Apple’s No Jack City

Apple announced the new iPhone 7 yesterday and announced that they are removing the headphone jack.  Some quick thoughts on that…

Short Term Pain

It’s annoying to have to live in a world where my phone does not have a headphone jack as I have many different headphones laying around and to use them I have to use an extra dongle that i have to carry with my phone.  Also, for people who want to listen to music and charge their phone at the same time – a common use for Uber and Lyft drivers, this is now impossible (although i did see this solution). For all of these reasons, I think it will be a pain in the ass for many people – including myself in the short term.

Moving towards the future

I do think that the wireless technology of headphones is underrated and way more advanced than we are aware.  By forcing the issue and making these headphones mandatory, Apple will bring more and more great wireless headphones available.  I can imagine a world in 5 years where everything is wireless.

From my use of the Echo, I does seem that the only thing between the cloud and my is voice. Having a sweet set of headphones that can access it all of the time seems like the right way to go.

The use of the word “courage”

This was totally ridiculous.  Apple, even if you think it, don’t say it.  When you’re causing so much short-term pain to your customer, don’t get up on stage and pat yourself on the back. That was a dumb move.

The Apple eco-system

Now all headphone manufacturers who build a lightning connector are married to the iPhone. Doing this will result in more lock-in than ever before.  This was definitely part of their thought-process when coming to this decision.  Apple loves the lock-in.

 

 



Music Technology in 2007 and Our Use of YouTube (8 of 14)

This is post #8 about the Qloud experience.  The previous post was about about running out of money and pivoting.  

The year is 2007 and Toby and I have a great idea to build a comprehensive music service.  There were no web streaming services at the time.  Some of the players were:

  • eMusic – a service for indie artists where you could download mp3’s. 
  • PressPlay – a Sony sponsored music service that has only 2 labels and also required a download
  • Rhapsody – a pretty good  service that required a player download and costs $20 a month

We started building the service and went around to all the music labels and providers we could find to license the actual tracks so we could serve up the songs to our users.  Turns out that’s not easily done in 2007.  To get music you have to strike individual deals with each individual label.  Those deals require time (which we didn’t have) and money for upfront payments (which we didn’t have).  Hmmm.

Luckily we figured out a nice loophole.  Google bought YouTube in 2006.  Right before that acquisition YouTube gave equity to the music labels.  In exchange for this equity, they struck a deal that forbid the labels from suing YouTube for 2-3 years (I’m not sure of the length).  This was a little-known fact, but it was true.  

It is also true that almost every music track in existence is available on YouTube.  This was pre-Vevo.  So, we decided that our backend streaming service will actually be powered by YouTube.  Nobody had every tried this, but it allowed us to (a) serve all our music for free; (b) be legal; (c) embed our music right into a browser without asking uses to download a player. 

We did one other smart thing. Turns out there are many many videos for each song. Some are correct and some aren’t. We didn’t have time to go through millions of tracks, so we build into the service the ability for users to mark which YouTube video is correct for that track.  They could play up to 10 different videos and vote for their favorite.  By default, we play the video with the most votes.  This tuned out to work really well.  Once we launched our users would spend hours voting on videos and helping us curate our library. 

We build the service in 4-5 months.  Now we just needed to launch.  Read about how that went in the next post…

 

Driving in San Francisco

I was out in SF these past two days.  A few observations: 

First, i was stuck in traffic for about 2 hours trying to get from Oakland airport to SF city.  The Bay Bridge was backed up and we just sat for hours.  Finally, when the traffic parted, i looked to my left and saw a rainbow and knew that everything going forward would be alright:

 

After hitting the city, i cruised down to Palo Alto area and saw an interesting sight.  It was my first sighting of the new BMW i3.  The i3 is the Bavarian automaker’s first fully electric vehicle available to buy. I thought it was fitting that i saw the electric car surrounded by the biggest polluting trucks i’ve ever seen.  Check it: 

I also had a great time jamming out to new favorite tune.  It’s Bruno Mars’s new song which just jams.  I saw it on SNL this weekend and was blown away.  Check it out: 

Anyway, it was a successful trip to the bay area although I’m happy to be headed back to Colorado.  Given the Jan. 3 due date of baby #2, i expect i’ll be taking a little hiatus from traveling for a while. 

 

Music services are still a bad idea: Spotify Edition

Read an article this weekend about Spotify in Wired.  It now has 10 million subscribers paying $10 a month.  Because they have to pay 70% of each track’s revenue back to the labels, that doesn’t leave much margin left.  Thus, they are still plowing through cash. They’ve spent over $200 million dollars to date.  In 2011 reported a loss of 59 million (24% of revenue 245mm) and 2012 had loss of $72 million (13% of 558mm).

I’ve always thought that the music industry is f’ed and if you’re the number 1 streaming provider and you’re not doing well, something’s wrong. 

Related content: You’ll never make money with a music service

Happy Holidays: My Holiday Reading

I did a lot of couch reading this holiday and as a result found some good stuff on the interwebs and thought I’d share…

1. The Paul Rudd & Conan video

Paul Rudd has been going on Conan O’Brien’s show for 20 years.  Each year he brings a clip to promote a new film. Apparently, every time he brings the same video clip every time. Here’s a video showing all of them. This is pretty hysterical. 

2. Bill Gates’s Good News of 2013

Here’s a post from Bill Gates about the good things that happened this year. Gates is out there solving real problems and he has such a unique perspective of how things are improving on a global level. This is worth reading.  For instance, he lets us know:

Half as many children died in 2012 as in 1990. That’s the biggest decline ever recorded. And hardly anyone knows about it! 

3. Billy Joel at MSG

Billy (now age 64) hasn’t released a record since 1993 and hasn’t toured since he wrapped up his last gig in 2010, but he’s still changing the music business. He recently signed a deal with Madison Square Garden to play a concert there every month. A good article in businessweek.

4. Maria Bello’s Modern Family

I’ve always loved Maria Bello as an actress.  She has an interesting personal life too. She’s penned a good essay in the NYTimes about her children and romantic situation.  It’s good and worth a read.

   

5. NYTimes and New Yorker vs. Buzzfeed and Gawker

The online advertising world is changing.  Sites like Gawker and Buzzfeed are grabbing lots of traffic and some good ad dollars.  This article looks at how publications that try to be more exclusive (and thus have less traffic) are trying to compete.  Hint: it’s not going to work out well for them. 

6. Be Nice to Cats

We have two cats and love them (most of the time) and I loved this video of a mean old woman getting karma right in the face.

7. Pregnant Virgins

Here’s an Interesting study here of 8000 women about how they got pregnant.  Almost 1% of them said they got pregnant with no men involved (and no in vitro or other reproductive technology).  Here’s to immaculate conception.

Happy Holidays everyone.  (note: if you want to regularly get my links, follow me as @MikePLewis on twitter)

Billy Joel is Orange

Chuck Klosterman has a great phrase about Billy Joel. He says that on a scale of white to black, where white is the lamest someone could be and where black is the coolest person in the world, Billy Joel is orange. He’s cool the way your grandpa is cool. That’s why this clip is so awesome.

Here’s a clip of Billy Joel and Vanderville University taking a request from a young kid in the crowd. He could’ve said no. Could have said that he just didn’t have time. But he indulges the kids. And he really let it go. Listen to the crowd when he puts his sunglasses on – you can see the Old Billy come alive. He’s up for the challenge.  

I love Billy Joel. I was have. I recently listened to the podcast about him where he talked with Alec Baldwin about his career.

I was wondering why Billy had been married three times. He’d always nailed everything – his music, his image, he always did everything the way you wanted to. Why did he fail so miserably at his relationships?  He talks about how when he’s in the middle of an album he can’t turn “it” off. He thinks about every chord and lyric of every song, every second of the day, and he thinks you have to be like that because it’s art and he must get it right. But. As a result his relationships have all suffered and he was never really be there for other people.

Anyway these are two great clips. Definitely watch the video if you have a few minutes. If you have a little bit longer them listen to the podcasts it’s a great one too.

I also like what the music writer/pundit Lefsetz said about the clip

Billy does these college shows. Where he tells his story. Can’t make as much money as he does in an arena, but it’s much more fulfilling, it’s different. And at this small show, he knocks it so far out of the park you become a fan, even if you weren’t one before.

Billy Joel… Wasn’t he supposed to be a joke?

Don’t pay attention to the press. Hang around long enough and you outlive the critics. Don’t forget Led Zeppelin was panned by “Rolling Stone.” And we can’t even remember who wrote the review.

College kids are not supposed to care, they’re not supposed to know. But listen to them ooh and ahh in this clip. That’s what’s great about being young, the moment is the most important. It’s all about the now. Which is why we revere the youth, they’re untainted by experience, they don’t know what they don’t know, and they can let go.

Normally, “New York State Of Mind” is about poignancy. But in this case, it’s like being at Yankee Stadium, Billy is truly playing to the last row, and he has each and every person in the palm of his hand.

And he does Sinatra and acknowledges it.

And the longer he goes on, the more you realize that Elton gets all the accolades, but his old piano-dueling partner is the one who’s still got the pipes. You realize that Billy is an American, one of us.

My Top Albums of 2012

I don’t really listen to entire albums anymore but it’s still fun to look at which albums were my favorite for the past year.  I tend to split my time listening to iTunes/iPod and the service Rdio.  Luckily, both of them send my play counts to Last.fm so my profile can tell me all about my listening habits this past year. 

 

  1. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits 
  2. Mumford & Sons – Babel
  3. Jack White – Blunderbuss
  4. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
  5. Band of Horses – Mirage Rock

All of them are great.  Divine Fits dominated my running playlist for a while with “For Your Heart” and “Would That Not Be Nice” being my two favorite songs.  The two songs from Alabama Shakes (“I Ain’t The Same” and “Hold On“) were probably my two favorite tunes of the year.  Mumford was good for just all occasions, and this song, “Trash Tongue Talker” from Jack White is just great.

You can find the mp3’s for these and more of my favorite tunes at iLikeThisSong.com where I post a new great tune every week or so. 

What songs were your favorite this year?bal

Simulacrum and Beck’s New Release

Simulacrum –  an insubstantial form or semblance of something. Example: a unicorn

The musician Beck this week announced a release a new album and he did it was really inventive way.  He released it only as a big book of sheet music.  Thus, it will only be played by other musicians.  Thousands of bands will have their own version of his album.   Really cool.

The Beats of Change – Electronic music is the new indie rock

I got to quite a bit of live music shows.  I try to see my favorite acts whenever they roll through Colorado.  I just went to Coachella and in the past year i’ve seen Mumford, The National, Wilco, Andrew Bird, Shins, Radiohead, Childish Gambino, Band of Horses and others.  I like these shows but they are also frustrating.  I increasingly find that rock bands do nothing more than just play the songs from their album, in a way that sounds just like the tracks on the album and i leave the venue wonder why I went.

I began to think back to why people used to go to shows.  In the past, i could imagine that music represented more than it does today. It represented a movement. The Rolling Stones and Elvis were a powerhouse that were more than just great songs.  Or, i could see how an artist’s lyrics (such as Bob Dylan’s) were so meaningful that their concert was more akin to a speech or a rally.   None of these are happening in indie rock today.

However, i do see this stuff happening with the electronic music scene.  Two things are different. First, now that music is digital, the instruments of today are the computer and that’s resulting in brand new music that is truly different than anything that’s come previously.  Second, the concerts where this is played are extremely social.  The DJ’s aren’t just playing music for an audience, the audience is involved. Very involved.  As my friend JT said this weekend after hearing Swedish House Mafia, “it feels like the DJ’s are conductors.”

Also, these electronic artists don’t need major labels.  They are proficient in interacting and promoting online.  If fact, most of them don’t even release albums in the traditional sense.

It feels to me that this electronic music scene is the future. Bob Lefsetz agrees with me.  I just hope i’m not too much of a dinosaur to enjoy it.


How i get stuff done

A few people asked me this week how keep track of things i need to get things done.  So, let me tell you.

First, I keep an ongoing Task list. I have a big list and then i have a line in that list that i put each day of the things i want to accomplish that day.  This way i can move things up and down that list.  I actually have two lists – a personal list and a work list. I find that it’s helpful to keep them separate as i try to accomplish the work list when i’m at work and then when i leave, i consider my time to get those tasks done as over.  Then i’m on personal time.  It’s helpful to keep them separate.  How do i keep these tasks? I use Google Tasks.  It’s nicely tied into both my email and my calendar.  Also, there’s an app (I use GooTasks) that synch with the Gmail version so i can grab tasks when i’m on the go.

Second, i have a “one-touch” policy.  I’m not sure who told me about this but the idea is that you should touch things only once.  If you can read, process and reply all at one time, it’s better than filing to do later.  I do this with physical mail and i also try to do it with email.  I’m not as good as some, but i’ve found that the more you do this, the more you get done. My business partner Toby is actually a master of this.

Third, i subscribe to the “Daily Inches” mantra of consistency. This is best expressed in the Al Pacino speech in “Any Given Sunday” (listen to it here). The idea is that if you really want to make big changes – this could be your life, your work or whatever – the best way is to make progress daily.  You don’t ahve to do it all at once, but just make a little progress every day and you’ll get there.  For instance, if you want to increase your arm strength in the gym, you don’t want to go on a weekend and try to lift weights for 20 hours straight.  No, it’s better to work out a little bit each day for an extended period of time.  Make a little progress, every day.

There it is.  My three easy steps to getting things done – Lewis-style.  Most of it is common sense, but thought i’d share.  Tasks, one-touch, and daily inches.   What is your philosophy for getting things done?