Conversation & The Digital Age

April 30, 2010

I read this post by Andrew Dubber on my flight today, and it made me think about how important conversation is, and will continue to be, to musicians, to businesses and quite frankly, to everyone.

And what an amazing opportunity this is for those of us who truly love conversation – being part of it and enabling it. And how hard it’ll be for those who hate conversation, especially rock stars.

But what is conversation online, exactly? Of course, it’s a hastag on Twitter or an IM dialogue. But it’s equally a click of a link in an email, a “like” on Facebook or an embed of your video on someone’s blog.

What’s amazing about these conversations is that they’re entirely non-verbal, happen in the blink of an eye and are immensely powerful. Yet most people aren’t doing enough to track and respond to these ongoing conversations. And if you don’t understand or follow a conversation, how can you expect to respond in a meaningful way?

Is it possible to stay on top of these micro-conversations, when a lot of people can’t even stay on top of their email? It’s certainly a challenge.

But as Andrew mentions in his post, the digital age is quite literally re-wiring how our brain works and how we communicate. We’ll evolve, to varying degrees of success, to cope.

And right now, those who converse the most effectively will have the most success.


Magnatune – My own personal man-crush.

April 2, 2010

So as many of you know, we’ve always been commited to changing how we do things here at Penny Distribution over the years, depending on how we feel it better serves artists & customers. Over the last few months we’ve been changing the business model, and branching off in new directions.

But many years ago, I ran into a company working out of Berkeley, CA called Magnatune that has come to exemplify that flexibility. For those unaware, Magnatune started way back in 2003 with some big ideas, such as support of Creative Commons, anti-DRM and a strict “We are not Evil” policy. This was well before these ideas were even CLOSE to being supported by the mainstream.

They’d been on my mind lately also because of their innovative online licensing platform – allowing automated sub-licensing of their pretty extensive catalogue to third parties – Trade Shows, Websites, Ads etc. It was always my goal to grow Penny Distribution in this direction – which I’m finally doing with Penny Black. And I’m not ashamed to say a lot of our inspiration for Penny Black comes from Magnatune’s model.

But what gets me most excited is just how consistent and successful Magnatune have been. While players like Spiralfrog, PLAYMusic and others have come and gone with little more than a whimper, Magnatune has consistently evolved.

With individual or single-album downloads declining, they started offering unlimited download subscriptions of their catalogue – which now accounts for 80% of their revenue. They also mention “when people can download albums without an incremental cost ($15/month for unlimited access, vs $8 per album) they tend to download a more diverse range of music.”, with 94% of their entire catalogue being downloaded at least once.

But the bottom line is Magnatune have never stood pat – they’ve always been willing to change if it better served the music buying customer – the customer who’s willing to experiment to find that one piece of music that makes it all worth while. And more than ever, that’s down at the end of a very, very long tail.