Trendspotting: Celebrity Tech Investors

Everyone knows that Ashton Kutcher is active on the tech investment scene here (as mocked in Shit Silicon Valley Says) with stakes in notable ventures such as FourSquare, Airbnb, SoundCloud, Skype, Flipboard, Path and more. Now comedian Andy Samberg is in the game with his new tech venture, CanaryHop, the latest in a new crop of geo-social marketplace services a la LocalMind and Zaarly. And he’s just the latest addition in a growing list of celebrity tech investors such as Lady GaGa, Kanye West (Turntable.fm), Leonardi diCaprio, Lance Armstrong (Mobli), and Kim Kardashian (Shoedazzle)…to name a few.

There will be more celebrity investors to come too, I’m sure. Because tech is where it’s at. It’s hot, it’s cool, it’s lucrative and everyone wants a piece of it – the innovation, the disruption, the fame, the fortune. Whatever the cause, whatever the passion…there’s an app for that. Or one to be funded and built. The world is your oyster, the options limitless and the pockets deep. Don’t have a revenue model? Who cares! It’s users that count. But hey, with all of these user-driven models getting funded, the celebrity affiliation could be just the kick needed to drive consumer adoption, awareness and success. Would I have clicked on CanaryHop if it weren’t for this clever Andy Samberg video? Probably not. So two points to them for overcoming the first obstacle: getting noticed.

The tech scene is on fuego. Anyone living in the Bay Area right now knows this, feels it and is experiencing it first hand. We’re working and living like it’s 1999 out here (well, almost) and making a lot of people rich in the process (most definitely). It’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s….Revenge of the Nerds.

[RANT] Do Record Labels Care About Music Consumption Habits?

Global Music Consumption

Looking at this survey from The Nielson Company of global music consumption habits I think not. Digital music sales are flat, music consumption habits are changing and so are the demographics and desires of music fans themselves. So why is there no innovation in music product to cater to these new habits and consumers?  Why aren’t the labels listening? Why aren’t they cooperating and creating appropriate licensing models that will spur new product innovation and….revenue?

Clearly the old model of buy and listen isn’t winning the popular vote anymore. When the labels had control over music supply it was a very viable and lucrative model. But guess what,  they don’t have control over the supply anymore, whether they like it or not. Consumers have a choice and try as they might to squelch piracy with their iron fists of legislation, at the end of the day they’re losing…and making everyone suffer along the way. It’s a slippery slope of defense with an inevitable ending. The reality is right there in this chart. This isn’t the music consumer of yore. It’s a YouTube generation filled with a new kind of music fan that wants to experience music and share it. So let’s put this lame horse known as the old music industry out of it’s misery, make some glue, and build new product strategies that support both the artists and consumers. Goddamnit.

Music Industry Forecast: Cloudy

The music industry is in upheaval. Just look at the revenue projections – continued decline. The old model doesn’t work and, in desperation, the industry has tried many new models on for size: a la carte downloads, subscription services, ad-supported streaming. With the exception of iTunes, no one has had runaway success with any of these approaches.  So what’s next for the music industry?  Look to the clouds.

This week, TechCrunch, posted an insightful entry from digital music veteran Michael Robertson on Apple’s secret cloud strategy with iTunes and why their recent acquisition of LaLa is so critical. Like many, I assumed the acquisition was to further the development of the long anticipated subscription-based music service – like Rhapsody, Spotify, etc. Turns out this speculation is far from reality and there is no subscription-based service coming down the pike from Apple. The secret sauce to the Lala acquisition is actually it’s personal music storage service, which provides software to store a personal music library online and then play it from any web browser alongside web songs they vend.

The expectation is that Apple will unveil a mobile iTunes sometime in 2010 that will leverage Lala’s technology to copy users’ personal music libraries to the net (or cloud), making it available from any browser or net connected ipod/touch/tablet/computer. Once loaded, users will be able to navigate and play their music, videos and playlists from their personal URL using a browser based iTunes experience. Pretty cool, huh? The cloud-centric model is not lost on others in the space.  The acquisition of Lala will just help Apple get there first – again.

Cool Tech: iLike’s Local Concert iPhone App

ilike

Ohhh, here’s a new iPhone app that made me very happy.  Meet Local Concert from iLike which allows you to keep tabs on your local music scene and when your favorite artists are coming to town. The application tracks all of your favorite artists (culled from your iPhone or iTouch library), alerts you when they’re coming to town, enables you to buy tickets, listen to their music and share concert alert news with friends – all from your iPhone.

The other cool feature is that it allows you to track the concert calendars of your favorite local venues. This is particularly great for me because sometimes my music library doesn’t always reflect all the artists I might want to see. I can envision the local venues tab of the app becoming a critical tool for my SXSW planning too.

Grab the free app here.

Sonos Launches New Controller

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Had a great time tonight mingling with like-minded music geeks at the launch party for the new Sonos Controller 200.  What is Sonos, you ask?  Simply it’s the best digital music management system out there.  It gives you the power to access all of your music in your house anywhere, anytime. And I’m not just talking about your digital music library.  The system comes with a host of embedded services like Rhapsody, Last.fm, Pandora, Internet Radio, Sirius/XM…it’s the perfect music tool for those afflicted with OCMD.

The original Sonos Controller was a bit of a beast.  So the Sonos Controller 200 (CR200) is a definite form factor improvement, and who doesn’t like that?  It’s palm sized and touch screen operated, just like an iPhone or iTouch. The company also has a free app for those devices that gives you essentially the same functionality, but that’s a little personal for everyday public consumption.  So the controller still serves as a necessary component to the system and I will be happily swapping out the 100 for the 200 in my home.

Setlist.fm: A Great Site for Live Gig Whores, Like Me

TechCrunch (by way of @epicurianzealot) turned me onto this great new Wiki-like site that serves as a repository for tracking live performance set lists of musical artists, called Setlist.fm. With festival season upon us, this is a site I will definitely be referencing to track the frequency of songs played by more well known artists. Setlist.fm also includes an audio and video playback feature as well as lyrics.

Plus they make it easy to integrate the set lists into your social media accounts, as seen below. Seen here are the set lists for the two Grizzly Bear shows at The Fillmore last month. I was always curious to know how similar or different those two performances were. And if they pulled out my favorite cover of Yes‘ “Owner of a Lonely Heart on the second night. Thankfully, they did not.

Grizzly Bear, “Owner of A Lonely Heart” (Yes cover)