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Problem Finding, Department of

There have been so many books and things about problem-solving that we figure most problems are already solved. So we need more problems to keep all those expert problem solvers busy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Picks in a Pod

One important thing about the web. Low barriers to entry, as the economists would say. Or in the words of the sage, when everyone talks, no one listens. Take music for example. Those record labels, Wolfman Jack, and even payola did serve a filtering function. Now anyone can get their music out there. But few will get noticed.

Somebody suggested the concept of stock in artists with potential. (Potential means you ain't done it yet.) Somebody suggested perks that might go to fans who are early adopters. I prefer to the Hollywood motto: "Ask not what you can do for your fans. Ask what your fans can do for you."

So imagine this new band, the Turtles in the Garage. Set up in their garage under a bare light bulb. Burlap on concrete floor. Plastic foam stapled to the wall to cut the bounce. Known for their ability to blend Texas Swing with Memphis Blues. And for their occasional venture into swallowing live frogs. (What do you expect of turtles?)

If you ever get to hear them play, you may think they are going somewhere. This is the earnest prayer of the neighbors.

If you believe in them, you can invest in them by working as a free publicist. They want to make that easy for you. They want to offer you perks that make you glad and will help you to publicize them. The first (cheap) level is web-distributed materials. Pictures on a web site for downloading. The band set up in that garage. Or individual photos. They carry the current date and "---- we love you." You get to choose from a set of common names. Including pet names like Honey, Babe, and Beauttiful. (These pet names work well with young males, who can send them to all the girls they know.)

Yes, there are music downloads, too. Some of their best work, with the reminder that you can pass the file on to your friends. But not too much of that. Instead, they post practice sessions and out-takes (clearly identified). Gives it a personal feel to hear performers make mistakes. And if they ever break out on American Idol, that clip may be worth money.

Next level: Sell a little. Maybe enough to finance a little studio time. What they sell is dedicated pieces. You pick the piece and get a personalized file that starts: "We want to dedicate this song to ....." You select from a list of common names. Your own name or someone you want to impress. You can also get personalized practice sessions in which the name is mentioned in several breaks, along with pseudo-personalized comments (using the established tricks of astrology). Maybe for a high enough price, you get a genuinely personalized session. That file could make you money some day. Anyway, you'll send it out to everyone you know.

For a tangible equivalent of a stock certificate, they will send really active fans genuinely autographed memorabilia, along with certificate of authenticity. Twenty years from now it may be as valuable as those old Superman comics my mother threw out.

But the Turtles still need visibility. So maybe there is the "DeeJays in a Pod" site. Aspiring deejays make podcasts (delivered through Rob Greenlee's downloadmedia.org, of course). Visitors can pick any of them and listen to the product. At the site, registered members can comment and vote on the deejays, on the artists, and on each piece of music. They can sign up as fans of particular deejays and artists. That takes them to a page where they can find products and memorabilia. (Note that the podcasts are designed to drive traffic to the site. This may help in working with advertisers.)

When you sign up as a fan, you get a question: "Who first recommended this artist to you?" There will be some arrangement like Ryze that lets you identify and contact your friends on the site. You will probably identify another site member in response to this question. Of course, the personal network feature will also help to build fan clubs.

Later you want to recruit other fans. You get a FanDangle point for each new fan you recruit. You may get various perks for being a productive fan. If one of your choices gets big enough to be in a concert, you may get a free ticket. If one goes Platinum, you get a Colonel Parker award. That will probably get you a walk on the stage at some concert.

Meanwhile, of course, all this rating helps people pick their pods. I'm still wondering who is going to do this. Maybe somebody already is. If not, this looks like a promising ecological niche. Who wants to be a JayPod?

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