Category Archives: music industry tests the psychology of music ownership

If the iTunes Store had an affair with Pandora, the resulting love child might look like Matt Geraghty over at the Razorfish Scatter/Gather blog points out may revolutionize the music business. Yeah, we’ve been there before, but Lala has an interesting spin combining your human itch to own songs with your desire to grab music for free off the interwebs.

Lala basically gives you a tiered access structure — you can listen to any of 6 million songs online for free, but only once; you can buy a song for only 10 cents and play it anytime as long as you’re connected online; or you can purchase MP3s for download for 89 cents and take them anywhere. As a bonus, Lala will upload your current iTunes library into the cloud so you can access all the music you already own from any other device connected to the net.

Lala is a fascinating test of the psychology of ownership. Will consumers shill out a micropayment of 10 cents for quasi-owning a song that lives only online? The challenge for Lala is it’s not quite as good as free (illegal) music, and it’s not quite as portable as the buckish (legal) tunes we’re used to purchasing. Given the trend of teens to run around with mobile gadgets and expect a zero cost for digital content, the real audience for Lala may be fortysomething business types willing to build a nice office music collection for 20 bucks. We say, put some early U2 on the home page.

Photo: Behindalens

In 2009, no more music lawsuits (but you’ll still be punished)

WSJ reports 35,000 consumers have been sued by the music industry since 2003 for allegedly stealing music over the internet. This created a public-relations debacle for the industry, which sent sharky lawyers after single moms and even a 13-year-old girl, so now they are changing tactics.

No more lawsuits. But if you do download music illegally, a music trade group will trigger a series of email warnings sent to you via your internet service provider … and if you don’t stop, eventually the ISP may slow down or shut off your internet service.

It’s a fascinating capitulation by the music industry, which recognizes that most consumers now don’t think stealing music is bad — even though it is stealing. David Pogue, the NYT tech columnist, recently asked an auditorium of 500 students a simple question:

“You want a movie or an album. You don’t want to pay for it. So you download it. Who thinks that might be wrong?”

Two hands went up out of the 500 students in the crowd. If laws represent the wishes of society, what happens to laws when the morals of society change?

Photo: Canon Snapper

Inside a Boy: How technology sets creative free

About a week ago a young boy picked up our video camera. We found it two hours later filled with digital footage of Lego characters in the basement having a Star Wars battle and, scanning the clips, realized it wasn’t bad.

We thought of that as we stumbled across the above animation from the band My Brightest Diamond. Technology has democratized creative. Sure, professional designers often get bent out of shape by amateurs dabbling in Quark or Photoshop to create substandard layouts or logos, but it’s still a powerful progression that enables millions with talent to create what used to take a team of Walt Disney animators. My Brightest Diamond is led by Shara Worden, daughter of a classical organist and national accordion champion who recorded her first song at age 3. We weren’t able to find out with whom or how she created this animated music video, but we dig the vibe. Perfect for those of us trying to escape recession on a Black Friday.

Clip My Brightest Diamond – Inside a Boy, via One Plus Infinity.

The video game as sales channel

Like, dude. This is so gnarly. The MTV-produced video game Rock Band, which emulates the smash hit Guitar Hero by adding bass, drums and vocals to your ability to play rock guitarist, is turning into a music download store. The game sold 3.4 million units through this summer, but the real juice came — get stoked, music chiefs! — from 21 million song downloads in its first year.

It’s an intriguing case study in how traditional media and sales channels continue their fragmentation — so much that small, intelligent game boxes can become store fronts. Musicians are taking note; AC/DC is releasing a special live set of songs through Rock Band this fall.

Fortune reports that Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV Networks, was skeptical the first time she saw the plastic guitars of Guitar Hero. But now, with her own hit, we bet she has the dial turned all the way up to 11.

Double your pleasure. Double your dumb.

Pavlov had nothing on these marketers.

The old commercial jingle for Wrigley gum, “Double Your Pleasure,” of about 30 years ago has been remixed into an American pop culture hit by Chris Brown in his new single “Forever.” And it was all masterminded by the marketers at Wrigley. The song hit No. 3 on the Billboard top 100 this week. In the actual riff, the jingle is only a few lines, but the über-popular Brown also kindly provided a TV commercial remix, above.

This means:

(a) American culture is now completely morally bankrupt
(b) American marketers are geniuses at product integration
(c) American consumers are moving away from passive advertising channels and so ad messages must be embedded into the entertainment they watch as the only means of reaching them
(d) American bloggers like us are getting older and the only ones who remember the original commercials with the cute blonde twins.

P.S. In a strange twist probably designed to sell ring tones, the Chris Brown videos on YouTube have the embedding function disabled, except for the TV commercial version, so we can’t share the actual pop song with you. The tune is pretty catchy. We may have to buy it.

Pandora kills 180,000 radio listeners

Pandora, the free online music streaming service that recommends songs you may like, has become the hottest app for the new iPhone. About 3.3 million songs were streamed this week to 180,000 Apple fans wearing earphones. Nearly 1 in 5 new iPhone buyers have signed up for Pandora accounts.

1. Advertisers may have a new way to reach the young demos, if Pandora expands ad formats in its next user interface.
2. Until then, that’s a lot fewer people listening to commercial radio.

Via Adweek.

CD Baby puts a song in your heart

Michelle Marts over at Media Artist notes that too few companies do something original with their standard customer communications. Here’s a nice email she found from

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure
it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money
can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet …

Over the top? Yes. Memorable? Definitely. Such prose won’t work for every business, but it’s a wake-up call to start doing more with your standard customer touchpoints. A little humor goes a long way.

Photo: NguyenDai

And now a hit TV musical about Sears

You have to wonder how far this brand-integration-into-content thing will go. With consumers skipping TV commercials via DVRs or getting video off the internet, advertisers such as Sears are weaving their content into the program. MTV and Sears will partner on a movie musical called The American Mall on August 11, just in time for back-to-school shopping.

Brand integration can be powerful. Who can forget the 1993 Jerry Seinfeld episode in which a Junior Mint flew through the air during an operation? Brad Brown, co-founder of product-placement shop Davie Brown, told The Hollywood Reporter that the “mint” episode made brand integration hip again; “the brand become a plot point, and was so successful that they (NBC) looked the other way.”

It’s all nothing new. The Reporter notes Clark Gable killed sales of men’s undershirts when he appeared bare-chested in “It Happened One Night”; Ray-Ban sunglasses sales took off after 1983’s “Risky Business.”

But at a certain point, product placement in media must have diminishing returns. James Dean made a comb look cool in “Rebel Without a Cause.” But could Sears push these fashions from 1974, above, if it tried?

iTunes’ 5 billionth hit

So Apple iTunes has sold more than 5 billion songs as of today. Was it the sexy hardware? The affluent business travelers espousing the concept on the red eye home from San Francisco? The young, poor music fans ticked off at paying $20 for CDs at Strawberries?

We could go on about impulse-purchase psychology, the clever personalized up-selling recommendations, the downstream burst in demand that accompanies every major Apple product release. We could caution movie-pushers Netflix and Blockbuster and Wal-Mart to watch out, because iTunes users are now running at 50,000 video downloads a day.

But heck. It was the pricing. What else can you buy today for a buck?

(Photo: Notic)