Kev’s Music Review: Christian Scott ‘Anthem’

Posted: February 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Greetings everyone,
I can’t remember the last time I did a music review, but it certainly has been a long time. Since going back to Canada for the holidays, I was able to pick up a number of new albums, so I’ll be reviewing them over the next week or so.

I was very excited to see that Christian Scott had come out with his second album, entitled Anthem, which followed up his Grammy-nominated debut album ‘Rewind That’ last year. I was not disappointed. Christian refines the trajectory he set in Rewind That, firmly establishing his identity, his ‘sound’, and his reputation as one of the profound leaders in the next generation of jazz.

Scott categorizes his music on MySpace as Nu-Jazz/Soul/Rock. It certainly has those components. Christian Scott himself plays very blues-infused contemporary jazz tones, while Matt Stevens keeps it rock-heavy on the guitar. Marcus Gilmore plays with a laid-back post-modern jazz tempo but with rock accents, and Aaron Parks is a chameleon on the keys but keeps a Soulful tone to lighten up the edginess of the other players.

Together this quartet (plus many other guests on certain tracks) play some really amazing music. I feel Christian Scott extends Miles Davis’ tradition with a very strong Modal feel, but meticulously fragmented, decomposed and reconstructed for the twenty-first century construct. The layering of identities and messages speaks to the modern-day experience. Taking direction from Davis’ ‘Cool’, Christian Scott’s compositions dig deep and dark, in an introspective sound that is sophisticatedly beautiful.

Christian Scott’s album title ‘Anthem’ and the album artwork that accompanies it leads hints to the listener that this second body of work is as much an ‘anthem’ for Christian Scott’s musical direction as it is a commentary and call to attention of what the artist sees as the state of America, and perhaps the world. The music is fitting for the album artwork that speaks of unmitigated urban crime and the struggle of innocence growing up in such an environment. As a son of New Orleans and a witness to hurricane Katrina, it is not difficult to see where Christian Scott’s perspective is coming from.

Anthem is an album I suspect I will continue to regularly enjoy for many years to come. The maturity Scott has already shown, and the amount of growth from the first to the second album are truly impressive. Its just downright an awesome piece of work, and as it was meant to be, speaks to you on a very personal level.
For more info on Christian Scott: www.christianscott.net OR www.myspace.com/christianscottmusic

Keeping an ear to the ground,

Kev.


Kev’s Thoughts On… Business Model Evolutions for the Ever-Changing Web Landscape

Posted: February 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

As I dwell more on Web 2.0 and the numerous ways companies like Facebook, Google and News Corp try to monetize users’ actions on the internet, a recurring analogy keeps coming to my mind, one that gives me a real-world perspective and helps me better understand what is going on in the online landscape.
The Internet, in essence, is another dimension of real estate and the international property market.
There are many others who have described the same similarity, so it is nothing original, but I find it important in helping me think about the next directions Web 2.0 is going. Please excuse the crude simplicity of the analogy and my layman’s knowledge of the industry as I try to make my points.

A quick recap of the Web 1.0 world finds that the era was littered with Portals, Store-fronts, Exchanges and Personal pages. Portals like ol’ AOL are like universities requiring tuition or special paid-admission malls. A one-stop-shop for information, purchases and even socializing. This is the classic fee-based or subscription-based business model.
Store-fronts like Amazon, and Victoria Secret are similar to the real-world Wal-Mart; massive business vendors that see millions of customers walk through its doors everyday. Exchanges like Ebay can easily be compared to the NYSE. Both of these kinds of properties are transaction-based, whether it is real goods and services or information. This business model subsequently is still successful today.
The personal pages or simple business marketing websites that exist on the Internet are like mom & pop stores, or residential homes. More often than not, they are built out of necessity or social fascination, often not having a business-model in mind and usually do not make enough income to even pay for itself. There is nothing wrong with not having a business model, as many people start pages for social reasons. I just had to include it as an observation of another type of online property.

So in the Web 1.0 world we see littered around a handful of paid-admission malls, universities, Wal-Mart-like vendors, NYSE-like exchanges, mom & pop stores and residential homes.

I should add that Search-Engines also emerged during this time, and with the help of its poster-child, Google, propelled the Ad-Supported business model to preeminence. However, Search-Engines are merely another type of property as well, more like a very important highway that is surrounded by billboards.

Ads have since moved from static banner ads to relevant text-based click ads, and now experimenting with contextualized interactive video ads.

Now that we are in the Web 2.0 world, where user-generated content is all the rage, how have online ‘properties’ transformed? The new web stars such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and LinkedIn are much more like cities. These are properties that are built on the social community, the collective power of the many, and develop their own unique character and charm depending on their constituents. This is a far cry from malls, vendors and exchanges of the last era. Unlike a Wal-Mart or NYSE where visitors are attracted by the architecture and goods offered by the creator of the property, the cities of Web 2.0 attract inhabitants because of the organic ability to develop niches and community ‘flavors’. Think New York City’s SOHO or Tokyo’s Harajuku.

These online cities have begun to build their business model around what has worked best in the past, namely the Search Engine’s success with Ad-Supported revenue. The online ‘NYC’ helps pay for itself by having billboards in Times Square and the online ‘Tokyo’ has expensive advertising properties in Shibuya. So now Web 2.0 cities like Facebook and MySpace can breathe easy because it can monetize itself by placing user-specific, targeted ads in and around its site for the numerous citizens inhabiting their property.

It seems quite fine and dandy. So isn’t it a smart move to invest in building a massive social community since you know with those numbers you’ll be able to profit off the advertising revenues?
It may be, but it will cost you first. Online cities are just every-bit as much of an investment as building a real city. Just replace the construction cranes, zoning rights and subway systems with software developers, servers and bandwidth costs.
Even after all of that expenditure (in the Web 2.0 world most likely spent with VC money), it may all still be worthwhile if you’re sure you will be the next, say, Facebook.

Here lies the problem: Online properties are extremely transient.

In New York, Tokyo or anywhere else in the real world, inhabitants must either buy or rent property, and usually the payment for only one property is all anyone can afford. Not so online. A netizen who has been around long enough likely has a space in several social network properties simply because it is free to sign up and maintain. Those that love the online equivalent of NYC’s Upper East Side and Tokyo’s Akihabara can online, actually have a place in both communities, and another place in Shanghai, Dubai, London and Moscow for that matter. It’s almost like the ‘golden horde’ effect, coined by Thomas Friedman as he described the movement of global investment capital flows. Like so, netizens will quickly migrate to the next new and coolest community, because the financial costs are nil and the social drivers are everything. And while maintaining a space is free on most online properties, value is not derived by how many open accounts a Facebook or a MySpace has. A site’s value is instead derived from the share size it can grab of the only thing that is finite to a user: her time.
Can you imagine if one year Disney World was full during the summer vacation season, but the summer after it was completely deserted because everyone went to the new Universal Studios that opened across the street? Or going back to our analogy of NYC, if in the course of a few years all its millions of inhabitants migrated to San Francisco just because it became more interesting?
Online properties are extremely transient. It wasn’t so long ago that Friendster was the place to be, or Xanga. And for those that can remember just a few years earlier, Asian Avenue or Black Planet?
Suddenly the Facebook or MySpace or YouTube doesn’t seem like such valuable property anymore. The only reason why the real Times Square is one of the most expensive properties in the world is because people can guarantee it will be trafficked by millions day-in and day-out for many years to come. Even Google, arguably the most trafficked and valuable property online does not have the same level of entrenchment and therefore cannot stay still. Google’s value will immediately diminish if it misses the next revolution in search or even lets another start-up be the first in the arena. And that is a real possibility. Just look at Yahoo or MSN not even ten years ago. Whether its Semantic Web or something else, all the online properties in the Web 2.0 world must find ways of keeping user traffic in their sites. Only then will the ad-supported business model stay afloat.

Enter Widgets & Apps. Online social communities are continually allowing open APIs for third party developers to create interesting sociable programs for netizens to use within the online properties. These Web 2.0 cities encourage people to build interactive attractions within their property to make it all the more interesting for online inhabitants to stay. In my eyes, Widgets & Apps are like the Starbucks of the real world. People just can’t get enough of it, and there is one on every corner of every block. I believe we are entering an age where the Widget/App will gain more and more importance and influence in the online world. As more and more developers shift from trying to create their own social community to creating the next great App, more interesting, and powerful products will appear.
While this might be good news for online cities, since all of these Apps will exist within their domains and work to keep inhabitants from migrating, there is one fallacy. We have seen and heard of Google’s OpenSocial, an initiative attempting to standardize development protocols so Widget/App developers can easily make their software compatible with any number of participating online communities. The problem for the online cities like MySpace, LinkedIn and Ning is that pretty soon the Apps that are supposed to make their property unique and ‘sticky’ for the inhabitant will be available in every other online city, completely neutralizing any ‘social advantage’ one online property would have over the other. Just like how you can find a Starbucks or McDonalds on almost every corner in New York or Tokyo, so too will emergent App makers like Slide, iLike and Google Maps be found on every single social network in the world.
So while OpenSocial may have an adverse affect for Social Networks, it will at the same time be a catalyst for the App’s continued rise to stardom. These Widgets & Apps are still property mind you, even though they are at present still trying to figure out the right business model. As of now Apps are still compulsively obsessed with the ad-supported business model that both the Social Network and the Search Engine love so much. As a property you can think of ad-support Apps like a Starbucks on every corner giving away free coffee but hoping you’ll buy their recommended CD of the month. Or like McDonalds giving away Happy Meals hoping you’ll buy a toy.

We are now on our third generation of online properties who have survived and succeeded based on an Ad-supported business model. Will it change? Perhaps. But its hard to move an entire industry that are true believers that traffic = ad dollars. Widgets & Apps have a unique opportunity to play with their business models that social networks and search do not: These new programs are transient and user-perpetuated, almost viral in nature. They can go in and out of Social Networks, Blogs, and many other online properties of the both the Web 1.0 and 2.0 eras. And while social networks continue to shift and collide like tectonic plates, jockeying for a bigger piece of the user’s online presence, Apps will be in every one of the properties, becoming increasingly more interactive, and capturing more and more of what’s really important: the user’s attention.

As an entrepreneur what kind of property would you rather create? A New York City, or a Starbucks Corp?


Kev’s Thoughts On… Blogosphere Immersion

Posted: February 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I’ve been relatively quiet in recent weeks and I apologize for those that periodically follow my writings and look forward to my next post.  The truth is I’ve been extremely caught up with a new business idea, in which I am currently exploring.  I won’t say too much more about it as of yet because its still in the developmental phase, but with any luck I’ll be able to build a really exciting Start-up.

I have found myself caught up the past several weeks digging deep into the blogosphere (for those who don’t know, that is the online world of blogs); mostly as a result of the research I’ve been doing for my new business idea.  But I have found blogs — other than purely amusing and useful on a social level — to be extremely informative, often more so than news articles or a Google search.

Blogs are personal windows into a person’s composition, similar to my own aspirations here.  Exploring blogs can be good or bad, since a lot of people post a lot of rubbish.  However what is so fantastic about the Blogosphere is that once you find someone of value, someone that truly publishes insightful and thought-provoking material, it is a fascinating world to explore, and likely adds to your own life one way or another.  This value compounds to the n-th degree, as great bloggers are usually linked and embedded into entire circles and communities of other fantastic bloggers.  Then your world really explodes as you begin exploring the discussions between these bloggers and begin to see the world, industries, and life through their eyes.

This type of information power has really benefited me in my research, as the facts and trends I look for are rarely found in a simple Google search, and are too emergent or industry-specific to be round in widely-circulated publications.  Reading the personal blogs of professionals within the industry gives me unique perspectives into the current issues on these leaders’ minds.  I get to pick up applicable tips for my own business plans from their reactions and off-remarks.  And I get to glean the most current industry information; as close as one can get to ‘insider information’.

It’s been fun. And I’ll continue to do it.

I’m going to start a list on the side margin linking to some of my favourite bloggers. For your benefit, and for my own quick reference.

To give you a peek into what I’m reading, I think I’ve read every single blog posting of Kaiser Kuo’s Ogilvy China: Digital Watch
And I just finished reading Marc Andreesesen’s The Pmarca Guide to Startups: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5  Part 6 Part 7  Part 8
And also his The Truth about Venture Capitalists Part 1 Part 2