Sound Business Advice from Jerry Garcia

Grateful_Dead_-_Jerry_Garcia
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

Today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 68th birthday. Musically, politically, emotionally and spiritually, he has probably had more of an impact on me than any other human being whom I never knew personally.

As I was perusing YouTube today looking for some footage of him that I hadn’t seen already, I found that he was a pretty sage businessman as well. In his 1982 appearance (with Bob Weir) on The Letterman Show (full video embedded below), David asked him why he allows taping of his live shows when it obviously leads to fewer commercial sales of their official recordings. His response?

The shows are never the same. Ever. And when we’re done with it, they can have it.

Jerry was the not the creative force behind the lyrics of most of the music he played. Of their 420 original songs, only maybe 75 or 80% were truly originals; many others were adaptations of traditional bluegrass, folk or blues songs (in much the same fashion as Led Zeppelin, at least as it pertains to the blues). On the remaining originals, poet/lyricist Robert Hunter wrote the words and Jerry composed the music.

However, Jerry really did have an uncanny efficiency with his words, packing in multiple meanings into short, pithy phrases. In his response to Letterman, he’s really saying (at least) all of the following:

    1. No, it’s not impacting our record sales negatively
    2. The experience of seeing The Dead live is dramatically different each time
    3. I don’t own the music once I have released it from my being; rather, by playing it live, I set it free to be enjoyed by whomever is listening
    4. In many ways, this philosophy actually results in more record sales
    5. No price tag can be assigned to the value of the community of fans that has grown organically around our music and our culture

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zFbjus3X18

These lessons are raft with really important business advice, especially since we’re living in the age of social media. In many ways, Facebook, Twitter, et. al. have created communities that are just like the traveling circus of hippies that followed The Dead (and, later, other jam bands like Phish) on their tours, perhaps without as many drugs nor as much free love nor rock’n’roll and certainly a bit more personal hygiene. Okay, so maybe they’re not really that much alike.

But the sense of belonging to something larger than oneself is the same.

How else can account for the explosive growth of Deadheads, the community around Burning Man and social sites like Facebook?

So, in this age of social media and utter disregard for things like “copyright” and End User License Agreements, how can musicians/bands, restaurant owners and other small businesses still manage to make “good bread” (as they called it in the 60s and 70s) in this age of the internet where everyone feels entitled to get nearly everything — music, software, etc. — for free?

The answer lies in Jerry’s response to Letterman.

Give away as much as you can.

Think of the community around your business as a empty field. It needs to be tilled, seeded, watered and fertilized before you can reap the benefits of the harvest. Giving your products away for free is akin to planting your seeds. Engaging with your online community is akin tending to your crops. Selling your products and services is akin to harvesting your fields and selling the goods at the farmer’s market.

But you can’t get to the farmer’s market if you’re not taking good care of your farm.

I’ve heard this argument before. Someone told me once that consultants should take a page out of the professional chef’s playbook (pardon the mixed metaphor). Take for instance, Hawaiian master chef Roy Yamaguchi, the creative force behind Roy’s restaurants. If you buy his cookbook, you will have nearly all of Roy’s recipes, free for you to make at home any time you want. But will you still eat at his restaurant? You betcha!

So what do you think? How does this apply to your business? Can you think of ways that you could give away the goods and still make money? I’d love to hear stories of how you’ve tried this and it has worked for you (or hasn’t), so please leave a comment if you’d like to share.

My SXSW Panel: Social Networks for the Anti-Social

sxsw2009(2)UPDATE: SXSW released a complete audio recording of this panel!

I’m at SXSW again this year. I attended SXSWi last year and, if my memory serves me correctly, I also attended SXSW Music in 1995, though I might be confusing it with H.O.R.D.E., Austin City Limits or one of the other great music festivals in this fine city which is known internationally for its eclectic music scene. Anyway, because The Social Collective is powering my.SXSW, I actually have the pleasure of spending 10 full days in Austin and attending all three festivals this year: Film, Music and Interactive. I’m also speaking, oddly enough, in a Music Panel called Social Networks for the Anti-Social.

I have to warn you, most panels (at any conference, not just SXSW) totally suck and this may not be an exception.

But who knows, it might be a completely magical and transcendental experience, but you won’t know unless you check it out.

SXSW Launches my.SXSW Powered by The Social Collective

sxsw2009Austin, Texas – February 2nd, 2009 – Today South By Southwest (SXSW), announced the launch of my.SXSW, the official social networking and scheduling tool for the 2009 conferences and festivals. Using my.SXSW, attendees can access the site to interact with one another, build their personalized conference schedules, join exclusive groups and form lasting relationships with other attendees. The social networking software was developed by SXSW and BDG, an industry-leading provider of a white-label conference social networking solution called The Social Collective. my.SXSW, powered by The Social Collective, represents a groundbreaking new way for SXSW attendees to enhance their offline conference experience through socializing online.

“We’ve always wanted to provide a space online for registrants to network before, during and after the ten days in March that they spend in Austin,” said Scott Wilcox, CTO of SXSW, Inc. “This year we teamed up with BDG to implement The Social Collective as my.SXSW, our new online registrant directory and social network. In addition to our collaboration with an outside team, we have tried to use the feedback we’ve received over the years to provide social networking opportunities for SXSW registrants. BDG and SXSW put a lot of thought into my.SXSW, resulting in a user experience we know will be a hit with our community.”

my.SXSW offers several new benefits to conference registrants, many of which are being introduced for the first time at SXSW 2009:

—Personalized and shareable event schedules
—Badge photo and avatar uploading and editing
—Rich media event pages with MP3 downloads, photos, band and speaker bios, etc.
—Seamless integration with Twitter, Flickr and Facebook
—Interest groups with integrated messaging
—Event/Schedule change notifications
—Social Networking (public profile pages, follow people and be followed)
—Private and public messaging on events, in groups and everywhere else
—Intuitive mobile device experience (to be launched just prior to the event)

For filmmakers looking for distribution, bands looking for producers, small businesses looking to develop their brands or digital creatives looking for new collaborators, my.SXSW provides a unique opportunity for people from all corners of the globe to get together and communicate before, after and during the event.

“We’re excited to see The Social Collective in use at SXSW,” said Chris Bucchere, CEO of BDG. “SXSW has come to be known as a trendsetting conference, not just for music and film, but for technology as well. The market for growing communities around conferences and events is just beginning to develop and of course SXSW is setting a great example of how to enhance people’s experience at their event using the right combination of web, e-mail, SMS and mobile tools.”

The Social Collective’s rich registration and schedule APIs enable seamless integration with the SXSW registrant and schedule data stores. As a result, there is no additional sign up or site registration needed. my.SXSW is open only to Film, Interactive, Music, Gold and Platinum SXSW registrants. Sign-in instructions will be sent via e-mail shortly after payment is confirmed and registration is processed by SXSW.

About SXSW

MUSIC AND MEDIA CONFERENCE features a legendary festival showcasing more than 1,800 musical acts of all genres from around the globe on over eighty stages in downtown Austin. By day, the Austin Convention Center comes alive with conference registrants doing business in the Trade Show and partaking of a full agenda of informative, provocative panel discussions featuring hundreds of speakers of international stature. In its 23rd year, SXSW remains an essential event on the music industry calendar. SXSW Music takes place March 18-22, 2009.

The SXSW FILM CONFERENCE AND FESTIVAL explores all aspects of the art and business of independent filmmaking. The Conference hosts a five-day adventure in the latest filmmaking trends and new technology, featuring distinguished speakers and mentors. The internationally-acclaimed, nine-day Festival boasts some of the most wideranging programming of any US event of its kind, from provocative documentaries to subversive Hollywood comedies, with a special focus on emerging talents. SXSW Film takes place March 13-21, 2009

The SXSW INTERACTIVE FESTIVAL celebrates the creativity and passion behind the coolest new media technologies. In addition to panel sessions that cover everything from web design to bootstrapping to social networks, attendees make new business connections at the three-day Trade Show & Exhibition. The newest element of the event is ScreenBurn at SXSW, which adds specific gaming industry programming as well as a three-day Arcade to the mix. SXSW Interactive takes place March 13-17, 2009

Find out more at http://www.sxsw.com

About The Social Collective

The Social Collective provides a fun and interactive means for conference attendees to meet and network with one another in a safe and secure environment before, during and after any conference or event. It improves attendees’ conference experiences and gives conference organizers more happy and loyal customers. The white-label product/service offering includes branding of the conference social network, integration with existing registration and e-commerce systems, data migration, site archival and Twitter, Flickr and Facebook integration.

Find out more at http://thesocialcollective.com

For more information, contact Elizabeth Derczo, SXSW, at [email protected], 512/467-7979 ext. 209 or Jennifer Dunleavey at The Social Collective, [email protected], 703/234-7910

I Don’t Even Like Radiohead, But. . . .

800px-RadioheadI wouldn’t consider myself a Radiohead fan. But what they just did is about to turn the music industry on its head . . . again. Check out this snippet from an e-mail they just sent me:

To coincide with asking radio stations to think about playing Reckoner we are breaking up the tune into pieces for you to remix. After the insane response we got from the Nude remix stems and the site that was dedicated to your remixes…

Unique visitors: 6,193,776, Page Views: 29,090,134, Hits: 58,340,512, Bandwidth: 10.666 Terabytes, Number of mixes: 2,252, Number of votes: 461,090, Number of track listens: 1,745,304

…we thought it only fair to do the same with a tune that at least is in 4/4. You can get the stems (the different instruments/elements) from here.

Sample, cut, take the sounds, whatever. Play it in a club. Or your room. Then if you want you can upload your finished mixes to http://www.radioheadremix.com and be judged by everyone else. You can create a widget allowing votes from your own site, Facebook or MySpace to be sent through too. [Emphasis mine.] To start things off we asked James Holden and Diplo to do their versions.

Whatever you want to call this (user-generated production?), it’s downright brilliant. The idea that I — a mere mortal — get to mix and produce the next Radiohead song and that my version (if the general public likes it) could be the next big Radiohead hit is simply a mind-blowing and totally game-changing idea. Starting with Napster, then Kazaa and other P2P networks, then the idea that a major-label artist like Radiohead would put up an album (In Rainbows) and ask people to name a price for it — including $0 — the music industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years. And Radiohead is, as usual, leading the charge.

Shakin’ My Money Maker

I just can’t get enough of the “new and improved” Black Crowes lineup featuring my favorite living guitarist, Luther Dickinson (of the North Mississippi All-Stars).

My TBC concert goals for the year 2008 are a little ambitious, but here’s the plan (asterisks indicate shows that I have actually attended or already have bought tickets for):

3/2 — Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ*
6/27 — Hershey Park, Hershey, PA (opening for the Dave Matthews Band)*
7/5 — Charlottesville Pavilion, Charlottesville, VA*
8/3 — Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA*
9/10 — Van Duzer Theater, Arcata, CA
9/12 — Wells Fargo Center, Santa Rosa, CA
9/14 — Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
9/17 — The Greek Theater, Los Angeles, CA
9/19 — Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA
10/7 — The National, Richmond, VA
10/8 — The National, Richmond, VA
10/10 — Borgata, Atlantic City, NJ
10/27 — Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
10/28 — Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
12/15 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
12/18 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
12/19 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
12/20 — The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA

Rock on!

Removing iTunes DRM Using Tools from Apple

3d_Apple_Logo_102The other day I was creating a Keynote presentation that needed a soundtrack. I wanted to use some regular (non-iTunes Plus) songs that I had legally purchased on iTunes for my soundtrack. The problem was that I first wanted to cross-fade three songs together and cut them to the exact length to match my slide deck. To do this, I had to import the songs into Audacity, but I couldn’t do that without first removing the iTunes DRM.

Now, bear in mind that I didn’t (and I don’t suggest that you) do anything illegal with your music. Using some music you own in a presentation isn’t, as far as I know, illegal.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you what I discovered. In the past, if I wanted to crack iTunes DRM, it was easy, but it cost the price of one CD-R or CD-R/W. But on this particular evening, I was working in the living room and there were two flights of stairs separating me from my home office where my stack of blank CD-Rs resides. (The old-school process is, if you’re wondering: burn the DRM-protected songs to a CD-R, then rip them back in.) Due not to the cost of a CD-R (pennies), but to the energy I would have expended climbing up and down two flights of stairs, I discovered a method of stripping DRM without ever leaving your seat and using, ironically enough, completely legal tools provided by Apple!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A Mac
2. iMovie or iMovie HD
3. A short quicktime movie
4. About five minutes

Here’s how to do it:

1. Open iMovie or iMovieHD and create a new project
2. Import the song for which you want the DRM removed into iMovie(HD)
3. Import a the short quicktime movie*
4. Export the iMovie(HD) project, select “audio only” and choose your format (mp3, wav, etc.)

That’s it! Bye-bye DRM.

*You need the short quicktime movie because if you try to import and export audio only from iMovie(HD), Apple will give you this funny little warning about how you imported DRM-protected music and you can’t export it without adding some video. There’s an easy workaround: add some video!