Category Archives: opinion

What the f*@# do you mean you don’t have an iPhone?


You can file this under rant.

One of the things that boggles my mind, is when someone in the mobile space says that they don’t own an iPhone.


Hold your horses.

Before you start prattling on about the whole Samsung/Apple debate (Winston), know that that’s not where I’m going with this.

Simmer down now.

iPhone is just a placeholder.

The title to this post might have been “What the f*@# do you mean you don’t have an <insert name of mobile device here>?”

But that didn’t quite roll off the tongue.

Feel me?

Honestly, I could care less about your mobile device preference.

Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG, Nokia, Motorola, I could give a rat’s ass what you like.

As long as you own a smart phone capable of approximating the intended feature or functionality you’re trying to vet, we’re cool.

But when you’re building a mobile site, developing an app, using QR codes, or integrating augmented reality…

ANYTHING that requires a proper smart phone to experience…

And don’t own a proper smart phone…

You. Sound. Crazy.

At least to me you do.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve talked to folks about how a feature works or is supposed to work.

And learned – in the midst of that discussion – that they’ve never actually tested the issue being discussed on a device.

Or, worse yet, that they don’t even own the friggin’ device to test on.

I mean really?

How do you form your lips to critique something you’ve never tested?

Why are we even having this discussion?

Trying to describe a function or feature to someone who doesn’t have the device in question is like trying to describe color to a blind person.

No. It’s actually worse.

Especially if that person is making decisions in the absence of valid information.

Sure, wireframes, mock ups and emulators can help you imagine what the finished product will be like.

And they’re great for what they’re for – modeling.

But there is nothing like experiencing a thing on the platform for which it was intended.

And there’s nothing more valuable than getting feedback from an actual user.

Now, truth be told, I used to be one of the people of whom I speak.

Back in the day, I blacked out on Android users, but never owned an Android device.

My opinions of Android’s inadequacies were wholly based on conjecture not fact.

I have since seen the error of my ways, copped a Samsung GS3 and tested countless other Android devices.

So the disdain I now feel for Android devices, is steeped in fact.

But I digress.

My point is, don’t be like the old ignorant Stephen, casting stones in a glass house.

Be like the new Stephen, who opens the window to cast his stones carefully and with precision.

Now class, what have we learned today?

1. Stephen has a low tolerance for BS.

2. If you’re developing for mobile, you’ve got to have a mobile device.

I’m done.

Rant over.


Filed under iPhone, mobile, opinion, rant, technology, Uncategorized

Digital game changers: Social media interns

social media interns

I regularly extol the virtue of interns.

Having been an intern myself, I know how much I learned from simply being in a professional environment.

Benefits flow both way.

For the intern, it’s a great opportunity to grow and develop real world skills.

For the business or brand hiring interns, it’s an excellent opportunity to pre-screen potential future staff and get work done at the same time.

I routinely recommend interns, for both the free labor (yeah, I said it) and the inherent skill set today’s interns bring to the table.

Back in the day, interns were simply young people you took under your wing.

It was more of a mentor/mentee type relationship.

You were the sage, they the sponges soaking up knowledge at your feet.

They interned specifically because they wanted to know what you knew.

Experience the real world.

Build their resumes.

And hopefully land a paying gig after college if they played their cards right.

Interns could type, make copies, get coffee.

All the grunt stuff that secretaries executive assistants were for.

Interns of today, however, provide far more valuable than interns of old.

Why, you ask?

Social media, that’s why.

Eff typing and making copies.

These kids today know social media like the backs of their hands.

They routinely Facebook, YouTube, Tweet, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine in their sleep.

They tweet, post, like, share, and favorite more times before their sugar-laced breakfasts, than you have in the past year.

They engage more forms of social media than you and I even know exist.

More so you, than I, but I digress.

They’ve got time on their hands and spend an inordinate amount of it on social media.

Their mobile devices are virtual extensions of their fingers.

Have you ever seen kids texting without looking at their screens?

Or speed texting?

Unlike my generation, these kids are growing up with the technology that still baffles most of us.

Of you, rather.

My point is that today’s interns are bring a lot more to the companies with work for in this new technological and social media landscape.

They get it.


The understand the nuances of social media, as no two platforms are alike.

There is a distinction between Facebook and Twitter.

YouTube and Vimeo.

Snapchat and Vine.

Instagram and Pinterest.

For some organizations, the whole social media learning curve can be steep.

But virtually every brand has an online and social media presence.

I won’t beat you upside the head now about it, because I know that you know you need it.

More importantly, you need people who know it.

The ability to sustain that presence turn upon whether you have people within your organization, with an intimate understanding of the inner workings of each platform.

And bodies.

To sustain a successful online and social media presence, you’re going to need the bodies to throw at it.

As my friend James Andrews put it, you’ll need a social media command center.

And while you could pay a social media expert to man the helm of all your social profiles, you’ll get far more bang for your (free) buck with (social media savvy/connected) interns.

Cats I’ve turned on to the importance of social media – and social media interns, are killing it.

I’m talking followers and likes in the tens of thousands (peep Free Angela on Facebook).

So sleep if you want, but if you’re really interested in turning your social media around, get you some interns.

I mean who else is willing to work for Doritos and a reference?

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, social media

AfroBeatles: Fela + The Beatles. Yoda is real.

The AfroBeatles. John, Ringo, Fela, George and Paul.

The AfroBeatles. John, Ringo, Fela, George and Paul.

I’m sitting in NY Penn Station jamming to an AfroBeatles mash up.

I’m sorry.

What’s an AfroBeatle?

The Afrobeatles are an imaginary group from an alternate universe.

It’s The Beatles meets Fela Kuti.

In this alternate universe, these two musical icons (who, through fate, were never able to collaborate in life) create a musical journey and show us what the “what if” would have looked, sounded and felt like.

This universe contains a series of music and video mash ups of the AfroBeatles musical collabos.

Right now, I’m rocking out to Drive My Car with ODOO.

Its a mash up of the Beatles’ Drive My Car from the Rubber Soul album, and Overtake Don Overtake Overtake (ODOO) from the Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80 album of the same name.

This is an assignment I’ve been given by Yoda.

Not this Yoda. The real Yoda.

Not this Yoda. The real Yoda.

Who is Yoda?

He’s my sensei.

I’m his student.

Digital kung fu.

Per Yoda: “If we transplant a concept of any serious value in the digital space, it will germinate and grow. But you must be attentive to it for it to initially sustain itself.”

So I’m documenting AfroBeatles.

Which I’ve just planted in all of you.

Did you see what just happened?

You’ve become part of Yoda’s experiment.

You’re in the Petri dish.

You’ll probably never experience his all-seeing eye.

But it’s on you.

No camera necessary.

You’re already a blip on his mental radar.

You wouldn’t even know how to avoid it if you could.

It’s been trained on all of us for a long time.

I. Sound. Crazy.

One day, you’ll think back on this post and be like “Oh yeah. He did say that was gonna happen.”

That being this AfroBeatles thing.

You’ll be able to point to this post and know when you were officially put down.

It may be because we took a walk down AfroBeatles Lane together.

Or because one day you see your neighbor on TV talking about their “walk down AfroBeatles lane” from an AfroBeatles concert in London.

And you’ll wonder, “how the hell did they get to London?”

I never really listened to the Beatles back in the day, so this will be somewhat an education for me.

Sure, I know a few of their songs, but I can’t say I’m familiar with their full body of work.

My “assignment” from Yoda is to document the AfroBeatles movement.

Including the symposia where the project will be discussed, the concerts and screenings taking place along the way.

Of course, you’re invited.

And I’ll gather more data about you.

I’ve been reflexively typing as I’ve been listening to this, so AfroBeatles music clearly has a creative effect on this listener.

My feet have been tapping this whole time, and I’m bopping my head.

Outside looking in, there’s a dreadlock on the train jamming to something.

Baby you can drive my car…

But if you got up close you would see me rat-a-tat tatting on this iPad.

Anyway, here’s how to formally participate in Yoda’s experiment:

1. Visit (it’s a work in progress)
2. Listen to any mash up in the timeline.
3. Decide for yourself, the minute you finish listening it, within five seconds, whether you want to walk down AfroBeatles Lane.
4. If “yes” document your walk down AfroBeatles Lane. Read the blog, listen to more tracks, download, like, share, comment and become a fellow blip.
5. Record where you are the day AfroBeatles becomes mainstream.

Yoda predicted lots of blips.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Oh…welcome to my world.

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Filed under advocacy, branding, digital advocacy, movies, music, opinion, social media, technology, work

Let’s YO! ain’t your daddy’s ice cream shop.


What do you get when you combine flat screen televisions, branded social media feeds, table top iPads and frozen yogurt?

Let’s YO! that’s what.

Let’s YO! Yogurt is an all natural frozen yogurt franchise, known for its innovative use of in-shop social media.

They serve a dizzying array of whacked out flavors of frozen yogurt (about 80 of them), in what has to be the hippest ice cream parlor you’ll ever see.

Let’s YO! is apparently a growing phenomenon.

What started off at a few spots in 2011 has grown to over 30 in just a few years, with locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey.

This weekend I took my kids to their Montclair location.


It’s part ice cream shop, part hang out spot, and part arcade.

Let’s YO! is a self-serve ice cream shop, which allows you to make your own cone, cup or sundae.

There’s a big board at the start of your DIY journey, which outlines the simple steps for building your unique frozen masterpiece.

Once you’ve selected your flavors, you can add toppings.

With everything from rainbow sprinkles and M&Ms, to granola and rice crispies, it’s an ice cream aficionados dream.

But the pièce de résistance is unquestionably the iPads mounted to the tabletops through the shop.

Connected to the TV screens, the iPads allow customers to share their experience through social media both inside and out of the store.

My kids eyes bugged out of their heads as we sat to enjoy their cavity-inducing creations, and they noticed the iPads on each table.

Secured in landscape orientation behind green protective casing, the iPads were loaded with a buttload of games and entertainment apps.

The fixed orientation was great for games best played in landscape mode.

Not so much for portrait-only games.

The kids could have cared less about the fixed orientation and lost themselves in gameplay.

I was appalled at the grubby home buttons or sticky screens but I didn’t let it get the best of me.

Does Purell make wipes?

At the end of the day, Let’s YO! is a modernized take on the Carvel, Baskin-Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops of old.

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Filed under branding, opinion, social media, technology

Bend over. Lululemon’s customer service fail.

Lululemon wants to see your bum.

Lululemon wants to see your bum.

I’ll be brief.

Actually, I’ll be a pair of (recalled) Lululemon Luon yoga pants.

A see-through pair to be exact.

This morning I heard a story so outrageous, so thoroughly implausible, I knew it was a prank.

I wasn’t watching a major news network.

It must have been The Onion.

And the story was a gag.

But as I listened and watched the familiar newscasters report on the story, I realized the story was real.

And Lululemon was making perhaps the worst customer service gaffe in history.

Apparently the Luon, a pair of high-priced yoga pants made by Lululemon, were defective.

If you bent over while wearing them (as you inevitably will in yoga) the pants become sheer and see through.

I assume your exposed pantaloons are not one of the chakras you’re trying to open.

When customers tried to return these defective pants, store clerks made customer put the pants on…


Purportedly, this requirement for a return was sanctioned by Lululemon’s CEO, Christine Day, who said:

“[T] truth of the matter is that the only way that you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over.”

As one reporter wrote “asking customers to publicly debase themselves is the surest way of ensuring repeat business.”

The backlash has been instantaneous and unanimous: Lululemon is bugging.

Maybe asking customers to try on a defective article of clothing in-store before you can return it is kosher in Canada.

So they didn’t fully appreciate how folks in America would be offended or taken aback.

Clearly their heads were up their arses.

Perhaps they never heard the expression, “the customer is always right.”

But whatever the case may be, Lululemon made a massive faux pas.

It’s likely going to cost them more than the reported $60 million in lost sales and revenue.

The impact to their reputation can’t be fully quantified.

If the chatter on social media is any indication, it’s serious.

Now I’m not a yoga person.

But I’ll be damned if I drop 100 bones for some friggin pants.

And if I was, and I had, you best believe that I’d have gotten my money back without trying them on.

If I bent over, it would have only been to pass gas as an expression of my malcontent – NOT to prove the pants were see through.

However, the way I would have handled the situation isn’t at issue here.

It’s the way Lululemon mis-handled it.

I’m curious to see how Lululemon makes this right with their customers and fans.

Might I suggest a massive give-back campaign?

If you own any Lululemon product you’re not happy with, even if its not the Luon pants, bring it back to any Lululemon store and we’ll replace it.

No questions asked.

No try-on required.

Lululemon, Christine Day, get at me.

I’m here all week.

I’ll be the dude in downward facing dog with my man package exposed in your see-though pants.

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Filed under branding, opinion, social media

i-Blason Part II: Booooo!


A week or so ago, I wrote a not so glowing review of the i-Blason Power Slider Rechargeable Battery Case for the iPhone 5.

I basically said that it was a piece of crap.

I’ve blasted other brands before and never heard a peep.

So you can imagine my surprise when someone from i-Blason responded.

Not only did they hit me up, but they were genuinely helpful.

Colin, from i-Blason, offered to exchange my case with another.

Based on his assessment of my situation, he surmised that I had a bum motherboard.

After a few back and forth emails, I received my new case.

Kudos to i-Blason for superb customer service.

I promptly switched out my case, hooked it up to my 8 pin connector and was set to go.

With my new case, I felt confident that I would be able to rock all day with a full charge and my backup.

Needless to say, I was perturbed to see my iPhone at 50% less than an hour later.

I hadn’t thought I had used the phone to that extent.

In fact, I was confident I hadn’t used it at all.

But hey, I had my new handy dandy charging case, so no worries.

At 10% battery, I turned on the i-Blason case hoping to get right.

But nooooooooo!

Once again, I was sorely disappointed.

Before I had anything close to a full charge, there was no more juice.

And the case was hot.

I couldn’t accept that this replacement case was worse than the original.

So I gave it another shot.

Charged my phone (separately).

Charged my case (separately).

Plopped my fully charged phone into my fully charged case.

An hour later, I’ve got a hot case in my pocket.

Why is this stupid thing hot?

Why is my battery on my phone at 50%?

Is this stupid case draining my battery?

I promptly decoupled my precious iPhone from this obviously defective piece of crap.

I turned to the interweb to see if I was alone.

Alas, I was not.

Review after review on sites like Amazon gave the i-Blason poor marks.

Wish I read them sooner.

At this juncture, I can only say, unequivocally, that the i-Blason iPhone 5 charger case is not to be trusted.

If you’re in the market, avoid these overpriced i-Blason products like the plague.


Filed under iPhone, opinion, technology

Sorry Siri. But you suck. Siri-ously.


I was struck by a really good idea the other day, driving home.

Ordinarily, I’d just whip out my iPhone, tap a few notes as a reminder and keep it moving.

But since I was driving, I couldn’t.

I’ve got a voice memo app on my phone, which I could have used.

But I’ve never gone back to listen to any recording I’ve ever made, and this time would be no different.

So I quickly deaded that idea.

But immediately, another, more intriguing solution sprang to mind.


Since my previous phone was the 4 and not the 4S, I never got caught up in the whole Siri frenzy.

Martin Scorsese, Samuel Jackson, and Zooey Deschanel did nothing to convince me otherwise.

But driving along the other day, I was compelled to give Siri a spin.

I just couldn’t lose this train of thought.

Sitting at a light, I pressed my home button, bringing Siri to life.

“Siri take a note.”

“What would you like the note to say?”

Dictated a few lines.


And then, gobbledygook.

'Woodfon' Siri? 'Fandor'? What are these words you're making up?

‘Woodfon’ Siri? ‘Fandor’? What are these words you’re making up?

No punctuation.

A few made up words.

Oh well, I could clean it up later.

Having captured the essence of the thread I wanted to build upon later, I then tried to get Siri to email me the note she had just created.

“Siri, email me my last note.”

“I don’t know who you are. But you can tell me…”

“In Siri settings, tap on ‘My Info’ and then choose yourself from your contacts.”

Seemed reasonable.

Except for the fact that I was driving and couldn’t!

Not to be deterred, I did as she asked at the next red light.


Back to Siri.

“Siri, email me my last note.”

“What would you like your email to say?”

An email dialogue, with the subject line “My last note” opens up on my screen.

Bitch! I don’t want to send an email about “My last note”.

I want you to email me my last note.

“Siri, show me the last note you took for me.”

“Ok, I found this note.”

What pops up is NOT the last note that she took for me, but some other random note.

“Siri, show me all the notes you have made for me.”

“Ok, I found at least twenty-five notes.”

Heifer, I’ve only made one note with you!

“Siri, show me the notes from today.”

“Okay, I found this note:”

Finally, we’re getting somewhere.

“Siri, email this note to me.”

“I’m not allowed to share your notes, Stephen.”


“Siri, why can’t you share my notes with me?”

“I didn’t find any notes matching ‘Siri why can’t you share my notes with me.'”

I was done.

When I got home, I tried to run Siri through a few paces, while I wasn’t driving.

And could focus.

It was a fool’s errand.

Now, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person.

But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the right combination of words to get this broad to do anything.

Aside from the most basic shit, Siri was pretty useless.

And from a purely assistive perspective, Siri sucks.

There are too many things that are common parlance that Siri completely flubs.

And if one is required to go through all kinds of linguistic and mental gymnastics to make one understood by their digital assistant, what the fuck good is it?

Don’t mind me.

I’m just venting.

I’m sure that Siri is really good for some folks.

But if that bitch ever crosses my path again…it’s on.

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Filed under iPhone, mobile, opinion

YouTube, you’re bugging. No one is paying for your videos.


I’ve been hearing the most ludicrous rumors concerning YouTube.

Apparently, someone at Google thinks it would be a good idea to start charging folks to watch certain channels.

For a small fee, say $5, users would have access to “premium” content on YouTube.


So the site that has millions of free user-generated videos is now going to switch to a pay model?


You know I’m not trying to pay for YouTube.

Or any other social media service for that matter.

And it’s not like it’s Netflix (for which I have a subscription).

Where you can dial up the movie you want to watch.

And they’re movies – not videos.

But maybe that’s where they’re going next.

YouTube aspires to be the Netflix of videos?

But which videos?

Are labels going to start charging you to watch the music videos of their artists?

Bad idea.

Maybe I’m dense, but I can’t think of any scenario where folks would be willing to come off that cash for some video (when that same content was formerly free).

Sure, the freemium model dictates that you give something of value away initially to induce a later spend.

But YouTube has been free since the word go.

They blew past that incentive point – where if they flipped to a paid model folks would be willing to pay – a while ago.

Now it just looks like they’re trying to make money by any means necessary.

Or maybe they’re trying to provide incentives to content creators to partner with Google.

If you recall, a few years ago, Google flirted with this subscription video model.

They offered content creators the opportunity to set up premium channels, where they could charge users to watch their videos.

Needless to say, the idea didn’t take.

Why they’re resuscitation this obviously flawed strategy again now is beyond me.

Maybe they’re just gluttons for punishment.

Maybe it’s the 800 million YouTube searches that are performed daily.

Or the 4 billion hours that folks watch each month.

Maybe they’re trying to offer an alternative to the current ad-supported model.

Whatever the motivation, we’ll have to wait and see how folks respond.

Google hasn’t indicated when the first of the paid videos or channels will be available.

In fact, no one is quite sure of the exact pricing mechanism they intend to employ.

But I can tell you this: I won’t be paying a damn thing!

Who knows, maybe the second time’s a charm.

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Filed under opinion, social media

Mayor Robert D. Jackson, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do! (aka NIMBY)

Really Montclair? Is this how you notify residents that a public meeting is being held?

Really Mayor Jackson? Is this how you notify residents that a public meeting is being held?

I was originally going to post this as an open letter to Robert D. Jackson, the mayor of Montclair.

I was trying to come up with a clever way to express my sheer and utter disappointment with his handling of the planned development of a water pumping station down the block from my house.

But as I started writing, I realized that I didn’t just want to blast on dude in absentia.

I’ll wait for tonight’s meeting to blast him in person.

You see, last night, I attended the Nishuane Well Project Hearing, from which Mayor Jackson (and the rest of the Township Council) was conspicuously absent.

Despite the fact that he’s my neighbor (he lives around the corner from me) and he supports the project, last night he was nowhere to be found.

And while he wasn’t there, a roomful of angry residents of the 4th Ward were.

Maybe he didn’t attend because he wasn’t aware that the meeting was taking place.

That massive industrial billboard with the fine print at the bend of High Street is really hard to see when you’re driving.

So I’d understand if he missed it – being all big and all.

Oh, wait, maybe he thought that billboard was for the meeting tomorrow, not today.

No. He’s part of the governing body of Montclair, and should know when meetings are.

So why wasn’t Mayor Jackson (and the rest of the Township Council) there?

Perhaps it was because the consultants he hired to present his plan had it covered.

Why should he attend when these guys were paid (how much?) to study the issue and present a proposal for bringing the 30 year old defunct well into use.

But since they were just hired guns whipping boys outside consultants, they really were out of their depth.

They simply didn’t have the capacity to answer some of the more nagging questions those in attendance had to ask.

They were there to present the plan, not defend Mayor Jackson’s absolute failure to get community input on the project.

So why wasn’t Mayor Jackson (and the rest of the Township Council) there?

Was it because our Councilor, Renée Baskerville should have been keeping us abreast of what was happing in our Township?

Well, no, it couldn’t be that, because she was as in the dark about Mayor Jackson’s intentions as were the rest of us.

She only saw the report issued by the consultants the day before the meeting.

Shouldn’t she and the rest of the board have received it when it was completed in October?

Probably, but she didn’t.

Unlike Mayor Jackson, last night was the first time that most of us saw any report about this project.

So why wasn’t Mayor Jackson (and the rest of the Township Council) there?

The fact of the matter is Mayor Jackson (and the rest of the Township Council) think that this project, like so many before it in the 4th Ward, is a done deal.

The public comment period is just that: a public comment period.

They’ve decided that they want to construct this pumping station at the top of a beautiful hill in (what some think is a marginal) section of town, where nobody cares.

So they’re just going to do it.

End of story.

But Mayor Jackson, that’s not the end of the story.

I’d suggest you recount your eggs.

And show up tonight to explain to me (and the rest of the residents of the 4th Ward) to my satisfaction:

  • Why we need a pumping station in the first place. We don’t.
  • Why non-construction alternatives have not been explored. They weren’t.
  • Why the township is about to borrow $2.6 million (which the taxpayers are going to have to pay back) to finance a project to produce water for residents outside of Montclair.  They shouldn’t.
  • Why we’re finding out about a project that is going to ruin the natural beauty of a bucolic hill, down the block from a community pool, elementary school and a park, all routinely trafficked by small children, at the 11th hour.  How else to get over but through subterfuge and deceit.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are residents angrier that I, who want to holla atcha.

But don’t take my word for it.

Pick up a copy of today’s Montclair Times.

Perhaps go online to Montclair Patch.

Or even Baristanet.

Reporters from those publications were in attendance last night, and caught an earful.

So Mayor Jackson, I’d suggest you show up tonight.

Before you find us on your doorstep.

Or your name in the defendant’s column of a lawsuit.

Yeah. It’s like that.

You’re not just going to put a pumping station on my block without a fight.

Not in my backyard.


Filed under opinion

The Record Label of the Future. Lean. Mobile. App-enabled. Social. Real-time.

Mobile killed the radio star

Last night, I had a conversation with my mentee, Chris Anokute, the (now) Senior VP A&R at Island DefJam Records.

We’re on two different coasts, and don’t get to talk as frequently as we did when he was still in NY.

So our conversations tend to go on for hours.

Yesterday was no exception.

His label recently exercised the renewal option on his contract, and he wondered aloud, what the future held for him at the label.

At any label for that matter.

As we talked about his options – stay at the label, entertain offers from others, pool a few investors and set up his own company – the discussion invariably turned to what the future music industry would look like.

I told him that the music industry, as we know it, is dead.

Record labels are the walking dead.

Artists who are still trying to catch that brass ring, a record deal, are disillusioned zombies.

The future of music lies in embracing technology.


Any label exec, artist or producer, whose strategy isn’t explicitly tied to leveraging technology should call it quits – now.

2012 was the first time that digital music sales topped physical sales.

Worldwide, digital music sales exceeded $10B.

This trend is only going to continue.

And while the record labels are still giving out plaques for physical sales records, unsigned artists are generating revenues in the hundreds of thousands.

Without labels.

When he asked what the record label of the 21st century looked like, I told him.

And now I’m telling you.

1. It’s lean. Record labels today are bloated with unnecessary and often duplicative staff. You only need a few cats, who know their shit, to run a label effectively. A good A&R, product/project manager, marketing & PR specialist, radio promotions & street team, and a techie. Add a publishing guru, competent counsel, an anal accountant, a few eager beaver interns (for grunt work) and you’re set.

2. It’s mobile. There are more mobile phones than people on earth. But the labels don’t know that. Visit any label’s website from your phone. Universal Music Group, Virgin Records, Capitol Records, Epic Records, Island Records, Sony BMG, EMI, Warner Music Group. Not one of them – NOT ONE – had a mobile website. Or rather, not one of them had a site that was enabled to auto detect mobile browsers and render the appropriate content for the device viewing the site. If you’re going to connect with fans, you’ve got to make your site easy to navigate from a mobile device. a full HTML site on a phone is a shitty experience. Can we say “increased bounce rate”?

3. It’s app-enabled. I remember trying to convince Chris that he should drop an app when he released his next artist’s single. He told me (to my shock and horror – and I’m paraphrasing now) “apps are for established acts only.” That was the label talking – not Chris. Like hell! One thing that should accompany the release of every new artist is a free app. The app should be your personal portal into your favorite artist’s world. At a minimum, the app should include the artist’s bio, picture gallery, discography, music videos, songs, Twitter stream, and upcoming show dates. The app should have e-commerce capabilities, allowing a user to purchase a song, tickets to a show, or any media/content available for sale.

4. It’s social. Social media and music fit together like a hand in glove. Listening, discovering, sharing, liking are all the things fans do with their music. Apps like Spotify, Pandora and let you stream music and share what you’re streaming/listening to via social media. Social media makes it so much easier to let your personal network know what you’re into and get them into it too. Labels of the future should make sure that everything they do is equipped to leverage social media to the fullest.

5. It’s real time. Labels are always whining about leaks and lost sales due to content being pirated and available to the public before its been officially released. You know how you prevent that? Make content available to consumers as soon as its ready! Artists are prolific, and production costs are remarkably low. So instead of trying to filter music before its released, release it and let the public decide what they want to pay for. Rabid fans want it all, even the crap. Look at all those Prince and the New Power Generation (NPG) albums that Warner Bros. sold. Not his best work, but you couldn’t tell Prince fans that.

The record label of the future is one that acts like a unified system, providing fans with seamless unobstructed access to the artists on the label.

In the second coming of the record labels, websites will be a one-stop shop, where you can browse artists, listen to music, watch streaming videos, download songs right to your device (and have them perpetually available in the cloud for future download/use on as many devices as you own), comment, like, favorite and share via any of your social media profiles.

They’ll rely less and less on iTunes, and as a result, see more profits as fans start purchasing digital music directly from the labels (again) and not from resellers.

Their marketing will be personal and focus on the mobile device and a primary point of entry.

They’ll operate less like record labels, and more like software companies, continually tweaking and updating their offerings to give their users the best user experience possible.

The 360 degree contract was the record label’s reaction to the fact that they weren’t recouping the bloated album budgets from record sales.

Tomorrow’s label has to be more focused on creating alternate revenue streams for the content they produce, and less reliant on the artist’s alternate sources of income.

Video games, toys, digital greeting cards, third-party apps, all represent new opportunities for labels to leverage their catalogues.

Needless to say, I’ve got opinions.

Chris and I will talk again.

And I will give him another earful.

But for now, you’re dismissed.

I hope you were taking notes.


Filed under apps, digital advocacy, mobile, music, opinion