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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Design Use vs. Function…Ramble

This week’s Digital DUMBO: London edition meet-up brought up the crossover of approach by User Interface designers and architecture.

What should we focus on when drafting floor plans/building a wireframe: flow or function? They are two different mind sets. Examples were given of buildings that were made to foster neighbors to interact, Seattle’s flagship library to be an experience of the city, as well as one of learning.

images-1For me, choosing to reconognize how a space/screen/product is going to be used in tandem with creating an aesthetically pleasing environment is the magic recipe. Compelling content in a simple design is enormously appealing.

An agency I worked at in New York cared more about the appearance of cool, then productivity. There were three offices with glass walls, expensive artwork and the rest of the office was an open floor plan with music blaring over the heads of the staff. Most people wore headphones.

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If you are wearing headphones you can’t hear the phone ring. It’s important to pick up client’s calls. It’s important not to place speakers above desks of the staff. The building was so “cool,” the elevator was almost permanently out-of-order, and the stairs were old, missing railings, and quite steep.

This is where taking function comes into account with aesthetics. Remember when your computer would crash because websites were overloaded with flash? Your website traffic will decrease if it is inaccessible. Missing a plug-in on a highly designed website is the same as that missing chunk of handrail- a missed click could send a user’s experience spiriling downward and could cost you their interest.

Think big picture and about different points of views. Consider the user’s needs and make a solid, well-functioning site. You may not have Frank Gehry helping you, but you can certainly make sure the holes in your design won’t leave you with six months in a leaky, non-functioning website.

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The Power of Three…Ramble

The past month many of us in the music tech and tech world lost three truly great men- John Loscalzo (MTV, CBS Radio & much more), Dave Goldberg (Survey Monkey, co-founder of Launch which became Yahoo! Music) and Michael Deputato (Universal.)

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When John passed I was speechless. My dear friend Courtney Smith called to tell me the news. John was her boss at MTV and her current role at CBS Radio. My brain could not take in what she was saying. John and I were not only colleagues at MTV Networks, we were neighbors. He owned the local news source, BrooklynHeightsBlog.com and we had only been in touch on a local issue the day prior.

John was a quirky guy with an offbeat sense of humor, who loved his wife Traci Zamot and daughter, Gracie with such joy, it couldn’t help but make you smile to see them together. He was only 51. He liked to scheme, to take part in local politics and he always did it with a tremendous grin on his face. Walking down the streets of the neighborhood after his passing, you can feel John noticing things to report on, delight in and rally in the air. A truly great human who is very much missed.

Then, last week, another friend sent me a Viber message asking if I had heard about Dave Goldberg’s sudden death. My first reaction was to curse, not very ladylike, but it was another blow. When I worked at Yahoo!, I loved to see Dave in action. There was one meeting, the first working day of the year, I’ll never forget. Dave was fired up in a good way. He wanted to counteract a bad contract. The head of legal shook his head – he had put in many months of work with his team and said the ink was still drying on the signatures. Dave was not happy with the terms and asked me for my support.

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It was a deal that effected the programming of the website for years afterward – and Dave was right in his stance. He didn’t need my support, he could’ve, like so many other powerful men, simply dictated for me to carry out his orders. He was a great leader who knew how to inspire and be real.

Between his fire and beliefs in what he did at work, and his big heart- Dave handed out roses to everyone on Valentine’s Day and hosted amazing annual Super Bowl parties with his wife, Sheryl Sandberg at their home in the Palisades, Dave never let anyone feel like he wasn’t interested in what they had to say, and a true example of people who are truly successful championing other people.

It was on Facebook that another smart and wonderful fellow, Jon Vanhala, broke the news of a lovely man, and long time colleague, Michael Deputato succumbed to brain cancer this past Saturday. I remember calling Michael when Spotify first launched in the U.S. to ask his advice about naming conventions. The account was handled by sales, but the only way to make a daily impact is to create playlists, which tapped into my music programming experience.

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While Michael and I discussed the account he asked me how many people were on my digital team. I’ll never forget his shock to find out I was a one person team with ten dotted-line reports, wok ring the active roster. After that Michael would call me to check in on me- and give me a bit of a sanity check. What a good man he was, as were Loscalzo and Dave Goldberg.

What I learned from these men is to pursue your passions, make time and notice people who need your help – most of all do something, so watch life from the sidelines.

The Power of Authenticity…Ramble

We hear it the advice to be authentic professionally, but what does that mean on a personal level? What if you think you are being authentic, but you come off as insincere? Adjusting to a new country and the social codes of London, I’m starting to take stock of a of comments on “what is done” and “not done.”

Yesterday I took my French bulldog to a meet-up of over one hundred Frenchies in Regents Park. I realized I had been holding my breathe a little bit socially, and was excited to see another French bulldog and human as we were approaching the park. We began chatting and walked towards the park together. Ah, my people!

That fellow saved me from getting a ticket in the park. There are different rules when it comes to dogs in London – I can take Elle on the tube without being in a bag, but there are sections of the park she is not allowed to even walk on the path. She can come into pubs, but not cafes.

Walking into the meet-up section, my new companion and I came across a couple with their blue French bulldog. One of the men was wearing an adorable t-shirt with a French bulldog. I tried to engage him, but he gave me an icy stare, or as my love interest describes it “he gave no fucks.” I didn’t expect it to be easy, but being part of a community that makes a point of gathering, was taken aback by this person’s behavior. Later, I found out he is well-known actor. That doesn’t give him an excuse.

  A friend later commented on my video of the event naming the actor, who had posted a photo on his account, holding up his Frenchie, like baby Simba in The Lion King. The curation of life is something we all do. The actor was positioning himself as part of a warm, friendly community, with himself as part of it- a regular guy who goes to a public event with over 150 people on a Sunday afternoon in the park. It felt inauthentic to me. It felt like marketing, the caveat being, I don’t know him, and our interaction was truncated. It was 2 p.m., not 10 a.m., so the morning hangover explanation doesn’t really work for me, but is plausible.

  
What is being authentic? In daily life we curate the parts of life we want to show off, while cropping out unappealing elements. Language I take for granted, can be equally viewed as insincere. My New York upbringing is to be effusive, a trait of being a writer in a town where you can toss a coin and hit a writer on every block. My expressions tend to be positive, while the British style seems to be to undervalue things, almost borderline French – “it’s not the worst meal I’ve had,” or “that wasn’t half bad.”

  
I’m willing to give that actor the benefit of the doubt, that he was sincere in his actions of making the decision to attend the meet-up with his partner, to be part of the community, and I will be myself but mindful of being overly effusive, on that point, I am quite sincere.

 
 

Influence on Instagram…Ramble

A month ago, my beloved French Bulldog, Elle, was photographed, then featured on @thedogist ‘s account on Instagram. I was curious to watch, not only the amount of likes the photo had on his account, but the after effect of his influence on my account for my dog – @grrlgenius_ . (Side note: my dog did ‘takeover’ my original account, presenting a branding challenge when I started a ‘human’ account at the insistence of friends bemoaning I would never be able to get more than the average 2-3 “likes” on a photo, like everyone else. )

I had been at a Warby “Barker” event, meeting  a puppy named Sir William and his outgoing parents, to see him show up on The Dogist’s account. I noted the account did not have a lot of photos yet and under 100 followers prior to the feature. It also seemed like shockingly great luck The Dogist featured them, when it had been an open “dog ambition,” all my friends with dogs (even the ones without an Instagram account) have coveted. 

I watched as Sir William’s photos rose over 300 followers and were generally followed back for a 1.5-to-1 (followers to follower), rough ratio. Then Elle was photographed by The Dogist. For six days I waited, prodded by the few people who knew it was going to happen, and even received a message from my boyfriend stating he was “angry with The Dogist. When is he putting up a photo of Elle?” I was amused, but The Dogist, aka Elias, told people to relax, he has events he plans to cover, while forcing myself not to check. 

 
Finally, he posted a photo of Elle – the second of four daily posts. I had theorized the spotlight would boost Elle’s followers from 3300 to 5000, given the ratio I had seen on Sir William’s account, factoring in Elle’s account had a lot more content, as well as past experience.

A month later, the account is currently approaching 3800, the influence not as great, as projected. I theorized it might have to do with his account, only bumping numbers up 300. Given, when Instagram’s most famous dog, @tunameltsmyheart posted a photo of Elle last summer, the account numbers doubled over a week. The Dogist’s account had a similar amount of followers (703 k), to Tuna’s account when he tagged Elle. Still, the rise was not life changing. 

Social media is about buzz, numbers beget numbers, sometimes regardless of content (see almost ever bad celebrity Twitter account), so I kept my eye on The Dogist’s account, which increases on average, 3000 followers daily. There is a fondness for larger dogs and some people interpreted Elle’s “teefy smile,” combined with the pirate harness as being aggressive. She is a 20 lb. little dog who has never bitten anyone and could not be sweeter. 

I asked Elias a week after the post if he ever reads the comments. I knew he used to because he had responded to some of mine when he first began the account, but now he lets the photos speak for themselves. 

People tell me all the time they “don’t understand Instagram,” especially when their large social media audience on other platforms do not migrate. It’s a platform I am still experimenting on, now setting more solid goals for my dog’s account with a keen eye on making my passion for her shared on a wider level. 

What I have learned: time of day, humor, picture quality all count, as well as consistency, but you cannot beat influence, even if it is more incremental than you projected. A good photo will trump all of the factors, but is definitely helped by them reaching a larger audience. 

Are you getting the ‘right’ followers? Is the ratio of your account 10K followers to 100 you follow good? I don’t consider it influential of the number of likes for each photo is 100 for an account with that amount of followers. These are all factors I take into account. I will keep growing Elle’s account with quality followers as we connect with the IG community in London. 

My New Favorite Logo…Ramble

As I settle into living in London, I was invited to enjoy a ramen noodle meal at Bone Daddies. The food was incredible, but beside the point for me once I saw their logo: 

 
My mother admonishes me for sticking out my tongue in photos- a habit I have tried to break. The love grew even deeper when my date pointed out the small jar amongst the spices on offer, held rubberbands to tie your hair back while eating. Have I found nirvana on earth? Thank you Bone Daddies! 

  

And, bonus shot :