Friday, 6 November 2009

Amazing soda shop

I thought this video was amazing. I could not help but be struck by the parallels between the soda business and the record business.

People like this guy are heros. I urge you to take a few minutes out of your day to celebrate a guy who is fighting to make the world a slightly more interesting place.

Next time I am in LA I am going to pay him a visit. Be sure you do the same.

You will find him at 5702 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90042

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Sound advice

I'd never heard of Michael Masnick or Techdirt until recently, but Mike's presentation to Narm earlier this year is as good and compelling a case for the new direct to fan models in our industry as I have seen so far.

If you are in a band and are serious about having a career this is essential viewing.

NARM 2009 State Of The Industry: Michael Masnick from NARM on Vimeo.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Cult Of Mediocrity

A few months back I attended a live show. The headliner were White Lies, the then major label cut-and-paste indie band de jour, and had sold out the mid sized venue with ease.

As I watched in a mood of indulgent and slightly bored bemusement, a number of things struck me: - Firstly the band were ok. Not great, not inspiring, not life affirming.. just ok. They were just about musically competent and they had one or two decent tunes, but to be truthful, the whole thing was a little dull. The second thing that hit me was the crowd. It was quite extraordinary. They behaved like robots who had been told that this was something they should like, but to a man they seemed more interested in looking around at the other members of the audience to see which other scenesters were present and what they were wearing.

It was truly bizarre.

After about 30 minutes I had had enough and I left, musing that if that was the best that our major labels had to offer, then no wonder they were in such deep trouble.

Fast forward to early July and I attended another show by a band who have not been industry darlings for the best part of a decade and a half - if ever. Thunder (for it was they) have decided to call time on a distinguished career after 20 years of being largely ignored by the vast majority of the mainstream press, radio and TV, and this was their farewell headline show at a totally sold out Hammy Odeon.

The contrast could not have been more marked.

The audience was not so much cheering as worshipping, with a dedication and fervour that was genuinely moving, even to a cynic like yours truly. The band were astoundingly good live (as in fairness they have been for their entire career) and at the end everyone in the audience was handed a petition put together by some of the bands more dedicated fans begging them not to quit. As I left, a journalist came up to me and in all seriousness said "You know, I think this is one of those bands we have all taken for granted, and that none of us will really appreciate until they are gone"... to which my response was a barely civil "you think?".

I went home wondering how on earth we consistently get it so wrong.

The reason our record industry is in the toilet has nothing to do with illegal downloading, the internet, CD pricing or indeed any of the other spurious excuses the labels love to trot out. It is because the people who have run it - the labels AND the media - have made consistently bad judgements about what music to support and invest in as well as catastrophically lazy assumptions about what their consumers would like to hear.

I for one will not shed a single tear when the business of music returns to the hands of the fans and the bands, where it belongs.

Friday, 24 July 2009

The best joke ever

I have to admit this made me giggle..

A scientific experiment was carried out a few years ago to test the hypothesis that dogs adopt the behavioural characteristics of their owners over time. The three dogs used for the experiment belonged to an architect, a mathematician and an A&R man. The dogs were each given a plateful of dog biscuits, shut in a room and observed.

The architect's dog used its biscuits to build a fully accurate scale model of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, complete with flying buttresses and fabulous rococo gargoyles.

The mathematician's dog made skilful use of its biscuits to demonstrate at least three basic flaws in Einstein's General and Special Theories of Relativity.

The A&R man's dog ground up its biscuits, snorted them, f*cked the other two dogs and went home early.

Monday, 29 June 2009


Bruce Springsteen is one of those Marmite artists. People either love him or hate him.

I used to be in the latter category, but after seeing The East St band on the Born in the USA tour at Wembley Stadium in the early 80's I became a convert. The thing that I found so astonishing about the show was the fact that you could not see a single person - including all of the security staff, and even the police - who was not smiling and happy. It seemed to me to be a quite astonishing achievement. I also remember that the songs which had sounded a little pedestrian on record, came alive in concert in a way that I did not think would be possible. His ability to turn a stadium into a dancefloor and turn the audience into the show is a trick which any number of pale imitators have borrowed since.

That show prompted me to investigate his records a little more deeply, and I became drawn in by the seductive combination of the everyman appeal, the amazing skill of the band and the power of a lot of the songs.

Springsteen's remarkable ability to empathise with the man on the street comes across in the songs time and time again. When you bear in mind that this is a man who has not had to concern himself with the price of a pint of milk for over 3 decades, it seems even more astonishing.

A couple of examples to illustrate what I am talking about: -

"End of the day, factory whistle cries,
Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes,
And you'd better believe boy, somebody's gonna get hurt tonight
It's the work, it's the working, it's the working life".

(Factory - Darkness on The Edge Of Town)

"10,000 tons of metal a day
And now you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name"

(Youngstown - Tom Joad)

You may wonder why I am blathering on about this, and I am getting to the point (albeit slowly).

Here's the thing. I went to see Bruce and his band in Hyde Park a couple of weeks back, and remarkably I left less than halfway through his set. "Not much of a fan then", you may well feel, but that was not it. The band were on great form. His voice was it's usual gravelly self, the songs were just as moving.... but sadly only seemingly to me.

Wherever I went I found myself surrounded by drunken redneck yahoos, who were clearly far more interested in drinking and talking utter bollocks with their equally drunken friends than they were in watching one of the truly great artists in popular music history.

In the end, I left because I could not hear above the cacophony of crassness, mediocrity and stupidity that surrounded me, and because I was ashamed to be a part of it.

Sorry Bruce. You deserved better.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

11.59 - by Rick Wilson DMD

I came across this posting on a closed network I belong to and I enjoyed reading it so much that I simply had to share it. It was written by a dentist in Philadelphia called Rick Wilson and was originally in two parts, but I have edited them together in a way that makes it read coherently.

"For the next 3 years, it's 11:59. All the time.

And in spite of all odds, January was a good beginning for us. Because we made it so. Laser focus, people, that's the key. Full-throttle sense of purpose. Nothing less will do in these times.

Trust me, though. You can do it. Si se puede!

I just mean that I'm going to work as if it's the last minute, even when it's not. Like my partner, Dr. Sukoneck, always says- "You have to work as if the waiting room is full of patients- even when it's empty."

(I'm playing Blondie's "11:59" as I write this!)

I've set goals and I'm determined to rock out in spite of the overall economy. Operating within Seth's philosophy which so far is working beautifully. It's not fast, not a quick fix, but I'm just beginning to see real long-term rewards.

I believe that each business should identify their own "Four Horsemen of their Apocalypse". Maybe three, maybe five, but some tangible things that hold us back. I also firmly believe that it's hard to see your own challenges clearly, and that it helps a great deal to look at other industries or fields that are different than your own. Then draw parallels and learn and apply the lessons to yourself.

Wanna hear mine? The last will surprise you. OK. Essentially all I need to experience growth are a certain number of new patients per month. Leave the rest up to me and my wonderful staff, we practice Edgecraft etc. and treat people in Anne's Visceral manner, very I-You. All I need is to have enough folks find us. We'll handle the rest.

So my Horsemen are:
1- People who move away. Our society is a very mobile one. I still miss folks who moved away a long time ago, and recently we've had such fine patients go far away. It's sad, and also of course it drains away a little part of the practice each time it happens.
2- Patients who pass away. (No, not in the chair Tom!) Our practice has a large elderly population. Even sadder than when they move, of course, and same effects in losing potentially more than we can gain with new patients.
3- Patients who say, "My insurance changed, I can't see you anymore". But Tom, you have to say this out loud in that exact voice that Jerry Lewis used when he screamed "Laaaady!" ;} Here's the irony- they are usually folks who are healthy and have very little dental needs besides maintenance, and it might cost them, say, $140 per year instead of, say, $57 per year. I can understand changing doctors when thousands of dollars in some reconstruction might be reduced, but these smaller amounts do leave me bemused.
4- Here's the interesting one- people get healthy! If patients are reasonably compliant and listen to health advice, we can reduce cavities and periodontal disease to very low levels. It has been said that dentistry is the only major business that is constantlly trying to put itself out of business.

I post these in detail because, again, it takes a lot of deep thought to truly identify the challenges in your own business, and I find going far afield helps to figure it all out. So maybe someone here who does something quite different than me can use this, and will see something that they missed before.

So, in my case I need Marketing. Not Advertising, which is broken, but Marketing. So we Embrace The Cow, we use Edgecraft, I recognize that we'll always serve a crowd but also we can lead a tribe within that; I reflect on and use Anne's Visceral Business and Blatant Integrity concepts. I'm a bit fortunate that way because Dr. Sukoneck practiced that way instinctively since the 70's, before it was ever called that.

So, bringing in an appropriate number of new patients and treating them with excellence is what I need to do to counterbalance my Four Horsemen. As long as we stay focused every minute as if it's 11:59 we will continue to grow. The best thing about using Seth's concepts as opposed to "Y'all come" advertising is this- nearly all of the new patients who are referred by our existing patients are fine people with whom we can have a good mutual relationship, and this is simply because they were referred in by similar people who are already in the practice. We rarely have an extremely difficult, cantankerous new patient these days because it's not a random selection process.

Oh boy I'm on a riff here Tom, but I'd say that the above summarizes what I've learned form Seth, from Anne, and from all of you fine folks here on Triiibes. It's my Manifesto!

So, everyone steal from it and use it and have success in 2009!"

Rick Wilson DMD

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A note on filesharing

When people (almost always record label people) start to ask those questions about stopping or controlling filesharing, I always reply by asking them the following question:

“Does the name King Canute mean anything to you”?

Facetious I know, but I find it hard to resist. The fact is that on this issue people are asking entirely the wrong questions, questions which are framed by their knowledge and experiences of how things have been done to date, not how things are now.

A chap called Ian Rogers from a company called Topspin says it best: “The physics of media have changed”. We therefore need to think in a different way.

Here is an idea. I am not suggesting that this is the best way, or the only way to look at filesharing, but for what it is worth, this is how I view it.

People are going to visit filesharing sites and download music for free. No point wasting any more brain space worrying about that, but if you knew who those people were and were in a position to talk to them (with their permission), would that not be a powerful thing? Could you maybe encourage them to come to your shows, buy your t shirts, read your blogs, subscribe to your fan club..? I would argue yes you can.

If you could find a way to extract the email addresses of some, or even most of the people who download your tracks, you would be taking a huge step towards building a community of people who appreciate your art, and guess what? You can.

Music glue ( provide a free service where you upload your music in whatever resolution you like (the higher the better) and they then distribute it to all of the main filesharing sites instantaneously. The really clever bit is that when someone goes to download the track they receive a text, audio or video message saying for example say “Hey, we know you are downloading this track from XXX site. That’s totally cool, but if you are interested in the band give us your email address and we’ll keep you up to date” or whatever.

This way you are able to harness the data traffic and build yourselves a fanbase.

As I say, just an idea.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Don't be a stain on the carpet

Some of my best friends work in the live music industry, which once a year convenes in London for the International Live Music Conference (ILMC). At the most recent of these shindigs back in March, I found myself involved in any number of fascinating conversations with a variety of agents and promoters from all over the world. These are the sort of masters of this peculiar little universe who move and shake with abandon, and on whose whim careers can made or broken, in much the same way curiously, as might have been said of record moguls in the past.

Interestingly, I found myself thinking that a lot of what I was hearing could just as easily have been said by those same record industry bigwigs 8 or 9 years ago, when they were still riding the crest of the tail end of the CD boom and believed themselves to be bulletproof. I heard talk of the search for the next global superstar (have these people really not read The Long Tail yet?), of a business that was secure in its own invincibility, of reckless profiteering in the secondary ticketing market without considering the consumers perception of the artists, the longevity of their careers and certainly without concern for the long term damage to consumer confidence that such behaviour will certainly cause.

As I heard all of these things I found myself thinking "have these guys not been paying attention"? It was PRECISELY this sort of arrogance that brought the record industry to its knees, and there is no reason to think that exactly the same fate might not befall the live business.

This is what I know. In the music business (in fact in pretty much ANY business), the ability for fans to have a direct emotional and commercial relationship with the artist changes EVERYTHING. The value chain has not so much been shortened as blown up.

There are a plethora of middlemen and gatekeepers in our industry. Record labels, publishers, the media, collection societies, booking agents, promoters, sponsors, merchandisers, aggregators, distributors.. I could go on and on, but here's the thing: None of these people have a divine right to earn a living, or even frankly to exist. In a direct to fan world there are only 2 people who matter. The artist and the fan.

Everyone else in the value chain who is not actively adding value is merely a stain on the carpet and should be wiped away without a second thought.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Babe Ruth

Some years ago I was attending a worldwide sales conference in Chicago for the software company I was working for at the time. The President of the company William Nelson III was giving his keynote speech and during it he said the following:

"Babe Ruth is considered by most Baseball fans to be the greatest player of all time. During his career, he set the record for the number of home runs in a single season, a record which stood for decades. What is less well known is that in that same season he also set the record for striking out.

Why am I telling you this? Well the lesson it seems to me, is that to succeed you have to take chances and risk falling on your backside. Or, to put it another way, the only reason I am the president of the company and you are not is because I have made more mistakes than you have".

I have heard similar sentiments expressed many times, but never quite so succinctly.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Simplicity is genius.

I was idly browsing Topspin Media's website today and I came across this quote from James Lamberti, their VP of Marketing and Artist Services:

"Data is my A&R agent, Viral Marketing is my radio promotion, Direct-to-fan is my retail store".

I was moved. Take a bow mate.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

My Father Alan McKenzie

My father is a great man.

He doesn't think so. Great men never do.

My father taught me what I consider to be the important things in life. Respect, honesty, integrity and most of all love. Love of life, of poetry, of nature, of beauty, of music (of which more later) and of family.

He toiled all of his working life to provide for us, my mother, my brother and I, but for all of his efforts I never once heard him complain about how hard he had had to work to put food on the table. Then when the weekend came he would work from morning till night to build a better home for us all. Carpentry, DIY, decorating - he once built me a beautiful chess table which I am proud to say I still have.

I owe my love of music almost entirely to him too. When I was 7 or 8 he would sit me down to listen to Mozart, Brahms or Beethoven, and he would be happy to spend as much time as it took to help me appreciate the sublime genius of the great masters works. I particularly remember one time when we sat and listened to Beethoven's 7th symphony together, while he patiently explained what terms like Scherzo, Adagio and Allegretto meant, and why they were important in the context of the symphonic form. Even as a 7 year old I could not help but be moved by his passion for the music he loved.

Many years later when I tried to return the favour and educate him in the finer points of Led Zeppelin, Ben Harper, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan and many others, to his great credit he managed to suppress his firm prejudices about popular music and return the compliment.

This is my small tribute to him.

Thanks Dad. You ARE a great man and I love you.

Thursday, 5 March 2009


I have been watching the travails of ITV with a mixture of great sadness and just a touch of amusement.

It is obviously sad when a lot of people lose their jobs, but much like the labels, it staggers me that they did not see it coming. The company has obviously been badly mismanaged for some years now (err.. football rights anyone), but when you look at some of the tosh they trot out these days its amazing they have got this far without going the same way as Woolies.

I actually find it astonishing that ANYONE still thinks it makes sense to advertise on ITV or Channel 4 these days, but hey, what do I know.

I do know this. We get the television we deserve, because if we did not watch it we they would not show it.

Try this: Next time one of the networks start peddling some bit of trite reality TV rubbish to boost their flagging telephony revenues - DON'T VOTE, or better still don't watch it. Start a campaign to get crap like "Big Brother" and "I'm a 'D' list nonentity" or whatever the hell its called off our screens.

Imagine if BB had never happened, how much better the world would be. No Nasty Nick, no Heat Magazine, no idiot papparazzi stalking the more attractive parts of London looking for pictures of people you have never heard of but who are apparently "celebrities" because they had sex with a wine bottle on national television, no Chantelle (whoever she is) and so on.

I cannot believe I am the only person who feels this way.

Friday, 20 February 2009


Like most people who work in London, I take the tube to work. Most days I sit and read the paper and try to ignore what is going on around me. Occasionally I take whatever book I happen to be reading at the time.

Once in a blue moon I put on my ipod.

This may seem strange for a man who makes his living in the music business, but having suffered at the hands of fellow travellers who inflict their cheesy house music on everyone within earshot - seemingly without any understanding of the irritation they are causing, I tend to excercise restraint in my listening habits.

Once in a while however I feel the need to commune with a few of my tunes, and the thing that strikes me whenever I do is the extraordinary power of music to alter your perspective.

Want to seethe in private - stick on some thrash metal. Need to hark back nostalgically to your teens - Led Zeppelin every time. Feeling sad and lost - get that Sarah Mclachlan playlist on, want to smile - stick on a bit of ELO.. you get the idea.

Now I know that this is not exactly revolutionary thinking, but it struck me that with such a significant percentage of the public lost in their own musical wilderness for such a large part of the day, it might be an idea to promote our bands in those terms.

Hmm... this requires more thought. I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Twits

There is a great quote in an otherwise unremarkable movie called "Other People's Money". Danny DeVito plays a master of the universe and is commenting unemotionally about a small business he is about to buy up and destroy.

"Fastest way to go out of business?" he asks.. "Take an increasing share of a decreasing market. Slow and steady. Down the drain".

I was reminded of that watching the conspicuous consumption by the record industry tonight at the Brits. How we can celebrate such dreadfully mediocre tosh as The Ting Tings and Duffy is utterly beyond me.

Thank god for Kings Of Leon and Elbow (nice one Phil).

Monday, 16 February 2009

Tears in my eyes..

Its late and I am sitting here listening to Bob Dylan with tears in my eyes.

I have never really been a fan, but sometimes a particular song can resonate with what is happening in your life and this is one of those times.

"How many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind..."

I can not remember ever feeling more sad..