Tag Archive for 'sxsw'

Ubiquity – it’s coming

I applied to do a panel to SXSW on a topic I deeply believe in and want the world to get excited about: I call it ubiquity. My topic was rejected because it’s too broad a topic (fair point), but with The Startup Bus (that thing llaunched last week), I’m going to make it a live example testing the limits of ubiquity and a barometer of that progress.

Ubiquity relates to some long term trends in our society that are now converging: the fact we can access information and computing resources wherever and whenever we are. We can see it now with the changes to how we get the news. But here is a more dramatic example, as it’s the examples – not the rhetoric explaining it – that get me excited.

a) Contact lenses that contain a computer chip in them

b) Wireless electricity: it’s happening.

c) Google translate integrated into Google googles

a +b + c = awesome. We’re not there yet, but the future of our world is damn exciting.

Vote for my SXSW presentation!

I’ve submitted to do a presentation at SXSW, which is the Internet and technology industry’s biggest conference. I attended my first SXSW this year and was blown away by the people, the passion and the ideas. However something that bugged me, was that a lot of people submitted panels with agendas: they either snuck buzzwords into their panel description, to be thinly veiled attempt in getting an audience for themselves (despite no substance in the content). More common were panels that were based around something with a clear motivation to promote their company or business. It was tiring and I know a lot of people were annoyed by that.

Only about 300 people will get accepted for SXSW 2010, with a large part of the decision being decided by people voting on 2200 submissions. I hope I get to do my presentation, because I want to propose a new economic model that will help people understand opportunities for businesses in the Information economy. (It will also be the first public attempt to really explain data portability business models.) I’m also going to synthesise 50 years of technology development, and explain where things are evolving.

My goal is not to self-promote any agenda of mine, but quite simply, to get people excited about the future as much as I am. Because after all, it takes driven passionate people to build new businesses and to create growth is this troubled economy.

So click here, login and vote for me. I *promise* I’ll make it awesome.

Downloadsquad.com interview

The bulk of the panels at SXSW have been on the whole ordinary. Rather than pulling interesting people around a topic to project new ideas about the future – the panels seemed to have a different formula. One that is “how can I promote my company/personal brand the best, under the guise of an interesting topic filled with buzz words that will suck the audience in”. There are outliers of course, but that’s how I feel most of them have been.

It’s wrong for me to be judgmental of the entire conference, but I have to contrast that with the bloggers room. I’m a new face to the industry, especially the US world where I know few people. But sitting down working on my things (outside of the bubble that is SXSW), I randomly meet people who introduce me to other people. Interesting conversations, interesting people, and you never know who you will bump into.

Like Grant Robertson who interviewed me for one of the most trafficked websites around! (number 23 blog in the world.) Check out what I say, explaining what the DataPortability Project is, and what we’ve been doing since last years SXSW. I wish I said more informative stuff (ie, this is not self-promotion, if I think I did lame!) – but just goes to show where the real value out of a conference like this is: the centralisation of so many people that think alike, interested in each other, thinking about the future.

The music industry and a glimpse into its future

Before I share this insight, I want to explain how I met the guy which just validates the uniqueness of SXSW. Otherwise, skip to the subheading below the first image to get to the meat of this post.

sxsw2009

At 6pm, I went to my first social event at SXSW, and walked around a pub (“divebar” in America – I’m learning!). I was alone, didn’t know anyone, and so sat down on a couch near the pool tables sipping my beer.

Some dude was sitting there, and we got into conversation. We had absolutely nothing in common – he was a project manager from Virginia, and I was an accountant from Sydney. The conversation was strained, and was injected with occasional remarks where this fairly camp guy was trying to find out if I was gay. When it was clear I wasn’t, he got up to get another drink, and that’s when the man of the hour sat down.

Again – I introduce myself. I’m the accountant from Sydney, but this guy was a product manager at a music company. After realising that he effectively drives strategy in one of the world’s biggest music companies, I couldn’t help myself and started prodding him with questions about the new music model.

And so that’s my story. I randomly came across one of the more influential people in the music industry. I also finally found someone that thinks about the same problems I do, which is how to monetise content. And after I revealed later on I was the vice-chair of the DataPortability Project, I floored him and so ensued hours of conversation where I got to test some of my unpublished thoughts about business models.

The fact this conference is the intersection between interactive, music, and film – is the reason why we know each other and could challenge each other on ideas. Austin is for this week a city with the worlds best minds in New Media. SXSW – we are both thanking you for creating this relationship!

So now to the insight I got, which was before I corrupted his views with what I think!

Artist

A view where the music industry is going
The record label model is actually going to work (as I was told). What’s happening is a change, and the crisis the industry has faced is actually a good thing, because its forced them to rethink and renegotiate their value proposition.

Record labels have realised that the value they provide to artists is that of a talent management agency. In fact, an almost complete parallel can be made with the venture capital industry. A new internet startup, like a new musician, is fresh and not able realise their potential. Venture Capitalists discover this talent, and invest in them for a future return. The VC’s will give them money and access to their exclusive networks – and the startup in return, gets to grow in ways they never thought possible.

The record label is now evolving into a similar model. Overnight, they can make a new star by giving them exposure to foreign markets, the capital they need to record music and distribute it to the masses, and all the other costs that are needed to become a big star. In return, rather than deriving 90% of their revenue from CD sales as record labels used to, they instead ask to get a 50% stake in the artist.

I raised this is effectively like slave labour, but when you think about it, a five year contract is completely reasonable given the amount of investment the label puts in. The labels are finding they can generate a lot of money on the merchandise and live concerts sales, as opposed to just the distribution sales. By taking a more diversified revenue mix, and taking more of a partnership approach to an artists career, what we are seeing is a more robust music model.

Records

Will that mean music can now be free? Well this company makes several billion dollars a year on music sales still, of which 75% are due to CD sales (and just the fact they make 25% in digital amazes me in itself). If music going free is the trend, my friend doesn’t see it happening for at least another decade.

And by that time, they’ll be ok. It appears the music industry is experimenting with a new approach to monetising artists based on the “experience” and is more about creating a connection with their fans. It’s still early days, but after our very long chat, I’ve now come to realise the record label isn’t dead – it’s just evolving. And they are well onto that path of a future model that works in this new world.