Thursday, 9 June 2011

Signing Off

Well, that's all folks!

As previously indicated, this blog is now kaput, ya!

I have written about 3 clever posts for the grand finale - something about Sky Atlantic and why TV content can be traded so much more valuably than music - a post about my 30 years of record buying (like Ian Rogers did on his blog) - and a really nice essay on Death Cab For Cutie. I also did a really good 'tag cloud' graphic about who was my favourite artist and when (I've always had a current running favourite). It all started with Queen and for the last 10+ years has been about me finding any number of substitutes for Radiohead. I might even post that one as an epilogue.

However - I couldn't get the damn things finished. It's all down to pressure of time. Time closing in like day changing to evening to night. Don't worry I'm not about to disappear completely - I'll be back with my new blog 'Culture Content' (about popular culture and how it seamlessy blends with our lives and teaches us how to live, maybe) soon. I'll notify you where to find this unique gem of a publication in due course.

You'll still come across me working in music too, via the continued excellence of the BPI Innovation Panel, or my other digital strategy projects and my pet project - the UK's first ever Music Film Festival - which I'm launching next year with some very cool partners. It will be great.

You won't see me at conferences though, I don't do those.

But as to the JB, it's done. I'm sorry I didn't get around to the post about ECM, Nonesuch, Coffee and music and Merz (who didn't release his album in time). But I can always do a special one-off - like a culled TV series.

The blog posts here - all 70 of them - will stay of course, for posterity. The stats weird me out anyhow. Yesterday for some reason there was 103 page views, so you never know how & when the blog or any particular post gets around. Besides I know it has won accolades in academic circles, which is both puzzling and flattering. So it will stay as an archive - even though that seems anathema for a weblog.

Stats wise this blog did okay. If you subscribed by e-mail - at its peak - you were one among circa 600 or so, and the page views would occasionally rocket if it got covered in any one of the (excellent) music publications - Record of the Day, MusicAlly - or the bigger ones like Wired, Billboard, Music Week etc. The profile views stand at 2292 - is that good? I dunno. But special thanks to other blogs that linked through - like Coolfer before it wound up, Mark Mulligan's still good Music Industry Blog and TMV.

Most of all thanks for reading - and to all those artists, managers, execs and others just interested - who e-mailed or got in touch as a result of something I wrote - big love - appreciate you 'reaching out' so to speak.

Music is the best thing apart from my wife & daughters and I'll continue to do everything in my power to get the message out about who I'm listening to, why and why you should too.

If all else fails, give Songs From The Big Chair another listen...bonjour!

Monday, 21 March 2011

P-P-P Penultimate Post about Penguins!

This is the penultimate post on the JB blog and was published as the op-ed in last week's UK Record of the Day...on music industry and leadership...enjoy and I will be back with the last ever post soonish...thanks for reading!
Music’s future might not be black & white but we need to be more adaptable Penguins...
In John Kotter’s management ‘fable’, “Our Iceberg is Melting”, a small but visionary team of penguins club together to figure out a future for their colony.

In the fable, the central problem is the threat to the colony’s future (that their environment is slowly melting around them) is hard to spot, harder to define and measure, and even harder to describe in a way the rest of the colony understands. The leader penguins have to put together a compelling story and plan such that the whole colony is spurred into collective action.

Effectively what the penguin leaders did was take a melting iceberg, and turn it into a burning platform. If ever we – the collective ‘music industry' – needed such a trick it would be now.

Ten years into our digital revolution we have been both the misfortunate lab rats of the content world but also to some extent, the lucky ones. Despite the doom mongers, music has actually done better than expected over the past decade. Yes, all the traditional commercial markers have steadily been reduced, but the industry is still intact. There’s a melting iceberg for certain, but no one has set the platform on fire, yet.

In the policy-making arena, music is such a central plank in our creative industries that its collective voice – better filtered and louder now than I can remember – is still listened to and hopefully, being heard. But the competition is bigger, slicker and richer. Tech is even giving music a run for its money in the celebrity superstar stakes these days. Has technology actually become ‘sexier’ than music and entertainment? How did we let that happen?

Commercially the mainstream industry – both the creators and it’s ‘majors’ rights-holders - have been lucky to have been surrounded by so many smart and willing small innovators. But, at the same time, there’s a sense of the ants eating away at the picnic as these small scale, ‘DIY’ operators and maverick start-ups build businesses (sometimes on the central assumption of music value-meter set to zero) that can function on skinny cost bases and ludicrously challenging business models – like free.

Just what future does a commercial music sector have in this kind of environment? While the problem definition for the commercial music business is more visible and widely recognised than than Kotter’s penguin colony – there’s still a sense of entrenchment – a lack of adaptation or ability to transform.

Just how can leaders make the difference to music’s future?

The Music Leader’s Development Network (MLDN) was put together by UK Music in July 2010 and was funded by the Cultural Leadership Programme. We have met regularly to discuss leadership, networking and skills issues in the industry, under topic headings including ‘collaboration’, ‘leading in dramatically changing markets’ and ‘Leadership learning and sustainability’. These sessions (which have been professionally facilitated by leadership coaches) have been supported by individual leadership coaching which all the participants have found highly valuable.

During the course of our discussions we identified a number of specific areas in which our industry has a clear need for more structured leadership, learning and skills development including:

• Commercial partnerships - greater links between large and small commerce – between licensors and innovators/entrepreneurs – and between the publicly funded and commercial sectors - to help bring on the next generation of music services

• Regional and national links - greater collaboration between regional music networks and initiatives and the music industry hub of London

• Mentoring – establishing more formal and informal opportunities for young and middle-manager high potential leaders to meet and receive mentoring from senior industry leaders

• Collaboration - more collaborative working and communication between the various music business sectors such as live, recording, publishing and media - so that artist projects can be maximised across the piece

We identified and acknowledged both existing and new initiatives being run in these areas – the BPI’s Innovation Panel in commercial partnerships, the range of projects being run by regional music development agencies Bristol Music Foundation, Generator and others. Also, the grass roots genre driven initiatives being run by Urban Development and PRS Foundation and new initiatives more specifically focused on education and skills such as the Creative Industries Council.

There’s more leadership and skills development in this industry than meets the eye – but much of it needs to be better networked and maximised – something UK Music wants to lend its support to in the future.

It’s not so easy to answer how directly influential leaders can be in an industry that is shifting so fast. The music industry’s leaders are perhaps more capable than they are sometimes given credit. They have been staunch protectors of the core of the business – artists, copyright and distribution (defensive yes, but vital also), savvy commercial operators and ultimately more successful than any new entrants at sourcing and marketing talent – with the current creative crop as good as I can remember at any time in my ten years working in the music industry.

But, can these and the next generation of industry leaders get better at collaboration, partnership, openness, transparency and clarity of vision? How will music’s leaders share a stage with the current crop of superstar executives running tech? What should our ground-breaking innovative story be on TED this week?

It might be that we can focus our leadership beyond protection and crisis management to a more confident and visionary position where the music industry tears up the ground. For example, can we build business inspiration on our understanding of risk-taking and hit-making (skills most digital industries especially consumer technology, now desperately need)? Can we take advantage of the changing environment better like current music innovators Radiohead have done?

In the end Kotter’s penguin colony didn’t just find another iceberg but realised they had to cope with an ever-changing environment and so they became nomadic – always prepared to up sticks and move on. Some of the industries more innovative artists are beginning to behave this way – shifting between formats and projects, even between different bands and creative disciplines – in order to express themselves and keep their audiences engaged. It’s a habit industry leaders must somehow learn to develop and also scale on an industry level.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

MIDEM, Music Ubiquity and Neil Young

As announced, the JB blog is winding down, but I could hardly come back from four days in Cannes without comment now could I?

The sun was out and a cool (too cool?) breeze blew in and the talk was all about The Cloud, this app and that app. The old hands were telling me how much it’s all changed and I can imagine it has, though I’ve nothing to compare it to, having never been.

The Palais des Festivals was certainly crawling with ‘kids’ – young app developers, programmers and more than a few shiny toothed or oily-skinned entrepreneurs. In fact, 155 start-ups attended, with almost everyone I spoke to under the age of 30 on ‘AUTOPITCH’, even in a social setting when it was probably better to switch off and just chill.

It felt to me like being stuck in a bubble techno world a la ‘Logan’s Run’ – and I had the feeling that somewhere out there was a real world – a sanctuary – probably with a lovely independent record shop with friendly, informed staff selling beautifully packaged CDs and LPs. Ha! All I could find was a rather depressing FNAC store on the Rue Antibes – oh well. The contrast was telling.

I have to admit doing nothing more than breezing in and out of MidemNet, the theme of which was ‘Music Ubiquity’ (they pitched it like it was a good thing). Of the various visionary’s I only caught Terry McBride giving his five minutes – in which he chose to impart a gloomy warning about a black cloud coming – some kid in Russia coding the next music killer – and so we’d all better get our act together.

It was hard to argue with when placed in a historical context, but that was part of the problem with MIDEM. It was all so focused on the future and The Cloud that I was left with an empty feeling we weren’t making the most of ‘now’.

All We Need Is Now – even Duran Duran have realised that!

With The Cloud so ominous, Sony’s Music Unlimited grabbed the moment to be the ‘talk of MIDEM’ – though apart from the optimism of Sony’s own Press Conference, the general vibe on Music Unlimited’s chances of success were muted at best. Those in the know about such things and those who’ve watched the market for a long time were sceptical.

The Cloud is somewhat intoxicating, seductive – like a lot of what the technologists tell us about the way we’ll consume music. Mark Mulligan’s brief talk at MidemNet underlined the message from the consumer perspective at least – highlighting the fact that 12-15 year olds only really know of a connected, ephemeral relationship with music – nothing tactile, permanent, collected.

Mobile was big news and generally positive at last, with apps for this and that – for everything almost. These ranged from the ingenious to the irrelevant. I liked the look of City Sounds and the Discovr service by Jammbox (though I've previously doubted whether consumers will pay for pure discovery, without a track allowance thrown in). I was pleased too, to see win some award – what a great innovation that is. If only its links could be to high quality audio and video. 

I know it’s a trade show, but MIDEM gave me the feeling that music is going all ‘B2B’ – being traded as a commodity – bait to reel in more consumers, flog more bandwidth, more devices and soak up more attention.

I heard not once the term ‘willingness to pay’ – that seemed an irrelevance in the trading world, despite the consumer being the most essential end of the value chain (aside from the creators at the other).

It’s a convenient panacea, the cloud. It’s something I contemplated as I jogged along the marinas and promenades – passing the yellow parasols that made me pine for Neil Young’s ‘On The Beach’ – an album I frustratingly didn’t have on my iPod.

So, in future situations maybe I don’t need to worry about that happening again. I can just call up Neil’s masterpiece from the cloud and pray it works, for the money I’ll pay for the pleasure. It seems like a tricky formula to me.

After I’d given my talk at the MidemNet Academy on Tuesday (Make These Innovations Work – Now!) I wandered out for one last look out along the bay and I bumped into Evan Stein from Decibel, which was fortunate serendipity as we’d meant to hook up.

One last beer in good company it was then (apart from the airport where it was more serendipity, more beer). We talked about what we’d seen & heard and of the future, but mostly of music. Evan is a thinking man’s thinker, so I asked him what he thought about the cloud and my theory that it almost looks too good to be true. “If we don't consider why we are using it, our problems could end up in the cloud too” was his answer. Great insight.

The person I’d really like to ask is Neil Young. “So, Neil is the Sky really about to Rain”? I wonder if he’d tell us were all just pissing in the wind.

Monday, 10 January 2011

2011 Placeholder

Hello and Happy New Year to all the Juggernaut Brew 'reader community'.

Well - the news is I've decided to take a 'hiatus' from the blog for the time being - hope you don't mind.

It's been a real pleasure running the blog - for some 2.5 years now - and I'm really proud of what it has achieved. A special thanks to all who have re-published, linked, syndicated and tweeted etc. as well as all those who have e-mailed me directly to share thoughts, music and discuss your ventures in music. The google stats still indicate there are some 600 or so of you subscribing by e-mail so thanks for sticking with me even as the posts became somewhat infrequent last year!

I've got plenty of thoughts to share and I really want to continue writing so I'll never say never, but pressure of time has scuppered JB for the present...

I'll be dedicating some of my time and resource to the music industry as ever though in 2011, starting this coming weekend with a panel appearance at the 25th Eurosonic Noorderslag in Gronland, Netherlands. I'll be doing the session entitled 'A Digital Music Journey' which takes place Saturday 15th at 12.30, hosted by the NVPI. Don't miss that if you happen to be there.

I'm looking forward to the re-convening of the BPI's Innovation Panel again this year - do look out for our progress there.

I'll be at MIDEM too, for the very first time. I'll be running a session for the MIDEM Academy on Tuesday 25th January at 4.30 - entitled Process, Dialogue, Understanding and Progress - an innovation process for digital music. Come along to take part and say hello if you are attending. Or do the same at my mentoring session for the Academy on Monday 24th at 4pm in which I'll be discussing how music can maintain its commercial value in the digital age. Again, please attend if you are lucky enough to be in Cannes.

Meantime, I am involved with a couple of digital business initiatives in other sectors too and looking to transfer learnings and experiences to and from music wherever possible.

Don't worry I'll be back...don't know when, how or where, but I'll be back!

Finally, I noticed today that according to a programme of research at McGill University in Montreal Canada, music evokes the same feelings as food or drugs - a notable change in dopamine levels. Now I know what drives my addiction to music - as fuel - an energy source - affirmation. It's all worth it in the end.

Best to all and thanks for reading.