The Job PDX
The Job PDX
26. Dave Allen

Dave Allen is an Interactive Strategist at North, writer and educator, and bassist for Gang of Four.

Show Notes

Recorded Tuesday, August 20th, 2013, and this is episode number 26. Follow Ray, Kandace, Dan, or Needmore on Twitter. Please rate our show on iTunes!

The Interview

Yes, we’ll see if I did enough. Although I will tell you. I try to do this with all the guests. I haven’t researched too much, so I’m not really sure. Just from listening to you here for a few minutes, I’m going to try to guess where you’re from. Memphis? Just kidding. Just a little ice breaker.Actually, where are you from?
I’ve been here in the States since 1989. Part of my professional music career got me to La. I used to … suddenly I can’t speak. The US was one of our biggest markets for the band. We were here a lot. I had other bands and just kept touring in the States. I met my wife, my girlfriend at the time, and just decided to leave London and go live in warmer climes in Los Angeles which, a lot of people I know move from London to New York, but that just feels like the same thing to me. Crowded streets and taller buildings of course, but otherwise it’s still a busy metropolis. I like the idea of Los Angeles as a Pacific rim city, not really an American city. I think that’s why Americans don’t get LA something. It has no this, it has no that.
It’s not like it has a singular, it’s more … it’s kind of more of a sprawl. You think of, it’s like a huge part of California is LA, really. I do.
Yes, that’s true. Big chunk of it.
Okay. Let’s go back to England. You and Gang of Four, which … Are you familiar with that computer book that’s nicknamed The Gang of Four?
There’s a few different things. There’s a Chinese, not Chinese. There’s a Chinese Maoist party called The Gang of Four. There’s a gay card game for sale, tends to come up when you Google Gang of Four. There’s all sorts of things. There was a British, the social democrats who broke away from the labor party call themselves the Gang of Four.
Pretty much any group of four people could potentially steal that name.
It gets called a lot. It gets used a lot, sorry, when it’s a group of four people.
Yes. When you, I certainly remember, I guess I’m not old enough that I was probably buying an album when it came out. I definitely remember Entertainment when I was young.
Yes. Came out in 1979.
Okay, yes.
It’s really interesting. It’s still very relevant today. It always pops up on the Top 100 Best ofs.
Yes, totally.
It’s amazing. That and Solid Gold, the second album, I’m really proud of those. Sort of like, job done. Don’t need to do it again.

Gang of Four Albumns

Entertainment!, debut album, released in September 1979
Solid Gold, released June 15, 2004

Yes. It’s nice. It sort of encapsulates that period. I think when I listen to it, I remember hearing it when I was in high school. It was sort of the canon of what, sort of punk crowd you would listen to. This is our heritage, part of that whole thing. Now, when I listen to it, I kind of relistened to it to get psyched up for the interview. I can’t help but think there’s been a lot of bands who are influenced by it who probably don’t even realize it.
Yes, there’s that. There’s a lot that do realize it and they give us a lot of credit. It’s good.
Oh, cool.
I think what’s fascinating to me about both the albums are how well they stand up from a production point of view, the actual recording process. Entertainment was recorded live in the studio pretty much, very very very few overdubs if hardly any. What that meant is it doesn’t have the horrible crashing [lindrum00:04:08] snare sounds of the 80’s and things like that. It’s just a raw band-like, as if you’re playing at CBGB’s just without the audience.
Yes. Clean, tight sound.
Yes. That’s why it holds up today, I think. People still reflect upon that. It’s good.
Do you still play or tour with Shriekback or Gang of Four?
No. The last round was with Gang of Four, was 2005 to 2008 where we toured all over the world.
Were you at North, then?
I was at Nemo at the time, working from the road. It was fine. It worked out. We did it in chunks because everybody has a job now in the band. Three of us have kids. At the time, my kids were a bit younger. Yes, we ended up playing a lot of countries we’d never been to before, which made us really very very popular. We probably played to more people in three years than we had in our history, almost. It was amazing. We were headlined at Fuji Rock Festival in Japan because we never played Japan. Beck was second on the bill. We were kind of like, “Well, sure. After Beck finishes, then I’ll go home then.” It’s like 60 000 kids. It’s amazing.
Nice. I don’t know if you could really compare it, but if you had to, how would you compare touring in the mid-2000’s to what it was like in ’79, ’80?
First of all, we weren’t as popular back in ’79, ’80. We were still operating out of the mini bus with the gear packed in the back seats. We elevated that …
Pretty cool.
Pretty clip, yes. We elevated that pretty quickly to the tour bus and a van, which is great. By the time we came back in 2005, the economics were different. We got paid an awful lot more to play. It’s really odd as well. One thing that struck me as we’re touring is the ticket prices were, on average, about 20 – $25. If we take inflation into account from 1979, that’s probably about 5 bucks, right? It was like, the concert, the idea of touring is where you make all your money, but I can see why the promoters hedge on the amount they want to pay you even today. They just don’t want to put that price on the customer. But then it affects what we can earn. Nothing’s changed in this weird 30-year period where other industry, you’re paying, like your laptop here will increase, just inflation. Not the touring business.

Irving Plaza 1980, and Content Album

1980 and Content

It was fun. I personally probably made more money in three years than I had in the prior 17 years from touring. It’s fun. It’s great.
How long would you have considered yourself a professional musician? At what point did you transition from that to having a non-music job?
Well, you don’t know. I think that’s rather like saying Michelangelo, if he decided to just not paint anymore, he’s no longer a painter. You’re just always a musician. You can’t not do anything about that. I still have lots of ideas in music and what I might want to do. I’m really interested in technology and doing as much as I can on my own. I’m interested in working with my son. He’s 23 and he’s an amazing producer, if you will. He’s got the ears for sound and he’s got a nice MacBook Pro set up with all Logic and I don’t know what. Ableton, he uses. It’s just that what can I do that’s going to be of interest to anybody given that anybody can make music today? That’s an issue.Excuse me. Such a drag. I’m not a smoker. (coughs)You don’t ever not be a musician. Just last week, or this week wasn’t it, with the New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones. Sasha’s a real good friend of mine. He still considers me a professional musician. That’s why he reached out alongside Damon and Jace to do that big crazy e-mail chain that we found ourselves in. The reason I get called up to speak at music conferences still. It’s still there.I think, actually, your question is something that’s often asked of me. I think it’s because it’s a puzzle to people that in one area, it’s like a fantasy of a lot of people is to be a professional musician. Get paid for doing something you love. Oddly, I parlayed that so it’s like left brain right brain. Actually, maybe not because that makes it sound too business-like.With the advent of the web two decades ago, I was there right at the beginning. I’ve been fascinated with it for a couple of decades now. I’ve been able to make a living being fascinated with the web and what users do. I parlayed that into jobs. Again, I’m getting paid for a passion. That passion drives my thinking, my writing, my speeches at conferences or keynote speeches I give around the world. It’s just like, to me that’s like being on the stage. It’s as creative to me as making music was or writing songs or recording songs.
It’s a very similar, let me put it this way. I’ve often thought in my career in terms of decades anyway, oddly. We got out of college in Leeds University in our early 20’s. During that first 10 years, I run the course with the original Gang of Four, and then I started Shriekback with Barry Andrews. When I hit 30, I got married when I was 34. First child. That next decade was that. Lo and behold, in the middle of there, right around 35, web. I gave up my record company, closed that down. I moved to work for in the early days.
I was just fascinated with, this is where it’s all going. Early adopter, if you like, I don’t want to say I was a pioneer. There’s plenty of people around me doing that sort of thing. It just felt like the web is punk rock as much as music is punk rock. It’s changing things. It’s challenging the status quo. Edifices, big institutions are going to be challenges. I wanted to see what would happen, so I stuck with it.

It just felt like the web is punk rock as much as music is punk rock. It’s changing things. It’s challenging the status quo.

Even all the way to getting up here to work for Intel. Everyone was scratching their heads. I ended up on the front page of the Willamette Week. What is this punk rocker doing at Intel? Well I’m actually, a) none of your business, but I’ll talk to you.Just an extension of when I teach at the U of O every … I’ll be starting again soon. I’ve been there, I think this is my fourth year. I just tell the students, if you want to be happy in your career, find something that you can get paid for doing that’s an extension of your hobbies. Then you’ll be very happy. That’s it. You don’t have to follow the paths of all the alumni that left and went to be, oh my God, the creative director at so and so agency. Well, if you really want to do that, awesome. But it has to be something you’d get out of bed and do even if you weren’t getting paid. That’s the point.
Yes. Well, you’re never going to stay ahead if you’re not passionate about it. I think part of it is when you talk about music, I think probably, I’m guessing really quickly, you found out that it’s not making a living at music, it’s making a living in the music business. That is something that’s going to be around your whole life. Whether it’s a creative business thing.
Yes. Actually, that’s what the challenge is now. That’s what Sasha and Damon and Jace and I were all taking about in the interview. Sept 6, I think I’m talking at Tech Fest Northwest. Same thing. Here’s where I get in trouble, my libertarian quip about my friend Rick Moody, the author. He’s tongue-in-cheek.He kind of came across a bit flat in an e-mail interview. He didn’t really call me a libertarian.There is something to that, though, because what’s expected of me as a professional musician colors what I actually do these days. With musicians, I’m supposed to be in their camp, fighting this big nasty internet and trying to get everyone paid. Whereas, the reality is I can’t do that. All my writing, all my essays, everything would be redundant if I turned around and said, “Yes, it’s not fair, is it?” What I think about the most is the internet doesn’t care. It’s a non, it’s an inanimate object. It’s a platform, and it’s for you to play on. Everyone. Even what you’re doing here today with your equipment, then you can edit it up and youÕre going to post it to the web. Anyone can do this.What we can’t do is pretend there was a golden era of massive income for all musicians. There just wasn’t. It’s ridiculous. Even Mick Jagger talks about it, Brian Eno talks about it. They both say, “How the hell on earth did we make all this money from music?” They look back and they wonder.It’s just that the internet is here now. It’s not going to be unraveled and dismantled. You’ve got to adapt to it.
That puts me in this camp of people, musicians really, not liking me at all. You’ve got the hate mail, you get the hate comments. It’s just like water off a duck’s back. I didn’t build the internet.
You’re not personally responsible for the …
That was Al Gore.
Let’s talk about what you do here, because that’s a good segue. It seems like part of what North does as marketing is you actually do get some musicians paid.
Oh, yes.
But it’s just that it’s a different business model.Do you feel like that addresses some of those concerns to some extent? It’s just a different perspective nowadays?
Absolutely, yes. You’ve hit on something right away there. We cover Oregon currently. We find ourselves in the middle of politics, which I think we hadn’t really thought enough about when we won the job, making sure everyone’s aware of the affordable health care act. We didn’t really think about the political side of it. We just thought, oh my God, this is such a great thing for everybody, of which musicians are a subset if they’re self-employed, i.e. they’re just making coffee and they’re not getting health insurance.After all these years of complaining about that, they’re going to be able to sign up in the exchange. That’s what we’re doing at North.The music side of it could have been, your average agency might just get on the phone and call some music licensing companies and go, “Hey, we got this great film. We’re just going to soundtrack it with some music from you.” it could be boiler plate stuff, just instrumental background. What better way in this state, especially this city, where Oregon, sorry, Portland is well-known as an indie capital, indie music capital. Why not go straight to the artist themselves, which we did. Steve Rauner, our executive producer, and Mark Ray our creative director and company owner, they’re very passionate about this. You go to Laura Gibbs and you go to the Life Savers and so on and say, “Write us a song. It’s your song. Now you get to keep that. Then we’ll pay you, or Cover Oregon will pay you for performing in this film.” I don’t know all the technicalities. Presumably, there’s residuals. We’re supporting musicians by, it’s that sort of weird, what’s the term … teach a man to fish sort of thing.
I don’t know if there’s a name for that, but there should be.
There ought to be. We should make one.
I think we’ll here from the musicians about that.
Okay, good. Yes.
It’s like, “Dave, what the hell are you talking about?” I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.
I was trying to get you paid.
There’s a good example of how North, the way we work with our clients and the kind of clients we want to work with. It’s a sort of lifestyle. We obviously want to work. I’m sure everyone does, but it doesn’t always work out that way. We tend to accept, say, RFPs from companies who we admire who look after their own employees, who make products perhaps that are beneficial to society.It’s very difficult. You have to be careful because we have 25+ people here that want to keep their jobs.It’s a great place to be. It’s a transition for me from ’99 to 2001. I was at Intel. I left Intel mainly because they wanted to reduce their workforce post-911. It’s a nice package to walk away, so I took it. That was my first job, if you will. A real job. that didn’t rub well. I don’t want a real job. Such a wuss I am.I parlayed it into, I got help from my friend Chris Riley who’s a planner and geographer. He was at the time high up in Wieden + Kennedy, a fellow Englishman. We grew up about 50 miles apart but never met in England. Portland being Portland, you got to meet here, right? He’s still one of my best friends and a great person to bend his ear about things and get some good insights. We were just having lunch. There was an idea I’m leaving Intel. Why not maybe parlay myself into Weiden + Kennedy and see what Chris was all about. Anyway, cut the long story short, he ended up getting hired by Apple. I did say, “Can I come?”I then set up shop with a company in Portland called Overland, the Overland Agency. It created an entertainment arm, so it was Overland Entertainment. That time we were building sort of flash module players and working with local musicians to do it almost pro bono. “Here, use this and see how it works.” Test and analyze. From there, I set up my Pampelmoose website which is initially just a blog. It sort of broadened out into working with artists more directly, helping them get CDs made, distribution and so on. Then it went back to being a blog.
In the meantime, there are also, in parallel, I was also at Nemo Design as an interactive director there, helping build the entire digital production team with friends like Justin Spohn and David Ewald who, ironically, both of whom worked here. I kind of stole them from here. Although they were leaving later. We laugh about it now, but it’s like, “What the hell? You just took our two best guys.”
Nemo wound down all this digital while we were there. Justin and I just left and started Fight, which is a strategic-only company. No execution, no making. Some making, but mainly, it’s like, “Here’s a book. Do that.” Rebecca and I met almost four years ago and started talking about would I be interested in getting back into the agency world, which I wasn’t really.
Mark and Rebecca persuaded me that it would be okay, in a sense of what I wanted to do as well. We found a balance, a comfortable balance. I ended up here as the digital strategist.
Okay. What does your job entail? How would you describe what you do here?
Yes, that’s a really good question. I don’t think about it, I just … what I do now is it’s not a classic position. The title digital strategy itself is a weird title. Does that mean it’s internet strategy? Digital is everything now, right? Cameras, do you do camera strategy?
Yes, I guess that’s …
It’s weird. It’s a broad, broad term.Directly, I have three young women who work for me. They do all of the social media for the clients that want us to do it for them or in conjunction with their teams. On that team, there’s an analyst and then there’s a content strategist. Latest addition starts Monday. She’s just an intern for now, but she’ll probably move quickly to work for us. It’s been an expanding area.We call it the social lab or slab for short. It’s just been an experiment for about 18 months now. It’s turning out to be pretty good. It’s working. In other words, let’s look at WhatsApp and Snapchat. While everyone else is chasing Facebook and Twitter still. That’s there, we can do that. That’s like …
Yes. It’s a known quantity at this point.
Yes. We’d rather open our own coffee shop and not be a Starbucks. Let’s go that route. It’s becoming really great.On top of that, I run the North blog, technically. Anyone can write if they want. I don’t know if it’s because I always write and no one else wants to jump in, or they just don’t have time. It can be difficult. I don’t mind putting myself out there and taking the criticism if it’s going to come. I have a lot of opinion because I feel I’m pretty well-versed in what I write about. I don’t just pick subjects that I don’t know anything about. The blog is very broad. You might see me talking about the ancient Greeks and mad men. Some people write me e-mails, “You’re a mad man, Dave. How does this fit together?” Keep reading. Keep reading. It will get there at the end.I’m interested in culture generally, philosophy, education. I have problems with education institutions right now that I’m grappling with. Although I’m in great talks with PNCA right now. I’m moving to their new building by 2015. What does that mean now? It looks like I’m joining the BFA program to start teaching digital strategy. I’m talking to artists who are designers, but I’m not going to talk about design. And so on.Therefore, you could bundle that all up into Dave’s our outward marketing person. He takes North out there. When I was in Galway, this time last year I was in Galway, Ireland. Ere, we should say. An HP-sponsored day at the Galway MIT, I did the keynote speak. That gets traction in Europe of course, because I was in Europe. If I talk at South by Southwest. Same thing. Even Northwest up here, it’s all outward stuff. Teaching at University of Oregon and PNCA, it’s outward marketing.
You’re kind of marketing the marketers.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. I actually don’t, I very rarely am in client meetings. Something I’ve said as bit of a mantra around here is, I see my job ultimately as working for our clients’ customers. How does that thing work in mobile that you’re thinking of making? It could be a no answer, “No, we shouldn’t do that. It’s not going to work so … ” If I hear from a brand manager, like client B wants a new website. That’s my job to say why. In other words, what problem will a new website solve in a mobile world? Why aren’t we just building something in mobile?It’s a lot of questions. What I do like around here is I have in my class, when it comes to something as simple as, I might set a little project in the class to say, “Okay. This company, this ice cream company wants an iPhone app. Go.” See what they come back with. The main thing is, there are five little rules that I say. Who, what, where, when, why? Who will use it? What is it? Why is it? Where will they use it? When will they use it? You have to answer all five. If one’s missing, we got a problem. If two’s missing, you got a problem. You get to the point where, they don’t need an app. It’s not solving any problem. Everything’s fine. We just saved you 75 grand flat.
Yes, I think that’s often the answer to the question about an app.
Yes, it should be. It should be.The other day, I was on Twitter’s ad week, written an article. The headline was Why Your Business Should … no, All Businesses Require an App. I just put, “Wait, what?”
Right. That’s just link bait at that point.
I know, it is.
22 reasons why …
I love those things. Maybe I’ll write that this afternoon.
Just start writing all your blog posts with a number.
22 reasons why I write blog posts.
Yes, exactly.
One, drunk. Two, see one. End of list.
Okay. I was listening to an interview with you and Mark from, I think January. Another podcast.
The Forbes one, yes?
Yes. Doing my research. I think it was that one, I’m not sure.
It was, yes.
It’s on music and branding, I think.
Okay. The discussion that caught my interest was, I think this is where I read that you had something to do with the Deschutes website having a place where people could find where they could get the beer near them.
We call it a beer finder.
Okay, beer finder.
Yes. Steve Rauner is our executive producer. When I first joined the company, job one was Deschutes Brewery requires a new website. Didn’t need those rules because it was built on a proprietary database. It was pretty much Google blind. Every visit to the site was a unique visit. Google’s algorithms couldn’t track what was going on. When that happens, it just calls it a unique. There you go, it’s screwed. We got to get it off that database.
That’s job number one, yes.
Yes. This was three years ago. Then it was like we need this thing to be, to work in mobile, too. Knowing Deschutes Brewery is a big company, but it has not millions of dollars to spend on stuff, marketing and so on. There’s a lot at stake. The budget for this wasn’t massive, but it was adequate. We just went, working with David Ewald, actually, who’s at Uncorked Studios across the river, a mobile/app development company. Before he actually set that up with Marciana, Marcelino, I should say.We just came to it after lots of research, going down the bend, talking to everybody who had a stake in it. Even distributors who don’t work for the company, and then down to the sales people who do. The exec level and then the brewers, just anybody who might touch this thing, polling in all this data.It just became apparent to us that it should be a beer finder. In mobile, that’s exactly what it is. It’sÊ a very stripped down version of the website. It sniffs out what device youÕre on. Within a radius of whatever you choose, you’ll find beer from this company nearby. Knowing that, we found a place where the data is handled for every barrel of beer and every bottle of beer and where it is, pretty much 99.9% accurate all the time. You can put product in there and say I want a Mirror Pond, or I want a Black Butte Porter or I want the new Twilight Seasonal. It will be accurate, so you don’t waste your time going to a store and it’s not there.
You don’t need an app. It’s a mobile first website, mobile web, whatever you want to call it these days. Responsive?
Was there any resistance to that?Responsive, you can definitely call it.
From the client?
Well, yes. I mean …
No, no.
Were they ever worried that competitors would use that to figure out where they should sell their beer or something like that? Did that ever come up?
Never heard that.
I don’t think that would happen. I’ll get to that in a second.The other thing is if you go to it on your laptop or desktop, then you get the full monty. Everything you want. The images, the videos. We just stripped it back down for mobile so that it was, obviously, works seamlessly and quickly.To your point, if you look at other companies’ beer finders, there’s not a lot out there. What they tend to do is location ware. Oh, I’m in the Pearl. Up comes a Google map full of arrows, just gazillions of arrows, it’s like. You say, “That’s kind of something.” I can’t choose a product. I have to sift through, turn it into a list and then sift through Safeway or whatever.I just thought ours is more elegant still, today. It has not required an overhaul in three years because we built it for the future, as it were. The big key here is it was built for the company’s business plans going forward. By 2020, they want to be in every state in America. That means, well, we have to add states. We have to look, not only add states. We have to look at the laws in those states. Some states don’t allow young people to even access it. Others don’t allow anyone to use a mobile device to find beer. Texas. You have to disable it in Texas. Then the legislator down there changed that law, and then we switched it back on. It’s more to it. This thing; who, what, where, when, why blah blah blah; it’s so complicated. Beer is in every state, is locked tight with the OLCC in Oregon. You got to play by their rules, not flaunt it just because it’s mobile and on the web.
I was thinking about the whole , just to come back to that here. Did you have a lot to do with the musical selection, choice, research, whatever on individual campaigns, or are you just more of a high-level ambassador in general of that kind of thing?

Dave and Band

Dave Allen (left) with Gang of Four, Emo’s 2005

I actually don’t have very much to do with it at all. The reason for that is that North as a company is made up of a lot of creative people across the whole employee range. We have musicians here that have been pro, been on tours. Not just me. Filmmakers, designers, they’re all coming from all sorts of different cultures. Really, Mark Ray leads the charge on the music choice for the … films at Cover Oregon. Steve Rauner, exec producer, has a hand in it because he’s tight with the music community here in town, friends with Tucker Martine and John Askew, music producers in town. Steve has his own studio at home. I believe Mark does, too. There’s a lot of, in our DNA, there’s an awful lot of music. I’m not required to worry about that stuff.Honestly, perhaps I’m not as tight with the local musicians as these guys are, anyway. Mark has his own record label with a partner. It’s based out in St. Louis. They’re fine. I don’t believe they’d ever come to me for my input on “What do you think of this?” because I just, when I see the film, I just go, “Perfect. That’s a perfect choice.” some artists, I wasn’t fully aware of anyway. They don’t need me for that.
Do you still buy a lot of music?
Oh, yes.
Do you buy a lot of records, or …
I do.
I buy vinyls, vinyl records as long as the MP3’s available, like a coupon.
Oh yes, I love that.
Amazon does it all the time now. They have the, what’s it called, ripped?
Yes, they just started ripping everything.
Yes, it’s a rip program, so you got your vinyl and right away, you can download these now to your Amazon drive.
So yes, I do like buying music. I still, I like branching out and finding really different things that people … My big thing about music discovery is it’s a sort of peer to peer program with humans. I like to …
Pretty social, yes.
Rick Moody and I, in one of our interviews, because I had done two really big ones with him, he was always saying he’s a little bit down on the internet and people not getting paid and yadda yadda yadda. I’m not. What we do agree upon is I sent him some mp3s. It’s a Brian Eno album. He was totally thrilled. He’ll get back and share his insights, his favorite musicians. I still see that as the best way to go.I actually butt heads with a lot of the streaming music company employees who follow me on Twitter. I give them grief about if what you say, Spotify, is that music discovery leads to music sales, then why are music sales in the toilet? They get back and, the last one was … I can’t remember where he’s at now. Google Music, maybe? I don’t know. He’s like, “Well Dave, couldn’t you imagine it could be other reasons, too?” A little snarky, but we sorted it out. We sorted it out. I don’t care. I don’t care what’s causing the problems, but the streaming companies like Spotify are saying that it’s increasing sales. Just stop saying that. Just say, “We’re a streaming music company. You can find all sorts of music.” End. Don’t say, “Oh, and more people buy music because they discover it.” We always did that.Right now, young people want to rent music. They don’t want to own it. It’s very easy, I think anyway, cognitively thinking about it. I don’t use Spotify, but if I was a Spotify user and I discover Gang of Four, my band, because we’re on there whether we like it or not, somebody discovers it, well then, just keep it as a playlist. Keep going back to it. Why would you rip it off and buy it? Where you’re at in the first place is in mobile, listening. Why exit that to go buy it, and then load it to your phone to play it when you just stay where you are and keep listening to it? That’s what’s happening. It’s the truth. I would ask anyone out there who disagrees with that concept to prove me wrong. That’s all. I talk to professional musicians who, on one hand, “Yes, checks from Spotify.” “What, like $9. Oh yes, nine. I got 11.” This used to have three zeroes on the end of it at one time.Even professional musicians admit, as Damon did from Damon and Naomi in the interview, he loves Spotify. He uses Spotify. I know plenty of people in this town who are professional musicians who love it. It’s fine. Let’s just stay with that. You’re part of a culture now. It’s been a societal shift to streaming music. If you put up with the ads, you don’t have to pay for it. Let’s just accept that and move on. Let’s move on.That’s what I was trying to say in a post recently. Let’s get beyond the rhetoric. The rhetoric is not adding anything to the discussion because it can’t be solved. We have to find a different problem. We’re trying to solve a problem of the past in the present. That’s a big problem. We can’t do that.
The newspapers tried to do that. Rupert Murdoch and his iPad app was spending money in the present to solve a problem of the past which is people buying less newspapers and have been for some time. Now, he presents us with something that when he launched it in New York City, big fanfare, Wall Street Journal guy. We’ve got the, what was he called? iPad app? The Daily, The Daily. Right. He actually says without any trace of irony, says, “One thing I love doing with this is when I get home from my office.” You want to say, “You mean in the back of your chauffeured limousine?” Whatever. It’s okay, Rupert. “When I get home from the office, there’s nothing I like to do but sit down and take out the iPad and read The Daily.” You say to yourself, wow. We’re reading news that’s about 24 hours old at the end of the next day when we’ve all read it in Twitter or whatever in the morning. Why would I pay 99 cents a day for that?
Not to mention …
And then it …
Yes, it was … everything about it was …
My point here is, New York Times paywall seems to be working, but I hate their apps; hate them with a vengeance.
Yes, I agree.
The best New York Times ever went out there is the Safari app on the iPhone.
That one has a mobile phone version. Yes, it’s absolutely the best.
You don’t need these app app apps. Somebody dreamed one up, and they’re awful I don’t know how to navigate them, but I do know how to navigate in my sleep. If they chance that, it would be … I would be so angry. The money that gets spent …Richard Branson, because Rupert had an app, Richard Branson had to have one. It was a magazine, can’t even remember its name. Oh my God, I have screenshots still of when I downloaded it to my iPad. I show it to my students as an example of everything that’s wrong in apps. The first thing happened was all of the content was in the app, native to the app. It took about three days to download. I just left it doing that for, I’m exaggerating, but hours.
Exaggeration is okay.
The first thing that comes up is like a green screen, or it’s that black screen with green lines everywhere. It’s like when you do this, you then do that.
The horrible instructions.
In other words, it’s not something that you know what to do with. I tried and I got lost. Let’s go back to that stupid screen. Well, it doesn’t ever appear again. It’s like the genie’s out of the bottle. We’re done here, move on. Yes, delete.
Sadly, most digital magazines in the iPad go through, I think, one or two companies’ products. I don’t know if it’s like Adobe makes a product that does those or that some other third party that does. It’s just like what you’re describing. It takes forever to download an issue. Oftentimes, they’re very sloppy and pixelated. It’s just like reading a magazine anyway.
Well, we can’t do that. There’s two things that shouldn’t ever be uttered in this sense.Two phrases when it comes to just the web, generally, and media. Above the fold, shoot me, and iPad magazine, shoot me. There’s no such thing as an iPad magazine. You know what I mean? A magazine is, we know what a magazine is and that’s it. What you’re doing is, please work on the iOS platform and create something with media content that’s beautiful if you like, if you want it to be pretty pictures beautiful, but super functional.Also, what’s that, Steve Jobs’ favorite iPad app for the news? Flipboard. It’s like, why? Flipboard just links to your social channels. You’ve already read all that. It’s just presented in a nice way.
Presented with nice big photos.
So what? I don’t want that. I want the information, I don’t need the imagery. It’ll make it a smaller app and quicker and faster.
Twitter is just so easy to get in. If there’s a link, it’s just sentence after sentence.It’s very quick to scan. If there’s a link, you just tap the link. There’s your article. If you want to share it, it’s very easy. With Flipboard, every time I tried sharing something from it, it sends someone this horrible page where they have to, “You need to register.” I’m just sharing a link here.
That’s really awful.
It’s insulting to me. I just delete the app.
That’s like the unsubscribe button that asks you to confirm your … really? Really? Oh.Your best friend, anyway, I’m a Mac user so I don’t know if it works in Android as well, but Pocket. The Pocket app.
Oh, yes. It’s kind of a read later type service, right?
Yes. I use TweetBot, and Pocket is built in. I often don’t have to open those links when I’m reading.
Just tap the button so you can read it later.
Yes, send it.
Then it makes your own magazine. That is just, that’s great.
Yes, and it’s amazing in mobile, really elegant.
I can read all the articles there. If I want, I can then tag them. If it’s an idea for a post, I’ll just tag it “blog post”. Then I know, I’ll pull it up.
I think Pocket even shows you just the context. It’ll show the, I think, maybe it’s a different one that shows the Tweet that it came from.
Oh, yes.
You can see the Tweets, you remember. “Oh yes, that’s why I wanted to read this article.”
So good.
This morning’s post, Matthew Yglesias, he wrote in a nice piece. I think he’s at Slate.I just did that. It says, “Tweet from Matthew,” his handle, and the URL. I knew exactly where he was.These are things that, what we’re talking about earlier, a similar issue.
It’s kind of like how we’re talking about music where it’s like, it’s just a different model now. You can’t ever go back to the 70’s when The Rolling Stones made a killing off of records. That was the golden era of records.
Actually, let me correct you. The golden period for The Rolling Stones and others was the late 80’s through the 90’s. It’s a massive bell curve.
When everyone was buying CDs, the records, the tapes.
The CDs which replaced the catalogs. More than that, there was a consolidation in the concert promotion business. That’s how you get to 300-dollar tickets. Instead of using regional promoters for The Rolling Stones tour, they just hooked up with a guy in Toronto called Michael Cohl, I think. He promoted the entire North American tour. Now they own everything. They set the ticket prices.A regional promoter might say, “Oh, well my audience here will only pay $100 a ticket.” The big guys up in Toronto go, “Don’t care. It’s $200 a ticket. Take it or leave it. You don’t like it? Never mind. We’ll promote the concert.” With the idea that U2, Paul McCartney, Bruce, they all sell out anyway, right? There’s no risk.That consolidation created this massive bell curve. What I’ve often expressed on panels at conferences is, we’re at now is we’re back to this level where the industry was before all this hoo-ha, this bell curve in the middle. Neil Young and Val Morrison were revered on Warner Brothers Records if they just sold gold, 500,000 copies. We’re about there again. It’s fine.Occasionally, you got your Jay-Z and your Beyonce and whatever. The Civil Wars album sold 115 000 copies this week. Everyone, the recording industry and those around it are all, “Waaah! 115 000? Indie bands used to sell that!” Anyway, that is sad. Jay-Z gets 20 million, was it, for his, you can download the album for free.
That Samsung thing.
I don’t know what the numbers were for that, but he wanted it to be cast as #1 on Billboard, as if a Billboard chart matters to anybody in the world anymore. It’s just weird.
Yes, that was weird.
A platinum album used to be a million. We need to make that now 100 000, it could be gold. 200 000 is platinum. I don’t know, these numbers are out of whack. If you’re Jay-Z, you get some kind of, some mineral we’ll never heard of. That will be the new disc. “You sold a million, and no one does that!”This is why, again, the rhetoric around the internet and music is so messy. There’s this idea that everyone made a lot of money from music. It was always, the top 10% on a record label pretty much covered the other 90% who were on the label but not selling very well. That’s it. You could probably look at big companies like Procter and Gamble. Even Apple, the iPhone became their biggest income stream for quite some time, and then the iPad. Their laptops and the desktop Macs, they’re kind of not so much anymore. Because these other things are doing great in the world, the margins in an iPhone must be pretty spectacular that it’s covering for all the stuff that they want to make and people want to buy. There’s not a real big profit in it. It’s like any enterprise.We, me and others have said that once you enter the marketplace as an artist, you have to play by the market rules. If the market currently says, “We want to rent it, not own it,” then you have to adjust. Like I said in The New Yorker article, musicians are in Facebook, Twitter, Kickstarter, Bandcamp. That’s the business they’re in. TheyÕre not in the music business anymore. In fact, they never were. Gang of Four made a hell of a lot of money off our merchandise on our last go-round. We probably made more money from that than from the actual concerts.
You’re in the clothing business.
We’re in the t-shirt business, I mean hoodie business. I want to be a hoodie.It’s never been a level playing field. Everyone thinks they’re a musician because they can sing in the shower. I saw that watching that Woody Allen movie, what was that one? The Rome movie when he overheard a guy singing in the shower.
Oh, I can’t remember the name.
It’s brilliant. He’s the agent, right, so he books him. …because when he’s not in the shower, he can’t sing. Then they make him a device where he’s naked and … that’s what we need. We don’t need Auto Tune; we need showers on stage for everybody.
Yes, and waterproof mikes.Do you own an iPad?
Oh, yes.
You read that book Columbia 360?
It’s a history of Columbia records, but it’s really …
What’s that got to do with an iPad?
Just, you can’t read it unless you have an iPad. I think it’s, they only made an iPad version, maybe.
Oh, I see.
It’s just filled with media.
I don’t read on devices. I’m a book guy.
They might have a book. It’s a good read anyway, though.
Yes, I’m sure. There’s a lot of great music books that … especially exposes. This is something that my friend Justin Spohn and I were talking about just recently. I was trying to write a post. The New Yorker thing came along, so I didn’t have to. Oh good, we can put it here. Justin was, because he’s not in the music industry. He’s fascinated by all the wrangling around it. Why? What, why? It’s just a marketplace and there’s no fair here. Why does Apple, why did it clean up the smartphone market whenÊthey launched the iPhone? It’s because there wasn’t one. It was just mind bogglingly amazing. Everyone else, you could say, well Blackberry could say, “Well, that’s not fair.” But they don’t.
Yes, that’s a good point.
Yes. There’s no fair. What Justin surmised with a little help from me was, the recording industry created contracts for themselves. It’s never meant to be a two-way street. First thing is, if you can get 12% royalty, they keep 88%. That’s a good deal. If you’re a big star, you might push that up to 20% royalty. The idea is oh, this is the money, goes to marketing and promotion and making your record. Problem is, you pay all that back. You have this thing called a mortgage, that when you’ve paid it all back, you don’t own the house. Thanks. You don’t have to pay anymore …
Yes, it’s kind of a broken model.
You’re living in a house that you can’t sell. It doesn’t belong to you. It is a broken model. It can be worse. The thing is, the system works for the record labels. It never worked for the artists. The thing was, the dangle was you could be a superstar. Everyone keeps signing. The only way to stop what’s going on right now is to own your own copyrights. That means don’t sign a deal with any label if they want any of your copyrights. You can license your copyrights to them and be really careful with that. Say, well in two years’ time, after you’ve exploited this recording, the rights come back to us.

The only way to stop what’s going on right now is to own your own copyrights. That means don’t sign a deal with any label if they want any of your copyrights.

We have that with the label V2. I think it went out of business so it’s BMG now. We’re out of contract, so we re-recorded the songs that we liked the most and made an album called Return the Gift. It reverted back to us, so we own it. We can license that. If it was still at Warner Brothers and they license a song like they did for the Marie Antoinette movie by Sophia Coppola, a lot of money changed hands. We only get 50% to split amongst us four, because that’s the arrangement. Any licensing is 50. They take 50 off the top. Now, no. 100. 100%, because we own it.When bands realize it, as I said in The New Yorker, if you want a Sub Pop stamp on your CD or your vinyl, awesome for you, but no one really cares. A very shrinking minority care about “Ooh, it’s on Sub Pop.” The problem is that says to the unbeknownst viewer behind the scenes, it says this belongs to Sub Pop. Sub Pop owns this. They’ve got your rights. Until we stop giving away all our rights, for very little money by the way, you can’t break this cycle. The ones who do it, they make the most money.
Do you have a favorite album right now that you’re listening to?
Yes. It’s a one note that Sasha mentions in The New Yorker. DOM, Dawn of Midi.
Oh, okay.
It’s really amazing.
I will find it and put it in the [inaudible 00:57:25].
The link’s in The New Yorker. There’s a full-length high-quality SoundCloud version of the entire album, which I’ve been playing. What it is, it’s a trio, I think. They have a grand piano, a stand-up bass, and drums that sound as if there’s some electronic stuff amongst the analog. It’s like it’s just a theme in a sense. There’s no, doesn’t sound like there’s any track. It’s 49 minutes long. It just builds over time. It’s really hypnotic.
Wow. It’s one song? Just …
It seems like it’s just blended together.
I didn’t look into whether there’s a track listing or whatever. Anyway, I think it’s Dawn of Midi or something of Midi. DOM. It’s fantastic. Other than that, the last Atoms for Peace album, Amok, is brilliant. I’m a huge Radiohead fan. I suppose by that I mean I’m a huge Thom Yorke fan. Anyway.
Yes, excellent. Cool. Well, thanks so much Dave for talking to me today.
Thanks for listening.
Appreciate it.
Feel like I rambled on for a while there.
It’s great.
How’d we do?
I have no idea.