Launching a venture? Can you blog your way to success?

When I consider new ventures, the first thought that comes to mind is this: could venture X continually publish a blog that would attract and delight target audience Y, while simultaneously informing Y on the value venture X delivers?

If the answer is no, venture X may be a bad idea, impossible to market, or both.

I have learned that when it comes to marketing anything:

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The End-Date

In any business, a good manager should be able to tell you the ‘end-date’.  The end-date is a hypothetical day in the future when cash reserves will run dry if expenses continually exceed revenues.  Knowledge of the end-date is a huge (negative) motivator.  When the boss says: "We need to generate X by next Thursday or else...", people respond like soldiers going to battle.  

I am going to argue that bands and projects need end-dates to succeed.  Far too often, as music industry participants, we begin things with no end-date in mind.  We enthusiastically invest our undervalued time, and we keep doing so until the project crumbles, until a bandmate unexpectedly quits, or until the van breaks down five hundred miles from home.  This is no way to run a business.  Pick an end-date on day one.  Print it, hang it on the wall, and let it serve as a motivator for everyone.  If you haven’t reached your goal(s) by the end-date, then end it.

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Music as a Service

Today, a great wireless device has to be a phone, a camera, a computer, a GPS, an e-book reader, an application ecosystem, an entertainment center, a social instrument, a business toolbox, and a great music service.

Music probably consumes more device-time than any other phone feature.  So, it’s clear that device manufacturers understand that music-as-a-service (MAS) is a core feature that’s essential to competing. 

However, the current music stack that includes: MP3 acquisition and management, playlist management, playback control, music discovery, music recommendation, and social sharing is outdated and cumbersome.  

Streaming services such as Spotify and RD.IO are far better.  However, to a device manufacturer such as Apple, leaving MAS to a third party is akin to letting Sony or Cannon supply the iPhone camera (after the sale and out of Apple’s control).  

Similar to cameras, maps, telephony, social, and cloud services, MAS will be a supplied (more than less) by device manufactures.  Here are some of the features I expect to be directly welded into every device:

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Random Health Hazards You Might Have Missed

Wi-Fi Routers – over the years, I have unwittingly experimented with sitting and/or sleeping close to various Wi-Fi routers.  I’ll say this: if you have digestion or sleep issues, try moving your Wi-Fi router away from your desk and bed.

Mouse Arm – I have been using a mouse since 1984 (I had an original Mac.).  Think about holding one arm up over your desk, with your fingers gently curled around a mouse, for eight+ hours a day over thirty years (80,000 hours).  This creates all sorts of physical imbalances that I am continually working to correct.  

Sloped Floors – Most building structures naturally settle, which causes floors to slope.  If you sit in a chair all day, a sloped floor (a slight fraction of an inch over six feet), can wreak havoc on your spine, hips, and joints.  Get a six-foot level; if you need to place a single penny under the level to balance it, you have a sitting situation that will harm your health.

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Startup Articles That Standout

Here are some of this best startup articles I have read this summer (2013):

 

Why are software development task estimations regularly off by a factor of 2-3?

Over the years, I have tried to explain to friends that building software is not like building house or baking a cake.  It’s more like surgery.  Sometimes you open up the patient and find the unexpected; what starts out as day surgery can result in months of medical attention.  However, this post on Quora, and the comment by Michael Wolfe is a far better analogy.  There are also some great comments on the same page.  Well worth reading.  

 

The one cost engineers and product managers don't consider…

Kris Gale, VP of Yammer (acquired my Microsoft) writes about how features drive up unaccounted costs.  

“The work of implementing a feature initially is often a tiny fraction of the work to support that feature over the lifetime of a product…”

You can code a feature in two hours, but the cost of supporting that feature into infinity and beyond needs to be accounted for.  This is another post that reminds to keep it simple stupid.  

 

Product Strategy Means Saying No

Des Traynor, the CEO of www.intercom.io, makes a powerful case for saying NO to features.   

“Editing a product requires some hard decisions about what to build. You can speculate that any un-built feature could transform your product. But speculation is all it is, nothing more. When you’re afraid to make hard decisions, you fall back on appealing to the unknown, and therefore building everything. You end up with a repository of features, not a product.”

 

Pitching Hack: It’s Not What You Said, It’s How You Made Them Feel

Tyler Crowley, a man that knows a thing or two about pitching ideas to people, has some great advice on using visual, emotional stories to hold the attention of audiences (investors).  

 

Do Things that Don't Scale

From Paul Graham.  There are a lot of things founders should do that don’t scale, such as paying extreme attention to the WHOLE experience of being a user, with “product” being just one component of the overall experience.  Lots of great examples and antidotes in this lengthy post.

 

Compound Growth For Artists

There’s a lot of commonality between business advice for artists and startup advice.  In a recent post, Paul Graham (@paulg) writes about doing things that don’t scale.  Near the top of the post, he talks about compound growth:  

“If you have 100 users, you need to get 10 more next week to grow 10% a week. And while 110 may not seem much better than 100, if you keep growing at 10% a week you'll be surprised how big the numbers get. After a year you'll have 14,000 users, and after 2 years you'll have 2 million.”

You don’t need to hit home runs.  10% weekly growth will get you where you need to go. 

Everyone is a Song Collector Now

Music streaming services don’t excite me.  I don’t care about the size of the library.  Finding songs on iTunes is rarely a problem.  For me, discovery and curation are not problems that need solving.  All my friends play music, and music is played (more so than ever) almost everywhere I go.  I use Shazam to tag songs, and then once a month, I buy them on iTunes.  I have a handful of iPods Shuffles that I stuff with songs to listen to while working out, and I use my Mac to play music around the house.  I doubt my habits are much different than the majority of music listeners?

Music is a collect and control issue for me.  Like a lot of people, I have been collecting songs for years. The time invested in filling my library is far more valuable than the files (the MP3s).  You could take away my music files, but you would have to kill me to delete the last copies of my playlists.

This brings me back to streaming services.  These businesses are far too embryonic and unstable to trust with my song collection.  If I can’t seamlessly move all my playlists from one service to another, then I have no interest in COLLECTING music via a service that could be gone tomorrow.  Moreover, I don’t want to be locked into any one service for the rest of my life. 

Collecting songs is a pain in the ass  (see my process above).  If you want to attract song collectors (everyone), you have to make it easy to collect songs, compare collections (with friends), play collections, move collections (between hardware and services), manage collections, and mix collections (think sex between playlists).

As for all of the other stuff like discovery, tickets, merch, tweets, and photos…yeah that’s all great as long as nobody controls my collection…but me.