Interesting story of artistic rebellion on the BBC today - in this case, not against the machinery of the state, but against people who are against the machinery of the state and insist on sharing music - for free - via the Internet.
Our poor, destitute pop stars have stamped their collective feet and said, “Enough! No more depriving us of another few quid for our swollen coffers by sharing our music with your mates.” Poor loves.
Does anyone really care whether Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Lily Allen or whoever, misses out on a few grand here and there? How bad can file-sharing really be? Well, plenty of lesser-known artists are living on the breadline and depend on every penny they can earn to maintain their career - and they’re the ones who are hit the hardest. So this isn’t really about the big names at all.
I’m not even sure it’s a simple point of legal principle either. Technically, the musicians are right, of course. Intellectual property (IP) law is clear about these things - artists have an established right to be paid for the sale and distribution of the works they have created.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the performers or writers actually own the IP (in the case of musicians, often it’s the label or distributors), but, through custom, practice and performance contracts, they have a right to benefit from it. For people who already have millions, the impact of file-sharing is probably relatively marginal - certainly less than the impact of the contracts the labels impose on them, if Prince and George Michael are to be believed.
For up-and-coming artists, however, it could make the difference between being able to continue an artistic career or giving it up to work full-time in Sainsbury’s. Worst case scenario: our culture is deprived of great works that would have thrilled or inspired millions, because no-one’s prepared to pay for them.
The issue of ownership of artistic works is not one that can be easily defined by law, in my opinion. Who owns Penny Lane, for example? The Beatles, who wrote it? The estate of Michael Jackson, who bought the publishing rights? The old-timers’ band in Frinton who bash out a cover on the Hammond organ? The millions of people who have bought it, listened to it, been inspired to explore more of the Beatles’ work and from there delve into the music of other artists influenced by them - in other words, people whose lives have been culturally enriched by the song?
So, who owns the cultural artefacts that help shape our sensibilities and our feelings about the world? And who benefits from them the most? There’s a strong argument to say that we, the public, do. It’s a liberal, idealistic vision of art and its place in society. Many people think that art should be free. But if we subscribe entirely to this view, how does the artist live?
Until the 19th century, since when the commercial model of art has really taken hold, artists were often dependent on family wealth or a rich patron in order to live and write, paint or play. This model just doesn’t exist as much nowadays - and neither should it. Art is at least as much commerce as it is creativity these days - and we have, to some extent, our own collusion with the artists to thank for this. Think of the rapacious commercialism of Andy Warhol, for example: sure, he was making an interesting comment about the mass production methods of modern society; he was also absolutely raking it in. And we’ve lapped it up.
The point is that artists need money as much as the rest of us (let’s not get into the issue of greed). Whether we like it or not, art is commerce and probably always has been, because people have to live and eat - and we’ve all bought into this idea. This means artists are entitled to the same protection as any other producer. You wouldn’t steal a chair, would you? You may think your emotional response to a piece of art is unique and special and it probably is; but does that give you the right to steal a song?
There's a lot of talk about the power of social networking for business. Take a look at some of the most eye-watering stats in this video. What's clear is that social networking is no longer becoming mainstream, it is mainstream.
But are people getting the results they want and need? Well, research we've just conducted would suggest a resounding NO. This is not necessarily bad news. In fact, it means that there is plenty of opportunity to resolve problems and stop making mistakes. Clearly, social media is still in its infancy. But with 50M+ people registered on Twitter and five times that number on Facebook, it's a force which should be reckoned with today (not tomorrow). How are you finding it? What do you think? Feel free to grab this video off YouTube and embed it. Let's get more businesses interacting and getting results on social platforms. Ultimately, that will be better for all of us.
I have to admit I find Yahoo one of the most frustrating online companies I have ever encountered. However, I also consider it the biggest innovator, and that’s the frustration. The labs division of the company produces many fantastic products and services, yet only a small percentage of these ever get air time.
The latest product to come from the Silicon Valley beast is Yahoo Neighbors, a mashup between local search and social networking. Currently only available in the States, Neighbors is in effect a message board for local communities. If implemented correctly, this will provide a fantastic real time view of “the word on the street” to Yahoo searchers. I think a good description for this is “the conversation layer”.
Having spent some time playing with Neighbors I have to say it’s brilliant. Its contents are categorised into sections that really matter locally, such as business recommendations, education and even restaurant reviews. While we may discuss how social networks and presence management are essential for business (and they are), often the same thinking doesn’t translate for local businesses. This is where Neighbors could potentially help. Small businesses could exploit the service in numerous ways, from basic exposure, to the creation of a “linked-in” style authority status, but at a local level.
Yahoo Neighbors is pretty awesome, and the concept of the conversation layer doesn’t just apply to the larger and more web savvy businesses. This is a service that seems to bridge that gap between large and small extremely well.
I just hope it’s not another bright idea that gets stifled due to lack of business support from the big Purple. Oh, and I also hope that it eventually finds its way over the pond to us!
So, you’ve agreed to sponsor an exciting initiative.
You can now expect a logo or mention on the sponsored party’s website, marketing materials and at the event, and you might even get a mention in press coverage. Fantastic exposure.
At this point, you might start seeking coverage in your own industry’s ‘trade publications’, but here’s a warning:
In most cases, the media simply don't view sponsorships themselves as newsworthy.
For example, if you’re a legal firm sponsoring a craft festival, the legal press is very unlikely to cover it. There’s simply no story there, and no amount of padding will change that.
In fact, unless you have hard evidence that the sponsorship generated such success for your business that others in your industry could learn from it, the media probably won’t touch it. Worse still, if you try to PR it anyway, you risk causing long-term damage.
Editors receive literally hundreds of press releases a day, and a weak story could have them reaching for the delete key for every future press release you put out – even ones that deserve attention.
If you want to bring your company's achievements into the spotlight, by all means engage a PR professional, but keep in mind that while a well thought out approach may take longer to get up and running, it will yield much better results in the long term.
Of course, with a crack team of creatives and an unlimited budget, it could be argued that anything is possible, but as a rule: no story = no PR.
In a downturn, it isn’t just small businesses that look to make their pennies stretch further or spend more time investing time resources into ‘free’ marketing opportunities but they certainly have a greater opportunity to do such things. If trade is down and money is tight, things might look bleak and the marketing resources cupboard somewhat bare.
One way that you may choose to keep on top of your marketing activities, even if the budget has run out, is to try out something that requires little or no money (beyond buying a computer and internet connection). Social Networking or online media resources are a great way to make use of your time in an inexpensive manner in order to drum up trade and to make sure your business is ‘out there.’
If you are unfortunate enough to have less footfall than you are accustomed to in headier times, you may be in a position to spend more time on Twitter, Facebook and any of the hundreds of online community sites where you can promote, network, converse or establish your brand and make real connections. If you do this well you may see that trade picks up again and so you have less time to commit to online activities as you are dealing with fantastic customers making purchases. When trade does pick up once again, does online marketing through social networking have to give?
I believe in the cliché that tough times make us stronger but beyond that I anticipate that this recession has rewritten the rules of small business marketing and the online marketing model of the future will see social networking as a standard practice in advertising for small firms. When the tills are ringing again and the ‘R’ word is but a distant memory, try and set aside short and frequent bursts of online marketing activity, be it Twitter, Blogging or Facebook, for great results long-term.
Anyone that follows me on Twitter will know that I'm quite a keen gardener. Last summer, I pretty much managed to grow all our vegetables throughout the summer, and I was looking forward to this year being no different. To add to that I've recently been very interested in growing my own cut flowers, and had enthusiastically gone out and dug up a few new bits of lawn to create a cutting garden. I had big dreams of trugs full of vegetables and armfuls of cut flowers to give to friends as presents.
I started out the year enthusiastically, but to be honest, with a new baby, a business to run, a book to write and everything else us working mums have to contend with, I haven't been out there as much as I should. My little gems have bolted, the beets aren't doing well and the whole garden looks a bit of a mess. And it suddenly dawned on me today that gardening is a lot like marketing.
Every week I just need to do a little bit to my garden to keep the whole thing looking beautiful and becoming productive. I need to keep on top of the weeds, but I also need to thin out, harvest and plant new seed.
As Stephen Covey states, nature is a perpetual cycle that you can't cheat. You've got to do little bits in stages or you get this feast and famine effect. So it seems ludicrous that although we recognise that in gardening you need to do little and often, we expect quick fixes when it comes to our marketing.
Marketing, just as with your garden, has a process that takes time to make work. You've got to generate leads, build relationships, look after the clients you have and make sure you harvest – i.e. close the deal as well. It's really not rocket science, you just need to put in a small amount of effort on a regular basis and you really will reap the rewards.