Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hype vs. Innovation: Music Startup 'Beyond Oblivion' Highlights the Age-Old Battle

I naturally recoil from hype like “Music Liberation” and gimmicks like a “Countdown to Insurrection” (with a clock ticking live to the second). Even the name itself, Beyond Oblivion, is over the top.

It’s natural to be proud of your invention. But anybody hyping that much makes me think immediately the Emperor has no clothes. We have been working on the Digital Content Exchange (boring name isn't it?) for 8 years. That is a good sign that we're on the right track because a problem as big as piracy (a better way to put it: artists not being able to control the use of their creations in digital space) is a big problem that takes a thoughtful solution.

The key thing to recognize is that it is not a legal problem, it is a technological problem. Solved the same way we solve everything else in society since the Cotton Gin (and of course loo-o-o-ng before that): innovation. What has set the industry on the wrong road IMO is too much chasing of hype without innovation. Not having the patience or taking the time to assess new ideas and innovation. The music industry has adopted the same policy for music start-ups that they used for artists in the 1990s and 2000s: look for the buzz, and then sign it to a contract. That may be okay for a pet food website ("How many users do you have? Sold!") but it is not a mature way to go about solving a technological problem of this magnitude.

We don’t need hype, we need a solution. I guess when it comes to solving this problem, we are asking the music industry to go back to 1970s style A&R: listening to demos quietly and thoughtfully and deciding, "Is this the right stuff?".

Newscorp has invested in BO. I hope this time they got it right.

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