All posts by Mike Fabio

mw2015

MediaWorks: The Next Generation

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And so it begins. MediaWorks 2015 is in full effect. This past Monday we met the teams for the first time, and dare I say it? we’ve got a badass cohort.

Without further ado, the MediaWorks class of 2015:

  • Baracksdubs puts words in people’s mouths, entertaining millions through musical mashups of President Obama’s speeches.

    Children’s Media Studio creates interactive, educational media content for children from pre-readers through early education.  Their first product, Sing and Spell, helps pre-readers learn letter sounds through animated content.

  • Emcapture is a Virtual Reality Magazine for Knoxville, TN that will serve the community and bring people places they have never been. It will also provide advertisers a platform on new digital media to reach new customers.
  • Evolvr creates an immersive, 360-degree real estate tour experience that allows users to visit multiple potential properties in various locations.
  • Instartly is a 21st century media company that uses tight processes and best-in-class back-end automation to blow away what micro business owners expect to get from website design, hosting and digital communications: all for only $69 per month.
  • Menu Magic™, “The Only Menu You’ll Ever Need™,” is a platform containing all menus for every dining establishment around the world, and further, organized that information in a simple, user friendly way in order to improve the dining experience for our users.
  • Pictograph allows users to easily discover, retrieve, store, and organize customized information related to finance, business, or marketing.
  • RESQUE is smart social media automation for real estate agents.
  • SolidPick is a web-based application that provides sports fans a platform to pick game winners and filters standings by sport, conference, division, team and state in order to highlight and put a face to the best at picking games.
  • WDVX is a listener-supported radio station, whose idea is to create a social media tool that will enable listeners to collaborate with other WDVX fans and create their own weekly WDVX radio show.

MediaWorks Demo Day Photo Book

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Wow what a day! Knoxville Entrepreneur Center‘s MediaWorks Demo Day was a massive success, and we are so proud to have been a part of that. Here are a few great photos from the night.

Preston Garland of WiseFeed backstage at #MediaWorks Demo Day. #focus #determination

A photo posted by Back Porch Group (@backporchgroup) on

Michael Crain of Vuture, a B2B solution to send video at a future date #mediaworks #vuture #killingit

A photo posted by Back Porch Group (@backporchgroup) on

JR Charles of ParOneTV, a digital signage and advertising platform for golf pro shops #mediaworks #golf

A photo posted by Back Porch Group (@backporchgroup) on

Frank Podlaha of Street Jelly, a streaming platform for musicians #mediaworks #music #startups #knoxville

A photo posted by Back Porch Group (@backporchgroup) on

Patrick and Ryan Kelly of FanFolio, a fantasy sports stick exchange #mediaworks #sports #whoneedsthesec

A photo posted by Back Porch Group (@backporchgroup) on

Wrapping up #MediaWorks Demo Day with Airborne Digital. #drones #realestate

A photo posted by Back Porch Group (@backporchgroup) on

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On Rented Media (or My So-Called Streaming Life)

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I haven’t given up on ownership, but it’s not for lack of trying. You see, I have little interest in having bits of media strewn about my life, especially in physical form, but also in digital form. Here’s a rough summary:

Music

As I’ve said time and time again, I’m a streaming convert for life (or for however long streaming is still a thing). I moved to Rdio several years ago, and I don’t see myself ever purchasing another CD or digital download, except in those rare instances where I have no other choice.

Moreover, I’ve stopped pirating music. It bears repeating: streaming killed piracy, not the RIAA.

As for vinyl, I’m ashamed to say I’ve only purchased a small handful in the last year. Chalk it up to high prices, or a dearth of disposable income, but I just don’t find myself at the record store very often anymore.

Movies

I have a Roku in the living room, and an iPad in the bedroom. And that’s all I really need. I subscribe to Amazon Prime and Netflix. I use a shared HBO Go account. And I rent (not buy!) movies on occasion from a variety of different streaming services. Sometimes I’ll even trek to the Redbox (really a bargain, so long as they actually have what you’re looking for).

I go to theaters still, about once or twice a month. I see this to being akin to going to concerts. It ain’t cheap, but you go for the experience.

Television

I cut my cable two years ago, and haven’t looked back. I have an HD antenna for local programming, but I spend almost all my time watching streamed content. Between all the free content on Roku and my various subscriptions mentioned earlier, there’s no shortage of content at all. Seriously, there’s a limit to how much television a person can watch, and I’d defy you to hit that limit with access to streaming services.

Books

I’ve recently rediscovered the public library (Nashville’s is surprisingly awesome). I borrow books I need, both physically and digitally. And they have a wealth of other digital content freely available, from magazines to audiobooks to movies and music.

If the library doesn’t have it, I’ll check Amazon Prime’s borrowing library. I also tried Oyster, loved it, but didn’t find myself reading enough to justify the spend.

If all else fails, I’ll purchase a used copy or a Kindle copy, in that order. But I can’t even remember the last time I did.

Comics

Alas, I don’t have the time or energy for a diatribe about Comixology and the recent Amazon acquisition, but fortunately many others have written volumes about it. I, for one, fall squarely into the camp of “I don’t care, I just want Spotify for comic books.”

See comic books are perhaps the one medium where a good subscription service doesn’t exist. There are two that I know of – Marvel Unlimited, which is Marvel-only, and therefore of little use to me; and Thrillbent, which is awesome, but still missing all of the big publishers I read regularly (come on DC! get in the game!).

The main debate in the comics world seems to be about download codes, and I’d like to add my two cents to that argument by saying that 2004 called and they want their MP3s back.

Everything else

If I played games I’d probably use Steam, or rent from a Redbox. But I don’t.

So what?

I rent my home. I lease a car. And I subscribe to media. And I like it.

But here’s the thing: every time I can’t rent, my natural inclination is not to buy it. If a movie isn’t on Netflix, I don’t run to Walmart and buy the Blu-ray, nor do I jump on iTunes and buy a digital copy. If I can rent it on Amazon, I will, but if I can’t do any of the above I find a less savory method of procurement. That’s just the way it is.

Zero Day: MediaWorks in Full Effect

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Nothing to see here, just a bunch of photos of the AWESOME 2014 MediaWorks cohort. We were in Knoxville Thursday for day zero, our first meetings with the teams, and we couldn’t be more pleased. Also we ate at Pete’s, which was sweet.

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For The Love Of The Game

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In 1904, the French mathematician Henri Poincaré declared his eponymous conjecture: Every simply connected, closed 3-manifold is homeomorphic to the 3-sphere.

This famous problem remained one of mathematics’ great mysteries for nearly 100 years. In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute included the Poincaré Conjecture in its Millennium Prize Problems, a set of 10 unsolved math problems with a $1,000,000 prize attached to each of them.

Three years later, the problem was solved by a Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman. To this day, it remains the only Millenium Prize Problem that has been solved.

When he was finally awarded the Millennium Prize in 2010, Perelman refused. What’s more, Perelman was awarded the Fields Medal for the same work, the equivalent of winning a Nobel Prize. To this he responded:

I’m not interested in money or fame. I don’t want to be on display like an animal in a zoo. I’m not a hero of mathematics. I’m not even that successful; that is why I don’t want to have everybody looking at me.

Say what you will about reclusive geeks, Perelman is nothing if not passionate about his art.

Musicians don’t turn down GRAMMYs. Director’s don’t turn down Oscars. Writers don’t turn down Pulitzers. Sure, all of these things have happened, usually as a matter of protest, but it take balls of steel to turn down a friggin’ Fields Medal because you just want everyone to piss off and let you keep doing your work.

I believe this is something missing from music.

I often ask an artist, “Is there anything I can do right now to make you stop playing music forever? If I handed you a billion dollars, would you put your guitar down and never pick it up again?”

If the answer to the above question is yes, then you should just stop now.

Artists shouldn’t play music because it’s their job. They shouldn’t play for the money or the fame or the women. They shouldn’t play because it makes them happy, or makes them feel important. And they sure as hell shouldn’t play because someone else told them they should.

Artists should play because they have to play, because they can’t not play.

Perelman doesn’t do math for the fame, the prizes, the awards, and he doesn’t even do it because he loves it. He does it because math. Because it’s the only thing.

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On Crowdfunding… A Response

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On our recent 2014 predictions episode of Conversely, I stated that I believe crowdfunding is about to see its demise. I realize this is a risky prediction – in some ways, my livelihood depends on crowdfunding – but I stand by it.

John Cantu, Director of Marketing over at Good Time Inc. rightfully called me out on this, pointing to his recent success with a new album by Ellie Holcomb. So I wrote him this email to clarify:

Hey John,

Thanks for listening to the podcast. I’ll take the blame for predicting the death of crowdfunding….. and I don’t think your project is an anomaly.

I’ve run successful projects, in both music and film, on both Kickstarter and PledgeMusic, and I’ve even consulted directly for PledgeMusic in the past. I also have a very high profile PledgeMusic campaign on my horizon (watch out for it in the next couple months). Still, I think crowdfunding’s time has come and gone, at least as far as crowdfunding is concerned.

I think there’s a distinction to be made between preordering and crowdfunding, and it’s a subtle one. Preordering is as old as time, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Crowdfunding, as a fundraising tool, is, in my opinion, becoming less and less viable for independent artists.

As such, it’s worth pointing out that your project has support. The trend I’m seeing on most crowdfunding platforms is toward big-name artists, established fan bases, and projects with marketing/promotion muscle behind them, and I think that makes it harder for DIY artists to raise large goals – not because bigger names are siphoning off fans, but because they’re siphoning off resources. Kickstarter prefers to promote established artists, because it helps bolster the Kickstarter brand. This leaves DIY artists in the dust.

I probably should have clarified on the podcast that crowdfunding is becoming harder for DIY artists, specifically. But then again, what’s a DIY artist these days anyways?

Also interesting, and worth discussion, is that Ellie Holdcomb’s [my spelling error] project is religious in nature. While there’s some precedent for Christian projects (Mercyland was hugely successful, for example), I’d love to dig up some stats about the performance of those projects, and more specifically about the ability of churches and other communities to pitch in when it comes to promoting them.

Congrats on your success with Ellie, and thanks again for listening!

In summary, I don’t think crowdfunding is going to disappear. I do, however, think that the crowdfunding craze for DIY artists has seen its time. Preordering and direct-to-fan is here to stay, and I’d argue it’s been here for as long as artists have banged on drums.

BP 3-steps

Dogfooding our way to a better music industry with Bandposters

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We founded Back Porch Group to tackle the big problems in the music business. Our mission to break it, change it, and make it matter manifests itself in every aspect of our work. Lately we’ve been working with a lot of great companies in Nashville and beyond, but in order to really truly make good on our promises, we’ve dedicated part of our time to building businesses from the ground up.

That’s why we launched Bandposters.

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Big problem: artists spend too much time doing stuff other than making music. No, seriously, this is a huge problem. Major.

And it’s not just artists either. Managers, promoters, venues, agents – they all spend to much time doing the menial tasks, and one of those tasks is designing, printing, and shipping posters. We should know: we’re artists and managers ourselves.

Bandposters fixes that: design, print, and ship posters to every gig on your tour in two minutes or less. $15 per gig. Simple as that.

You see, posters are hard.

Whoahoooo there tiger, you wait one minute. You’re telling me this, of all things, is what you chose to solve?

Yep. That’s exactly what we’re saying.

Consider this:

  • Designing posters is typically done with Photoshop by a trained designer. Assuming you have the skills to do it, it’s going to cost you several hours of time. If your Photoshop skills are limited to cropping, resizing, and meme-building, well you’ll probably have to fork over your hard earned cash to a designer.
  • Printing posters is a pain in the ass. Seriously, when was the last time you visited a copy center? Between outdated equipment, disgruntled employees, improper paper choices, crummy prints, and $1.79 per sheet for full color, well, you’ve got a recipe for an extremely unhappy afternoon.
  • Shipping posters sucks even more than printing them. Rolling, packing, taping, finding the addresses of the venues, scrawling those addresses with a Sharpie, adding stamps, buying stamps, waiting in line at the post office. Pardon the pun, but that’s why it’s called going postal.

And let’s not forget about cost: dollars, time, sweat. Papercuts suck. Seriously, you don’t want one of those on your fretting fingers.

We believe artist’s need one less thing to worry about. And we hope you find that is exactly what Bandposters can help you with.

Rdio Web

Design Matters: A Tale of Two Apps, or One More Reason I Like Rdio Better Than Spotify

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I’ve mentioned it a few times before: I prefer Rdio to Spotify (what’s a Rhapsody?). I’ve expounded upon this in the past, and now, even a few years on, Spotify has done little to win me over (more in another post). But as I began testing the two at some length over the past couple days, head-to-head usage left me with one very important thought: Rdio wins at design, and that matters.

Today Rdio launched a pretty cool feature that lets me queue up a radio station based on my listening habits They’ve had similar features before, but the new “Me FM” feature is not just functional, but beautiful. Moreover, it highlights something that I find very important, and that is unified interfaces among platforms.

Both Rdio and Spotify have interfaces built for iPhone, iOS, web, and desktop, but Rdio’s apps look and feel the same on every platform (I don’t have an Android device to test with). Spotify takes odd design queues from each platform independently, and ultimately lose a lot of the coherence that makes the Rdio experience so pretty. (And don’t even get me started on how annoying it is that my Spotify queue isn’t synced across devices, or that I can’t pick up immediately where another device is already playing.)

Here are Spotify’s interfaces:

And here are the Rdio interfaces:

Now I’m not a designer, nor do I have the expertise to critique these designs based on their aesthetics, usability features, accessibility, or whatnot.

What I can do is tell you that, for whatever reason, the Rdio design makes me feel better listening to music.

Experience, design, these things matter, and in my opinion they make or break the success of software, at least when comparing two similarly featured products. The devil is most certainly in the details.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34067077@N00/5224887391/

4 Reasons Amazon’s Self-Destruction is an Overblown Fallacy

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Today Salon ran an article outlining how Amazon’s relentless push to drive brick and mortar bookstores out of business will ultimately be its own demise. The argument here seems to be two main points: first, that physical bookstores, especially mom and pop shops, provide a valuable resource to book buyers in the form of browsing and book discovery; and second, that the folding of major booksellers like Barnes and Noble and Borders results in a domino effect, putting out of business the book publishers, and therefore nailing Amazon’s coffin – no book publishers means no books to sell.

This argument couldn’t possibly be more wrong. Here are four important reasons why:

1. Discovery is not a strictly physical activity.

The article states quite clearly, and without evidence or citation, that “physical stores outpace virtual ones by 3-to-1 in introducing books to buyers.” While I believe that browsing in physical stores is a fun activity, and I’ve purchased many a book by randomly selecting it off a shelf, I find the physical browsing process to be archaic at best. Amazon provides me with reviews (thousands of them), best seller lists, recommendations (flawed as they may be), similar book links, browsing by author/publisher/series/etc., and one-click purchasing. Coupled with Amazon Prime, I’m not sure it gets much better.

Barnes and Noble offers me a shelf full of new releases (pushed on them by publishers), perhaps one shelf of staff picks (do you know your local B&N employees names?), and a whole lot of disorganized inventory spread over a gigantic store (most of which I’m not interested in anyhow).

Then there’s this issue of “showrooming,” wherein book buyers visit brick and mortar stores with the sole intention of browsing before they make their purchase at Amazon. I’ve done this many times myself. And you know why? Because I was there. I just happened to be near a Barnes and Noble, and I stopped in to play with the books (yeah, its like a toy store for me, what can I say I really like books).

I’d venture to guess that 3-to-1 statistic is bunk. I may not represent the majority of book buyers, but I discover books online – through friends, through Amazon, through GoodReads, through blogs, and through the New York Times (no, not the print version).

2. Pushing publishers out of business is exactly what Amazon wants.

Let’s just put this out there: the maker of the number one e-reader in the world also happens to be the biggest book seller in the world. And do you know why? Because they don’t just control the means of distribution, they are the means of distribution.

Amazon doesn’t need book publishers, they need books. And now that any copyright holder can self-publish directly through Amazon, why on earth would Amazon care if publishers went out of business?

Marketing? Promotions? Book tours? Have you seen a publisher advance lately? Also book tours don’t make a whole lot of sense if there’s no physical book stores anyhow.

3. Amazon could just open their own stores, if it made any sense financially (and it doesn’t).

Apple did it. Apple stores account for a significant portion of their sales. But that’s the difference between them and Amazon – a physical Amazon bookstore wouldn’t result in any meaningful income for Amazon. Apple can do it because their products are extremely high margin, and the stores serve more as support centers than salesrooms.

The reason physical bookstores are going out of business isn’t that people don’t like or buy books, its that the cost of running physical bookstores makes books prohibitively expensive for the consumer. Pricing wins almost every time. Amazon isn’t about to offer up their product at a higher price point. That doesn’t make sense at all.

4. Amazon doesn’t sell books.

Can we all finally agree on this fact? Amazon isn’t in the book business. They’re not in the music business either.

I’m saying it again: They don’t make money on books.

Books, music, movies, these things are loss leaders for Amazon, the cheap items they use to entice you to buy televisions and cell phones and computers and appliances and the thousands of other high margin products that Amazon sells.

Amazon was in the book business once upon a time (I’ve known several Amazon employees, mostly web developers, who used to tell people “I work at a bookstore”). But they’re not anymore. They’re in the technology business. They’re in the logistics business. They’re in the customer service business. They don’t really care if you buy physical books.

And they never will.