February 24, 2007

From Student to Metropolitan Opera Pro

I am always happy to see my former students doing so well. Today, I got to see Keith Miller in the Metropolitan Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

Keith graduated from the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia in 2005 and has been singing at the Met for the past year.

Last fall, as I was preparing Eugene Onegin production at AVA, Keith called from New York interested to sing in my production the same role he was slated to do at the Met, and so he did. Smart move.

One curious thing about Keith Miller is that before becoming an opera singer he played professional football for 5 years and had the honor of being an Olympic Torch Bearer for the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Keith is an excellent artist who has disciplined work ethic and that special likeability. Backstage at the Met it was clear that everyone from principals to support staff love working with him.

Bravo, Keith!

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February 23, 2007

Steve Jobs on iTunes, iPod & DRM

The Bottleneck

Steve Jobs’ open letter
Thoughts on Music advises the record industry to abolish Digital Rights Management (DRM), the copy-protected downloads. In his view, DRM cannot prevent piracy.

The “big four” Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI control 70% of world’s music distribution and fiercely protect their investments against online piracy.

Jobs argument is simple. Record companies sell DRM-free CDs which are easy to copy and redistribute online, but they impose DRM copy-protection on online stores hindering the growth of legal music sales.

Having the ability to put purchased music on several devices that consumers own at home or work is the DRM bottleneck.

Shrewd and Ahead of the Curve

Steve Jobs is a proven moneymaker. He wants to sell music legally, not give it away.

If DRM were to go away today, iTunes stands to attract a massive customer base of potential music shoppers who own other non-iPod devices.

Alternatively, Jobs is promoting systems interoperability and is proposing to license Apple’s FairPlay DRM technology to all other devices to standardize the entire industry. Obviously a major business opportunity, only if it were realistic.

Then, there is iPhone -- wired for everything.

Consumer and Environmentally Friendly Music Industry

Manufacturing-driven music industry is a thing of the past. Experience suggests that just as LPs became extinct CDs are quickly facing similar fate.

Music industry evolved.

We griped endlessly about having to buy the full album when we only liked one song. Now that problem is solved. We buy and download only those music selections we want and organize them into music libraries on our preferred digital devices.

Common Sense: Affordability = Lower Impetus for Stealing

iTunes model is appealing. It is uncomplicated. For anyone who can afford an iPod, low-cost songs are easily affordable.

In a partnership of music artists, producers and sellers, everyone should be fairly compensated.

Innovation is not without pitfalls but guided by visionary leadership and common sense it has proven to improve our lives.

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February 04, 2007

Success in The Long Tail

In an earlier post I observed that Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail tells much of its story by looking at top brand names. Quality brands earn their good name by doing remarkable work. They engender consumer confidence.

I thought it would be interesting to look at how fits in the “long tail” culture. - Building Blocks of High Value Niche Brand

Contrary to popular belief of aggregating business on the Internet, depending on the market segment, barriers to entry create high value niche brands.

To join, music teachers pay an upfront annual membership fee of $99. This process ensures a roster of confident musicians committed to offering quality teaching service for prospective students. model is about a deeper commitment / higher reward relationship, and it works.

Win, Win, Win - The Only Thing That Counts

Upwards 90% of members come back to renew memberships annually. Members achieve success by helping serious students and membership renewals confirm real value in the service. Everyone wins.

Long Tail Influence on Peeks and Valleys of Cyclical Business

Families with kids live on an academic calendar; off in the summer, back-to-school in September and so on.

The Internet, however, created ample opportunities that now are reshaping peeks and valleys tied to academic year cycle. music teachers generate a consistent flow of students through the year since many students choose to start lessons on their own time table, whenever they are motivated and ready.

Abundant Market Demand Fills the Dips in Business

Here are just a few examples that drive new opportunities that help members fill dips in business of traditional teaching cycles:

  • Shifts in job markets cause many families to relocate to new cities where both kids and adults continue music lessons.

  • Adults, both professionals and college students who have never taken private music lessons as kids, are a large opportunity segment.
  • Retirees are a growing segment of private music students. They have the desire, time and the means to pursue private music lessons.
  • Popular TV music talent shows motivate aspiring contestants to get private music lessons and prepare for auditions.
  • High school students seek out music teachers to help prepare for college/university music entrance examinations.

  • Ghena
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    February 03, 2007

    Happy in Orange County

    Tina shares her feelings:

    I have been soooooooooo pleased with my membership! Thank you! - Tina Casey

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    February 02, 2007

    The Long Tail

    In his book, The Long Tail, Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More, Chris Anderson explains and redefines the 80/20 rule of economics.

    I purchased the book the moment it came out in 2006 and below is just my overly simplistic attempt to capture the book’s point.

    80/20 Rule - Bricks and Mortar Retail
    In retail, roughly 20% of products, top hits, represent 80% of total sales. The rest of the products may sell once in a while.

    Online Stores – Driving Business from Hits to Niches
    Anderson points out that in online business the numbers reverse. The long tail of niche products is so large that even if products sell sometimes the niche sales could be just as large if not larger than top hits in the short head.

    Wal-Mart vs. iTunes & Rhapsody
    Wal-Mart, largest U.S. music retailer, maxes out at 4,500 unique CD titles (about 60,000 tracks) of which top 200 albums represent 90%+ of sales. In contrast, iTunes & Rhapsody offer millions of tracks since cost of carrying digital inventory is inexpensive. Hits will always be hits, but the long tail of music tracks that sell once in a while is a major chunk of change for large aggregators.

    The New Economics of Culture and Commerce
    This description on the book cover is spot on. Innovation influences behavior and change in our culture and commerce.

    Final Thoughts

    The book is excellent and makes you think. What’s most apparent is that it centers on high value brands: Google, eBay, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and so on. They are top aggregators in their respective fields, they do remarkable work and consumers trust and embrace them. Ultimately, quality brands win.

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