Apple Notes

iPHONE 6

Everybody thinks I have an Android.

Malcolm Gladwell told me the problem with e-readers is no one knows what you’re reading, and for an author that’s anathema. The cover of the book sells the book, but if no one can see it…

No one can see I have an iPhone 6. I purchased the Apple case, but it’s grey and the Apple logo is very subtle and with my hand around it no one can see it, but to be truthful, I can barely see it.

So, if you want pride of ownership, evidence that you laid down your cash and are a member of the cult, the iPhone 6 disappoints.

One could posit it would be different with the 6 Plus, but the truth is that too looks like a Samsung product. It’s kind of like cars before BMW blew up the paradigm and then Hyundai ran with it. They all looked the same. Buildings too, until Philip Johnson took a chance with the AT&T building.

Are phones now a commodity?

Or are they evidence we live in a software society, and it’s utility that counts. It’s not what you own, but what you have access to, what you rent.

iPAD

Speaking of utility, are larger phones killing tablets?

It appears so.

The excitement and wonder have worn off tablets. They’re good for watching Netflix, but if it’s data you want, a large phone will do ya. And if you want to type, why not get an ultrathin laptop, like a MacBook Air or one of its Windows competitors.

Ain’t that the way of technology, what was new and hip seemingly minutes ago is suddenly passe.

It’s All About The Data

1. DIY is done. You need a partner who knows the game.

2. The game is trolling for fans on social media. Today it’s Facebook, Twitter gives few results, tomorrow it may be __________.

3. Established companies have ongoing relationships with Facebook and Spotify, all the data generators. And these entities share the data with the major labels. And having money is not enough, you’ve got to have hits, because Facebook doesn’t want to foul its site and Spotify is all about what is being played.

4. You want to attach yourself to that which is already getting traction. Someone with their own YouTube channel with a ton of subscribers who spend time at their site, even eight minutes a week, is very valuable. Someone with a Spotify playlist that has subscribers is very valuable.

5. You use these new platforms to find out if you have a hit. That’s the first step, turning something into a hit is next.

6. You’re looking for a reaction. Without it you’re dead in the water, you move on, the data doesn’t lie.

7. What looks instant to the mainstream is a long time in coming.

8. The rich are getting richer. Those with relationships and money to spend are increasing market share and the acts that gain traction are getting even bigger.

9. Data is directing the music business. The future is here.

You’ve got to work it.

I’m in Bilbao, and I just had the most fascinating conversation with Scott Cohen of the Orchard at BIME. I love learning things.

Scott says it’s a game, it’s the same as it ever was, the big labels rule, because of the DATA!

Let’s go back to Lady Gaga. It was all driven by Google AdWords. A guy in Boston who bought them there and when he got a reaction he moved it to different cities. And then it blew up.

But that paradigm is dead. Now it’s all about Facebook.

You start a campaign. And if you get no reaction, Facebook blows you out, tells you to change it. Everybody ignores the ads on the side of the page, it’s about being in the News Feed, and getting a reaction. That’s a start. How many people Like or watch a video or..? We’re talking a percent or two, that’s a good number. And then, if you’re smart, you slowly reel these people in, offering them more and more, turning them into fans. Sure, you can immediately spam them and ask them to buy the album, but that’s a mistake, you want to be in it for the long haul.

But let’s go back to One Direction. It was the social media that told them they had something. You’re always looking for a reaction. And when Syco got that, they fed these fans, with images, tools they could use. Teen print is dead, it’s all about teen sites. And you don’t pay for this info, then again, you do, remember indie promo? It’s all about the relationship with the site. Sure, you might ultimately buy ads, but the goal is to make it look like news, to make it look real. And as a result, One Direction can sell tonnage the first week. That’s just indicative of what was happening behind the scenes, that most people were ignorant of. You see there are no overnight successes.

It’s the same as it ever was. You pay to play and only a few succeed. And if you don’t pay, you’re out of the game. Used to be radio promo, then it was Google AdWords, now it’s Facebook, tomorrow it’ll be…

Who knows!

They’re already working Spotify. The key is to get on the playlist. Not only the NME’s, but the punter’s with a 100 fans. You’ve got to work it at both the top and the bottom. So some people think it’s cool and others drive by and all start spreading the word. You’re nothing without a hit, and nothing is a hit without it.

The days of “Gangnam Style” are dead. Everything is being worked. Nothing just spontaneously generates. “Royals” never changed, but the campaign made it ubiquitous.

The major labels are privy to more data than you can conceive of. And they’ve got money to try out campaigns. And just like it’s always been, only one of many tracks hits, but when they get a bite, they work it hard.

How do you know that you’ve had success, that you’re on to something? Wikipedia hits! That’s the first thing a new fan will do, go to Wikipedia to learn more. And they only go once, so you’ve got to be paying someone to get that info when they do. Next Big Sound will give it to you.

Everybody’s looking for a reaction, everybody’s paying for a reaction. And tons of work is done before most people ever know about something. Isn’t it interesting that you hear about a band and check the track out on YouTube and find out it’s got 10,000,000 views. How did that happen? The campaign!

And in this new world of streaming listening is different. Something like the album may be coming back. Because it turns out people who like one track might listen to more. And it’s all about the time spent. But it’s not about the album, but the body of work.

Once again the music business is at the forefront of the digital revolution, only this time the usual suspects have their eyes open. The barrier to entry may be incredibly low, but the barrier to success is higher than ever.

Action/Reaction

Do you feel manipulated?

Excuse me for writing about Taylor Swift’s “1989,” but it’s all the press is talking about this week, and that saddens me. The way both traditional and so called new media outlets are reporting this nonstory as if it matters. Then again, we live in the land of Ebolamania, but at least the virus has some news value, there’s some actual reporting going on, the “1989” hype smells just like that, hype, as for infecting those who do not care, I doubt it.

The two biggest music stories of the last twelve months were the launches of Beyonce and Weird Al’s new albums. The former sprung upon us with no warning, the latter nearly the same, with a viral component of daily videos to excite us. Of course I’m leaving out the U2 story, because of the instant backlash. And what was that backlash based upon? Jamming unwanted things down people’s throats. This “1989” hype is not much different. We are not forced to listen to the music but we are exposed to constant faux advertising while Ms. Swift bitches about our criticism. Credit Kim Kardashian, she doesn’t complain when we do, she knows blowback goes with the territory, it’s the business she’s in. But that begs the question, is Ms. Swift in the fame game or the music game? Is the media in the action game, tied in with musicians the same way the players are tied in with corporations, or are they in the reaction game, responding to real news?

Used to be music lasted. That was its defining feature, the way everybody knew it and remembered it. Today most albums come and go in a week. And I do expect “1989” to last longer, come on, Taylor Swift is the biggest act in the land, but will anything on this record infect society as much as “Royals”?

So what we’ve learned here is the Internet has a way of amplifying the story but not the music. And when the story trumps the music we’re lost. We’re kind of like Hollywood, where they hype movies that we don’t care about, to the point where we know what they are and stop going and then do our best to tune out the din.

But that’s the society we live in. One of yelling louder and louder. One in which the biggest act is a corporation, Apple, which drops its products to eager anticipation with no warning and they are then embraced over time. Apple makes hits. And isn’t it interesting there are so few of them. Apple is all about the singles, in music we’re all about the albums, we overload our audience and then complain that no one is paying attention.

Is anybody paying attention?

Is Apple Pay Bigger Than 1989?

It’s cool, disruptive and completely unexpected.

Taylor Swift’s new album?

No, APPLE PAY!

And you wonder why musicians get no respect.

That’s right, while Taylor Swift is busy cozying up to corporations, making sure her message gets out, Apple is competing with corporations and its users are up in arms complaining that CVS and Rite-Aid are out of line.

Huh?

Oh, you’re not following this story? Are you really interested in whether Taylor Swift sells a million copies in a week? Have we come to this, in a nation that no longer watches the World Series, is every publication known to man gonna track whether the tree-topping songstress sells albums to 1/300th of the population? If this was a TV show, it’d be canceled.

We didn’t think we needed Apple Pay. Hell, the Cupertino company had been castigated for being behind the curve on NFC (near field communication, for the uninitiated), and then suddenly not only do they include it, they launch this totally secure payment system that’s easy to use, that brings tomorrow here today. Kind of like listening to “Purple Haze” back in ’67!

That’s one thing you do nearly every day, buy stuff. And cash is on its way out, the CD may expire first, but they’re both history. Meanwhile, when even Target can’t keep its data secure, everybody’s privacy anxious. But worthwhile stealable data is never transmitted in Apple Pay, so it’s the perfect solution.

Only CVS and Rite-Aid don’t like it. They took it, now they’ve banned it. Because they want to use their own much less secure QR code based system to exclude not only Apple, but the credit card companies. Does this sound like Pressplay to you? It does to me. Or how about the telcos, which disabled features on mobile phones before Apple came in and revolutionized the market, putting the power into the hands of the handset manufacturers.

Apple Pay is a revolution.

“1989” is a retread.

It’s not like Apple Pay has gotten no ink. But it was lost in the shuffle of the hype for the new iPhones, and the backlash against U2. It’s not sexy, it didn’t date anybody and write a song about it.

And that’s how seemingly everything great starts, off the radar, warmly embraced by early adopters, who beat the drum so loud that the rest of us pay attention.

Expect CVS and Rite-Aid to do a 180.

A million people have already put Apple Pay on their phones, so it looks like Tim Cook is a bigger rock star than Taylor Swift, he reached that number in less than a week.

And Apple’s the anti-Swift. That’s right, Taylor wants to keep you in the past, forcing you to buy a CD or files when both those formats are tanking. You think things were bad in the physical market? Downloads are off by double digits. But can you find Taylor Swift’s album on Spotify? Of course not! Meanwhile, you’ve got to go to Target to get the special edition with extras. That’s like Apple insisting you drive to Best Buy to get a phone that works with Apple Pay. Do you think Best Buy wouldn’t pay tonnage to have this exclusive feature? But that’s not how Apple rolls.

This Apple Pay story is fascinating. It’s easy to use with no glitches and nonparticipating retailers have been caught flat-footed. Users are already agitating to screw CVS and Rite-Aid, telling you how to use the most expensive credit card at their stores so the companies will lose money.

Why Some Stores Won’t Take Apple Pay, and How to Punish Them

CVS and Rite-Aid will cave. Apple Pay’s kind of like rock and roll. You can’t deny its power. The people want it, it takes over. And users smile all the while as those stuck in the past get lost there.

And sure, you’ve got to have an iPhone 6 to use Apple Pay. But we used to incentivize people in the music business too, don’t you remember? To buy CDs? But now everybody’s decrying the future, believing streaming will bankrupt them when it’s their savior, and who wants to associate with a bunch of crybabies anyway.

The “1989” songs I’ve heard are catchy. But there’s nothing groundbreaking there. And the way the press is fawning over it makes me puke. Is that how far we’ve come? When our leading recording artist makes retro music with hired hands in an effort to stay sales relevant and everybody in the media laps it up?

Well, not everybody:

“Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’: A pivot into pop, a misstep into conformity”