Monthly Archives: December 2013

Record labels are dead. Beyonce killed them.

If you haven’t heard, last week Beyonce Knowles, aka Mrs. Carter digitally released her self-titled album to little fan fare.

And in less than a week, the Beyonce album was certified platinum, with over 1 million albums sold.

You heard me right.

She pulled a Prince.

All with no marketing or promotion.

No radio.

No street teams.

No promo tour.

Nada.

She dropped her album on the strength of her name alone.

And that move has everyone (or lots of folks) rethinking the whole music game.

If you know me, you know that I think that record labels are the devil.

They’ll loan you money to produce, market, promote, distribute and sell your album.

They may even give you a nominal advance because they “believe” in you.

If you’re lucky, your hard work will pay off, you’ll sell millions of records, and pay back every dime the label ever lent you.

And then they’ll give you your masters and everything’s even Steven, right?

Wrong!

Even when you’ve paid back the record label, satisfied your recording commitment, fulfilled all of your contractual obligations, the label will own your masters in perpetuity, and continue to make money well after their initial investment has been satisfied and concluded.

Long after you stop doing business with them or they drop you, they will still own and pimp the music you created (and essentially paid for).

Sounds pretty shitty right?

Which is why I’ve always recommended that artists go their own way sans label.

Now lets rap before you get all “But she’s Beyonce, she already has a name for herself.”

‘Cause that’s a cop out.

Almost everyone starts out as an independent before they get a deal.

That means getting on your grind.

You hit the studio, the streets, the internet and get your music out there.

Remember, every artist is a nobody before they’re a somebody.

But you have to be committed to becoming a somebody.

No one else can do it for you.

No publicist, producer, agent, manager, attorney, or stylist can get in the booth for you and spit (unless you’re Milli Vanilli).

No one can get on stage for you and perform.

No one can hit the road for you and tour.

But if you’re committed, you put out music and videos and your core audience will support you.

Period.

And it won’t happen overnight.

Beyonce wasn’t an overnight success.

Lets be real, she was in a few groups before Destiny’s Child broke.

And a few albums before she went solo.

And a few albums before she became the Beyonce we know today.

Today’s Beyonce has a cult following of loyal Beyoncettes, who would buy farts packaged as air fresheners if she sold them.

The success of her self-released album has a lot to do with the fact that she established herself as a brand before she made this jack move.

Beyonce has serious work ethic and a serious track record.

The phalanx of paparazzi is not by happenstance.

It doesn’t hurt that she’s also married to one of the most influential men in Hip Hop of all time.

She calls herself “Mrs. Carter” for chrissakes.

But that’s besides the point.

The real point is that you can write, produce, master and distribute your own music.

You can shoot your own videos and release your music directly to iTunes, without every Tom, Dick and Harry in your pocket.

And if you’re really bout-it-bout-it, you can create your own band of rabid followers to buy your packaged farts.

At the end of the day, labels are becoming less and less relevant to the making and discovery of new music.

So all you artists out there stop looking for a record deal and do for self.

Do a Beyonce and be the master of your brand!

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To cloud or not to cloud. That is the question.

There has been much ado about cloud computing.

Do I store my data in the cloud?

Do I not store my data in the cloud?

But for many of us, the question is even more basic than that:

What the fuck is the cloud?

Well, if you consult Wikipedia, it says:

Cloud computing is a phrase used to describe a variety of computing concepts that involve a large number of computers connected through a real-time communication network such as the Internet.  In science, cloud computing is a synonym for distributed computing over a network, and means the ability to run a program or application on many connected computers at the same time.  The phrase also more commonly refers to network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware, and are in fact served up by virtual hardware, simulated by software running on one or more real machines.  Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up (or down) on the fly without affecting the end user – arguably, rather like a cloud.

The popularity of the term can be attributed to its use in marketing to sell hosted services in the sense of application service provisioning that run client server software on a remote location.

I’m sorry. I don’t speak Mandarin.

Did that help?

Most likely not.

So here is a lay definition of the cloud:

The cloud is a term which describes an array of hardware and software that you don’t have to manage, see or touch, which lets you store, access and run files and programs remotely.

It’s proponents compare it to having an IT department without the IT infrastructure and costs.

Detractors think it’s an trendy method of managing data, fraught with data and security risks.

So what are the benefits of the cloud?

There are many benefits, not the least of which is the ability to house large quantities of data without having the footprint or costs typically associated with maintaining a networked server array. The space and costs savings are usually substantial and allow companies to run leaner and more efficiently.

For non-enterprise users, the cloud allows you to access your content and run programs from multiple devices without the typical per-user or per device licensing restrictions typically associated with many software programs.

Cloud services are always on so you can always access your data. One of the selling points of most cloud-based services are the uptime guarantees. Because of the abstraction taking place behind the scenes, when one server goes down or has to be taken offline, the load is automatically transferred to another with virtually no interruption to service.

With the cloud businesses are no longer required to add hardware to increase storage capacity.

What are the costs of the cloud?

Security and privacy issues are probably the biggest issue when it comes to storage in the cloud. Once you give up your data, it’s up to your service provider to ensure the integrity of that data.

Service interruptions are another issue that gives most IT experts sleepless nights. When you control and monitor your own servers, if there is an issue, you’re right on top of it and can essentially manage fall-over and backup. When you move to the cloud, it’s up to your service provider to protect against downtime and service interruptions.

Lack of control is one more cost of the cloud. Once you’re locked into a cloud-based solution, you’re essentially at the mercy of your service provider. If you want to move to another solution, change configurations, add or subtract features, you’ve got to go through that provider, which may or may not offer the type of flexibility you require versus locally managing your applications.

No I could go on and on about the costs and benefits of the cloud, but suffice it to say, its a trend that IT professionals are moving to in increasing numbers.

In fact, a friend of mine created this handy-dandy infographic highlighting the trends in cloud computing.

Enjoy!

Cloud Stats Infographic

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Instagram Direct. Instagram wants in on Sexting

instagram-direct

Instagram recently announced a new feature of their platform: Instagram Direct.

What’s Instagram Direct?

Good question.

Instagram Direct is a feature that lets users who follow one another send direct messages, which can include photos or videos, to each other.

Where Instagram was once user images and video shared on a public broadcast feed, Instagram now offers users the ability to send images, video and text privately.

And, more importantly, it enables users to conduct private chat, making the platform very Twitter-like.

Conversations can be one-on-one or one to many (up to 15).

The minute I heard the service was being offered, my mind went immediately to Anthony Weiner.

I mean what utility is Instagram Direct, really?

Plenty, if your intentions are nefarious.

Instagram Direct is a boon for cheaters and the bane of their spouses and significant others.

What better way to flirt than to send flicks of your unmentionables in a direct message?

And without having your package exposed to the world via your public feed.

See a girl or boy you like, send them a nasty message and a little bit o’ skin, see what happens.

Before you know it Instagram Direct will be like Ashley Madison allowing users to find compatible freaks online.

And without paying a recurring membership fee.

Not that I know how Ashley Madison works…but I’ve heard.

Anywho, I’ve yet to take Instagram Direct for a true spin, so this assessment is potentially replete with inaccuracies and misstatements.

But I did walk through the process and have a few screen shots to share.

When you’re on your home screen on Instagram, there’s a new inbox icon in the top right corner.

Instagram Direct

Clicking it opens up your “Direct” box.

Click the “+” sign and you’re off.

Direct dash

Your camera opens up and you can take or select a picture from your photo gallery.

From there, you can scale & crop, add features, a caption/message and then select who you want to send the photo to from your followers and people you follow.

Instagram Direct Share To List

Instagram Direct keeps a tally of the number of people you’ve selected with a “Send to #” at the bottom of the page.

Click the green “send to” bar at the bottom and Viola! you’re done.

Direct message sent

While this seems like a good thing, Instagram Direct introduces a subtle threat to the formerly “private” nature of the platform.

What threat?

Cyber-stalkers.

More specifically, cyber-stalkers can get at you directly.

Instagram Direct gives the pervs, dweebs and weirdos, you’d otherwise remain blissfully ignorant of, the ability to get all up in your in-box/request queue.

Instagram trolls (virtual voyeurs who stalk your Instagram feed but can’t comment or message you because they’re not your friends) can now legitimately send direct messages and pester you.

By simply dropping an image or video, they can initiate unsolicited contact with anyone posting content on Instagram.

Even though you still have the ability to ignore, block and/or reject that invitation (which is what an unsolicited message to someone you’re not friends with becomes) you’re now going to be confronted with their freakish pleas for attention.

If they get too pesky, you can block them like on other services, so it’s not that big of a deal (says the unpopular boy).

I’m not a big Instagrammer so Instagram Direct is a social media trend lost on me (from a purely utilitarian perspective), but if you think it’s the next big thing, I’d love to hear about it.

Better yet, Instagram Direct me.

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Facebook, you’re slipping. An Infographic.

As articles start piling up on how little Facebook really means to people anymore, I felt it apropos to share a little project I’ve been working on for a week.

One of my friends really digs infographics, so as a way of enticing them to read my blogs, I’ve dedicate this post to an infographic on Facebook.

More specifically, I’ve created an infographic on the types of people on Facebook.

Now my survey isn’t really all that comprehensive, and I’m sure there are loads more weirdos on Facebook I could stereotype, but I think I’ve captured quite of few that will resonate with you.

Enjoy!

What kind of Facebooker are you?

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My daughter has a crush. Time for “The Talk.”

Do they sell these at Walmart?

Do they sell these at Walmart?

Today, I got a text message from the wife that made my blood run cold.

No one was hurt or killed.

It was worse than that.

My daughter has a crush.

Some little knucklehead calls himself liking Asha Ming – and the feeling is mutual – much to my chagrin.

The moment I’ve dreaded since my daughter was first born is upon me.

Mind you, the wife told me that my son has a crush too, but who cares?

Why is my daughter’s crush the thing of nightmares (and not my son’s), you ask?

I’ll tell you.

Two months ago, she received a present from the ovary fairy, and my son is still shooting blanks – that’s why.

What would have otherwise been cute, something I would have laughed off, has transformed me into someone contemplating critically injuring a 12 year old boy.

I. Am. Not. Playing.

As I sit on the train home, I’m practicing what I’ve got to tell her about boys.

That’s right, I’m prepping for “the talk.”

I used to tell people how I’d handle the first boy who came over to the house to take Asha Ming on a date.

It involved me shirtless, with a pair of machete tucked into my waistband, a cloud of ganja smoke encircling my head and a screw face scowl gritting on the hapless youth with the misfortune of darkening my doorstep with his presence.

As time passed, I realized that I would have to soften my approach.

I would only cut every other boy who showed up at my door.

That still seemed too harsh.

Then it hit me.

I’ll just tell her the truth.

Boys want your cookie and once you give it to them, they’re ghost.

They’ll tell everyone you gave up your cookie and that you’re easy or a slut.

And if you don’t strap up, or if the jimmy hat breaks, you’ll be knocked up or get a venereal disease.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Leave boys alone or you’ll be a washed up single mom on welfare, living in a homeless shelter, subsisting on food stamps, with the clap.

I’m feeling better already.

By the time I got to Montcleezy, I felt confident I was ready for “The Talk.”

I prepped the wife on the car ride home of how I wanted to tackle the issue, only to learn that my daughter didn’t even want to tell me about the crush.

Whoa!

What do you mean “she didn’t want to tell me?”

The words did not compute.

How is it that MY daughter, the only one of the four that actually looks like me (Chanel I’m still taking your ass onto Maury) doesn’t want to talk to me about some stupid boy?

Doesn’t she know that pa dukes is a PIMP!?

One session with your dear old dad, and you’ll have these boys lining up to give you their milk money!

But it dawned on me that my whole machete-to-the-leg-of-the-first-boy-that-steps-on-my-porch approach is probably a bit…how do you say…excessive.

So as we hit the driveway, I resigned myself to delivering a different message.

In a nutshell, this is what I told her:

1. You’re my baby and I love you.
2. You’re body is maturing and since you’ve arrived at puberty, you’re experiencing physical and emotional changes.
3. Boys your age are also experiencing changes, and starting to notice and pay more attention to you.
4. It’s perfectly natural for you to be flattered by the new attention of boys, but it really shouldn’t be more than that.
5. Even though you’re growing and changing, you’re still a kid, and anything more than being friends with boys, isn’t appropriate at your age.
6. Girls who start coveting the attention of boys (and engaging in behavior to get and/or keep their attention) are setting themselves up to be taken advantage of and lowering their value and self worth.
7. Focus on developing yourself, doing well in school, and when you’re older and have self-mastery, managing relationships with boys will be easy.
8. Don’t ever feel pressured into doing anything that makes you uncomfortable. Resist peer pressure.
9. If you ever have any questions about anything, ask your mother and I. We’ve been there and done that and know infinitely more than your 11 or 12 year old peers.
10. Above all else, respect yourself. If you do, you’ll never allow anyone to disrespect you.

I cried myself to sleep last night (not really, but after all that sensitive drivel I delivered, it seemed like it fit here).

I shoed them out of my room, after answering their questions, confident that I had made my point.

And in case you missed it, here’s the abridged version:

You’re a kid. Be a kid. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to be an adult, so don’t rush into it.
Crushes, dating, holding hands, kissing, etc., are “grown-up” activities for grown-ups, which you are not.
Don’t listen to your friends, boys or anyone encouraging you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Protect your cookies, once you’ve given them away, they’re gone forever and you can’t get them back.

Any of you parents in a similar position, feel free to use any of this when you talk to your kids.

Or call me and I’ll talk to them.

Class dismissed.

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Google Glass isn’t all bad. If you’re a dork (like me).

20131206-095258.jpg

Several months ago, I wrote a post about one of the Google initiatives announced at the developers conference, a wearable computer called Google Glass.

At the time, it was theoretical, and for some odd reason, Google didn’t deem it necessary to either invite me to their developer pow wow OR send me a Beta pair.

Go figure.

But this Monday, a pair showed up at my office and I can confirm, despite the previously reported Yeti-like sightings of Google Glass in the wild (of which I had not witnessed) they are very real.

I could blather on about them, ad nauseam, but the quick and dirty is that Google Glass is an interesting piece of technology that takes a bit of getting used to, but which will go over well with dorks.

Now, I’ll blather on ad nauseam.

To be fair, my assessment of them is based on less than 20 minutes of hands-on testing. There was literally a queue of cats in my office waiting to try them out. So I felt like a hog spending more than a few minutes trying to take GG through its paces. But I made the most of my time and will now share my observations with you.

Because you care so much about what I think.

GG is literally a pair of glasses, with plastic lenses and a small translucent square mounted to the top of the frame of the right lens.

Putting them on is a little weird because they’re not symmetrical. The “fat” side contains all the components, which reside in a wide flat casing, while the “skinny” side is a simple curved metal bar, encased in soft plastic, that clings tightly to your head.

Even though it looks imbalanced, remarkably, GG feels right on your face/head/noggin.

When you first put them on, there’s nothing to see because the device is off. So at first glance, it looks just like you’re wearing a tricked out pair of Oakleys.

But once you turn them on, you know, immediately, that these are no bike riding glasses.

To turn Google Glass on, you simply tap the fat right side gently with your finger or tilt your head up 30 degrees.

Yes. I said “or tilt your head up 30 degrees” to turn Google Glass on. Just be careful if you use this method of activation around brothers (Black men, not male siblings), or they might think you’re giving them “the nod” and be offended if you don’t acknowledge them in return.

Turning on Google Glass pulls up the screen, which is projected in space about five feet in front of you. It’s like augmented reality without the helmet or wrap-around visors.

Now, you’ve got to look up slightly to see the screen because the placement of that little square on the frame (which is essentially what generates your projected screen) places it just above your normal line of sight.

You can manipulate your screen and Google Glass’ functions through both voice and touch. You control items on your screen or the menu using your finger along the side or via a set of simple voice commands. I wasn’t able to utilize the voice commands in the brief period I was playing around with it, but the dev who had them said that the voice commands work well (within the range of commands available).

To scroll up or down, back or forth and left or right, you rub your finger along the touchpad on the side of the glasses. Tapping with one finger selects, using two fingers lets you grab and move objects.

There is a small speaker on the section behind your ear, which projects sound, and it’s clear but low. And there’s also a small forward facing camera that shoots pictures and video.

During my little test run, I accessed Google Maps, watched a video, scrolled through a bunch of web pages and (unsuccessfully) tried to use Google Glass’ voice commands.

And outside of looking (and feeling) like a fucking dork – tilting my head up and down, tapping the side of my head, mumbling in audible commands and staring off into space – they’re not that bad.

I was initially prepared to write them off as a novelty, but I just had a 15 minute chat with the dev dude who got them and he actually had a lot of praise for it. I was skeptical until he told me he was is not an Android dude at all, so his opinion was patently objective.

He’d been rocking Google Glass for a week, and as a result, had a slightly more informed perspective than my 15 minute run. But just slightly.

We discussed my assessment and critique of how Google Glass makes you like a dork because you’re always looking up. Beyond that, your virtual screen is projected against the world behind it. So if you’re using Google Glass and you’ve got a funky background (bright lights, lots of traffic, etc.) it takes a minute for your eyes to adjust to all the BS/noise and focus on the screen.

When I gave him my assessment, lampooning its shortcomings, his response was that the field of view is intentionally placed above your line of sight so that you’re not looking at the screen on top of your natural field of view. The point of its placement was to avoid creating a distraction for the user or having to compete with visual background noise.

I had to concede that his argument made sense. And then I kicked him in the shins and cracked on his momma.

But that’s not to say that Google Glass gets flying colors. Google’s got work to do to get Google Glass ready for the major leagues.

A friend of mine suggested that Google Glass would be great for watching porn in mixed company, and while I initially thought that they were onto something, having rocked and witnessed others wearing them, I realized that Google Glass does have some limitations.

For one, there’s the issue of the voice prompts. Dev dude was able to execute several commands fairly easily when it was one-on-one, and when traffic and ambient noise was low. When many of us were milling about, buzzing and cackling, his attempts at controlling Google Glass through voice commands were an absolute fail. And my name “Stephen Chukumba” spoken into Google search, returned “Stephen Takuma” – although it could have been the dev dude’s Korean accent skewing the results.

Next, if you’re looking directly at someone wearing them, you can see the images projected on the small translucent square in front of the lens. Sure, the image is about a quarter of an inch big, but it’s a crystal clear quarter of an inch image, which is clearly not conducive lascivious content viewing.

And finally, even though the volume on the speakers are low, it’s still slightly audible if you’re within a few feet of the wearer. So the grunts and groans of true porn thespians is perceptible but those around you.

Anyway, as I digress into porn, I realize this post has gone on long enough.

My point is that Google glasses is still a work in progress.

Final analysis?

Google Glass is here.

You’ll look like a dork if you rock them.

But if do happen to get a pair, you’ll be a happy dork.

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Young Forever. Def Jam and Chris Anokute officially split.

Chris Anokute & Katy Perry

If you’ve been following the Twitter-sphere you might have picked up the leak of two of Katy Perry singles from her new album, PRISM, a little over a month ago.

As many had been eagerly anticipating that release, it goes without saying that the singles were retweeted and just like that, the planned October 22nd release of her album went up in smoke.

Allegedly, the leaks came from the infamous Perez Hilton and caused quite a stir at Capitol Records, Katy’s label, who were – how do you say – “pissed.”

As anyone who has used social media in this millennia knows, once something hits the interwebs, you can’t really take it back.

So Capitol should have run with it and pushed their marketing and promotions ahead to take advantage of the early buzz.

Or accepted the leak as great pre-promotion, as a litmus test to see which DJs in which markets were feeling and playing the records – and concentrate their efforts where buzz and spins were concentrated (or missing).

But Capitol Records, in typical dying record label form, blew its stack and started playing the blame game.

Instead of “capitalizing” (pun intended) on the moment, they started looking for someone to blame.

And do you know who ended up in their crosshairs? Chris Anokute.

“Chris Anokute? Isn’t he at Island Def Jam?” You ask.

That’s right.

But in the cover your ass shit storm that ensued, Chris became the scapegoat for the label’s ineptitude.

You see Chris, who used to A&R Katy Perry saw Perez Hilton’s tweet of Katy’s single and retweeted it (as did at least 60+ others who saw the tweet that morning).

Although Chris is no longer at Capitol, he and Katy remain close and she counts him among her closest friends.

So it went without saying tag when he saw Perez’s tweet, he shared the link to Katy’s single with his 14k followers.

Sharing is what friends do in the age of social media.

Right?

Well not if you’re a label exec.

Allegedly, the powers that be at Capitol and Island Def Jam felt that somehow Chris’ retweet violated some unwritten code of conduct.

And apparently that breach caused at least one executive to try airing it out on Chris.

And I say “apparently” because Chris put a response on Facebook, essentially blacking out on the dimwit dinosaurs running most major record labels.

Here’s a taste:

This is the abridged version of the blackout.

And with that, it was on.

Shortly after that incident Chris Anokute was released from Def Jam.

The deals of his termination are sketchy, and he’s probably bound to some draconian non-disclosure agreement, so unfortunately I can’t share all the juicy details with  you.

Suffice it to say, he’s not up$et.

His termination caps a tumultuous year for Def Jam, which has seen mass exodus of its top A&Rs to rival labels.

And while that spells bad news for Def Jam, it’s great news for Chris’ new company, Young Forever, and his new artist, Bebe Rexha.

Where one chapter closes, another opens.

Chris wasted no time in getting back to work, this time for himself, with the chart-topping The Monster by Eminem featuring Rihanna.

Chris’ artist, Bebe, has co-writing credits on the song and also appears on the hook.

Young Forever is but one of Chris’ latest entrepreneurial ventures.

Quiet is kept, he’s also working on a killer app that will keep folks talking for a hot minute.

If you want to know what Chris is up to, make sure to follow him on Twitter @chrisanokute, where he routinely provides inspiration to independent artists looking to break into the business.

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