One Little Song & Publishing Futures

I was at an recent event where (in passing) a presenter recounted her experiences at various TV conferences along these lines. She told us that many of the industry attendees were still asking variations of “Help the Internet is coming…what do we do?”

The question isn’t new and neither are the answers, but in 2007 the shape of both might look a bit different. Here are some ideas and observations on how content providers and publishers might answer that question and address current and future opportunities.

This has been happening for more than a decade now at various music, film, TV, media and publishing conferences.

The various incumbents are still struggling to transition their business models into a time where distribution is much less of a controlling factor due to the ubiquity of the internet. Even now it seems some media (music, TV and film) businesses are still scared of the future. Even book publishing is also facing big challenges despite the long tail theory.

This fear of the change and the new reminded me of various conferences I attended back in the early 90’s when multi-media CD, CD-i, and DVD formats were just starting to break ahead of the internet wave.

Some Conclusions on the Way Forward

The conclusions back in ’92 and ’93 were that anyone involved in publishing should have some kind of “digital soup” of original content that they could roll out as the public caught up with all the new format choices. Broadcasters now appear to be revisiting the idea of multi format content and platforms but to me 14 years seems a very long time for the penny to drop.

Back in the 30’s sheet music publishers controlled the music business. They were mostly displaced by recorded music and recording industry companies. Those companies kept getting confused on the strategic intent of their industry and we all know what happened to them, just like now.

Gillian Welch on MyspaceIn a world where everyone can be a content producer and a consumer at the same time – publishers need to learn from history, rethink their business models and adapt. Follow the money, Andrew Dubber is brilliant at deciphering the business side of this. See also the future of music.

The music industry refused to recognise a legal digital music format for some years until iTunes partially rescued them. Now a generation has got used to not paying because they couldn’t – even if they wanted to.

Multimedia History

However, back in ’93 no one really had an idea of how big and how much the internet would change things as modems at the time were running at 1200/2400bd and only used by geeks on bulletin boards for help desk style services. Even then, some people could see the ability to deliver 600Mb + of content on a CD of some kind would be mean industry transformation would be needed.

Perhaps the difference with those multimedia conferences, was that for the most part we were outsiders to the publishing world. I had the pleasure of presenting at a conference in Melbourne where I talked about exploding value chains and other “MBA speak” with growing excitement..little did we know the full implications.

During a coffee break I also showed a music video clip of the Emma Paki song – “System Virtue” by arrangement with her record company as an example of future media content. If you’ve seen the video it has various staunch East coast references which to a middle class white audience was quite a shock.

My thesis was, that given access to a new distribution format which could hold video we would see the music industry trying out new things including new artists. I was only going on instinct and guess work but I believed better access to a suitable medium / or media might allow us to hear different voices, and different politics – such as Emma Paki.

Fast forward to the future again.

A few weeks ago I was listening to this radio interview between Pat Pattison* who was described as the songwriting teacher of Gillian Welch and John Mayer at Berklee College of Music, Boston. He started the course as an Analysis of Song Lyrics.

Berklee offers one of the few songwriting as a major courses in the music world. He was talking with Kim Hill who asked this question. (* now a local podcast copy) in case you tried it and the archive copy didn’t work. The Radio NZ Saturday Kim Hill programme reference is here. Podcast is here″> (duration: 35’41sec)

Key question: Do you think that we’ve run out of songs that sound new?

She added these song references to her question from one of Pat’s former students.

“There’s gotta be a song left to sing
Cause everybody can’t of thought of everything
One little song that ain’t been sung
One little rag that ain’t been wrung out completely yet
Gotta a little left

One little drop of fallin rain
One little chance to try again
One little bird that makes it every now and then
One little piece of endless sky
One little taste of cherry pie
One little week in paradise and I start thinkin’ “

Soul Journey 2003 by Gillian WelchThe verses come from “one Little Song by Gillian Welch.
(See 2 verses above) I really liked Pattinson’s answers.

Especially since there are now about 103.5 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. The same reasoning now applies to other published content such as blogs.

Here are some of Pats answers (from about 15minutes into the audio) as transcribed by me.

“Even if every song has been written’ – every song hasn’t been written by me. And in the journey of writing a song, one discovers things on a deeper level.

No matter whether that idea has been written a thousand times before.

And so songwriting is certainly a process of self discovery and in terms of it being something has never been done before,

I really loved Bob Dylan in the ‘No Direction Home” Scorsese DVD; who says – There I was in the ’60’s, ….I was doing something that nobody had ever done before. He paused and said -“I think I was wrong about that.”

New question by Kim on – The use of the senses in songwriting?

Pattinson’s answer:

You need to stimulate your listener to get / make the listener involved in your song.

There is a difference between saying “Somethings changed between us” which is sort kind of telling and abstract and..

You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips” (Number 23 in a list of top 25 recognised song lyrics. )

One shows and the other one tells.

When you can stimulate your listeners senses
They put their stuff into your words and the song becomes theirs.

Ain’t that the truth; and best of all his insights are valuable to all content communicators including marketing contact.

Great songwriting is distilled experience with a personal flavour. The connection is that like a great song our insights can help our customers if we are open to that possibility.

(Prof Pat Pattinsons full profile. More from Pat on songwriting.)

Every new generation appears to collectively relearn things some of us have forgotten and that is why reflecting on the history of everything is so important.

Incredibly one of Gillian Welch’s other great songs is on topic and is called Everything is Free off album Time (The Revelator) or over here and is about the music industry and some of these ideas.

Next week: Part 2 on what we can and should do about the great opportunities in content creation and publishing.

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