify; TV next, please?

It’s been a while since a few folks and I started mucking about with the #commutebox hashtag on twitter.  It was a way for friends to share the tracks and albums they were listening to on the way to work. 

That way, you’d find out what else folk were listening to, and might find a few more interesting things yourself.  (I talked about it here, ’twas over a year ago now it seems.  Doesn’t time fly..?)



But of course, twitter’s hardly the most natural home for doing it perfectly.  Like it is for many other things, the simple twitter interface was the inexpensive ‘best’ we could do at little effort at the time.

But most folk didn’t search for #commutebox every day, they probably just saw a tweet here and there suggesting some new music.

What we were probably all waiting for was the social Spotify malarkey. 

Since they launched the social features, we’ve compiled a lovely spring playlist, and we’re halfway through a summer playlist.  It’s really easy just to quickly add tracks whenever the mood takes you.



Then everyone who subscribes to the playlist has it on their desktop, or their phone if they have a premium account.  An instant source of a peer-curated music.

So with that experience, it’s of great interest to see the launch of Spotify TV in Sweden & Finland…



Sure, at the moment it’s just for creating your own playlist of music through the TV remote.

But you’ve got to think they’re just paving the way for the technology to work for TV content, rather than just music.

Which would be great; a TV guide curated by you and your mates, that you can all set up to watch on specific occasions (not unlike when we’re ‘all’ commuting with the music…). 

It’s been talked about before, but please, make it so, Spotify…


My last Artrocker column…

For the last six years or so, I’ve written a column for the splendid music magazine Artrocker.  But I decided to stop doing it after issue 100… it’s nice to finish on a round number, I think.



Anyway, I thought I’d post it up here, as I felt it needed an online home for posterity, and also because it’s interesting to reflect on what’s happened to the music industry in those years.

News from the Back<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

I’m leafing through the first printed edition of Artrocker. 

<o:p> </o:p>

I’ve kept every edition since the first was published, and despite living in the electronic age it is the only place where I’ve got a copy of every word of this here column.  Computer viruses and user carelessness has seen to that.

<o:p> </o:p>

October 4th, 2004.  Kaito on the front.  Remember Kaito?  Yeah. 

<o:p> </o:p>

With each turn of the delicately yellowing pages, names from the past ring out.  Sounds and times are recalled, and the mind plays tricks. 

<o:p> </o:p>

Each song rocks clearer, harder, the vitriol freshly brewed and canned.  At each show, we are closer to the front, with a better view.  The band is amazing, and the set list is perfect.  There are two encores.  The beer is cheaper. 

<o:p> </o:p>

(Actually, the beer probably was cheaper.  Keynes’ fourth economic principle; alcohol inflation rises in direct correlation with the fondness of memories). 

<o:p> </o:p>

“The next Futureheads single will be a remixed version of live favourite ‘Hounds of Love’…”<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

TV On The Radio play their fourth UK show, Giant Drag support Trouble Everyday down at the Buffalo Bar.  80s Matchbox are still together, The Delgados are still together.   

<o:p> </o:p>

About twenty-seven people have ever seen the Arctic Monkeys play live, and Myspace is as likely to get a mention on the BBC One Six O’Clock news as what Alex Turner ate for dinner last night. 

<o:p> </o:p>

Lily Allen has only ever been mentioned in the newspaper in articles about her dad, Lady Gaga is still a Williamsburg waiter called Kevin.

<o:p> </o:p>

“Out now on Domino… Archie Bronson Outfit – Fur, Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand…”<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

The Long Blondes release singles on obscure Sheffield indie labels, Battles release EPs on obscure New York labels.  Pete Doherty is still turning up for shows, Selfish Cunt is still a funny name for a band, Elliot Smith is still alive, John Peel is still alive.

<o:p> </o:p>

Youtube has not been invented, Spotify has not been imagined, Doctor Who is an old TV series with wobbly sets that they cancelled in the eighties.

<o:p> </o:p>

Interpol review: “This is a band on the brink of huge success… this sold-out show is part of a perfectly co-ordinated assault supporting imminent second album ‘Antics’…”<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

And then, finally, I turn to the last page; the back page.  News From The Back. 

<o:p> </o:p>

See, it’s like ‘news from the front’?  Except it’s from the back.  The back of the magazine, the back of the venue, the cynic who won’t join in, the kid who gets sent to the corner at parties.  I was the man who was professionally tired by it all.

<o:p> </o:p>

In my time, I’ve railed against, well, everything.  For example, in the first issue people who sing along at gigs; “seemingly unaware that whilst the singer on stage is hitting (most of) the notes, they are merely braying like a tuneless Wookie”. 

<o:p> </o:p>

Then singers, generally.  Second albums about ‘the music industry’.  Bono (often).  The death of Fopp, the over supply of music, DRM, The Camden Crawl, lazy musicians, record labels and their fuckwittedness (often).  The list goes on.

<o:p> </o:p>

But now, nearly six years on, the time has come to write the last back page.  I’m tired of being tired.  Withering sarcasm takes it out of you after a while. 

<o:p> </o:p>

I’d like to thank you, the reader, for the occasional eye you cast this way.  I’d like to thank Tom, Paul, Marc and Rich at Artrocker.  Rich especially, who would always turn around an unerringly arch illustration for the column despite copy arriving usually a week after it was due.  

<o:p> </o:p>

And I’d like to thank the music industry in general, for attracting the lowest of the species, the dregs of humanity.  You made it impossible to be short of material.  Thank you one, thank you all. 

<o:p> </o:p>

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty still to hate.  But for me, my hating days are done. 

<o:p> </o:p>

I’m not Danny Glover.  It’s not that I’m too old for this shit. 

<o:p> </o:p>

I’m just too young for it to be the only shit I ever do.

<o:p> </o:p>


Pomplamoose >> Lady Gaga

One of the most talked about music videos for a while has been the new Lady Gaga one for ‘Telephone’… now, come on, you’ve seen it.  I’m not going to post it here.  There are CHILDREN WATCHING.

Oh, click on the image if you haven’t seen it…



…but instead, I’d much rather you watched this:  The fantastic Pomplamoose cover version that Ben pointed me to last week…

Cool huh?  But who, wha..?

Pomplamoose are Nataly & Jack, and they create VideoSongs (a new art form that they made up) 

There’s two rules to VideoSongs.  Firstly, everything that you see in the video is what you’re hearing – no lip-syncing, overdubs or anything.  Secondly, everything you hear in a song you will see at some stage. 

So they create songs by filming every take on every instrument, and mixing the video and music together to make one VideoSong.  They’ve got lots up on their Youtube channel, if you like ‘Telephone’ you should really check out the cover of ‘Beat It’…

So, are they signed to a record label?  Nope.  And they don’t look like they want to be either… they use their Youtube channel to drive sales of their album on iTunes. 

And they’re becoming the posterchildren for a new initiative – watch this video they’ve made for the new Youtube ‘Musicians Wanted’ partnership…

It’s brilliant when you see talented people like this creating things just how they want them to be, and finding an audience for them all around the world.

Does sort of make you wonder what a record label is for nowadays..?

Apart from fronting up millions of dollars for Lady Gaga to play Quentin Tarentino for a few weeks, of course…