How Tidal Goes Against All Current Product Development Theories

I’m not an expert in the music industry. I have no idea what the future olds for Pandora, Spotify, iTunes and now Tidal, Jay-Z’s new streaming service that describes itself as, “Introducing the first music streaming service that combines the best High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and expertly Curated Editorial.”

However, I have spent some time in the last 4 years teaching some classes on marketing new products. I lean heavily on the insight of Steve Blank, because, well he seems like a really smart guy. And Mr. Blank espouses a product development process that leans heavily on the following:
1) Finding a problem that customers have.
2) Developing hypotheses on how the customer wants that problem solved.
3) Testing that solution with as many customers as possible.

You’ll notice that all 3 principles of the process include the term, “customer.”

Tidal seems to use a completely different theory. Summarizing bullets from the Washington Post, Tidal’s offering is based on the following:
1) Consumers will develop a sense of ethics, i.e. a willingness to see musicians actually make some respectable royalties from music streaming, which they currently do not.
2) People will want exclusive content and hear directly from artists.
3) Those who subscribe to the premium service will receive higher sound quality.

Let’s compare the Tidal plan to the Steve Blank plan.
1) Is my problem that I think musicians are underpaid? Do I really care what musicians make on each song I listen to? Probably about as much as I worry that the 1st Associate Director on House of Cards can afford her rent. Or that the Copywriter on AT&T’s Barles Charkley commercial is being paid fairly by his agency.
2) And honestly, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.2 billion bands in the world. if Taylor Swift or Jay-Z stick their music someplace I can’t get it, will I even notice? What problem is being solved by taking music away from my channels of choice?
3) I’d love to see the research that says, “When Andy is at work listening to music on his headphones, what he really wants is higher fidelity music for $250 a year.” Even if this is true for some people, how many? How good can music sound? And won’t I need a pair of $800 headphones to even notice?

This isn’t a bash on Tidal. It’s simply an observation. They are taking avery non-technology product management approach, and that puzzles me because I live in my own little Seattle technology bubble. Obviously with the star power they’ve assembled, the deck is stacked in their favor, so they can skip some of “Lean Startup” type principles. They’ll have great marketing, get lots of exposure and be able to test the product in real time.

More choices for music is better than less, so I hope they do well. It will be interesting to see how their product development plan works out.

Seeing Sting and Julio Down By the Schoolyard

You know when you are sitting around with friends listening to music and enjoying a beverage or two, and someone says, “Wouldn’t be AWESOME if “Person X” and “Person Y” went on tour together?” And then you spend an hour debating what group of people you’d like to see collaborate on stage at the same time for a whole show.

Springsteen and Pearl Jam? U2 and Madonna? Paul McCartney and Justin Timberlake? Bruno Mars and the Rolling Stones? Usher and Toby Keith? And then you wonder sadly why it never happens.

Well somewhere high on my list was Paul Simon and Sting. And lucky for me, they showed up at Key Arena last week.

I wasn’t exactly sure how they were going to perform, but their model was fantastic and hopefully will be something other groups will replicate. For a pretty ridiculous ticket price, they combined their 2 bands into a fantastic harmony featuring both the predictability of the songs you want to hear, and the unpredictability of some weird combinations.

Grand total, we ended up with 30 songs over about 2 hours and 45 minutes. And frankly, the time flew by. The 30 songs themselves make for an awesome playlist (listen here if you’d like). But how they were executed made it even better.

They came out together, sharing vocals on 3 of their top hits, almost as if they had written them together. Then Sting did 5 of his own, Simon came back for a duet, Simon did 5 of his own, Sting came back for a duet and 5 of his own, Simon back for a duet and 5 more, and then a 4 song encore together. Basically, we ended up with 10 duets, and each guy did 10 of his own. Plus Sting did Simon’s America with one of his solo choices, which was a nice tribute to the man 10 years his elder.

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The highlights of the show were watching Simon sing on things like Fields of Gold, Every Breath You Take, or Sting taking Garfunkel’s role on Bridge over Troubled Water and The Boxer. These collaborations showed both how great the songs are, but also how much talent each man possesses to have the ability to step right in and make it seem like it’s his own song.

Almost as much fun as watching Sting and Simon, was watching how the two bands played together. They didn’t hire new people to back them up, they took their regular teams and mashed them up on the same stage. All told I think there were 13 additional people when everyone was out there. Instrument wise, I think I counted 2 drum sets, a percussion set (bongos and such), keyboard, organs, bass player, 2-3 other guitars, female vocals, clarinet/sax player, a trumpet, violin and an accordion / jack of all trades. They rolled on and off the stage depending on the song, which has to take some tight coordination.

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The bands themselves were pretty funny in how different they looked. Simon’s guys all looked like they were going to walk over to Floyd’s Place after the gig for some chicken wings and cold beer. Sting’s team looked like they would take an Uber down to the Triple Door for a glass of wine and maybe check out some jazz. But musically, they seemed pretty flawless.

It’s funny to think about two people who have achieved so much in their lives, but can also have such a respect for the other one, that their natural course of action is, “Hey man, let’s go make a few million bucks playing some gigs together.” On one hand it seems so easy. But I imagine it takes some special personalities not to get too egocentric about it.

If you live out east, the show will eventually get to Madison Square Garden. I highly recommended it.

Set List:
(Spotify Playlist)

Together:
Brand New Day, Boy in the Bubble, Fields of Gold

Sting solo:
Everything She Does is Magic, Englishman in New York, I Hung My Head, Driven to Tears, Walking on the Moon

Together:
Mother and Child Reunion

Paul Simon solo:
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Dazzling Blue, Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years, Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard

Together:
Fragile

Sting solo:
America, Message in Bottle, Hounds of Winter, They Dance Alone, Roxanne, Desert Rose

Together:
The Boxer

Paul Simon solo:
That Was Your Mother (aka The Zydeco Song), Hearts and Bones / Mystery train / Wheels Medley, Obvious Child, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al

Encore Together:
Late in the Evening, Every Breath you Take, Bridge Over Troubled Water

2nd Encore, sans bands.
When Will I Be Loved – Phil Everly

U2 At Qwest – Top 10 Spontaneous Decisions

So let me paint the picture for you….  

It’s the day after the child’s prom.  In either a moment of wisdom or stupidity, I had allowed child and friends to have their post party at my house, which sent us to a hotel. So, we went to the SAM Remix party that night and had a great time with friends.  Then, we stopped by the house and brought the kids pizza late night just to make sure the world wasn’t collapsing. 

So now it’s noonish on Saturday when Garrett and I head down to Safeco Field to catch the Mariners vs Rays game.  And I admit, I feel a little like an old guy who went to one party, stopped by a prom party and then spent a night in a hotel.

So Garrett and I are walking thru the north lot, and we can hear Lenny Kravitz’ sound check.  We ask ourselves why we aren’t going to this concert.  What stopped us from buying tickets? And hearts full of regret, we sullenly walk past Qwest.

Except…..  suddenly…..  we notice…..  

There’s a line outside the Qwest field box office.  We investigate.  We ask a few questions.  We do a few mental calculations.  And a few short minutes later, we are holding U2 concert tickets.  AND we’re walking to Safeco for a Mariners game on a 72 dgeree day.  You go draw up a better day than that.

Anyway, here are some pics from the 300+ level.  Great show.  Fun pics.

Nike “Write the Future” Postscript

Fun little side note here to what is probably the most successful guerilla YouTube ad ever, Nike’s “Write the Future.  Now, we’ve all seen the actual ad about a gajillion times.  I’m not sure why I was interested in digging in here – probably because I figured they created all the audio in a studio.  But it turns out the main theme from the spot (other than the use of Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher drum rift in the beginning) actually comes from a 1970’s Dutch band.  The Dutch band were even the ones who had the yodeling.  Check it out here.

Hide Your Kids – Antoine Dodson Update

From Mashable today..

There’s a new viral music act climbing the charts lately — and it ain’t Gaga. The Gregory Brothers — of “Auto-Tune the News” fame — have scored a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with their remix, “Bed Intruder,” another feather to add to a cap already feathered by a top-selling iTunes jam and an upcoming pilot on Comedy Central.

It’s worth reading the whole Mashable article here.  

(My previous Blog post on Antoine here.)

Random Music Review – The New Keane CD is Great

I’ll remind everyone that I have no musical ability, and my tastes are rarely shared by others.  With that said, I think the new CD from Keane, Perfect Symmetry,  is going to take them from their current status of “Someone I have heard of and kind of like,” to “Total World Domination.” Check it out on Rhapsody or your mp3 download of choice.  I’m on my 3rd run through the CD.  Good stuff.

Metallica Discovers the Whole Interweb Thingy

Remember when Metallica was visiting Napster, trying to get music downloaders fined?  Well apparently even guys with that kind of conviction can be swayed.

Wired reports that the band launched a promotion on YouTube featuring their favorite Metallica cover songs on the site. Drummer Lars Ulrich introduces
their selections.  They have their own channel, called MetallicaTV.

I don’t have too much of a take on this, other than I think it’s always encouraging when stalwart opponents of common sense eventually come around.  I’d love to give my feedback on the site from a social media perspective…..but I can’t get the channel to work in Google Chrome.  It all shows up fine, but no videos wiil play.   Is this common for other people, or just me?

Music from the Grave

Ok, so it’s an impossible list to create, but try to think about a few bands from the 80’s that you would NEVER exepct to get back together for a new album 20+ years later.  Either through death, drugs, arrest, conversion or whatever, there are bands you just don’t expect to see releasing a CD in 2008.

With this in mind I ask, how in the world did Whitesnake get a record company to greenlight a new project, cheesily enough called "Good to be Bad"?  Anyway, that’s what’s playing on my Rhapsody right now, and I made it through song 1 without shutting it off.  I have to listen to the whole thing just for the sheer shock value.