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The key phrase all week here at NARM has been, “Where are you in the value chain?” and this seminar was no different.
NARM DISPATCH #5: INTO THE FUTURE
More Dirt About Technology, New Gadgets and Marketing in the Internet Age

NARM’s final ’09 session saw some very bright folks take the stage, including Floor 64’s Michael Masnick, who presented the Learning From What’s Working seminar. Masnick, who writes the much-respected TechDirt blog, predictably started with what wasn’t working, noting the obvious in that the old systems are breaking faster than the new systems can be put in place. He suggested that, trying to re-create the past, i.e. that iTunes is really Tower with a digital facelift, is a very bad idea.

 

“Betting everything on digital sales,” he insists, “is not the answer,” claiming piracy is still the most convenient way to obtain music, while other options for entertainment continue to proliferate. The lesson to be learned from the fact that the biggest retailers in the nation use music as a loss leader is that music gets people to buy other stuff. His model is that of “connecting with fans,” coupled with giving them a “reason to buy,” that include options beyond just the music. He points to the Trent Reznor model of letting fans download the entire record for free, then following up with incredibly low-priced options to buy and, after connecting with his audience, finally offering a $300 box set that he manufactured in a limited-edition 2,500 copy run, which he sold out in less than 30 hours. In the final analysis, cost wasn’t the final caveat…value was. Other examples followed, citing the Beastie Boys and David Byrne, but you get the idea. The key phrase all week here at NARM has been,

“Where are you in the value chain?” and this seminar was no different.

 

Tag Strategic’s resident gizmo maven Ted Cohen and Motorola’s Dave Ulmer followed with Device Wars, in which they spent 45 minutes pulling a dizzying display of new gadgets out of their duffle bags. Everything from new cameras, giant iPod docks and tiny hot-spot wi-fi enablers to the new Palm Pre were hauled out. As geeky as it sounds, and believe me it was, it was great fun.

 

Another take on out-of-the box thinking for artists looking to connect to their fan base was an interview with Topspin Media’s Ian Rogers, who expanded on Masnick’s assertions about marketing. He talked about “permission marketing,” in which the fans give an artist the go-ahead to market to them through Twitter or e-mail. A smart guy who also once again stressed value and took the optimistic view that what is happening in the music business is not only good for culture, but good for the art as well.

 

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