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Ridin’ with Hypebot

My buddy Bruce Houghton at Hypebot, caught me last week for a quick interview before Rethink Music.  Here is an except from our discussion:

HYPEBOT: Your new focus is on consulting and investing. Are there any sectors, particularly within music and music tech, that particularly interest you or where you see the most room for growth?

DAVE KUSEK: Online education is one of them. This is an area that is already transforming how people learn and gain job skills and it is only going to grow as time goes on. There are big opportunities here that will effect tens of millions of people around the world. Online training is going to be huge. Job requirements are shifting and people need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances that can benefit them. The traditional model of higher education is already under pressure and there are many people and companies exploring alternative models that are very interesting.

The other area I am bullish on is live music and live events. The live concert experience cannot be digitized, yet can benefit enormously from technology. There really has not been much innovation in live music or in music merchandising beyond ticketing. I think there is a lot more that can be done with mobile technology and am actively working in this area. My investment in Tastemate is one way of digging into this potential in a meaningful way. We will be bringing our service to a venue near you, very soon.

I also think that there is potential to expand the reach of live performance using remote technologies. I am interested in ways to cut the costs out of touring to make it more profitable and to reach broader audiences. It is amazing to me that there has not been more activity in this area either, so I am looking for companies and people to work with that are thinking differently about what live music is all about and how to make it even more lucrative.

HYPEBOT: What are some of the things that Digital Cowboys has done in the past or is looking to do now?

DAVE KUSEK: We are focused on business development, marketing and product development, particularly in online and mobile services. We also do strategy consulting for businesses wanting to expand or enter new markets or make acquisitions. I say we, because while I am the managing partner, I also leverage a network of people around the world and with different specialties that I bring together to form a team to address the issues. For example, with a lot of the product work that we have done I brought together a team of visual designers and user experience people to execute on the product vision and do the testing. With business development projects I sometimes work with friends that have particular contacts or relationships that are beneficial to my clients. Sometimes I put together a couple different investors or strategic partners to provide capital or distribution or some other need. The main thing is to get the work done and show results, while trying to have some fun and work on interesting projects that are pushing the envelope.

HYPEBOT: There’s some talk of another tech bubble. Do you see think we’re approaching one in music and media technology?

DAVE KUSEK: I do think that some of the deals we have seen recently are off the charts, like Instagram – but who knows? That has all the earmarks of “bubble” written all over it. But Facebook is also about to go public and at their level, what’s another billion dollars?

But really I don’t think overall that we are at the point of frivolousness and excess that we witnessed in the earlier dot-com bubble, at least not yet. I believe that people are just beginning to figure out better ways to communicate and interact and learn via technology. That is having massive implications on the future of society around the world. Take a look at the stock market trend over the past 100 years and you will see that things tend to move up and people get smarter and more prosperous. I am an optimist.

There are a lot of music startups getting funded these days and certainly they are not all going to make it. I think we will see some consolidation in the DIY space as there are probably more companies addressing that market than the market really needs. The same is true for music streaming and distribution and music discovery. I think the real breakthrough companies will be formed by trying to do something completely different, rather than mimicking the past with technology. We’ll see.

HYPEBOT: Any plans to write a follow-up to the “Future Of Music” book?

DAVE KUSEK: I plan to spend a lot more time posting things to my blog and on digitalcowboys.com. This is a much better way to continue to update original thinking and way more efficient than writing another book. The music industry has gone digital and online outlets like Hypebot really do work as conduits in this business. That is a real bright spot in the transformation of the music industry. So, look for more at futureofmusicbook.com.

You can get the entire interview here.

More coverage from Hypebot here and from Billboard here.

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Visions of the Future

Here are two visions for the future, one from Corning and one from me.  The Corning video is from earlier this year and shows their vision for a visually connected communications environment.  This is not unlike the future that Gerd Leonhard and I described in the Future of Music in 2005.

Can you imagine organizing your daily schedule with a few touches on your bathroom mirror? Chatting with far-away relatives through interactive video on your kitchen counter? Reading a classic novel on a whisper-thin piece of flexible glass?

The video depicts a world in which interactive glass surfaces help you stay connected through seamless delivery of real-time information – whether you’re working, shopping, eating, or relaxing.

Does the world showcased in “A Day Made of Glass” seem like something out of a fantasy movie?  Just a decade ago, pay phones, VCRs, and film cameras were also commonplace. Today, we’re accustomed to movies streaming on demand to a 60-inch television hanging on the wall and to video calls on notebook computers, essentially for free.

What might this mean for music? Well, today we have Spotify and Rdio and Mog all providing on demand music for free or nearly for free. Listen to this vision for the future and see how far we have come in the past 5 or 6 years from our book on the Future of Music.

https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F29101326&show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=ff7700

Check out the Future of Music book here.

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Spin Magazine Book Club Pick – The Future of Music

From SPIN.COM

MC Lars, a self-proclaimed “post-punk laptop rapper,” may be best-known for his fast-talking rhymes about Hot Topic stores and hipster girls, but the Bay Area musician is notably literary, and therefore a fitting participant in our ongoing series of musicians talking about their favorite books. Not only has MC Lars penned songs about Moby Dick, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” and Hamlet, he’s also published a book of his own poetry called Bukowski In Love.

For his SPIN.com Book Club pick, Lars veers away from iconic works of literature, instead choosing a practical tome for anyone making music these days: The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution, authored by two veterans of pop music who outline the music industry’s digital future.

SPIN: Why did you pick this book?
MC Lars: I studied English literature in college, but in a few years I want to do a PhD in media studies, so I’m always reading books about music technology and the digital music revolution and the evolution of content and new media economics. I read this book because one of the authors, Dave Kusek, is a professor at Berklee College of Music and he’s a really smart guy [who actually was one of the co-developers of MIDI technology, a revolutionary development in electronic music]. It’s really influenced my philosophies on technology and media and it’s also really influenced my business model as a guy with a label.

How many times have you read it?
Three times. It’s a good one.

Do you reread the whole thing or do you just have sections you go back to?

What happened was I read it casually and then I read closely and then I read it again because I wrote a song that was inspired by it. I took some of his philosophies and made it into lyrics. It’s called “Download This Song.” The author heard my song, and on the website for the book they did a little piece about how the song reinforced those philosophies. It was really cool to have this author I really love like the song I wrote about his book.

Read the Spin Article here.

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The Future of Music Book and Podcast

Our book is available in various forms.

The Future of Music Book

You can listen to the book on iTunes as a podcast for free. Go to the iTunes store and search “Future of Music” podcasts and subscribe.

You can buy the book on Amazon for $11.53 or less.

You can purchase the audiobook from Audible for $7.49.

Here are a few of the reviews.

Publishers Weekly
Two innovators in music technology take a fascinating look at the impact of the digital revolution on the music business and predict “a future in which music will be like water: ubiquitous and free-flowing.” Kusek and Leonhard foresee the disappearance of CDs and record stores as we know them in the next decade; consumers will have access to more products than ever, though, through a vast range of digital radio channels, person-to-person Internet file sharing and a host of subscription services. The authors are especially good at describing how the way current record companies operate – as both owners and distributors of music, with artists making less than executives – will also drastically change: individual CD sales, for example, will be replaced by “a very potent ‘liquid’ pricing system that incorporates subscriptions, bundles of various media types, multi-access deals, and added-value services.” While the authors often shift from analysts into cheerleaders for the über-wired future they predict – “Let’s replace inefficient content-protection schemes with effective means of sharing-control and superdistribution!” – their clearly written and groundbreaking book is the first major statement of what may be “the new digital reality” of the music business in the future.

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FUTURE OF MUSIC IS NOW
Gian Fiero (Hollywood, California)

This book is so brilliant that it makes the vast majority of music industry books that are being published seem irrelevant. It discusses in detail, the reasons why the future of the music industry is headed into the digital/mobile entertainment era. It also provides statistical information that professionals, marketers, entrepreneurs, and educators can use constructively. Both Dave and Gerd (the books co-author), have their fingers firmly planted on current music industry activities and trends. They also possess and display a clairvoyant eye toward the future that offers beneficial insight and foresight to those who may not be aware of what this whole digital (i.e. independent) revolution is about, and most importantly, what it will entail to prosper in it. The book is easy to read, easy to understand and simply brilliant. If you buy just one industry book this year, this should be THE one. Buy it now!

5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible
Stephen Hill “Producer, Hearts of Space” (San Rafael, CA USA)

A stunningly candid source of concentrated, up to date insight about the music business and its turbulent transition into the digital era. This book tells it straight and will make the dinosaurs of the music industry very unhappy.

Like Martin Luther’s ’95 Theses’ nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, Kusek and Leonard drive nail after nail into the sclerotic heart of the old-fashioned music business. Their rational vision of the future of music rests on the idea of unshackling music from the hardcopy product business in a yet-to-be-realized era of open content licensing, facilitating sharing and communication among users, and growing the business to its full potential.

It provides as clear a vision of the future of the music industry as you will find, from two writers with a rare combination: a solid grounding in the traditional practices of the music business, an up-to-the-minute knowledge of the new technologies that are changing it, and the ability to think through the consequences.

I’ve dreamed about a book like this, but thought it would be impossible in today’s hyperdynamic environment where every week seems to bring a breakthrough technology, device, or service. But by digging out the underlying trends and principles Kusek and Leonard get under the news and illuminate it. Along the way they provide a brilliantly concise history of the evolution of digital media.

I can’t think of any book more important for artists to get the full re-orientation they need to survive and prosper in the digital era. It’s no less critical for members of the music and broadcasting industries who need to consolidate their thinking into a coherent roadmap for the future. In a word: indispensible.

Buy the Book

THE FUTURE OF MUSIC is available at bookstores and music stores near you including Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and many others. 

The book is also available at online retailers such as:

Amazon.com

Amazon.com UK

Barnes & Noble

Booksamillion.com

Berkleemusic.com