I wrote a guest post on startups working with the entertainment industry for the 500 Startups Blog. The piece has now been shared thousands of times, featured in newsletters such as MediaREDEF, Mattermark, and StartupDigest, and voted up to the front page on GrowthHackers and Inbound.org.
— Dave McClure (@davemcclure) July 26, 2014
— Joe Spector (@joespector) July 25, 2014
— Michael Palank (@mpalank101) July 28, 2014
Thanks to Emily Parris Sandler, Andrew Skotzko, Sam Teller, Patrick Vlaskovits, Joey Flores, Casey Armstrong, Steve Manuel, Rob Ellis, Susan Su, Keyvan Peymani, Matthew Joseph, Kelley McKinney, Nate Redmond, Adam Lilling, and Eric Galen for reading drafts of the piece. Very much appreciated!
Damn, I’ve been really nervous about posting this.
I can publish articles all day. I don’t consider myself a writer. But I find it effing terrifying to post a YouTube video of me playing my horn. Because at one time, I thought I was a “real” musician. Whatever that means.
I spend more time helping musicians these days (which is awesome!), than actually playing. It’s been years since I was able to get in enough practice hours or jam with friends regularly. Now I’m remembering the old days.
But playing the sax is still so fun. Probably moreso than ever.
I was with my buddy Andrew Skotzko a couple years ago, talking about playing the sax. He egged me on to start posting covers to a YouTube channel. I was too chicken then, but it’s about time I got over my BS.
So, to try to knock off some rust, here are my first two posts to YouTube — one’s a Joshua Redman transcription of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” and the other’s from the Chromatik Tune of the Day Collection, “Magic” by Coldplay.
I’ll continue posting tunes here via YouTube. Nothing crazy, but hopefully it’ll help keeping me going!
Hope you dig ’em.
“What do you think about building a driving range for skipping stones in LA?”
– A text I sent to my brothers, Jason and Eric, a few months ago.
James Altucher cranks out posts, talks, and books about “How to Become an Idea Machine.” I love the concept. Being creative requires you to come up with lots and lots of ideas. Many will stink. A few will be great.
So I started putting James’ concept into practice. Every morning, I pick a topic to develop 10 ideas for in under 20 minutes. Sounds silly, but it’s an exercise to get my mind a’moving. I come up with ideas for albums, Chromatik marketing campaigns, products, blog posts, books, movies, and more. It makes my brain sweat.
Ideas are the easy part. Execution is where things get much more difficult.
I put together a few of my favorite product concepts from the last weeks below. My goal here was idea exercise, not company building. Some of the ideas stink. A few have potential. Feel free to grab any of these as your own. Or laugh at them. Whatever you’d like.
1. Nest for Sprinkler Systems
California and many areas around the world experience regular water shortages. Similar to Nest’s energy conservation goals, homeowners would be more conscious about water usage if they saw data around water usage for their lawn or shower. Not to mention, my sprinkler system is a nightmare. Would love to see an elegant solution here. (Influenced by Greg Brandeau)
2. Handyman Lessons
I didn’t ever learn how to build or fix things around my house. Growing up, I was more interested in music, sports, and girls. But I’d love to take handyman lessons now, similar to what you see with music lessons. $40-60/hour to come to my house and spend an hour teaching me how to repair things, build something, use power tools, etc. There’s only so much I can learn from YouTube.
3. Pandora for Alcohol
Like that beer? Cool, here are three others to try. Like that Speyside scotch? Great, here are five others you’d like in a $25-50 price range. The Alcohol Genome Project. I hate depending on the folks at Total Wine or online reviewers.
4. Driving Range for Skipping Stones
A place to skip rocks would be incredible in major cities. Relaxing, peaceful, and lush. $5 for a small bag of perfect skipping stones. Concession stand. Perhaps a yoga studio. Please, someone make this happen.
5. Music Publishing Transparency
Music publishing is a black box. Want to license a track for TV or film? Want to pay out royalties from an online music radio program? Good luck. Publishing catalog ownership data is a nightmare. It’s wildly difficult to access, and it changes regularly. A few companies — MRI, Harry Fox, MediaNet, CrunchDigital — track and hold this information tightly to their chest (for sometimes north of $10k/month). Or you can try to track down rights yourself by calling major music publishers (it’s as fun as it sounds!). Someone will break down these walls.
6. Disconnect Software
There are some interesting products out there already for desktop (SelfControl being my choice), but nothing that crosses desktop and mobile. We need one disconnect app to rule them all.
7. Investments in Individuals
Most venture capitalists say they invest in people. But they actually invest in companies, where the people are replaceable.
Well, a different approach would be investing in a person. Literally. We’re already seeing public investment in athletes (see Fantex), and it’s only a matter of time before the model expands to movie stars, musicians, entrepreneurs, financial experts, and more.
8. Caffeinated Water Filter
Not sure this is possible, but imagine getting your morning pick-me-up from a glass of water.
9. QA as a Service
Anyone developing software hires testers. Some are great, some stink. It takes certain technical/communication skills and diligence to be a great tester. What if you could hire a firm to be that “fresh set of eyes” to provide full-cycle testing? Could work on nightly builds, bi-weekly releases, or one-off major pushes.
10. AlwaysOn Microphone
Imagine a FitBit-like device that was an HD microphone, always recording. At any moment, you could tap the device, send the last 60 seconds of audio to an app on your phone to save, edit, or share to social. Perhaps some invasion of privacy issues. Perhaps some creepiness. But it would be incredible for songwriters, authors, people with long commutes, entrepreneurs, people in fights, and more. Could you imagine Kanye with this? It’d be huge.
11. Uber for IT Support
The next generation Geek Squad. You could even roll up in a VW Beetle, if you’d like.
12. Food Sensitivity Brand
Gluten is today’s hot topic, but more and more people are learning about food sensitivities. It’s becoming mainstream. There’s still an opportunity for a person/brand to take the helm in this space. YouTube Channel. Blog. Recipes. Book. Food Network show. And more. (Influenced by Patrick Vlaskovits, Eric Sandler, and Lisa Sandler)
13. Personalized Job Search Service
There are just too many places to look for jobs. Job boards, individual company websites, and more. Pay a monthly fee for personalized, aggregated job listings. Upsell for resume writing/review, interview practice, and more.
14. Smart Toilet
Go to the restroom, and the toilet analyzes your urine/fecal matter. This can be for simple data gathering. Or could be a first-detection system that identifies potential issues. If possible, this could actually be a game-changer. (Influenced by James Altucher or Tim Ferriss, I forget)
15. Deli Delivery Service
You can get anything you need from the grocery store delivered nowadays. Except for deli counter items. The logistics of this business are key, but people would love to have turkey, cheese, ham, or chicken salad delivered to their door regularly.
16. Tru-Fit Tshirt
It seems like everyone has issues finding tshirts they love. Different brands, different sizes, different cuts, different materials. It’d be great to get to try a selection of tshirts, delivered by mail. And once I select my brand of choice, I’d get 10-20 tshirts in a range of colors, prints, etc.
17. Woodwind Reeds Subscription Service
Niche, but woodwind musicians need reeds regularly. We always forget to buy more, and when we do, they’re expensive. Just send me a pack of my reeds of choice, monthly. I’ll pre-order for a year.
Have all mail sent to a PO Box. The company securely picks up all physical mail, scans in each item, and sends you all mail via email. Anything that needs to be physically passed along (think checks, bank cards) does so automagically.
19. Daily Video Newsletter
Folks get dozens of daily newsletters. Some are great, and others they’ve just forgotten to unsubscribe to. None feature the best videos of the day, sent to your inbox based on interests. News, sports, comedy, etc. Would be great. Calling Pluto.tv!
20. Columbia House for LPs
Nobody buys CDs anymore. But cool kids with record players still buy LPs. Would love the mail-order record club offering now.
21. Passover Food Line
2013 US matzo sales were $86mm alone. Just saying.
22. The Holodeck
Oculus Rift is just the first step. Someone’s going to crack to code to build a Stark Trek-like holodeck. We want.
23. Audio for Articles
Audiobooks are a $1.2B business. Podcasts are rapidly growing in popularity. This would be a B2B business — work with a content company (The Economist, Rolling Stone, etc), identify top content per week, contract engaging vocal talent, produce the podcast, and distribute/track accordingly. The end result would be “The Economist Podcast,” which features audio readings of the previous week’s top articles.
Check out #6secondcover on Vine or #15secondcover on Instagram. Wildly entertaining, with some fantastic talents. Something to do here.
25. Hello Music for Sports Gear
Daily deals for sports gear.
26. Musicians’ Music Podcast
I love Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, The Nerdist, and more. They do incredible interviews with comedians and entertainers. But there doesn’t seem to be a podcast that hosts major music acts with any regularity. A podcast would be an incredible format to chat with musicians about the recording process, how they make music, and more. This could end up being Nerdist for music. (Influenced by Corey Richardson)
27. Reliable Wireless Internet for Airplanes
For eff’s sake, I’m tired of paying $25 for 3 hours of airplane internet access that’s worse than my 1999 AOL dial-up connection. Someone please fix this.
28. IMDB for Music
Pretty straightforward model. It would be a data gathering nightmare (tracking session musicians, band members, etc), but would be an incredible resource to the music community.
29. Connected Black Box
There could be a way to securely sync an airplane’s black box data to the cloud. It would require a hardware and software solution, sold directly to airlines and/or airline manufacturers. There are incredible complexities here, without a doubt, but this could prevent worst-case scenarios.
30. App Marketing Consulting
There are hundreds of thousands of app developers, producing millions of apps across iOS and Android. Mobile distribution is a very different beast than web or desktop software. There seems to be a niche for an app distribution consultancy that mixes marketing, growth hacking, and PR for apps. Similar to 500 Startups’ Distribution Team, but for any app developer.
31. On-Demand Mental Health Assistance
Digital mental health practice, connecting patients with US licensed therapists and/or psychologists via video. Available via web or your mobile device.
32. Safe Religious Community
There should be a safe place online where people can ask religious questions. A respectful community, where you can feel free to ask questions and have faith-based conversations with community members and experts alike.
33. SMB Insurance
Make buying business insurance not suck for SMBs. Please.
34. Creator Analytics
Go ask anyone under 18, they’re not using Facebook or Twitter. It’s Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and others. While creators continue to build out distribution on those channels, it’s still early days for multi-channel business intelligence.
35. Coin for Loyalty Cards
The tech industry went gaga for Coin last year. Cool, sure. But I’d much rather hang on to my credit cards, and have a Coin for all my loyalty cards (Costco, Ralphs, etc). Those take up much more space, and I wouldn’t really have any security concerns.
36. Noise-Cancelling Perimeter
Make a silence bubble around me, without having to put on noise-cancelling headphones. It would be a modern miracle for anyone working in an office, coffee shop, or even library. (Influenced by Andrew Skotzko)
Too many folks use the terms “sales” and “business development” interchangeably. BD and sales are different beasts, so I thought it would be helpful to lay out the basics…
Convincing a potential customer to purchase your product.
Creating long-term value for your company via partners and relationships.
Focused on customers.
Focused on channels.
Sacrifices short-term bumps for long-term value creation.
Measured by sales quotas, with expected quarter-by-quarter growth.
Measured by business objectives, whether that be distribution, marketing, or otherwise.
A scalable business function to drive revenue.
Regularly testing non-scalable things to drive exponential growth.
Cold calls are the lifeblood of success.
Cold calling means you’re not connected enough.
Measure, measure, measure. How many calls can you do in a day? What’s your sales conversion rate? What communication method converts best to a sale? How do we drive customer acquisition prices lower?
Calculate value constantly. Where can we get our biggest bang-for-buck in a partnership? What value do we create for our partner? What value does the partner bring to us?
Make a sale, hand it off to customer onboarding and support.
Manage a partnership through its lifecycle.
Sales team training, onboarding, and growth is expected with company growth.
BD teams are amorphous and rarely look the same from business-to-business.
Always be closing.
Always be hustling.
The best salespeople come from the school of hard knocks, rigorous on-the-job sales training, can think big picture, and have exceptional strategic quantitative skills.
The best business development people are well-connected, know how to navigate partner organizations, can craft a story, and have an exceptional eye for value potential.
A dirty word in Silicon Valley.
A catch-all title for every MBA grad coming to a startup.
Glengarry Glenn Ross. The Wolf of Wall Street. Tommy Boy. Mad Men.
Moneyball. Jerry Maguire. Entourage. Risky Business.
Sure, there are plenty of similarities. But sales and business development fundamentally aim for different goals. They take different people and approaches. Get it right, or pay the price.
Creatives is a weekly newsletter covering the best in music, art, and entertainment. Delivered to your inbox, weekly. SUBSCRIBE HERE.
This week, I’m adding a Featured Artists section to call out breaking musicians, filmmakers, and more that you should check out. Let me know if you dig it.
Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!
Examining recent moves by Spotify and Beats Music to own the streaming music space. Om Malik called it one of “10 Must-Read Stories.”
Mark Kroos won Guitar Player Magazine’s International Guitar Superstar Competition in 2011, and has been touring the US and Canada ever since. In the class of Andy McKee and Jon Butler – young artists making the guitar/banjo do unimaginably beautiful things.
Gorgeous piece of filmmaking where 20 strangers pair off to share first kisses. Lots of controversy surrounding the video though – Are they models? Yes. Will it be used for an advertisement? Probably. Doesn’t change the impact of Tatia’s work for me, at least.
Cal Newport and Tim Ferriss explain why it’s not enough to be better, you need to be different. Being the best is only part of the success story.
“Even though many may have written off the recording industry as a casualty of the digital age, Universal Music Group’s Lucian Grainge is determined to reinvent it.”
Great business rules to live by, across any industry.
Neil Young and team made a promise to deliver the best possible listening experience for your digital music. They’ve built an HD audio player and are making high-resolution digital albums available for purchase from $14.99-$24.99.
Think it’s bogus or too niche? They’ve already raised $4mm on Kickstarter and have 29 days to go. Worth checking out.
Marc Andreessen, one of the godfathers of the Internet, explains where he believes the news business is headed.
Two acquisitions in one week by the major players in music streaming. Beats v. Spotify. And interestingly, they characterize the different strategies each company is taking.
Beats is your artist-friendly, human-curated music service. Super Bowl ads with Ellen. Artist endorsements. AT&T family pricing.
Spotify is your all-encompassing music platform, with great recommendations and social connectivity. Biggest catalog. Free options. Current market leader.
The paths make sense.
Beats has a competitive advantage with artists. It was a gaping void in the market left by Spotify, Rdio, and others.
Spotify was first-to-market and is scaling towards their IPO and beyond.
Similarly, the acquisitions make sense.
Beats acquired direct-to-fan platform Topspin to increase their offerings to artists. They’re aiming to be the artist-friendly music streaming service. The hope is that as more artists love Beats, more music listeners will follow.
Spotify is trying to scale. They have free options for music consumers, they’re available across any device, and they have the most robust catalog. The Echo Nest developed best-of-class music intelligence APIs, used for curation to drive music discovery. If Spotify can make a huge leap forward in music curation/discovery and broaden its’ developer community tools, it’s a game-changer.
But don’t be naive. Both acquisitions were a shot across the bow.
Spotify integrated Topspin’s ArtistLink less than a year ago. Now that Beats owns Topspin, will that continue?
The Echo Nest powered Rdio, iHeartRadio, XBOX Music, VEVO, and more. Do you think Spotify will allow direct competitors full access to APIs that they spent $100mm+ on?
Who knows? But things are heating up.
Spotify. Beats. Pandora. Rdio. Songza. Deezer. Grooveshark. Slacker. Earbits. Plug.dj. The list goes on and on.
Is this a winner-take-all market? Or is there room for more than one?
Acquisitions. Consolidation. Mobile carriers. And more. Coming soon to a music streaming service near you.
Creatives is a weekly newsletter covering the best in music, art, and entertainment. Delivered to your inbox, weekly.
Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!
We’re all working towards goals. But what happens when things go wrong? What happens when you zig instead of zag? Perhaps surprisingly, I think there’s a lot to learn from Tim Tebow.
My guest post for Hypebot last week. Hopefully the first of many.
I’m admittedly a Ben Horowitz fanboy. He’s a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz, successful entrepreneur, rap enthusiast, and genuinely good dude (from the very few interactions I’ve had with him).
Ben typically writes about the real stories behind building companies. the good, the bad, and the ugly. But this post is a little different. He shares an incredible story about the power of music.
Few creatives ever reveal real numbers that drive their career. We all talk in generalities about revenue, strategies, and benchmarks. That’s why I really dug these posts from Zoe and Charlie.
Zoe is an indie musician, popular for her work mixing cello and electronic music. Charlie is a writer and marketing strategist for best-selling authors such as Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi, Tucker Max, and Seth Godin. And they both released fantastic posts on how they’re building their business.
If you’re not a writer, still read Charlie’s posts. If you’re not a musician, still look through Zoe’s breakdown. There’s gold for creatives of any kind.
Three common themes emerged from reading these posts:
– As an independent creative, you need to make your own opportunities. You cannot wait for others to come to you with dollars. Usually that means diversifying your distribution and revenue paths until you find what really works.
– Free is an option, but understand what free gets you. Is it an email address? Promotion? Social cred?
– When looking at distribution, broad social paths are usually too busy to make a difference to your bottom line. Look for smaller, engaged communities – blogs, email lists, etc – they’ll pay bigger dividends.
“Family first” is a great motto, but sometimes we forget to live it.
The man, the myth, the legend DA Wallach talks about artist perception and longer-term vision of Spotify. This piece provides additional context to Zoe Keating’s figures above and more.
Ideas are the first step. But don’t fool yourself – it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.
Jam of the week is a budding Facebook community for musicians. Great examples of simple, weekly videos made by musicians like you. Similarly, Chromatik is pretty cool too.
I’m a sucker for any video that Jimmy Fallon and The Roots put out with classroom instruments. Especially when it features Adele Dazeem singing “Let It Go.”