The Beauty of Endless Digital Possibilities…Ramble

Last week I was talking to a strategic director at a digital agency. We were discussing fashion brands that have embraced digital, as I’ve had several fashion clients and she wants to expand into that arena.

Naturally, digital superstar Burberry because part of the discussion. Known for turning a heritage brand into a cool, fun and fresh brand using digital tools, Angela Ahrendts (now at Apple) and Christopher Bailey (Chief Creative Officer & CEO of Burberry) are to be applauded for embracing digital. You can find Burberry on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, tumblr – The Art of the Trench is classic, and embracing live-streaming their catwalks on Periscope, as well as Burberry.com. In-store events, especially at the flagship on Regent’s Street, host live concerts with large digital screens that can be used as pure video or create unique light shows.

What first caught my attention for this refreshening the brand in the digital world, was the Burberry acoustic series, when Keane performed on top of The Great Wall of China, a few years ago and I was smitten. I read a few interviews with Ms. Arendt and Mr. Bailey that made me keen, pun intended, for more.

The point is, while Burberry has done a tremendous job, there is always room to do more, experiment more and with and that’s what I love about digital. The runway is endlessly full of possibilities. Okay, engineers, calm down, I get how coding works and how it’s never “done,” however look at wearables and A.I. and everything that was the stuff of science fiction novels and movies in the 60’s, which exists in reality today.

I told this woman I wish Burberry had an APP. She questioned whether a consumer would be willing to purchase a £2000 Burberry handbag through an APP and if it could redeem the cost. Oh agency mindset, why so cynical? My answer was a resounding yes. As we all know mobile use is only on the rise, with consumers stating mobile purchases motivation is more about free shipping, then lower pricing.

If you go and buy a car, you’ve done all your research. 90% of people who walk into a car dealership already know what they want, they want to make sure the stock is there and they can get the features they want, and of course, “negotiate” in floor mats. This woman was very skeptical, but all the research, and sales habits show when you have brand loyalty, consumers will buy it in the easiest way possible. Perhaps she isn’t a research person, so I suggest watching ‘Rich Kids of Beverly Hills’ and reading Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians,” to understand that when money is not an issue, getting what you want the moment you want it, is why Amazon Prime is so successful (and hello, they sell Burberry.)

Burberry does create customer accounts, which sales associates can access on a tablet in-store, but does not have an app for customers to purchase, giving access to exclusives first. I can think of half a dozen ways that could benefit them and loyal members.

When you limit the possibilities at the onset, the amazing ideas may never find a way to live. I have worked with minimal to unlimited budgets for artists and clients, and there is always room for creativity at all sizes, the only limit is your imagination and execution.

The Power of One…Ramble

Yesterday, Taylor Swift, gently, because she does, in general, have mad love for Apple, and is a savvy business woman, posted a letter to Apple, requesting they pay the fees associated with streaming to artists, producers, etc. during the three month period for their new streaming service’s trial period. She had a point about not being paid, hardware sales have always been the priority for Apple. Many tech companies build products and expect they will dazzle us so incredibly, content owners will fall over themselves, no matter what the cost to their own pockets to participate.

Taylor has been calling bullshit on streaming and it’s pay scale for almost a year publicly. Her “1989” album isn’t available to stream. She is in a unique position, and many other artists felt she wasn’t using her to power to stand up for them, but she very clearly did in this letter to Apple, so back off haters, she just shook you off and did you a solid.

With only a week to launch, the heat felt scorching, for a few hours, until Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services (see? I told you this is a engineer-based company, there’s no music indicator in his title), Eddie Cue stepped up, spoke to Taylor and tweeted a policy change on Twitter,  that Apple Music will “pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial.” Girls, hit your Hallelujah.

Through the miracle of the power of one person, one person in the right place with the power for her words to change the actions of a corporation that has more money than the American government (oh hey, Greece, maybe Apple could buy you as a vacation spot.)

To be fair, let’s talk about streaming in general and why this move is important. Consumers are streamlining their music and video libraries. Having moved almost two months ago, I opted to give away my entire CD collection. Now, you might say how big could it have been? I was a professional music programmer for Vh1 and Head of Music Video Programming for Yahoo!, plus a life long passion music fan. It included unreleased mixes music industry A&R staff asked for input. The mere physical weight and space of it did not leave me excited.

images

I looked at my computer, a six month old Mac Air Book, which doesn’t have a CD slot. I had sold my car, which felt outdated by having a CD player, despite a connector for smartphone/iPad, etc. Thinking of my economy of space, of not having to worry I was losing any music because of my premium subscription to Spotify, my iTunes and Amazon purchased music camped out in The Cloud, it was one less hassle. A massive collection to let go, it went to the right person, who owns many of the same CDS and is still keen on the physical and has promised to appreciate it and safeguard it, believing I will change my mind.

Streaming makes my life much easier. While I did purchase “1989” – via iTunes, if it had been available for me to listen to in full on a streaming site, I might have done it a lot sooner and not only two weeks ago.

taylor-swift-1989-deluxe-album-cover

Let’s compare this to renting a movie through a streaming service. The last rented movie I watched from iTunes was “Mockingjay”, which clocks in at two hours and 3 minutes. I got tired and stopped watching it with under thirty minutes left. Given that a rental has a 48 hour time limit, I tend to agree with what JinSai’s blog post regarding the 90-day trial period being too long, a day or a week should be more than enough to convince me you have offered a great product and I must have it. The 48-hour time limit on rentals, is a huge motivator so that consumers don’t forget to watch it, most watching it upon clicking to rent it.

When I went to watch the remainder of “Mockingjay,” I was met with a very sad flaw of the movie side of streaming services, a lack of upsell. I had missed the 48 hour rental window, by about an hour, if Apple had given me the option to finish watching the movie for another dollar or pound, I would have said yes. But it didn’t. It was a little unclear what the options were aside from sending a fear message “you will lose this download” – was my option to pay the full rental price again? I decided I wasn’t that interested. I loved the books so much, I delayed reading Mockingjay for two weeks so I wouldn’t be done with it. The first movie was terrible, the second movie much better and third, by splitting it into two parts, clearly you made it too long and opted for sleep. But, I digress (this is a ramble people!)

If Apple Music’s trial was a week, that is still longer than Apple would go unpaid, or their employees, so Taylor has a valid point, that we don’t get our iPhones free for three months, (unless we’re on a payment plan with a phone company, which charges us so much in interest we wind up paying several hundred dollars more for something that will be outdated by the time we pay for it in full). As a music programmer, when Coldplay’s X&Y was released, I, like many other music professionals, was invited to the record label’s office, where I could listen to the album, which was loaded onto an iPod, encased in glass. Often major decisions to sign a band are made on one listen. If I had had one listen of “1989” I probably would have bought it right away, but instead it had to prove itself to me.

I am pro-streaming, pro-economy of space, even in the memory of my laptop or smartphone. I am also pro-paying people for their creations and the team that goes behind making it available (it’s more than engineers, the operations staffers are the ones that deal with the digitization, the metadata push, etc., the A&R staff have to turn in all the correct documentation with correct producer/writer credits, etc. and on and on). Applause to Taylor for making a difference for all the hard working people in the music industry, and for Apple for listening and changing their policy so quickly. Use your own power to benefit those around you and you will not only win their respect, you can change the world.

Rebel, Rebel…Ramble

There are signs everywhere in London, to REBEL. The dictionary defines a rebel as a person who resistant any authority, control, or tradition. The 1950’s, which gave us Jack Kerouac’s second book, On The Road, and 1955 classic film, “Rebel Without A Cause,” amongst others, popular culture has glamorized being a rebel. Even my the ice coffee wants me to be a rebel. I don’t mind rebelling from war over processed food to the below delicious treat.

  
Personally, I prefer today’s rebels in the dome of women, standing up and calling out the sexism and discrimination. Although female empowerment books from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to Nastygal.com founder, Sophia Amoruso’s Girl Boss, and proof that women over 55 are best suited for strategic leadership, numbers this week revealed the amount of women in tech is down to under 30% and the women on tech boards are not in the leadership chairs. Is the rebellion working? Can it only succeed when famous women support the cause? Can awareness lead to change?

Rebel. It’s all around us. It’s the name of a gym I frequent. During classes we are all called rebels, to incite and inspire us to work harder, go against the grain. A teacher said “if there’s no pain, you’re not changing your body.” (Cut to me screaming in pain from pulling out my arm during the weight lifting portion of the class.)

  
Be a disrupter, a rebel. Yet, it’s taken social media to vent truthfully about shit people say about women directors getting the ultimate sexist treatment, being a given norm. That’s why I loved when Julianne Moore said no to the nail cam E! added to their inane red carpet coverage. Rebel against the nail cam, that is, unless you launched your own nail line and you are promoting it.

REBEL! Against women getting paid .70 cents to the US Dollar for doing the same jobs as men.

REBEL when so-called ‘women’s magazine’, Allure called reality star, Lauren Conrad, a ‘basic bitch,’ but she gave the most girl boss answer to a question pulled from a listeners at random, during a radio interview, asking her her favorite position, by responding “CEO.”

Recently, Oscar winner and single mom, Gwyneth Paltrow rebelled against her lifestyle site, GOOP.com being compared to other actresses’ brand extensions. She’s right, but press likes to pit women against one another, put people in boxes.

  
 For instance, Jessica Alba’s Honest brand sells safe eco-friendly baby products, which has netted her $1 billion dollars. Seriously. That is some seriously impressive work for a girl who grew up clipping coupons. Honey, you are the one laughing all the way to the bank, but The Honest Company has a different audience from GOOP.com, which offers recipes, city guides, clothing & accessories, mostly for women, and advice for women on everything from nutrition to how to self-promote– like a rebel.

Launched in early May, Reese Witherspoon’s website, DraperJames.com is a strictly e-commerce site for women who want modern Southern style. It doesn’t go too deep, even in the ‘meet’ section of the site, but has a sweet questionnaire about Southern style. A lot of people want to look pretty and be entertained in small doses. They don’t want to know what you’re reading or the latest palatable way to eat kale, and that’s where Reese comes in, providing charm and charming outfits.

Kate Hudson’s website sells strictly athletic gear (and yes, I have some, terrible name Fabletics, but really high quality product) on an ala carte or subscription basis. Again, that is a different business demographic. One does not attend a Southern tea party in athletic wear!

At the end of the day, rebel against comparisons and carve out your own niche. Do you. Always. And if any snakes are around, blast Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ to let them know what kind of rebel they are dealing with – one who sees the enemy, faces them, and triumphs, passing the bad juju back to the original snake.

Madewell + Spotify = Irresistible…Ramble

J. Crew- owned brand, Madewell, has been making some interesting partnerships since their inception in 2006, stalled a little and now has been slowly building into one of those brands that is growing faster than their parent store. They are now sold in Nordstrom’s and the week that Spotify announced it’s partnership with Starbucks, the Madewell partnership got lost in the shuffle.

As I’ve mentioned before, while the streaming war is heating up, using celebrities to attract new paid subscribers being a lure by both Tidal and Apple (Drake, if you weren’t adorable before, that $19M paycheck for DJ’ing for Apple makes you the smartest one at the end of the day. Tidal wave crashing in 5, 4, 3…), making a move in a different direction is a smart play. Instead of trying to compete with all your competitors in the same exact way, for the same consumers, Spotify made the smart move to become the next level of Starbucks’ music strategy.

  
Spotify also made a partnership with Madewell stores which made my heart thump a little faster. Madewell held Spotify parties in their select stores the same week the Starbucks deal was announced. The Madewell website has a navigation button dedicated to their Spotify partnership, which includes spotlighting three new female artists – twin sisters – Lucius (when I read that quickly, I was thinking EMPIRE’s Lucius, when is that show back?!), LA’s Kelela, and Sharon Van Etten, all of whom have created playlists and look books. The bonus? You get 60 days of Spotify Premium gratis for shopping those looks and there’s a contest for a trip to LA.

  
Smart move Spotify. Partnering with Madewell expands Spotify off-platform again, one that wasn’t obvious and I applaud you. Keep it up and you’ll be following in Victoria Beckham’s footsteps, who went from Posh Spice, to having her own Posh fashion line, as well as having designing a Range Rover, which puts her into a class all of her own.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty… Ramble

When I worked in Soho, NY the models going on go-see casting calls looked like fairies, dotting the often grey weather that fall. Since then, my interest in fashion has had a more concentrated interest. The colors and cuts of Alexander McQueen have made me sigh in wonderment many a time, none more so than at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.    My eyes fluttered. Here was magic, a different kind of spark than other fashion exhibits I have seen or even Fashion Week events. While the exhibit is based on one from The Met, which I didn’t catch, in 2011, only a year after McQueen’s death, the space and layout were extraordinary.  While the Death Becomes Her, mourning garments throughout history curated by Anna Wintour, at The Met, was historically interesting, there’s nothing I like more in fashion than drama, a real show. The McQueen exhibit includes quotes that enhanced the exhibit as to his own mix of self-awareness and inner turmoil. He was precise. He knew he was making a mark and he wanted to create conversations, arming women with a feminine touch. (The result of witnessing and also a victim of his older sister’s abusive first husband. She only found out about Alexander’s own abuse when he became an adult.)  It was a creative kick in the soul. I’m here, on this earth, go big. I wrote about the recent triad of deaths of men on the music & technology world. The McQueen exhibit was the exclamation point. So, whoever you are, be it a famous Olympian or a school teacher, everyone struggles, turn that struggle into a positive. Express it. Move in this life, not through it colorless. Those dreams, the ones you had once, but life got in the way, it’s never too late to make them a reality.

Americans have a tendency to value ourselves by our job titles, responding within a few minutes when a senior executive needs an answer. If you’re creative the world is your stage, exposure and criticism is expected, welcomed – at the same time, it can be a lot of pressure. Don’t let that pressure to fit into an easier pace of life, trap you into not taking creative risks. Thank you Alexander McQueen for the magic you shared with the world. Hope your tormented soul is laughing – you made your mark. Now, it’s my turn to do the same in my own life.

Spotify + Starbucks = Smart Move…Ramble

The streaming game has been hearing up the last five years, turning a once geeky, slow connectivity and often frustrating early adapters experience into the preferred way to consume new music.

Jay-Z may have a point about artist payments, but the way he launched his own service, TIDAL, (in partnership with labels) has left a sour taste in the air of greed. I read his autobiography. He had a tough childhood, he’s been part of the one percent longer at this point….

We don’t look anything alike, you may be wearing a Yankee’s cap, but you owned part of a sports team, a management company, you party on yachts and hang out with PPP culture’s A-listers. I don’t feel bad for you, you have Beyonce on your arm. But back to the point.

Taylor Swift is in a unique position to sway younger listeners getting their feet wet with streaming, but does she need her own service with another select group of artists that range from hipster cool main streamers to super wealthy? Doubtful. Too many factions and artists cutting out will lead to fans getting the raw end of the deal or turning, once again, to piracy, which is what streaming in general, was developed to stop.

That’s where a business, in this case Spotify, has to look at their roadmap and reassess what is going to make them maintain their audience, and provide the next step of enhancement. What will make their content more compelling than the same kind of exclusives other content sites provide? They are going to add video, that’s great but that game is heating up with competitors, so where can they go next, where competitors are not? Spotify’s new relationship with Starbucks brings together the U.S.’s other daily need – the one for caffeine.

Unknown-1

I’d much rather have baristas involved in Spotify DJ’ing and talking about music, with an added bonus of coffee perks, then the disastrous race relations program, #racetogether. This new relationship is forward thinking and beneficial to both brands. I say yes to Starbucks trying out new products, especially now they serve flat whites and cold brew.

Unknown-2

This is not the first partnership to expand Spotify’s cool brand offline experience. Their parnership with Uber has my man tortured while I play DJ. It’s a mobile party in the U.K. Smart branding all round and making the streaming experience communal.

Congrats Spotify, now can we please expand the deal to Europe so this premium streamer can get in on it? Cheers.

Bad Blood: When Professional Friendships Cross The Line…Ramble

Howard Jones sang “when you cross that line, there’s no turning back.” As we know Jane Austen’s beloved “Pride & Prejudice” leading man, Mark Darcy proclaimed “my good opinion is lost, it is lost forever.” When you work with people over a career, especially in a high-instensity work environment, friendships run deep. This is partly because, just like high school, your geographically aligned by profession, thrown together at the same tentpole events, repeatedly, and the long hours mean you have less opportunity to make new friends outside of your profession.

When you work in entertainment, more often than not, most of your friends will be fun, have big personalities and some hopefully, not completely surface level. You bond over the insanity of how not-glamourous it is,  how rockstars are babies who throw tantrums yet, it’s worth it, cause you just love music and film, etc. oh-so-much. Years go by and these bonds grow stronger, until, one day, you find out that friend you made an effort and made an effort to go beyond the confines of simply industry-related events, to become a true friend, has betrayed you in some way.

Unknown

What makes it worse, is if this betrayal bleeds into the professional part of your friendship. It becomes an insult the betrayer delivered a professional sucker punch, leaving you ready to launch a full-blown war because “you can’t fix a bullet, with a band-aid.” Good thing our girl Taylor Swift, goes there for you, allowing for when that mad love to bad blood, to be an anthem,  without having to draw blood yourself.

Thank you Taylor for giving us real humans a way to vent.  If you don’t have something nice to say, all you have to do is turn up “Bad Blood.”

images