Rockonomics

I’ve greatly enjoyed Alan Krueger’s “Land of Hope and Dreams: Rock and Roll, Economics and Rebuilding the Middle Class” speech given at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past June.

In the speech, Krueger compares the economics of the music industry to what is happening in the U.S. economy as a whole. It puts the major shift in the average cost of concert tickets right next to changes in the US income distribution.

It features details from a clever study (.pdf) that measured the impact of luck in combination with merit on the success of artists in a system for downloading music. It also puts forth proposals from President Obama’s economic agenda for addressing the dangerous consequences of a winner-take-all economy.

I’m an avid concert-goer and watched ticket prices climb in the late 90s and 2000s. Later I ran a Dave Matthews Band fan website where we were so regularly bombarded by requests to run advertisements from scalpers we had to take a stand.

Not surprisingly, my favorite portion of the speech focuses on the concept of fairness:

If artists charge too much for their tickets, they risk losing their appeal. In this sense, the market for rock ‘n roll music is different from the market for commodities, or stocks and bonds.

Considerations of fair treatment exert pressure on how much musicians can charge, even superstars.

Along these lines, one of my favorite performers, Tom Petty, once said, “I don’t see how carving out the best seats and charging a lot more for them has anything to do with rock & roll.”

This is a major reason why there is a market for scalped tickets.
But many artists have been reluctant to raise prices to what the market will bear for fear of garnering a reputation of gouging their fans.

They also protest when tickets sell for a higher price on the secondary market, and often try to prevent the secondary market entirely. And it is considered scandalous when performers sell tickets on the secondary market themselves.

This behavior can only be explained in light of fairness considerations. Singers want to be viewed as treating their fans fairly, rather than charging them what supply and demand dictate.

Indeed, you can think of market demand as depending on the perception of fairness.

Read The Economist’s digest of the speech or Download the text of the speech (.pdf)

 

Rock Show Concert Posters 2.0: Now on iPhone and iPod Touch

concert posters rock show ipad iphone

I’m pumped to announce availability of Rock Show 2.0.  This is the first version of Rock Show that works on the iPad and both the iPhone and iPod Touch.  A lot of fixes and tweaks are in this version of the application, along with some new posters as well!

Two articles are up about the release, Padgadget is hosting one item and a second can be found at IntoMobile.  For a full low-down and updated info on the app, visit its page: http://www.rockshow.fm

Reprogrammed Animatronic Bear Band Plays MGMT Cover

Aaron Fechter the President of Creative Engineering, Inc has been reprogramming a working animatronic bear-band set up.  It looks like the company created it for a line of restraunts similar to Chuck E. Cheese.  He’s currently taking cash bids to do syncing or “choreography” for the band members.

The way the performance is filmed and presented are awesome.  Shakey prolonged shots, quick pulls outward.  The overall video quality is low and the colors look a bit washed out.  Everything is blurry and the bear with the guitar has a spooky shadow.   Great media.

Review of Jandek and Thurston Moore at Hollywood Theatre in Portland

Ask any alternative music afficiando about their feelings towards Jandek you’re almost assured an animated response.  Jandek’s life and music are puzzling to even his fans and yet his following endures.

I had the distinct and rare chance to be in the audience for the Jandek / Thurston Moore show at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland this past week.  What follows is an introduction to Jandek and a debrief of what the show was like. Continue reading Review of Jandek and Thurston Moore at Hollywood Theatre in Portland

The Concept of Self and Use of RFID on the iPhone in Entertainment and Social Space

My friend Elissa turned me on to an article by William Deresiewicz titled The End of Solitude that addresses the culture of celebrity and connectivity as symptoms of an impulse for becoming known.  Much of the article offers an overview of the historical concept of Self and what we get out of it.

Something I liked about the article was that it gave context to a technical social mashup idea I’ve been exploring, which is the increased use of near field communication (NFC) to increase one’s visibility in a meaningful way.  More specifically, people will use RFID tag readers in a mobile device like the iPhone to alert the world of their participation in entertainment experiences.

In The End of Solitude, Deresiewicz suggests the culture of celebrity is connected to the video camera, which I connect to broadcast television.  Regretfully, in the year when we could least afford it, reality TV gave rise to pointless distractions like the Balloon Boy and the White House Party Crashers.  But the article also describes the culture of connectivity as a product of the evolving use of computers and mobile communications in society.  As something of an evangelist for new media and a critique of old media, it is somewhat humbling for me to read Deresiewicz’s grouping of celebrity with connectivity in the contemporary self:

“Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known.  It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves — by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity.”

The value of different participatory entertainment activities runs the gamut.  A film at your local movie theater requires you to only buy a ticket before the film is sold out and ensure you show up at the scheduled time.  Getting yourself twenty feet from the stage at The Dead on July 4th at Rothbury Music Festival in Michigan requires a significantly greater level of planning.  But the relative interest in the social grid in any given activity is less important than the simple declaration to the post modern self that you “did it.”  People want to shout from the top of their literal or figurative mountains, “I am about to (or have just)  ____ at _____.”

Given that a lot of people love to share their experiences, many are simply limited by the inconvenience.  I’ve given some detail to my sense that there is a big splash still yet to be made by Apple’s touch platform.  And that the Touch lineup of the iPod Touch, the iPhone and the iSlate we will see a revolution in mobile computing.  They will allow us to enjoy the impulses of the modern self which are to take part in connectivity and some element of celebrity.

A topic that hasn’t been explored enough is the effect of including an RFID reader in a breakthrough device like the iPhone.  There is reason to believe that an RFID reader will be incorporated in the near future.   I believe that the inclusion of such hardware will open up opportunities to more quickly identify and disseminate interesting information about the entertainment spaces we’re inhabiting.

To illustrate a point, when I was writing the above paragraph I searched twitter for “Sherlock Holmes” which premiered this past weekend.  The third tweet from the top was from a student I’ve never heard of or met named Nicholas King.  From his Twitter bio, we know Nicholas is a student at Eastern Michigan and studies business.  Quite simply, Nicholas tweeted:

RFID Technology iPhone iSlate Twitter Self Post-Modern Concept

A quick search reveals that Trillium is a cinemas in Grand Blanc, Michigan and Nick was keeping his followers up to date with a text message from his phone.  While a text message accomplishes the goal of updating his thirty or so followers, it falls down for a few reasons:

  1. Part of being fully connected is also having your information quickly sorted and grouped with similar data.  Twitter provides a reverse method for grouping information through its search.twitter.com functionality.  Users are capable of directly grouping their tweets with hashtags.  Both of those methods suffer the potential for data entry error.  I wouldn’t have known about Nick’s experience achievement if he had spelled it “Shelock Holmes.”
  2. Manually updating your followers with the activity you’re participating in requires extended effort.  If you’re walking in the door of an RJD2 show you might have a drink in one hand and a gaggle of pals pulling you forward with the other. It isn’t always possible or at least socially acceptable to whip out your phone and type out an update.

The concept is this.  Sherlock Holmes is being distributed to theaters by Warner Bros Pictures.  In addition to sending out reels of film, Warner Bros would also send a small stand up display that is to be placed near the entrance to the theatre showing the movie.  If Nick carried an iPhone with an RFID reader, he would need only to wave his phone at the entrance and it would automatically pick up his preferences for sharing his location and the movie title he’s seeing via Twitter or Facebook.  More interesting things would be to automatically enter you in a contest for people who attended an Sherlock Holmes on opening weekend.

Another illustration to the benefits of adding an RFID reader to the iPhone in the realm of participatory entertainment is in live music or very large public entertainment events.  For instance, scanning the RFID tag in your section at a football game will identify the mobile capability to an application that could cue everyone to hold up their phones at a given time, display a particular set of images on the screen and turn the entire stadium into a megatron.  At a music festival like Rothbury, it might allow people to collect virtual zoo keys which turn an already amazing Sherwood Forest into something that is digitally enchanted.

The total extent to what could be done with connected devices incorporating RFID tags in combination with the impulse to reinforce personal visibility is impossible to see right now.  What is clear is that culture, technology and the increasing value of participatory entertainment rapidly is converging with all-in-one devices like the iPhone and iSlate.

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Update 12/30/09:  A few additional things: 1. There is a strong sense that RFID will be most valuable for payment and wireless financial transactions.  The basis of my interest in RFID has been from seeing the NFC-enabled registers at places like McDonalds and Regal Cinemas.   When I first started seeing them, I would ask how often they took payment using the NFC at POS and I’d get blank stares from the employees.  MasterCard’s PayPass and American Express’s ExpressPay have been around for a while but have mostly only survived market tests as far as I can tell.

To look at how NFC/RFID payments and entertainment overlap, I love what it could do to damage the secondary ticket market.  I’ve long felt that secondary ticketing and scalping does more harm than good on the average would-be live entertainment participant.  Locking tickets to phones is a great way to help track and possibly reduce scalping while still allowing some flexibility in transferability.

There are some articles about how an RFID, NFC enabled phone are useful outside of entertainment which are worth linking to.  Here’s one that simply gooses the idea.  Here’s a second article that talks explicitly in terms of marketing opportunities.

Quake Live Beta

I received an unsolicited email a few days ago from id Software requesting that I join their beta program for Quake Live.  I haven’t played Quake since since 1999, but remember playing quite a bit of Quake 3 Arena–especially capture the flag.

In order to beta test, you first create an id Software user account, and then you have to create a second beta tester account just for Quake Live.   Both accounts require you to go through a registration/authentication email loop.

The gameplay is quite good, it feels just like Quake 3 Arena with a number of the original maps available for play.  The most impressive thing is that the game runs smoothly within a browser tab.  You can easily change game settings, including resolution changes on the fly, with a brief loading routine by the app.

Continue reading Quake Live Beta

World of Warcraft Patches Require Obscene Amounts of Hard Drive Space

I recently wrote a brief paper on World of Warcraft, a game I’ve never played before, for the Service Strategies course I’m taking at Babson.  My paper discusses what about Blizzard Software’s functionality with the MMORPG of WoW was innovative or offered a bit of service differentiation.  You can read the whole thing here. (pdf)

I had chosen WoW for as my topic for three reasons.  One, it was among the suggested topics Professor Rao offered for the assignment, two, I love sci-fi and I played Magic in high school,  and three, my sister has played some WoW and she’s cool.

After spending a few hours working on that paper I realized that I should really have a crack at the actual gameplay for the good of scholarship.  Not because I have a lot of serious work to do that I’m trying to avoid.  Not that at all.

With a 10 day free trial, I couldn’t go wrong, so I started the download of the game and it was 3.6 gigs of data streaming over some type of resumabale http stream.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll let it go over night and try it out in the morning.

Continue reading World of Warcraft Patches Require Obscene Amounts of Hard Drive Space

RJD2 @ Paradise

RJD2 ConcertI just got back from the 5/3/08 RJD2 show at The Paradise on Comm. Ave. I had been looking forward to the show for some time, pulling the on-sale date from an RSS item from tourfilter and within a week or two tickets sold out. It was with great anticipation that I approached the show. I saw RJD2 perform from a distance at Bonnaroo a few years ago, and had seen the crowd get worked. The Third Hand, Randle John Krohn’s latest from March this past year illustrated the major transition from a primarily hip-hop based library of music built on very deliberate sampling.

In his 2006 interview with Pitchfork Media, Krohn gave some important details about the album that would become The Third Hand. Specifically, the album was a huge transitionary work for him, moving from sampling to performance both in instrumentation and his own singing. In addition he moved labels from Definitive Jux to XL Recordings in an outwardly symbolic movement from hip-hop to a destination between electronic and pop music.

Continue reading RJD2 @ Paradise

My First Database Refactoring

I spent a good portion of the day today refactoring the database used to power the Dave Matthews Band application I’ve been writing for Facebook.

I’ve been interested in writing for Facebook for some time because I believe that companies need to be expanding their online presence into applications built for major social networking platforms. It is easy to say that people should pay attention to things like OpenSocial or Facebook’s API, there have been plenty of articles about it. But nothing can convince you like building and running one yourself.

facebook application traffic statistics

My application began with only allowing users to choose a photo for their profile. Then I added the ability to select prior Dave Matthews Band shows. The problem came when people said they wanted to show their tour history further back than 2007.

I’ve been sourcing my data from the DMB Almanac, a site that I promote fairly heavily through the Weekly Davespeak’s front page and in the forums. I have a feeling I send them a good portion of traffic. Continue reading My First Database Refactoring

Fair-Weather Leaks Serve as a Strategic Method of Media Control

radiohead in rainbows label leak political leaksRyan Grim at The Politico wrote an article about the political leaks in Washington D.C. that also offers insight into how and why leaks happen just about everywhere, from bands to business to family secrets.

The article separates the types of leaks into three categories: the malevolent, the benevolent and the accidental.

Grim’s article includes eleven leak sub-categories each with a different intention. If you are plan to communicate with or be a part of the fourth estate, you should probably take a moment to read them each in detail. Instead of touching on each sub-category here, I would like to highlight how fair-weather leaks are used as a method of strategic media control.

Fair-Weather and Bad-Weather Patterns

“When an organization is being run well, people tend not to look at things as leaks, but they tend to look at things as information specifically being put out for some strategic purpose. When things are not well, the information getting out there is perceived as leaks.

-Chris Lehane, of the ’92 Clinton campaign and later the White House.

This seems like a subjective impression to me, and I wonder how it could be quantified without defining exactly what it means for an organization to be “run well.” And Lehane’s idea seems to create a chicken-or-the-egg scenario: a well run organization incorporates strategy into leaks, while strategic leaks also seem to be the hallmark of a well run organization. Continue reading Fair-Weather Leaks Serve as a Strategic Method of Media Control