Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

Innovation in Digital Music Distribution and Promotion

August 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Following on from my recent post about the concept of innovation as something you do, and not just something you say, I came across an example of what I would consider innovation in action, courtesy of a newly launched digital music distribution / promotion service called Music2Text.


Music2text Logo

According to their literature, Music2text is a service that provides artistes and labels with the ability to sell or giveaway music tracks direct to fans, via plain old SMS (or mobile text messages). The proposition is simple, and can be summarised in 3 steps, as follows:


  1. First, take an existing technology, SMS in this case, and figure out a new way to use it for mass music distribution and promotion
  2. Make sure the service is fast, free and easy to setup / use (e.g. within 30 minutes, if you already have all the prerequisite information / digital files to hand).
  3. Then monetise it by allowing punters to associate their music (ringtone or full song) with a simple keyword which the fans can then use to access it by texting that word to a number – 60444 (UK only, at this time). The service replies with a link through which the track can be downloaded, bought or shared with others.


The music owners can choose to distribute their music or ringtones for free, in which case the service is completely free to use, (including links to their favourite mobile and social media channels). In my opinion, this free aspect makes Music2Text an almost perfect mobile, distribution and social marketing tool, with something to offer all key stakeholders, including: music labels, publishers, artistes and their customers / fans.


That said, and in true reviewer fashion, I requested and was given a guided tour of the service by the founders, and I even went one better to upload one of my own tracks onto the service with the keyword ‘Bring’ (yes, I produce music in my not so spare time!). And you can try it out for yourself too, but please be kind if you spot my ringtone track, and wish to comment on it


Overall, I think this is an excellent proposition. However, it is still very much a start-up service, (albeit a brilliant / creative and enterprising one), with the usual minor teething problems you might expect. The monetisation element, with its 90 day keyword limit, makes this a likely vehicle for promotional / marketing applications (e.g. release promos, live tours and competitions etc.), which is no bad thing at all. The music industry revenue model is slowly embracing other sources of income e.g. live performance, streaming (see this post / infographic for recent trends), and now SMS could get onto that list, if this all works out.


So what makes this a real example of innovation, you might ask. Well, if you’ve heard the adage about putting new wine into old wineskins, then you might be forgiven for thinking that this proposition is doomed to failure. However, the ability to reuse / repurpose an existing, and possibly boring, technology to new and profitable ends is right to the heart of innovation, in my opinion. I say well done guys, and keep the UK innovation flag flying!


Big Data, Cloud, Social and Mobility == Super Disruption

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment
Did I leave out anything? Well, there was just no other way to end 2011 than by taking a quick look at the big four buzzwords that will likely combine to unleash a perfect storm of disruptive forces over the next 12 months or so.
Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Cloud, big data, social and mobility

Over the course of this blogging campaign I have focused mostly on cloud and certain relevant aspects (e.g. content, security, access and Intellectual Property), but the fact remains that other equally profound developments, such as: big data, social and mobile computing also provide significant challenges and opportunities for both consumers and the enterprise. Gartner predicts that the above four forces will combine to transform the IT landscape in 2012, and I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, this will probably go much further than the IT landscape, since such a potent combination can easily transform entire industries as well.

In 2011, the impact of social media and mobility meant that many organisations sought ways to engage better with their customers, using social media and mobile technologies. Also various organisations, ranging from consumer products to public sector, actively looked for ways to manage and leverage increasingly large amounts of ‘big data’ and valuable content, sometimes in ways that almost rivalled traditional content industries. Think publishing, broadcast and, of course, social media footprint in your organisation today and compare it to just 3 years ago.

So what does each of the aforementioned forces portend for industries in 2012, and what are the early signs or indicators of disruption? My imaginary crystal ball has misted over slightly, but the following are some key trends to watch for the coming year:

  1. Big Data – According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI), there will be more networked devices than people on earth, by year end 2011. With so many networked devices, and a related prediction that this number will double to over 2 devices per person by 2015, this is a clear indicator of the trajectory of growth for big Data over the next few years.
  2. Cloud – Cloud service providers will continue to improve and optimise services, particularly at the Data Centre level, in order to provide a seamless and efficient solution for their customers. Key focus areas include: security, intelligent storage, unified networking, policy-based power management, and trusted computing capabilities. Basically, anything that will make it easier to transition customers to the cloud environment, along with greater confidence in sustainable delivery and quality of service will win the day
  3. Social – Social media, networking and CRM all represent a move towards user centric engagement models that will allow a two way conversation between the enterprise and their: customers, suppliers, partners and employees. The user expectation of more meaningful and productive dialogue with the enterprise is only set to increase over the next 12 months
  4. Mobility – This is both a technology and use centric force which readily demonstrates the combination of all three forces along with location (in space and time). In the paradigm shifting world of context aware computing, the user and their activities are central to the flow and direction of dialogue / interaction with the enterprise. Increasingly users expect the enterprise to be able to leverage contextually relevant information when dealing with them, and this in turn drives enterprise adoption of enabling technologies to provide this capability.

A good case in point will be the summer Olympic Games in London, which should provide a fertile proving ground for many of the combined challenges and opportunities presented by the four buzzwords / trends discussed above.

In conclusion, I expect no less than a step change in disruption levels across industries over the next 12 months, or so. The gloomy economic situation will only enhance the need for change, particularly in situations where: competitors are plunging ahead; customers are expecting even more for nothing; and employees are demanding similar levels of service and user experience from their enterprise, as might be expected for a consumer – which they likely are. Some very interesting times lie ahead.

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE

Innovating and Enabling Digital Futures

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Certain trends and observations in the use and growth of content and communication technologies make it clear that the future of digital enterprise will depend heavily on key enablers such as Mobile Infrastructure. As ever, technology is probably the least of a set of key challenges facing those that would capitalize on such clear foresight, and this was the topic of my webcast at a BrightTalk Summit earlier this week.

Mobile Infrastructure: Innovating and Enabling Digital Futures

Mobile Infrastructure: Innovating and Enabling Digital Futures

First of all, my thanks to the kind people at BrightTalk for inviting me to share some thoughts and opinions at their Mobile Infrastructure Summit (click here to view the full webcast), and despite running out of time near the end, the audience feedback was most generous. To summarise briefly, some key points of discussion included:

  • Social, technology & business trends (with particular relevance to mobile)
  • Demand, usage, fulfillment and monetisation scenarios
  • Key issues around privacy, security, and health & safety
  • Opportunities with business models, Cloud and next generation mobile capabilities
  • An overview of 5 key stakeholders, business model innovation and our approach to innovation

The one message to take away from this, in my opinion, is the clear need and responsibility of any digital / mobile enabled enterprise to engage in constant innovation and adaptation of its business model, process and customer engagement approach. The current business environment has become far too dynamic and fluid for any rigid or hierarchical approach to remain unchallenged for any length of time.

Other events and similar discussions:

Interestingly, some of the above points were either echoed, or expanded on, by speakers at other relevant events I attended this month, notably:

  1. Google Apps Seminar – This event, hosted at Google’s office near Buckingham Palace, addressed four key trends (i.e. innovation, collaboration, social and mobility) and provided insight into what it takes to migrate from hosted services to Cloud based enterprise applications services, including real life examples from companies such as Jaguar Landrover and Ladbrokes.
  1. Mobile Privacy – Another excellent Mashup Event which dealt with various privacy issues thrown up by mobile services, as well as the implication of ‘giving a user control over their data’. This session boasted a good cross section of industry players, in addition to a pretty knowledgeable panel, which made for some intelligent exchange of views on such things as the meaning (or meaninglessness) of Privacy in a mobile and global context.
  1. CW5000 Club – This was a networking event for CIO and IT leaders to discuss the Web’s Next Generation, and featured speakers from Betfair, BBC Worldwide, Net-A-Porter and Interactive Media in Retail Group. Key high-light for me was that discussions consistently returned to the theme of customer centricity. Progress, IMHO!

Some Emerging Trends in Mobile Apps

March 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Mobile Apps are leading the way on innovative use of digital and mobile technology, and last Thursday’s BCS event provided a glimpse of emerging trends, opportunities and threats they present to both business and consumers.

The speaker, Katie Lips is a mobile strategist, digital entrepreneur and regular speaker on this topic, and she gave a good overview of the world of mobile apps and key emerging trends across several areas including:

1.  Publishing – this consists mainly of innovative use of edited and layered content to create compelling apps that demonstrate the powerful multi-format capabilities of mobile digital devices, especially tablets.

2.  Games – interestingly, games have emerged as the top grossing apps on mobile devices

3.  App Discovery – with top App stores boasting over 100k apps each, there is an obvious need for easy ways to discover new apps, (and of course there’s an app for that too). Interestingly, it seems no one has yet managed the old Amazon style recommendation technique e.g. “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”

4.  Tech tricks – the ability to create a wow effect on the back of mobile / digital technology is always a winner, and the Garageband keyboard demo on the IPad was a case in point

5.  Micro social networks – this is exemplified by runaway apps such as Instragram, which lean towards the “fewer is better” approach to social networking, with closer, more intimate groups built around the user

6.  Apple first – Finally, this is more a fact than trend because Apple’s ecosystem was and still is the primary proving ground for many app developers and innovators, before moving on / out into other platforms.

Emerging Trends in Mobile Apps

Katie Lips - Talking "Emerging Trends in Mobile Apps"

Overall, the key message I took away from this excellent event organised by the London Central Branch, was that mobile apps ecosystem, content and business models offer an interestingly unspoiled landscape of immense possibilities, where bold innovation and experimentation is the order of the day, and the brave can reap amazing rewards. However, it is also pitted with remarkable risk, uncertainties and outright dangers especially with respect to digital content and copyright which is still struggling to get a handle on PCs and CD burners, without the head ache of mobile, social, digital content mashups – the pain is just around the corner on that one.

Privacy versus Mobility

July 30, 2010 4 comments

This appears to be a worrying trend whereby mobile devices are playing an increasing role in the erosion of personal privacy. Why does privacy not translate very well for mobile technology?

Starting from easily accessible and recoverable SMS text messages, to mobile apps that secretly send your data to 3rd parties, it would seem that most people are not really aware of, or concerned with, what goes on under the hood when it comes to mobile technology.

This is a topic that’s well explored in a book I recently reviewed for the BCS, entitled My Digital Footprint, which makes a good argument for why multi-capable mobile devices will soon become the primary source of information from and about the user, as opposed to the information hungry device they currently are. However, the problem with this scenario is that unless users are aware / in control of their own Digital Footprints, along with the capability to choose who they wish to manage it on their behalf (perhaps in exchange for some appropriate benefit); they will most certainly be ripped off by unscrupulous third parties.

Interestingly, this would appear to be a reversal of the usual “consumers are stealing our digital content” mantra that we have become accustomed to hearing from the content industry. Clearly, if personal data, identity and privacy really belong to the individual, as in “My Digital Footprint”, then such parties that solicit and use surreptitiously gathered mobile data are themselves guilty of stealing “My digital footprint”. No?

Perhaps the UK’s Digital Economy Act, and other such rules, should also make provision for individuals that wish to pursue mobile operators / advertisers / and other co-beneficiaries of such an illicit activity, for invasion of privacy and theft of their Digital Footprint. Or am I just barking up the wrong tree?

Change is nigh – for Tablets, Swans and the Music Industry.

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Certainly seems like there’s a lot of change in the air, what with the threat of Apple’s latest toy to tablet PC dominance, or the challenge of streaming music services, and even news of Swans getting divorced! I wonder what’s next, and how will it affect the creative industries of music, film and publishing?

First of all, there were lots of opinions and perspectives on the ever changing digital media landscape at the just concluded MIDEM conference in Cannes, including:

  1. Perhaps as a sign of shifting attitudes, at least one major artiste and the keynote speaker did not offer the usual tirade against file-sharing, but actually appeared somewhat in favour of it as a “taste test” by end-users, (which roughly translates into something along the lines of “good quality works will be successful in spite of file-sharing”).
  2. There was also an interesting discourse on media and cultural change in an interview with the “Cult of the Amateur” author, Andrew Keen, who slated the amount of amateur rubbish being put out there in the name of reality shows and user generated garbage, erm content.
  3. Forrester’s Mark Mulligan provided some great insight on the state of the music industry and various emerging trends, challenges and opportunities, speaking of which, one panel session speaker actuallylikened mobile music apps to babies in that “they’re easy to conceive but hard to deliver!”.

But please don’t think this is just about the music industry, because here is an equally damning insight into the book publishing industry by Phil Cooke, a publisher and self proclaimed change catalyst. Interestingly, most of these observations were covered in Lawrence Lessig’s book, Remix, which I recently reviewed here for the BCS. It would seem that music, publishing and other creative industries are just playing catch-up with key messages from this book – which claims, among other things, that the future creative and commercial landscape will have room for sharing, charging and otherwise hybrid business models.

However, one dire trend that looks set to continue is the involvement of lawyers in the tensions between rights-owners and file-sharing fans or pirates, depending on your point of view. Hmmm, I wonder how much the lawyers charged those Swans for their quickie divorce! But, on a serious note, it might be easy to blame lawyers for any number of things, given they stand to make their fees one way or another regardless of outcomes, however the real problem is that, despite ongoing efforts to find a lasting solution, today’s Intellectual Property laws are still hopelessly unable to cater for digital content, Internet distribution and emerging consumer usage patterns. Period.


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

Looking Ahead (Through the Rearview Mirror)?

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

This is really a sequel to a post written for end of last year (which can now be found here), about the likely direction of things to come, and the perils of following the crowd / herd mentality, particularly for those in the creative industries. Read on for some key messages and evidence in support of those observations:

1. Privacy? Fuggedaboudit – According to Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, “Privacy is no longer a social norm”. Yet people remain fixated with this fantasy that they can stay private online, as perhaps encouraged by such guides as this NY Times article on 5 easy steps to stay safe and private on Facebook!

2. Opening up protected video – The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) has come up with a way to enable playing of protected content on various compatible devices. So is this really Interoperable DRM at last? Maybe, but perhaps it might just be a little too late. A good explanation of this move, and its implication, is available on the Copyright & Technology blog. In any event, one key question remains i.e.: what happens to your protected digital content if / when the provider goes bust?

3. How to make the same mistake twice, or not – Moves by the publishing industry to protect revenue by delaying ebook releases smacks of a similar pattern of mistakes made by the music industry over digital content. According to this excellent Forrester blog, “there are better ways to Window eBooks” and it would be prudent for publishers to take heed.

4. The future is Mobile – Contextual applications enabled by mobile / geo-location services will be the killer proposition, no question. Just ask Google.

There you go. Comments welcome.


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.

EconMusic – the economics of digital music

September 24, 2008 Leave a comment

The Natural History Museum at Kensington, complete with dinosaurs and tired allusions to the music industry, was the venue for yesterday’s EconMusic conference. This excellent event was focused solely on the vexing topic of digital music economics, or lack thereof. Read on to find out more.

This half day event, which was organised by ContentNext, did a great job of exploring “key strategic issues surrounding the emerging economics of digital music” by dividing them up into four panel sessions, and an interview style keynote by BPI CEO, Geoff Taylor. Further details / coverage on each session can be found at the PaidContent:UK website, but below is a summary of the key points covered:

Keynote Interview – Geoff Taylor, BPI.

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – At least six UK ISPs have signed up to this initiative, and will send out warning (ahem educative) letters to people suspected of illegally downloading music. According to Geoff, this initial phase will be followed by some, yet to be decided, action against repeat offenders.
  • DRM and Interoperability – DRM should really be an enabler of innovative business models and would be a shame if it dies out completely due to lack of interoperability between platforms / devices.
  • The ISP’s Dilemma – An attendee from VirginMedia raised the poignant question of if & how ISPs might be compensated for cutting off their own customers. The answer went along the lines that it won’t necessarily come to that, because the BPI are open to exploring other options as well.
  • Opportunities for ISPs – It was observed that ISPs could become competitors to music service providers and labels especially if they are subsidiaries of media / mobile / content companies. Overall this was an insightful session delivered with some conviction by Geoff Taylor. For example, I raised the question of the possibility of digital music evolving into a utility type service, paid for by a combination of Internet subscription and / or device makers, and the optimistic answer was “yes, but only on a voluntary basis by the ISPs”.

Session 1: Paying vs. Piracy – (Speakers: Ben Drury – 7Digital; Thirsten Schliesche – Napster; Eric Johnson –Wolfgang’s Vault; Marla Shapiro – MCPS-PRS Alliance; Session Moderated by Robert Andrews) Session focused on how to convince users to pay for music, and which models will work best. Main messages were:

  • It is difficult to value digital music because the supply is nearly infinite and easily accessible
  • Legal Peer-to-Peer (P2P) services may struggle because P2P technology is not the most efficient way to deliver music to customers. A dedicated Content Delivery Network (CDN) is preferable.
  • Music labels may do well to partner with ISPs; however this could spoil the party for dedicated music service providers like iTunes / 7Digital / Napster etc.
  • Global and Pan-European licensing issues remain very real obstacles to Internet music, for example one attendee observed that the Radiohead experiment was made relatively easier by the fact that one entity (i.e. Warner Chappell) held the global publishing rights for the release.

Session 2: Mobile Music – (Speakers: Julian Zsmood – O2; Tom Erskine – Nokia; Tom McLennan – Vodafone; Ian Henderson – SonyBMG; Session Moderated by Mark Mulligan) Key points:

  • Mobile music is in decline
  • Handset manufacturers like Nokia are now competing with mobile operators. The answer may be to “grow the pie” in order for all parties to get more revenue.
  • Innovations and observations: Nokia – “Comes with Music” due to launch in the UK; Vodafone’sMusicStation is also being used as a music discovery tool; O2’s My Play initiative with Sony BMG;
  • According to Ian Henderson, it would be great to see more music label business models that involve mobile operators, handset manufacturers and other third parties.

Session 3: Social Media – (Speakers: Billy Bragg – Musician, Spencer Hyman –; Steve Purdham –We7, Danny Rimer – Index Ventures. Session Moderated by Angel Gambino) This session’s heated debates were by far the most interesting and thought provoking of the event, and it covered some of the challenges faced by innovative models for digital music as follows:

  • Billy Bragg – Content market is changing and record labels need to bring artistes more to the front. Criminalizing the audience is wrong. Any platform that makes money from music should pay artistes (e.g. MySpace makes significant ad-based revenue from music that cost them nothing to produce).
  • Danny Rimer – Music might just become a Trojan horse for monetizing content. Artistes may need to go ‘Open Source’ and give away their music in order to get paid in other ways.
  • Steve Purdham – Rights licensing issues gets in the way of innovation, for example it took 18 months to clear Peter Gabriel’s catalog for distribution on We7, a platform in which he is a founder / investor
  • Angel Gambino – Music labels are often dysfunctional when it comes to innovative models, e.g. a music label marketing department might be uploading songs onto a new service at the same time the legal department is sending out cease and desist letters for those same songs – true story.
  • Spencer Hyman – It took a lot of effort for to secure streaming rights from record labels. The music industry can be very challenging to deal with – they have far too many lawyers.

Session 4: Direct-To-Fans – (Speakers included: Ed Averdieck – Real World; David Courtier-Dutton –Slicethepie; Erik Nielsen – Intact Records; Johan Vosmeijer – Sellaband; Moderated by Rafat Ali) Coverage of innovative direct-to-fans music models as employed by these organisations:

  • Real World – founded by WOMAD and Peter Gabriel, provides world class recording facilities for talented artistes from around the world
  • Slicethepie – monetizes production of music by enabling fans to select and pay for a band to get their album produced.
  • Sellaband – provides a similar platform for fan funded music production, but they also produce and release the resulting album on their own label.
  • Intact Record – part of the Marillion’s business empire, embodies the 360 degree deal model (or band as brand), possibly before the term itself as even coined.

Conclusion: this event packed in a lot of content for its half day duration, but even though a lot of what was said is not news (as observed by one artiste attendee), one was still left with the impression that this particular gathering had started to glimpse the way forward to future of the music industry. Watch this space. Some key takeouts (and well done for getting this far) :

  1. It will be interesting to see the outcome of ISPs implementation of the MoU, and what subsequent actions are to be taken against repeat offenders.
  2. Opportunities exist for ISPs to play a major role in the eventuality of digital-music-as-a-utility by partnering with music labels. This could present a challenge dedicated music service providers, (e.g. iTunes / Amazon / Napster etc.), but only if they don’t preemptively become / acquire ISPs.
  3. Rights licensing is, and will continue to be, a major issue for digital music, and even for established licensing / collection societies. In the words of Rafat Ali, why aren’t there any problem solving entrepreneurs out there trying to solve this problem, and make tons of money in the process?
  4. Future digital music business models must ensure that artistes are placed, and paid, at the forefront, especially as we evolve ever more innovative models that take advantage of the Long Tail and other sophisticated contextual valuation models for pricing and charging for digital music.
  5. The future of digital music is an exciting one for those open minded enough to embrace the change of mindset required to reach its full potential. Oh, and this also applies to other digital content / media formats as well


Note: This post was previously published on my BCS DRM Blog, where you can find the original post, and reader comments, in the archives.