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dylan_pic_212Musicians are very busy people. Busy because they are creative and it takes a lot of hard work to compose and publish music that their fans listen to. Add to that the endless discussions on patents with lawyers, the award functions to attend to, the distribution and endorsement deals to be signed and the advances to be secured; there is really very little time to listen to what their fans are telling them let alone involve them in co-creating new experiences. That kind of flies in the face of what a musician is supposed to epitomize – connecting with, listening to and drawing inspiration from their paying public.

There is symmetrical irony in the fact that the legacy mindset of the music industry of ownership and control has in fact laid the foundations of “peer-to-peer” music which now threatens the very existence of CD sales. Add to that the fact that except for some discontinuous campaigns against piracy, precious little has been done to involve mainstream listeners in experiences beyond the gigs and ringtone downloads. The “paying” listeners are expected to pay for the gigs and the tracks and that money (or large parts of it) are likely to be used by musicians to be on the top TV Channels – a dichotomy that does not hold up in the halls of reason.

Musicians identify well with record sales and airtime on radio channels. They are yet to learn about rallying the support of communities of music fans who connect with each other based “their” genre of music or “their” favourites, “their” gigs and “their” personalities. These communities create buzz by sharing their own experiences, vote and rate gigs and tracks, create playlists of their favourites and in fact help co-create the brand that musicians seem to find difficult to do, by running after yesterday’s mechanisms.

The fact is that it is the listener who now directs the playlist of her own station. History bears testimony to the fact that no regime that denied participation of customers in any industry has ever lasted, and players who do not view this as “clear and present danger” will sooner or later land up making way for new paradigms that they didn’t see coming (e.g. the demise of proprietary software architectures). There ought to be a smarter way of doing things. Something, that is more “inclusive of” and “rewarding for” the “listeners”.

There could not be a better time than now to for musicians to invest in a proper strategy. A strategy that enables them to find, connect and lead groups of followers by providing a platform for their collaborative experiences. This is obviously not a “knee jerk, back-of-the envelope, let’s do Facebook” plan that happens and then just fizzles out. In fact it was painful to see a leading Indian Band have 286 followers in FB with little or no growth, let alone meaningful conversations, in the last 3 months. It is about defining objectives, articulating viral initiatives and investing in them till results are realized. It is about realigning their initiatives to include others that are more responsive to the current moments of truth. There is huge opportunity in leading the way music is heard, experienced and promoted – by co-opting the experiences of communities.

Now back to the title of this post. I am an ardent listener (read follower) of Bob Dylan. Apart from being one of the most prolific artists of all times, what impresses me most about this forever young poet, singer and musician is the way he uses social media to his and his community’s advantage. engrosses you in its magically crafted content (simple yet intriguing), entangles you by rewarding you with a track from his latest album when you sign-up, and finally enmeshes you by allowing you to post your profile, create your playlists and publish your own blogs and create buzz with other Dylan aficionados. Although separated by several thousand miles from where Bob is, I feel a sense of connectedness and involvement. In way I think Bob has answered his own question “How many miles must a man walk down?” .. “The answer is blowin'” … in the Web.

And the Indian Music Industry would do well to listen up, before the Hard Rain starts-a- fallin’.

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The din around start-ups is reaching unbearable decibels. Cautious optimism seems to be the flavour of the season despite the darkness of recession looming large in every possible industry and region. There is frenzied dialogue in communities on the dos and don’ts, about incubation, about angels. The situation has become somewhat like the Alice in Wonderland’s mad tea party but like in the story one hopes that Alice 2.0 would emerge the winner with her questioning the fundamentals, knowledge and finally asserting as a victor (not a victim) of her circumstances.

It is about seizing the opportunity as against surrendering to circumstances. It is about innovating the way in which your enterprise can be built.

I was reading a slightly older but nevertheless authoritative and brilliant post by Marylene Delbourg-Delphis on Startups-Starting during a recession. I would like to build on some of the wisdom that Marylene brings to the table on her blog:

3 things that she mentions upfront are written across the wall:

1.      Angel financing has dried

2.      A slowing economy has reduced near term growth expectations

3.      Venture Capitalists are focusing on their “portfolio” companies

Build the leanest possible organization

Leveraging friends and other sources of organized “pay-for-skills” sites makes sound business sense. Add to that the potential of leveraging a community of talented contributors whom you can co-opt on a “return on efforts” basis – i.e. pay for efforts or trade an affordable percentage of equity for helping you transform your ideas into products. Building your network of Contributors as against adding full-time headcounts to your organization is an option you need to weigh out. It would in my sense be better to err towards “building adaptability” versus bringing up “another-brick-in-the wall’ enterprise.

Issues around Trust can be addressed by exploring means for validating identities and reputation available both in online and offline formats coupled with simple yet encompassing Teaming Agreements which help protect your IP.

There could be no better time for investing in your ecosystem of Contributors and other Ideators. This is simply because availability of talent and capacity is at an all time high now. And, so are the appetite for co-creation and the available attention span for new ideas.

The key question that needs to be answered for those you partner with is : Does it help them realize their aspirations?. Unless the WIFM (What’s in it for me) Factor is addressed upfront it can lead to uncalled for misunderstandings down the road.

Generate Revenue

Following the early beta approach made famous by Google, one has to be ready to capture monetization and revenue opportunities during the early stages. These could include independent components you have built for your product or exploiting partnering opportunities with another product which compliments yours. We were in discussion today with an Identity and Reputation Solution Provider and saw great sense in partnering with them for our Community Powered Innovation Platform. Our platform which lends itself to Innovation by leveraging a Community of Ideators, Contributors and Sponsors is right now seeing significant potential use cases in areas we had not thought about and promise immediate revenue streams. “While you reach for the stars don’t forget the pearls at your feet”

Less is more Talent and Deeper company culture

I couldn’t agree with this more. Tying revenues to headcount is sure death formula, especially for Startups. Starting with your close contacts you can leverage whole communities to rally around your value proposition (don’t forget the WIFM Factor). It is important to think of an “extended enterprise” right from the word Go. If you can inculcate a culture of working beyond boundaries from day one the chances of your success are greatly enhanced because then you are no longer dependent upon the proverbial gurus “inside” your enterprise or garage wherever you start from.

Gaming the Recession

What are also becoming evident are the convergence and the need for social skills in building our enterprises of tomorrow and the key requirement for a more “inclusive” model of partnering to build them.

Just as the abundance of capital (and the resultant carelessness) of the dotcom era has taught us hard lessons, the current environment of scarcity will also teach us how to realize our goals.

Whatever be the challenges, the audacity of enterprise will always find a way to win the elections to our collective futures.

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thumb_480_india_innovation_diagramThe economic slowdown and resultant killing fields of un employment are here. Pink slips, voluntary sabbaticals and pay-cuts have become an order of the day. Yet history has shown that some of the biggest stars were born out of such times – names like Google, CNN, Walt Disney and several others immediately come to the fore. Indeed these companies and several other entrepreneurs have shown what it takes to realize an idea by often sailing on uncharted waters and most importantly how to turn seemingly insurmountable odds in their favour. Read the rest of this entry »


My conversations here are about Ideas and innovation across individuals, communities, industries and ecosystems that can help create a better planet

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February 2009
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