Must Read – Cory Doctorow on Illegal filesharing: A suicide note from the music industry

Use your wrists, Mr. Record Company Exec...

Cory Doctorow’s article in the Guardian.co.uk (it’s British, so the law doesn’t necessarily apply to the Americans in the crowd…) has an outrageously good look at how the record industry blew it  with their incredibly transparent and stupendously idiotic plan to stop music piracy.

This month’s announcement of a back-room deal between ISPs (internet service providers) and the big record companies to spy on suspected copyright infringers and reduce the quality of their internet connections is just the latest paragraph in the record industry’s long, self-pitying suicide note, and it’s left me wishing they’d just pull the trigger already and stop beating their chests and telling us all how unfair it all is.

Under the new scheme, the rule of law is replaced by a cosy inter-industry deal. Whereas before, anyone who wanted your ISP to spy on your internet connection would have had to show evidence to a judge and get a court order, now any joker who claims to be an aggrieved copyright holder can do so.

Really…the music industry couldn’t do a better job of vilifying themselves if they’d decided to start making dvds out of freshly clubbed seals.  Once again, they’re not only wrong-headed, they’re aggressively evil in a Bond-ian-villain sort of manner.

This is why I tend to run jam bands, jazz bands, anything but mainstream acts on the Friday Music Video; I simply cannot support the record companies.  I’d rather support the artists directly.  I buy direct from artist sites, or download live shows at Archive.org for my IPhone/IPod and I do the same as much as I can for my daughters.

If the record companies could envision a world in which we are something other than a completely captive audience, I may rethink things.  Cory offers these suggestions:

…when the record companies objected to the radio stations playing their discs without compensation or permission, the answer was a blanket licence for records played on air. It’s the tried-and-true answer to the problem of copyright-disrupting technology:

  • acknowledge that it’s going to happen;
  • find a place to collect a toll;
  • charge a fee that’s low enough to get buy-in from the majority;
  • ignore the penny-ante fee evaders;
  • sue the blistering crap out of the big-time fee-evaders.

The ideas not new.  It’s been around since filesharing first threatened to rob a record exec of the means to pay for his beemer.  The point is this, they’ve now gone so far as to have made themselves unsalvageable.  In ancient days, you had one opportunity to save your city when you came under siege – surrender before we have to attack.  Once the attacks begin, your city will surely be sacked, the buildings burned and the women ravished when the walls are breached.

Now we’re at the point where anything less than completely sacking the record companies won’t suffice.

Friday Music Video: Asylum Street Spankers

Country-Western Murder Ballads meet Gangsta Rap – it you don’t have a sense of humor this isn’t for you.  Heck, if you don’t have a sense of humor, what are you doing reading this blog anyways?

They’ll be playing in Cambridge Sept. 30 and Fall River the following night…and are in the midst of a major tour so check them out!

More info at their site, aptly named http://www.asylumstreetspankers.com

Why Most Online Communities Fail…

David Churbuck linked to the Ben Worthen story in the WSJ yesterday entitled “Why Most Online Communities Fail“.  David points out that a simple typo from a Deloitte powerpoint managed the ruin the story and deflect the discussion from the matter at hand to a moot discussion on percentages.

1. Going out with the claim that 60% of businesses invest over $1 million in online communities thanks to a Deloitte typo that should have stated 6% is not a great way to get off on the right credibility foot. Worthen does the correction, but …

The point I’d like to make goes more to the point in Churbuck’s piece that will be overlooked – “This is bad research on a tired topic.”

You see, the thing that all of the social media gurus, wannabes, and willneverbes would have us believe is that community is easy. You build it and they will come.  The truth is so very far from there that if it was commonly known no marketer in his/her right mind would ever utter the words “let’s build a community, gang!” again.

Sounds harsh?  Well, it ought to.  There are way to many businesses committing to creating community development without the slightest thought of what the real ramifications of failure are.  And even worse, they judge the cost of creating their communities solely on the basis of what the servers, dev costs, etc. will be and routinely devote little or no resources to actually managing and developing that community.

I say it again, more clearly: a community will fail surely if you do not devote experienced people to building and moderating it.

Note that word, people.  I don’t say person.  And there’s a lot more that goes along with this.  There are ton of real, hard costs that you’re going to face in order to make a community successful.  Building in these terms isn’t development, it’s people attracting other people to your service, getting them committed, and giving them reasons to stay there.  This big myth is that communities build themselves.  When done right, it will look like they build themselves,  but there’s always someone helping the community get going.

This is where I see companies fall flat on their face time and time again (sorry, not gonna name names here, but I could).  They think that assigning a marketing intern to run the site they just poured a million in development and up front costs into, is going to be sufficient.  People come in once, if your lucky, look around, realize they’re essentially hanging out in an empty room and leave.  Eventually the company folds up shop, does a post mortem, fires the intern and promptly forgets every lesson they should have learned.  Then someone chimes in “hey gang, let’s build a user forum and share our brand.” Then the cycle starts all over again.

Most businesses have no business running communities.  They want to make “the brand more transparent” and in the end, they hurt the brand by creating a bad user experience that has nothing to do with their actual brand, but through association, it’s now taking the hit.

If you don’t have experts who can show you working communities they’ve built, and if you’re relying on consultants who aren’t cautioning you, you need to be very wary. Personally, I feel the best place to expose the brand to a community is through active sponsorship of existing communities.  You don’t need to own it, you get a ton of mileage for your buck, and the positive effects start right away, not a year from now when  your development cycle is done.

Think about it…why own a community when you can rent one…

More reading:

Helen Whitehead on Why Do Online Communities Fail? – a well thought out piece with some good advice.

R. Todd Stephens, Phd – making the point that communities struggle when there’s no good business reason to get involved.

C. David Gammel at High Context Consulting on the Three Reasons Branded Online Communities Fail

Update: Tom O’Brien at A Human Voice commented on the Churbuck post with probably the most important note of all “the community vendors were scrambling hard to pull the curtain back up..”  Darned straight, they have been scurrying to get the genie back in the bottle.  Tom’s own post – “Social Media Madness: Build it & they will come . . .” also puts the lie to to the maxim that brands need to develop communities.  As he puts it, the community often already exists, and “increasing brand value” isn’t their goal.