Category Archives: Motive Unknown

Music vs The Web: Have We Reached Social Media’s Tipping Point?

facebook_logoThis article originally appeared on Drowned In Sound.

Its been a bumper year for Facebook, on paper at least. Recently they announced that year-on-year revenues were up 60%, with advertising revenue up to $1.8bn. Their daily active user count rose 25% to 728 million people. At this point then, you’d think it would be high-fives all round, with Wall Street giving Zuckerberg and co a hearty pat on the back.

And yet, shortly after this announcement, more than $18bn was wiped from Facebook’s stock value. The reason? One, short sentence: “We did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens.”

Herein lies the problem for Facebook – and indeed any tech company looking to take the IPO path: when advertising is your core product, at some point the balance will tip, driving users – usually starting with the younger ones – away.

Put simply: in order to make money, Facebook must serve ads. In order to make more money, Facebook must serve even more ads – almost certainly putting them on a collision with a critical mass point, where people burn out completely on ads and, at the very least, stop clicking on them or, as is the current case among teens, find other services to use.

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Music, marketing and the race to the bottom

Down, down... I do love it when I read an article that crystallises various random thoughts of my own into a clear and precise view on something. Yesterday, Matt Hawn sent me an article from James Penycate’s Ooh Brilliant blog, various points of which did just that. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve been feeling (not to be too dramatic, but…) a sense of crisis about how exactly music is marketed of late. Facebook is becoming ever-more pointless as a platform from which to market (though perhaps not as a platform to carry word of your band – a very key difference). PR coverage on key sites feels like its becoming less meaningful as 500 labels queue up to grab a premiere on The Guardian, Pitchfork, NME or one of the other kingpin sites, which in reality may only be exclusive for an hour and which in my experience often actually drive very few plays. Overall, it feels like rising above the churn of “stuff” to get noticed is getting harder and harder. I won’t repost the main points of the article here but if James’s summary is “less noise, more quality please” (though the article runs far deeper than that) then I wholeheartedly agree. Someone recently commented to me lately that “cultivating media” should be a key element of building an artist up – all the more so now that the days of securing on going campaign-wide coverage via one site/magazine are well and truly over. However, if the media coverage one is securing is nigh-on pointless because it amounts to a mere mention or repost of a press release with no personal touch or passion behind it, it counts for very little. We’re all cheating ourselves here and it is becoming a race to the bottom. That desperately needs to change.

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Latest Digital Music Trends podcast now up

I’ve guested on a few episodes of Andrea Leonelli‘s excellent Digital Music Trends podcast this year, and each time I find myself having great fun but also coming away with food for thought, based on things my fellow guests have said. This latest installment though was fantastic in that respect: Andrea, Eliot from and Steve Knopper (fanboy note: I’m a HUGE fan of his book “Appetite For Self-Destruction” and recommend you all read it!) all posited some really interesting ideas and between us it felt like some great conversation was happening.

The podcast is available both on Soundcloud and YouTube, so if you can, park an hour of your time and take a listen/watch. Honestly, I came away buzzing with thoughts and ideas and I hope you will too.

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A followup (and conclusion?) to the whole Facebook Promoted Posts saga

Since I last posted about Facebook and Promoted Posts, there’s been some very interesting discussions going on, not to mention some interesting articles and at least one notable development on Facebook’s side.

The first post that caught my eye was Erin Griffith’s piece on Pando: “Enough with the entitled whining — Facebook isn’t running an advertising charity“. This took quite a similar stance to my own piece, with a few choice quotes – this being one:

Facebook has do to this because it needs to make money and, more importantly, because it can only clog newsfeeds with a limited number of brand messages. Facebook has three constituencies right now. Users, shareholders, and advertisers. They exist in a sort of symbiotic recycle-reuse-reduce triangle: Facebook needs users to make advertisers happy, it needs advertisers (aka revenue) to make shareholders happy, and it needs shareholders in order to stay in business continue making the people Zuckerberg cares most about — the users — happy.

So Facebook must tread very delicately with each constituent. It can’t go overboard on ads to the point where it turns off users, and they move on to another social network. That’s what Myspace did, and look how well that worked out. And that is the specific reason Zuckerberg provided when asked about the latest Edgerank tweak: The feed’s quality is crucial in order to not turn off users, he said on Facebook’s second quarter earnings call.

Something that also came out of the whole discussion around Richard Metzger’s original post on this subject and my own response to that was that for content creators – ie people running websites relying on maybe 10+ posts per day – the challenge differed greatly to the likes of bands, where maybe one post per day is made at best. I stand by my point in my last article about the strategy for content creators being wrong, but where this got interested was when Sean Adams of Drowned In Sound started a discussion around the whole topic on his Facebook page. Now, if I were to pull every interesting comment on this thread I’d be reposting the entire thing, so all I can do is urge you to head over there and read it in full. A few of my peers contribute, and overall I’d say it was one of the most interesting discussions I’ve seen around this whole topic.

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Reflecting on Alt-J’s Mercury Prize win…

Wow. Just… wow. Its been 48hrs now since Alt-J won the Mercury Prize, and I still find myself stopping to think “God alive – WE WON!!”. So, permit me a few reflections because to be honest, this is something of a career highlight to date and when you hit those high points you inevitably wind up reflecting on how you got here.

In summer 2011 I was still working at PIAS, as the Head of Digital Marketing. I was getting pretty frustrated, and felt like the time was drawing near where I’d have to move on. I chatted with my then-boss, Clare, who was 100% supportive. So, in September I resigned and founded Motive Unknown. My first client was Infectious Music, and my first artist on their roster to work with was Alt-J.

I’ll make no bones about it: I love working with Infectious. In the year since we began working together, they’ve pushed me to be the best I possibly can. We’ve discussed things a lot. We’ve even argued a few times. However at all points, it was for absolutely the right reasons: because we are all so passionate about the music we work on.

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