Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

August 26th, 2015 by ddeal

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Photo credit: Wayne Hile

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable” is one of those pearls of wisdom that career coaches are fond of sharing to inspire others to succeed. The notion makes sense: only by stretching your comfort zone can you learn and grow, whether you are a student, a software designer, or a Navy Seal. But for people to get comfortable being uncomfortable, the right elements need to be present, including a supportive environment, a purpose, and preparation, as a recent experience of mine illustrates.

As I have mentioned on my blog, during summer weekends, I am part of the cast of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, a festival in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that re-creates the sights and sounds of 1574 Bristol, England, on a day when Queen Elizabeth is visiting. I portray a friendly but comically pompous guild master named Nicolas Wright. Playing Nicolas Wright means constantly learning new skills, including improvisational comedy, face-to-face patron interaction (he greets patrons on the street all day long), and even stage combat. Auditioning for the cast was an enormous leap of faith for me, and once I came onboard in 2014, I discovered that being part of the cast is a constant process of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. One recent Saturday, I pushed myself beyond the boundaries of comfort: I told a story.

Storytelling — the way it’s done at the Bristol Renaissance Faire — is new territory for me. I am at ease speaking in front of an audience, but storytelling is an art that requires the right pacing, body language, and voice control to create theater. The storyteller also needs to know how much detail to include to enrich the drama and how to involve an audience. For me, learning how to tell a story qualifies as becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable, an experience heightened by my fear of forgetting a key plot point or character name. But with the encouragement of my daughter Marion Deal — who is also on the Faire cast — I faced my fears, took a deep breath, and took my first step toward storytelling by telling a brief parable onstage.

After stumbling through several awkward practices, I unfurled the tale of the of Taoist farmer one sunny Saturday afternoon on the Queen’s glade, a section of Bristol where patrons and cast mates alike entertain the Queen Elizabeth each day with songs, stories, and poems. I remember the moment vividly: Sir Edmund Tilney, master of the revels to the queen (portrayed by Dennis Carl), took me aside and indicated that there was room on the schedule if I cared to perform that day. I swallowed hard and said, “I would be delighted to tell a story.” Part of me hoped he would forget our conversation, but after a few minutes, Tilney nodded to me and presented Nicolas Wright to the queen. I approached the queen, portrayed by Jennifer Higgins. She nodded gently. In one of those moments where life and art intertwine, her reassuring nod filled me with a confidence that I channeled into Nicolas Wright as he told the parable of a farmer in China who accepts good and bad fortune with equal measures of calm acceptance.

Turning to the audience gathered on both sides of the court, I worked through the parable with a deliberate pace, making eye contact with patrons, pausing when I felt like I needed to accentuate a word, and remembering to smile. The stage at the queen’s glade consists of a simple but elegant set of overlapping rugs set before the court on the ground. You don’t have the benefit of an elevated platform when you entertain on the glade. So I made sure I walked about the rugs a bit (without looking like I was pacing) and projected as loudly as I could to reach as many people sitting on the benches to my left and right. The more I projected, the stronger I felt. The warmth of the sun was like a golden balm. The audience fed me energy with their smiles. I did not stumble although I can point to many ways I could have done better. Afterward, a woman who had been in the audience approached me. “Thank you for that moment,” she said. “I don’t often hear parables such as the one you told. Your story really made me think about accepting life with grace.” I smiled at the patron, thanked her, and did a little dance inside my head. I certainly had not raised the bar for storytelling, but I had made a mark.

My personal breakthrough was no lark. And the moment was not a result of my effort alone. Some elements needed to be in place for me to have the courage to embrace the uncomfortable:

A Supportive Environment

If you manage others, they won’t learn how to take personal risks unless they know you have their backs. The Bristol directors and cast always have my back.

All Bristol cast train under the direction of an open-hearted and encouraging team of directors, starting with head of entertainment Kristen Mansour, who is fond of reminding everyone during cast meetings, “Leap, and the net will appear.” We do not learn under the withering criticism of a genius tyrant such as Steve Jobs or in the punishing environment that apparently pervades Amazon. We learn through positive reinforcement.

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Will the Truth Set Dr. Dre Free?

August 21st, 2015 by ddeal

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Did Dr. Dre’s apology go far enough?

On August 21, hip-hop legend and now Apple consultant Dr. Dre issued a statement to The New York Times addressing longstanding reports about his history of violence against women, including a 1991 incident in which he attacked journalist Denise “Dee” Barnes in a nightclub (for which he later pleaded no contest on a misdemeanor battery charge). In the statement, Dre wrote, “I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.” The apology came days after Barnes, along with R&B singer (and Dre’s former girlfriend) Michel’le and former label mate Tairrie B, spoke publicly of being assaulted by Dre when he was a rising hip-hop star as part of the hip-hop group NWA. Barnes openly criticized the recently released movie Straight Outta Compton for ignoring Dre’s violence against women. On August 21, Dre responded — as did Apple, which issued a statement saying that Apple believes Dre has cleaned up his act. But although Dre’s apology was a start, he still has work to do.

Reports about Dre’s violent behavior during his NWA days have circulated for years, only to be dismissed by the successful rapper, producer, and business impresario, who became an Apple consultant in 2014 when Apple bought Beats Music and Beats Electronics, which he cofounded. Those stories never seemed to create any serious PR problems for Dre until Straight Outta Compton was released on August 14, along with Compton, the soundtrack Dre recorded and distributed through Apple Music and iTunes. This time, reports about his past would not go away, prompting Dre to issue the following statement to The New York Times:

Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again. I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.

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How Movie Theaters Are Competing Harder for Your Time and Money

August 12th, 2015 by ddeal

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Movie theaters face the same challenge as sports stadiums: they need to fill seats even when they cannot control the quality of the product they offer. Wrigley Field must sell tickets and concessions whether the Chicago Cubs are contending for the pennant or dwelling in the cellar. iPic Theaters and Regal Cinemas must convince you to spend a few hours of your day at their locations whether they’re featuring the critically acclaimed Inside Out or the dud Pixels. Increasingly, movie theaters are hedging their bets by making the theaters themselves destinations and by combining online marketing offers with customer loyalty programs. For example, iPic Theaters provide lounges with billiard tables, bars, and dinner menus along with a tiered membership package that provides benefits for returning customers. In a new blog post for my client SIM Partners, I discuss some of the principal ways movie theaters are offering a more compelling experience beyond the movies advertised on their marquees. I enjoyed exploring different theaters for my research as well as tapping into my iPhone to see how theaters are attracting mobile consumers. What are some of your favorite theaters, and why?




How Musician Alison Goldfrapp Creates Social Media Mystique

August 10th, 2015 by ddeal

BannerRecently, I was talking with a director about how artists use social media. He vowed never to use it. “Lifting the veil to your private life ruins the artist’s mystique,” he said. And he has a point. Sharing on social can connect artists with their fans, but social media can be problematic for musicians such as Beck, Jimmy Page, and Prince whose personal brands are built on the power of mystique. Their appeal comes from the walls that surround them, which makes them unattainable. But as musician Alison Goldfrapp demonstrates, artists can actually use social media to create mystique.

Alison Goldfrapp is one half of the duo Goldfrapp, which melds pop, dance, and electronica to create a sound that shimmers. The group is all about atmosphere. Its songs can sound lush and dreamy on an album such as Seventh Tree, and provocative on Black Cherry. The duo has carefully constructed a chic, ethereal vibe, grounded in Alison Goldfrapp’s mystique. Whereas Nicki Minaj is loud and sexual, Alison Goldfrapp is cool, sensual, and beyond our reach. She is like Ingrid Bergman reincarnated as a singer.

And Alison Goldfrapp treats Facebook and Instagram as an extension of her mystique. Many artists, such as Tame Impala, use Facebook to share tour dates, new singles, and contests. Other artists, such as Miley Cyrus, seemingly report every detail about their backstage lives, including posting photos of their friends and their fans. Goldfrapp takes neither approach. Instead, she shares photos that are every bit as evocative and mysterious as Goldfrapp’s image, often accompanied by cryptic captions that explain nothing. One day, Goldfrapp might share a ghostly image of a woman walking in the dark, like so:

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Another day brings a striking close-up of a bee:

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Seldom does Alison Goldfrapp provide context for the photos aside from cryptic captions. She leaves it up to her fans to fill in the blanks. In the fan comments section, she responds to no one, thus keeping everyone guessing as to how closely she pays attention to the content people post on her page.

For Alison Goldfrapp, Facebook and Instagram are canvasses, not social media tools. She lets her fans socialize with each other through their speculation and critiques. She is faithful to her fans, providing a steady stream of visual content. But always, she is behind a veil. Rather than make you feel like you know Alison Goldfrapp better, Facebook and Instagram add color and texture to the veil of her creation. (And, of course, the idea that you can actually get to know artists through their gushy social posts is, in itself, an illusion, but a more conventionally acceptable one.)

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Alison Goldfrapp offers three lessons through her use of social:

  • Powerful visuals can say more than words if your goal is to make an impression instead of explaining yourself to your audience.

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  • You create a mystique by sparking a conversation. When no one pays attention, there is no mystique. Judging by the comments on Alison Goldfrapp’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, she creates a conversation.
  • But sharing does not have to mean joining the conversation. Allowing others to form their impressions of your art builds mystique.

Being social does not have to mean being chatty. You can create a conversation and build a community though actions, not words. Who creates mystique on social media in your opinion?

 




Would Led Zeppelin Succeed Today?

August 3rd, 2015 by ddeal

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Led Zeppelin. The name evokes the hammer of the gods, hypnotic music forged in the mists of Mordor and the mountains of Kashmir, and the heavy gravitas of legend. Here is a band whose place in rock history is secure. Five of its albums are listed in Rolling Stone‘s ranking of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and Led Zeppelin’s music is so influential and powerful that it resonates with generation after generation of fans. But Led Zeppelin achieved renown at a different time, when the music industry played by different rules, and artists made their mark through an art form — the record album — that has become anachronistic. If Led Zeppelin were just starting out today as an unknown group, would the band break through and succeed? I believe Led Zeppelin would indeed become a household name — but only by adapting its game plan to play by today’s rules:

Rule 1: Make Great Music

Let’s first look at an obvious ingredient for success: artists must produce consistently great music. It sounds obvious, but musicians possess zero margin for error in the here-today, gone-tomorrow environment that characterizes the music industry. Groups are competing against distractions that did not exist in the 1970s: the Internet, mobile apps, video games, and a proliferation of television channels, to name a few. A sensation such as Psy can create a massive breakthrough with “Gangnam Style” only to be tossed on the dust heap of one-hit wonders if he lacks a compelling follow-through. But bands anxious about generating the next hit also have to exercise caution: the proliferation of digital channels such as SoundCloud makes it too easy for artists to release music that is not ready for prime time. Good bands must resist the temptation to release music too early; they also must transcend the blizzard of white noise emanating from multiple channels.

Assessing the quality of an artist’s music is entirely subjective, but I believe Zeppelin’s style would resonate even in today’s climate, where an explosion of music formats such as electronic dance music and hip-hop have diluted rock music’s influence. The band’s music defied categorization. Certainly songs such as “Kashmir” and “Dancing Days” were exotic and versatile enough to appeal to listeners beyond rock. In fact, Led Zeppelin’s music has been sampled heavily by hip-hop artists such as Dr. Dre and Eminem, with “When the Levee Breaks” alone sampled numerous times. All Led Zeppelin’s music was carefully developed under the exacting standards of Jimmy Page, who had the unusual role of lead guitarist, co-writer, and producer. That the group has won so many accolades such as the Kennedy Center Honors is a testament to its attention to detail. Even Led Zeppelin’s rough works in progress from the slew of deluxe editions issued in recent months are better than much of what passes for polished material that you find on SoundCloud.

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Fake It Until You Make It

July 17th, 2015 by ddeal

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Photo Credit: Brian Schultz

How would you like to have a job that requires you to be always on? Where the cameras are always rolling, and someone is always watching you? Where you smile and laugh no matter what kind of day you’re having? Would you be energized? Mortified? Maybe a little of both? Every weekend from July 11 to Labor Day, I have that job from early morning to evening. As I have discussed on my blog, I am part of the cast of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, a highly acclaimed festival in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where visitors pay $24 to experience a re-creation of the port of Bristol, England, in the year 1574. I portray a garrulous windbag of a barrister named Nicolas Wright, whose personality mixes bluster with a vulnerable need for approval. In real life, I am a quiet, reflective person who prefers chilling out with music and a book in my spare time. You might argue that by becoming Nicolas Wright, I’m faking it. And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being always on keeps you connected with people. And you need to be connected to be creative.

When you join the Bristol cast, you make a commitment to uplift others. All cast members, entertainers, and merchants adhere to a sacrosanct rule: make every patron who walks through the Bristol gates feel like an honored guest to be celebrated, revered, and welcomed. Bristol is also a dream for anyone who creates. As cast members, we create our own characters and skits, and hone our talents through acting lessons, improvisational training, and dialect coaching. The creativity and customer service complement each other: the characters we develop, ranging from Sir Walter Raleigh to Martin Frobisher, exist in order to offer an immersive experience to our guests — namely a sixteenth century town hosting the Queen of England.

And we are “on” for the patrons from 10:00 a.m. until the faire closes at 7:00 p.m. — without exception. We want patrons to forget their cares for a day, which means we must do so as well. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a long week at work, I woke up with a headache, or I’m stressing over an unexpected $1,200 bill from the auto repair shop. When it’s show time, I’m going to mingle with patrons, joking with them, praising them, handing out trinkets to kids, and performing scheduled skits, including the Queen’s Show that follows our daily parade. And there is only one way to do it: with a smile, a wink, and a laugh, for hours. There is no going halfway, nor should there be. That one moment when you let your guard down and act impatiently with a child at 6:45 p.m. after you’ve been enduring heat, humidity, and mosquitoes could tarnish a family’s first visit to Bristol. That instant when you grimace because your toe aches as you march in the Queen’s parade just might be the moment when a happy couple celebrating their wedding anniversary is taking your photo for their Facebook album. If necessary, you fake it until you make it. But here’s the thing — being always on is both exhilarating personally and essential to creativity. Here’s why:

  • Uplifting others is a selfless act. When your attention is focused on making other people happy, you stop thinking about your own problems and direct every fiber of your energy outward. You, in turn, are rewarded. Just last week, I handed one of my Nicolas Wright calling cards to a patron, who noticed that I had written a runic symbol on the back of the card. It turned out that he was an expert on runic symbols. He happily produced several runic stones he had hand-crafted and eagerly discussed his passion with me. A small gesture on my part was returned 100-fold. What if I’d blown him off? I would have lost.
  • Faking it until you make it really does make you happier. As the saying goes, love is a verb. Action creates emotion. At first you might truly feel like you are acting when you hit the streets of Bristol in the morning, but the energy from the patrons and my castmates uplifts me. It never fails: be friendly to one person after another, and no longer do you feel “on.” You naturally feel energized and positive.
  • Being always on spurs creativity. Our directors encourage us to deepen our character development through interactions with patrons. Each time I meet a patron, I have an opportunity to test a new joke or gauge a response to a revelation about my character. When I first developed the character of Nicolas Wright, I cast him as a nobler leader. But then I experimented by making him a bit more devilish, and I noticed patrons became more engaged and interested. They liked him more as a villain than as a saint. But I would not have achieved this kind of creative breakthrough unless I had constantly put myself out there, interacting with people and giving them my all. Sometimes my jokes bomb, but Bristol is the kind of place where trying and failing is not only expected but celebrated. You just cannot grow unless you’re pushing yourself to inhabit your character and learning from everyone around you.

Learning how to “fake it until you make it” has taught me how to take energy from other people, internalize it, and then build on it, whether I am acting at Bristol or living my everyday life. That energy not only uplifts others, but it strengthens you. And the dynamic of being with others leaves you with fresh ideas that won’t necessarily arrive when you are alone.

You don’t need to be an actor in a Renaissance Faire to apply this lesson. For instance, occasionally I attend business conferences as part of my job as a consultant and writer. The events usually include social functions as well as more formal learning sessions with presentations. Instead of blowing off the cocktail parties as I once did, I force myself to not only attend them but to mingle with other attendees, no matter how busy my day is or how many unanswered emails I need to address. I almost always walk away from the social functions learning as much or more than I did by sitting through a PowerPoint presentation because the real-time insights from other attendees build upon each other through conversation. What are some opportunities you might try?




“Amy” and the Unsolved Mystery of Amy Winehouse

July 16th, 2015 by ddeal

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Amy, the new documentary about Amy Winehouse, is an unsolved mystery and an all-too-familiar one. You know the story: a mercurial artist dies before her time, leaving behind grieving fans and an unfinished body of work. The movie leaves us pondering why she self-destructed and provides no easy answers.

Over the course of two hours, Amy offers several possible reasons why the critically acclaimed singer spiraled out of control and died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, just three years after winning multiple Grammy Awards for her triumphant album Back to Black. Those reasons include:

  • Her parents’ separation when Winehouse was 9 years old — in particular, her father’s infidelity and leaving home. These events led to some serious daddy issues, which clouded Winehouse’s judgment in men, especially when it came to her husband Blake Fielder-Civil. The movie portrays him as a ne’er-do-well leech who dumped Winehouse but then returned when she achieved fame, enabled her drug abuse, and distracted her with his own destructive behavior.
  • Her fragile soul, unsuited for fame. Throughout her life Winehouse was treated for depression and suffered from bulimia, two widely misunderstood afflictions whose serious impacts she probably failed to comprehend fully. She was also a dependent personality, which made her vulnerable to the pressures and temptations of fame, especially drug use. Near the end of her life, she was tired of being Amy Winehouse, the star, and wanted to return to the simpler times she lived. But there was no turning back.
  • An insatiable appetite for drugs and alcohol. Like Brian Jones before her, Winehouse consumed drugs like candy, living off crack cocaine, meth, and heroin on top of alcohol binges. It was clear to everyone but her that she had no business taking drugs given her vulnerabilities. Why didn’t she stop? When she was alive, she offered no clear reason beyond her admission that life just is less fun without drugs. But the movie provides a clinical perspective: she was an addict who could not stop drinking once she started, an answer so obvious and yet too easy to overlook in a society that still largely treats alcohol as a social lubricant instead of the drug that it really is.

You’ve heard this tale before, haven’t you? Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, and Jimi Hendrix are among the gifted artists who lived their own variations of Amy with the same results. During Amy, one of the narrators is quoted as saying that Amy was living a high-pressure star life for which there was no template. I disagree. The tragedy of Amy is that by the time she came of age, the industry of celebrity had evolved to the point where any number of stars such as Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney had learned how to manage its trappings. But it doesn’t matter. The movie argues that she would never have listened to anyone’s advice. The disease of alcoholism dictated her choices. And yes, she is to blame for failing to treat her addiction properly. It’s easy to judge; but it is not so easy to watch Amy Winehouse throw her incendiary talent away as she fights and loses one struggle after another with her demons. Her loss is ours, too.

Amy reveals other sides to Amy than the train wreck. We gain an appreciation for why she was an artist. Not only was her singing style original, but she also wrote her own songs, with lyrics that conveyed vulnerability, irony, sass, and self-awareness. She took whatever life gave her and molded her experiences into music, most notably with the hit “Rehab,” which now reads like a diary of self-denial. One of my favorite moments of the movie occurs when, in a voice-over, she explains that she started writing songs because she was bored by music she heard on the radio. She shares an inspired lesson: if you don’t like the status quo, create something better.

We also come to understand her own innate grasp of her musical influences. She consciously molded the styles of the jazz greats along with the soul genre. Questlove of the Roots cites her deep knowledge of jazz. Tony Bennett raves about her ability to create a true, pure vocal style. Late in the movie, we witness a tender scene in which Bennett and Winehouse record a duet for his album Duets II. She is clearly spellbound by Bennett, whom she idolizes, and her passion for nailing the perfect vocal is evident. And yet, only a few months after the footage was shot, she would be dead.

But, ultimately, Winehouse’s death overshadows her life in Amy, not because her demise was sudden or shocking, but because she died a little every day. And we may never solve the mystery.

 




“Be Prepared to Never Make Money on Your Work”: A Music Industry Insider Speaks

July 8th, 2015 by ddeal

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If you want to understand the future of the music industry, follow Cortney Harding. She is an expert at helping emerging artists find audiences through the intersection of music, branding, and technology — the three essential requirements for any artist to succeed in the reinvented music industry. Her resume includes being Billboard‘s music editor and working with hot music start-ups such as interactive media site ThingLink (a source of innovative digital music art) and Muzooka, a new hybrid streaming service and intermediary that helps artists, brands, and music executives find each other. (If you hear a fresh artist playing at a hotel like the W, chances are Muzooka may have had a hand working behind the scenes connecting the artist and the hotel). Harding, who writes a music column and co-hosts a podcast, recently spoke with me about the state of the industry — and it’s not always pretty for anyone who clings to pre-Napster days when record labels and albums ruled. She also has some words for artists: look for your audience in unexpected places, super serve your fans, and don’t plan on making money off your music.

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Sound bleak? To the contrary: as Harding sees it, artists have more ways to find audiences than they did in the so-called good old days of the 1990s, when, in actuality, only a small handful of musicians really had it good.

Read on for an insight into a wide-ranging discussion that covers everything from the future of music streaming to how artists can succeed in a fractured industry.

You have been both a music journalist and consultant, collaborating with music companies ranging from Muzooka to Soundrop. Why did you switch over from journalism to marketing and consulting?

Well, I haven’t made the switch completely — I still write a weekly music tech blog and co-host a podcast. But I saw an opportunity in the market a few years ago and was really curious about startups and wanted to see what I could learn working in that field. Journalism is a tough place to make a living and it seemed like there was more of a future in the startup space. My goal for my career is always to be learning new skills and growing. Who knows, I might stay with startups, I might find a path back to writing, or I might do something totally different next.

Music is a notoriously fractured industry. What excites you about the industry?

The fact that it has been so disrupted, and that there are so many new opportunities to experiment. I think people recognize at this point that you can’t just cling to the old ways in music, and there is a willingness to try new things. Music is also growing on a global level, and I’m excited to see where the next big markets are.

What’s on your playlist right now? Which artists excite you?

I just got Apple Music and am working my way through the Indie Hits playlists year by year. In terms of new stuff, I love the new Sleater-Kinney, the new Bjork, Speedy Ortiz, and Torres.

It’s difficult to keep up with all the streaming services in the marketplace now. There’s even a streaming service for Christian rock available. Where are streaming services headed? What do you think the landscape for streaming services will look like a few years from now?

I think niche streaming services are super interesting — I was just talking to someone about an Indian and South East Asian service that is doing well in the expat community in the U.S.A. On a bigger scale I think there will be a contraction in the market and we’ll be left with a few big players, kind of like what we have in streaming movies and TV right now. Much of the future of streaming depends on the future of connectivity and devices, and better connectivity will only be good for streaming. But formats also come and go, and I don’t think streaming is the final place we end up.

What are your feelings about artists such as the Black Keys and Taylor Swift, who have been outspoken critics of streaming services such as Spotify?

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that musicians should not get paid — because they should. Musicians should monetize their content. But there is the idea and the reality. The reality is that you have to give something up to get something in return.

Musicians like to hearken back to the pre-digital era as being the height of fairness and prosperity for musicians, but the pre-Napster era was only good for certain people. If you ran a record label in the 1990s, your life was awesome. If you were one of the few boy bands that hit it big in the 1990s, your life was awesome. But the music industry was protectionist then. It was very hard for a bands to get their music into stores. There were bands every now and then who broke through, but the acts that succeeded were a small segment of Western acts in Western countries.

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Three Lessons I Have Learned from Jim Morrison

July 3rd, 2015 by ddeal

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Thirty four years ago today, I visited Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery to honor his memory on the tenth anniversary of his death. The moment sealed my lifetime interest in the Doors and especially Jim Morrison. But aside from providing the soundtrack to my life and fascinating me with his songwriting, has Jim Morrison really had an impact on how I live and work? Yes. Here are three lessons I have learned from the lizard king, which I apply today:

1. Take Risks

Morrison famously challenged us to break on through to the other side. He constantly challenged himself, too, in his actions and words. He was not afraid to write about disturbing themes in his songs and to explore topics that can still make you feel uncomfortable, such as the Oedipal subtext in “The End” and the killer on the road in “Riders on the Storm.” As a performer, he pushed boundaries to the point of defying audience expectations of rock stars, with sometimes unfortunate results, such as his being charged for indecency in the aftermath of an infamous Miami concert in 1969.

Morrison has inspired me to take risks in all aspects of my life, whether I’m auditioning to perform in a Renaissance Faire or launching my own business. My family and I create our own personal adventures each day, pushing each other to grow and live outside our comfort zones, as we did recently when we all hiked steep, unyielding trails in the Smoky Mountains. We could have enjoyed a relaxing vacation in the comfort of our rented cabin, but instead we pushed each other to literally explore new terrain that was sometimes grueling. We took risks and flourished.

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Welcome to a New Era of Convenience Shopping

June 29th, 2015 by ddeal

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Buy buttons are taking convenience shopping to a whole new level. In recent weeks, Instagram and Pinterest announced new buy button features that make it easy for consumers to purchase goods and services directly from their apps. Facebook, which began testing shoppable ads in 2014, announced an expansion of its program. Google confirmed that the search giant is developing a buy button so that shoppers can make purchases directly from Google ads. Why the interest? In a word: mobile.

It’s easy to see why these digital brands are instituting buy buttons. In the United States, online commerce accounts for but 7 percent of all retail sales. According to Forrester Research, by 2017 the Web will generate $370 billion in U.S. sales, or 10 percent of the total. By making it easier to conduct transactions online, the likes of Google, Instagram, and Pinterest hope to stake a claim to the $3.3 trillion in sales that will occur offline.

But why are we seeing a proliferation of buy buttons now? There’s something else going on: since 2013, consumers have preferred using their mobile devices over laptops and desktops to interact with retailers online. The shift to mobile has profound implications:

  • Mobile consumers have an immediate intent to purchase: according to a recently released report by Google, I Want-to-Go Moments: From Search to Store, half of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphones visit a store within 24 hours. Nearly half of consumers trying to decide on a restaurant do their local search within an hour of actually going.

In I-Want-to-Go Moments: From Search to Store, Google noted that the number of “near me” searches (searches conducted for goods and services nearby) conducted by consumers have grown by 34 times since 2011; and 80 percent of those searches are conducted on mobile devices.

“With a world of information at their fingertips, consumers have heightened expectations for immediacy and relevance,” wrote the report’s author, Matt Lawson. “They want what they want when they want it. They’re confident they can make well-informed choices whenever needs arise. It’s essential that brands be there in these moments that matter — when people are actively looking to learn, discover, and, or buy.”

You can sense the wheels spinning at Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, where consumers and brands share the same space: if consumers are collapsing the journey from awareness to purchase on their mobile devices, why not remove the friction of sending them offline to buy something? Why not use buy buttons seal the deal the moment when initial research and consideration occur on mobile devices?

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