Tag Archives: strategy

Every Movie & Show on Disney+

Disney’s new consumer-direct streaming subscription service, Disney+ costs $6.99 a month or $70 if you pay for a full year at once. Beyond just streaming, subscribers can download content to watch when they’re off-line. Disney+ is packed with library titles from the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel brands, plus National Geographic and even The Sound of Music, Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons, which Disney picked up in the $68 billion acquisition of Fox Studios. (If you want to read my taken the business model, you can read my analysis on Disney+.)

Following is the full list of all the Disney+ content planned for it’s first two years, many of which is available at launch this November 12. Continue reading

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What’s Up with Disney+

Disney just announced their streaming service Disney+. Here’s my perspective:

Wow That’s Cheap!

At $6.99 (or $69.99 annually), pricing is so low, they’ll get plenty of people just by leveraging their house file lists and winning customers over from positive publicity. My family already has all the movies in the subscription service that we’d want to watch, which we paid $20+ for on blu-Ray, & probably 75% of them we also paid another $20+ on DVD or laserdisc or &/or VHS. I’m not mad at Disney for that, I’m mad at me.

But even for folks who spent money on all those, the price is low enough that Continue reading

Should You Buy an Apple Watch?

I bought my first Mac in 1987 and have purchased dozens since. I bought two of the first edition iPhones the day they released on June 29, 2007 (for me and my wife), and I purchased at least one iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 shortly after they released. (I skipped the 4S and 5S.) Because it was too big, I skipped the Newton and went for the Palm Pilot, but sure had fun playing with the Newton my colleague at Disney Studios purchased way back when NBC was “must see TV.” However, I’m not buying this Apple Watch. Why? Because, this is the worst Apple Watch ever. 

Apple Watch is certainly cooler than the other smart watches and Fit Bits, etc, but in 12 months or so this Apple Watch 1 will look like the Newton when compared to Apple Watch 2.

Here are the salient pros and cons of both Apple Watch and Apple Watch 2:

Apple Watch Pros 

  • All features better than competitors’ smart watches

    Apple Watch

  • Hardware & software design aesthetics better than competitors
  • New “Force Touch” (press harder) input for right-click-like functions
  • “Digital crown” scroll wheel input (like iPod click-wheel)
  • Apple Watch can control iPhone’s camera for “remote selfies”
  • Notifications discreetly “tap” you with distinct tapping combos
  • Can use Apple Pay without iPhone pairingEdit   

Apple Watch Cons 

  • Expensive for certain planned obsolescence technology

    iPad Air vs Watch

     

  • Battery lasts less than a day
  • Battery takes 2.5 hour to charge to 100%
  • OS is a little too slow & stutters at times
  • Not “connected” unless used with iPhone or wifi
  • Limited replies a la two-way pager era
  • Siri a main input and is still hit and miss
  • Must use iTunes via computer
  • Worse than iPod Nano for music (& music drains battery)
  • Design is a bit more gear-head than fashionista
  • 40% thicker than iPad Air; 30% thicker than iPhone 6 
  • (Watch = 6 quarters thick; iPad Air = 3.7 quarters; iPhone 6 = 4.1 quarters)

Apple Watch 2 Pros

  • Will fix all those cons above

Apple Watch 2 Cons

  • You have to wait at least a year to get one

My advice is, buy the Apple Watch 2 a year from now.  Take the $350-$17,000 you would spend on an Apple Watch 1 and buy Apple stock after the stock sinks due to lower-than-expected Apple Watch sales. The sales figures released by Apple will be lower than the street wants. If no sales figures are released, the street will like that even less, and the stock will go even lower. The stock will still be expensive, but it will be a deal compared to what the stock price will be in June and September when the next iPhones and iPads release, and this time next year when the Apple Watch 2 will be better, and sell better. And you’ll basically be getting Apple Watch 2 for free due to the growth of the Apple stock you buy with your Apple Watch 1 money.  

Do you agree with this advice? Why or why not?

Here’s my post to help you decide between iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

Throngs of Diffidence: All About the U2 + Apple Deal

u2 video
This story is about the business of the U2/Apple/Universal Music deal for the free digital release of Songs of InnocenceMy Songs of Innocence album review is here. This story is 2300 words long, not my usual “about 300.”

Why’d I title this “Throngs of Diffidence?” Because “diffidence” means “lack of self-confidence” and Bono threw out a few self-deprecating statements in the last two years about concern for U2’s relevance. And, because those statements have been über-amplified since the innovative, free release of U2’s Songs of Innocence.

I think it’s ridiculous that reviewers and informed consumers are lambasting organizations like Rolling Stone for giving a good review to Songs of Innocence. A lot of the negative reaction is about the album being automatically placed into 500 million iTunes account holders’ libraries, at no charge to them, but without their prior consent. These reviewers should separate their review of the art from their review of the commerce/business/distribution model. The medium is not the message. Well, that’s not true, so, I guess I mean, don’t blame the messenger/technology. I’ll get to my opinion on that within this story.

Many of the negative reviews seem jaded and not reflective of the actual music on the album. I think that’s because reviewers were rushed to beat their competitors to get a review up, because it was not a normal release with advance copies sent out for review with a customary embargo to have all the reviews hit at once, aligned with the release date.

From my perspective, this deal is about an elegant a solution as is available in these tumultuous times for the music business, or any business dealing with intellectual property. Let’s look at the seven parties involved in this deal, what they want, and if this deal gives it to them.

Party #1: U2

The band has been in the studio for months and months over several years, with several different producers, and seemingly couldn’t find a sound or theme they felt should be the next U2 album. Further, No Line on the Horizon sold five million units sold vs How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb‘s nine million and All That You Can’t Leave Behind‘s 12 million, so their units sold metric has been heading in the wrong direction. (Notwithstanding, all those albums debuted at #1). The band may well have had some anxiety about their next release. Bono told BBC earlier this year, “We were trying to figure out, ‘Why would anyone want another U2 album?’…We felt like we were on the verge of irrelevance a lot in our lives.”

As Engineer Declan Gaffney finished tying together all the disparate tracks into a cohesive album, it became apparent that the album might be done in time to tie in with the Apple event for the launch of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. Gaffney got the master done, getting a full Producer credit for pulling it all together. No time for pressing a first run of CD’s and vinyl, but that wouldn’t be necessary with a deal like this one.

u2 happy 5

This seemingly spontaneous release must have been a huge relief for the band. Look at their faces in these surrounding photos, taken just a moment after the announcement. Larry and Edge look like they can’t believe they got away with this. If you’re the band, this is an outstanding deal. (It’s good for other parties, too. Read on.)

After what must have been a frustrating production process, they finally—and instantly—got the music pushed out to a possible audience of half-a-billion people. That’s  literally 100 times more people than bought their last U2 happy4record, and one of every 14 people on earth. It is rumored that they and their label were paid a reported $26 million for this, plus advertising support of an additional $100 million dollars. As Bono joked at the event, “We’re not going in for the free music around here.”

On the downside, the units won’t count on Nielson SoundScan or Billboard, nor will the album qualify for next year’s Grammy Awards. So what? They get bigger distribution, more revenue, and they can go for a Grammy the next year. If the paid version sells poorly, U2 and Oseary can simply say it was the free release that cannibalized the paid release. (Just don’t tell Party #4–the brick & mortar retailers.) But, if the paid version sells poorly, won’t the concert promoters get anxious? Doubt it. What promoter or sponsor would get sheepish about a tour from a band that had the highest grossing tour in world history, raking in $736 million the last time they went out in 2009-2011? (There were 110 shows in the tour, with a long break in 2010 due to a back injury Bono suffered during one of the shows.) Further, a collateral benefit to massive distribution of free music is that the arenas (or back to stadiums?) on next year’s tour will be packed with people that know the new songs.

Party #2: Apple

Apple is plowing $100 million into running the colorful “Echoes” TV commercial made from the new U2 video for “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).” No big deal, as they would be spending that money on an advertising campaign for the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, anyway, and so why not align with the new release from one of the largest bands in the world who had the largest tour in music history just a couple years ago, and who’s fans have reached fever pitch waiting five years for this release?

Whether or not Tim Cook feels throngs of diffidence, his industry (Samsung, Google, etc) and Wall Street certainly have been putting a lot of pressure on Apple to innovate with new products, rather than derivative ones. This U2 deal demonstrates that Apple is very much invested in music (notwithstanding Apple’s three billion dollar acquisition of Beats by Dre in May via the same relationship with Intersope Geffen A&M chairman and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who produced U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky and Rattle and Hum back in the eighties). Apple needed a high-profile, innovative deal like this, with iTunes getting stale after 11 years on the market, and their iTunes social media play, “Ping” dying 24 months after it launched in 2010.

The $26 million Apple reportedly paid for the album is a drop in the bucket for a company with annual revenues up 450% in the last five years and with 39% gross profit margin and $159 billion in cash on hand. They could probably misplace $26 million in the couch of the Cupertino campus break rooms. This $26 million also is seen as a cost of acquisitions and win backs of lapsed iTunes consumers, which will be the bedrock they use to migrate those consumers to the forthcoming Apple Pay program, where the company stands to make an estimated 15% on every iPhone-based credit card purchase consumers make in brick-and-mortar stores that use NFC Apple Unveils iPhone 6(that’s everybody by next Christmas), when they buy gas, groceries, coffee, clothes and whatever (companies such as Square make only 2.75%), according to a story in the Financial Times. This will be an enormous, continuous, passive revenue stream for Apple, and will make the iTunes play 11 years ago look tiny. Major disruption. Sorry, PayPal.

Apple Pay will ultimately be able to connect to any credit card (already signed are American Express, MasterCard and Visa, issued by banks representing 83% of credit card purchase volume in the US), and will generate a one-time security key for each and every single transaction, so there’s relatively no threat of mass theft like we’ve seen recently at Target and Home Depot. On the retailers side, Apple already has deals set up with scores of national chains such as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Staples, Subway, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Whole Foods Market, Walt Disney World Resort, and more. This will touch an overwhelming majority of consumers. Do you know anyone without an iTunes account? Well, they probably have a credit card account, and ultimately their bank will likely be inviting those non-iTunes people into Apple Pay because it’s far more secure than credit cards. And, don’t forget… it works with the phones, but also with the Apple Watches.

One other benefit Apple gets… Tim Cook gets to feel cool, regardless of that awkward “high one” he and Bono exchanged. I’ve not read or heard of anyone else remarking about that weird “high one” (I don’t know if that’s a legit phrase–I’m just making it up), but it sure seemed goofy to me. Do you agree?

Party #3: Universal Music Group

itunes u2 albums

iTunes store four days after the event. Courtesy of Complex Magazine.

It isn’t clear how the label and the Band split the supposed $26 million fee, but it is clear that the label is pleased with the deal and the impact from it. Interscope (a Universal Music label) exec Dennis Dennehy told Mashable, “Besides giving a new U2 album as a gift to iTunes store customers, the initiative with iTunes clearly encouraged discovery for new fans and a rediscovery for existing ones.”

At one point Thursday afternoon, 26 U2 titles charted simultaneously on iTunes top 200 albums rankings, according to the Mashable story. U2 had no albums on the iTunes chart the day before Tuesday’s Apple event.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, stated to Rolling Stone: “Just six days after its release on iTunes, a record-breaking 33 million people have already listened to the album.” That’s 6.6 times as many units than the last album sold.

Oseary said the band and label worked on the deal for a few months, and became excited about the idea of having an event nearly 10 years to the day of the launch of the U2 Project Red iPod in 2004. Whatever record labels are still standing in 2014 may have less diffidence than they did a few years ago, but a deal that increases revenue and awareness like this certainly can instill and/or increase confidence.

Party #4: Brick & Mortar (& Other Digital) Retailers

If you’re the music category buyer at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble or anywhere else but Apple, you’re feeling fairly diffident right now. But hopefully, you’re boss’ boss (the CMO or SVP of Marketing and/or Sales and/or Strategic Partnerships) has confidence and vision, and is calling Guy Oseary to make you’re own giant idea of a deal with the band.

Apart from that, you’ll do whatever you can to make hay with the October 13th release of the deluxe physical album available in both CD and Vinyl. (Or, will you not stock it out of protest?) The paid album will come with four additional entirely new songs as well as seven acoustic and alternate versions of some of the songs on the album, sos the band and label are giving you a product that has a bigger value proposition than the free one already released.

Oseary is not apologetic at all about snubbing the other retailers, saying in the Mashable interview, “Everyone has a phone and they can just call whoever they want to work with.” The onus is on brick & mortar to innovate with strong value propositions to consumers, but also to suppliers. I think there is a lot of opportunity for brick & mortar. And aligning budgets and dovetailing with big entertainment bands and brands go-to-market is a fairly obvious play. The challenge remains for discoverability and establishing revenue on smaller bands and brands, but perhaps you think that’s a problem more for your suppliers. From my perspective, that’s a short-sighted view of partnership. If you partner well with suppliers and help them with discoverability for smaller acts/brands/products, they’ll naturally be more apt to scratch your back on the big releases. u2-songs-of-innocence iphone

Party #5: Consumers That are U2 Fans

They get the latest music from a band they love, after waiting five years for a new album. What’s not to love? Here’s how to get the album for free, now. (You likely already have it.)

Party #6: Consumers That Do Not Like U2

“Haters gonna hate,” as they say. Would these people be upset if they opened their garage and found a free Ferrari in it? Gimme a break. You were not violated, and nobody is forcing you to listen to this music. I concede that there will be a best practice decorum developed for this sort of thing, but clearly parties 1-3 went the “forgiveness is easier than permission” route, because the nature of getting prior permission neuters the surprise element that made this whole deal work. The collateral damage was worth it to them. Apple, U2 and Universal Music apparently foresaw this backlash in advance and had what I see as a three-fold plan to respond to it:

  1. Bono wrote on U2.com, “For the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.”
  2. U2 Manager Guy Oseary told Mashable, “”It’s a gift from Apple. If someone doesn’t like the gift, they should delete it.”
  3. Apple posted a simple help page to let iTunes customers delete the album.

Party #7: Consumers Who Tweet & Post “Who is U2?”

These people are just shakespearing, as @TrendingPhrases would state it. They’re probably also gangstaposers. I’m sure they are wondering if the Apple Watch will put Bono’s DNA in their wrists without their permission?

trending phrases u2

In Summary

At a time when Nielsen Soundscan shows 2014 physical album sales down 14.6% and digital album sales down 11.7% (Billboard), U2 is up 660% in units against what their last album sold over a five year period, in just the first six days!

Seems to me, all parties fare well. It’s a big idea, but really, rather simple. It’s about aligning what the parties are already doing. I like the business model. I hope other industries try it.

And, I like the album. You can read my review here.

Going back to that whole “Throngs of Diffidence” thing… U2 has rebooted their art before by leaning into their insecurity about the work they were doing at the time. And doing something like that in the middle of a lack of confidence bout takes… confidence.

Or, maybe faith–which usually produces more fruit than any endeavor done solely by human strength. By the way, the last time U2 put out an album during a bout with this level of self-doubt, it was called Achtung Baby, which sounded very weird to people when they first listened to it. But now, of course, it’s on all the top albums of all times lists.

One Last Thing

I challenge all those who rated Songs of Innocence poorly to wait for the stories about the iTunes stunt to die down, then give the album another listen and see if they change their mind. I’m not asking you to get on the record about being wrong. You can just enjoy the record as your little secret. And if you deleted the free iTunes download, you can actually buy the record. I’ll bet if you put all the reviews in two columns–one, positive reviews and the other, negative–you’ll find that the “negative” column will be comprised of frustrated “musicians” that settled for being critics.

U2 – Songs of Innocence Album Review

u2 songs coverThis is my review of U2’s Songs of Innocence. Here is my review of their deal with Apple.

U2’s most recent album release was in February of 2009. Since then, we have already had two Olympics competitions, two world cups, five Super Bowls, five MLB World Series and five NBA/NHL/etc Championships. Six (6!) iPhone generations have been developed and released since then. The last U2 album was released 14 months before there was even an iPad on the market. Have you been waiting for another U2 album?

The wait is over. U2 just released Songs of Innocence, for free, on iTunes. A deluxe physical CD/vinyl release happens Oct. 13. The release is via a strategic, synergy deal between U2, their label and Apple. I’ll cover that in a separate post.

I’ve listened to the album three times, and here’s my initial reaction review. Keep in mind I’m a fan since before two cycles of skinny jeans ago. I even personalized my license plate to “U2 BOY (see below).” So, I’m a bit predisposed to like most things U2. Also, note that this post is 2,000 words, not my average of about 300 words.

U2 plates

My Overall Comments About the Album: 

  • It sounds like U2. That’s a good thing, but not always a given, as sometimes they run from themselves. They’re not trying to reinvent here, they’re sticking with what works for them.
  • There is a lot of guitar. That worked for 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Songs of Innocence is even “punk-ish” and youthful, despite the guys being 50-somethings and having articulated dissatisfaction with what they were getting out of themselves in the studio over the past couple years. That’s likely why it’s called Songs of Innocence (instead of the long-rumored title Songs of Ascent, which was described as a record of worship music). There are synthy keyboard flourishes as well.
  • The melodies and choruses are clear on the majority of tracks and will ultimately stick with the listener. That was true of the first U2 album (Boy) but hasn’t been consistent (October, The Unforgettable Fire, Zooropa, Pop). For the record, I personally love all those records, but they don’t appeal as much to the casual listener.
  • There are anthemic tracks that will play well live and some will still be still be played live 2-3 tours from now in the “greatest hits” third of any given U2 show.
  • I hear three “radio-friendly” tracks: “The Miracle”, which they played live today at Apple’s iPhone 6 & Apple Watch event; “Every Breaking Wave”, which they played on the Europe leg of the U2-360 Tour three years ago; and “California”).
  • There are some great songs that sneak up on you as favorites after a few spins. I’ll let you tell me which ones in the comments field below.
  • The lyrics are crisp and frequently overtly spiritual, which usually bodes well for U2 songs. There are quite a few couplets and choruses pining for their youthful years, including the opening song about Joey Ramone, who was a childhood hero of Bono’s, especially after the death of his mother when he was 13 years old. U2’s official website (U2.com) calls the album “a kind of musical autobiography, the eleven new songs chart their earliest influences from 70s rock and punk to early 80s electronica and soul… and reveal how music changed everything.” Read the account on U2.com, which Bono calls “one of the great nights of our life.”
  • The record sounds integral and cohesive as a whole, despite being recorded by a number of different producers, including Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton, producer and musician for bands such as Broken Bells, The Black Keys), Paul Epworth (Coldplay, Adele), Ryan Tedder (Taylor Swift, Beyonce) and Flood (longtime U2 producer). Danger Mouse closes out the last three tracks, and seems to be the musical “soul” of the album. These are also the songs that sort of sneak up on you and will hold up over time. They are candidates for closing out the live shows, much like “Moment of Surrender” did on U2-360. U2’s engineer Declan Gaffney also gets a producing credit, probably due to the multi-year, multi-producer, otherwise disparate recording sessions.
  • Bono said at the Apple event, “This is our most personal record.” 

And Here’s My Quick Take on Each Track:

U2 Larry gallery_285866_226_435622_640

“The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”
Producers: Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth & Ryan Tedder
An instant transport back to the teenage years of Bono and the boys. They refer to themselves as “pilgrims” in the lyrics, with the Ramones being their rock-n-roll and culture heroes. The rhythm guitar riff, drum beat and chanting chorus sound more like Adam Ant or The Clash than the Ramones, but this song is radio-ready, and it is the song they played at the Apple event, making it the first thing anyone heard from the album. Bono sings, “I woke up when the miracle occurred / Heard a song that made some sense out of the world.”

“Every Breaking Wave”
Producers: Danger Mouse & Ryan Tedder
This one sounds like a typical U2 song in the tradition of “All I Want is You” or “Electrical Storm.” This is one of the songs they played on the European leg of the 360 Tour, although it was appropriately less-produced then, as it was live. The lyrics evoke nautical themes, and seem to be about avoiding the distraction of bright shiny objects and the superflous latest crazes.

“California (There Is No End to Love)”
Producers: Declan Gaffney, Paul Epworth & Danger Mouse
I’ll need this one to grow on me, I think. It’s a mid-tempo number that is kind of forgettable until the guitar solo, but there have been a lot of U2 songs over the decades that I didn’t care for at first but grew on me over time, and which I now love–or at least appreciate. The message on this song would have to be “there is no end to love,” as it repeats in the songs final minute.

“Song for Someone”
Producers: Ryan Tedder & Flood
This is quite a sweet song, likely about Bono and his first and current love, Ali, his wife. But like many of Bono’s lyrics, it is likely also about his relationship with Jesus Christ. He sings:U2 Bono gallery_285866_226_85761_640

And I’m a long long way from your Hill of Calvary
And I’m a long way from where I was
and where I need to be
If there is a light you can’t always see
And there is a world we can’t always be
If there is a kiss I stole from your mouth
And there is a light, don’t let it go out

It’s a song where concertgoers will either be holding hands with one another, having a spiritual epiphany or using the opportunity to go out in the concourse to get a drink or use the restroom. Just saying. Kind of like “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” on Achtung Baby.

“Iris (Hold Me Close)”
Producers: Paul Epworth & Ryan Tedder
In the tradition of “I Will Follow” (War), “Tomorrow” (October) and “Mofo” (Pop), Bono returns to the subject of his deceased mother, who died at his grandfather’s funeral. The song starts with a slow acoustic meandering and opens up into an anthem. He writes:
Hold me close, hold me close and don’t let me go
Hold me close like I’m someone that you might know
Hold me close, the darkness just lets us see
Who we are / I’ve got your life inside of me
Free yourself, to be yourself if only you could see yourself

“Volcano”
Producer: Declan Gaffney
Opens with a mean base line as threatening as “Seconds” on 1982’s War LP, only at a much faster tempo. It has more of an anger akin to “Bullet the Blue Sky” on Joshua Tree. It has a very cool repeating guitar riff under the chorus. My guess is it’s also about Bono dealing with the death of his mother as a young teen, and his resulting anger and confusion.“Raised by Wolves”
Producers: Declan Gaffney and Danger Mouse
“Raised by wolves” seems to be about growing up in the streets, and the penchant for some disaffected youth to become indoctrinated into the religion of hate. I think it has to do with a specific car-bombing in Dublin. Consider the lyric:
U2 adam gallery_285866_226_396605_640

Boy sees his father crushed under the weight
Of a cross in a passion where the passion is hate
Blue mink Ford, I’m gonna detonate and you’re dead
Blood in the house / Blood in the house
I don’t believe anymore / I don’t believe anymore
The worst things in the world are justified by belief

“Cedarwood Road”
Producers: Danger Mouse & Paul Epworth
The liner notes say “For Guggi.” Bono grew up on Cedarwood Road (Dublin) with his lifelong friend, Guggi Rowan. Bono sings, “It was a warzone in my teens / I’m still standing on that street…All the green and all the gold / The hurt you hide, the joy you hold / The foolish pride that gets you out the door” and then later “All the green and all the gold / The hurt you hide and the joy you hold / The foolish pride that sends you back for more” and finally at the end, “a heart that is broken is a heart that is open.”

“Sleep Like a Baby Tonight”
Producer: Danger Mouse
This slow burner sounds like Danger Mouse with a dark sound akin to “Love is Blindness” (from Achtung Baby) and with the lyrical fortitude of “Staring at the Sun” from Pop LP. Bono sings:

Hope is where the door is
When the church is where the war is
Where no one can feel no one else’s pain
You’re gonna sleep like a baby tonight
In your dreams, everything is alright

“This Is Where You Can Reach Me”
Producer: Danger Mouse
Built on a very cool groovy guitar riff and corresponding spooky keyboard flourish, but at the same time very “pop,” this song is just the right combination of sweet and savory. It celebrates Bono’s fascination with Joe Strummer and The Clash without pandering or sinking into sophomoric copy-catting. Very cool song. Makes you wonder what all the other tracks from the Danger Mouse recording sessions might sound like–And, how they may be used later in the next couple years.

“The Troubles”
Producer: Danger Mouse
A down beat number featuring Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li, invited into the studio by Danger Mouse. The refrain repeats:

Somebody stepped inside your soulU2 Edge gallery_285866_226_582893_640
Somebody stepped inside your soul
Little by little they robbed and stole
Till someone else was in control

…and continues…

God knows it’s not easy
Taking on the shape of someone else’s pain
God now you can see me
I’m naked and I’m not afraid
My body’s sacred and I’m not ashamed

In Summary

If you’re a U2 fan, you’ll enjoy this album. If you’re not, you might as well get it, because it’s free. The music will probably grow on you, and anybody would do well to give it a listen and allow the lyrics to wash over them. I don’t know why U2 recorded several albums worth of songs with several different producers over five years, and waited until now to release this collection of songs. Ultimately, U2’s goal is to have fresh content for a tour, and Bono said at the Apple event yesterday, “As of this time last week we finished out album,” so it’s likely that the opportunity to put the collection of songs out to half a billion people meant wrapping up the album and getting it out. More on that in my next post.
It’s telling that Bono said to Tim Cook, “How do we get it to as many people as possible (to hear this) because that’s what our band is all about.” He added that the record is “our core DNA. The clue is in the name.” Whether he meant the band’s name U2 (a spy plane that sees everything, a la God’s perspective), or, if he meant the album title, Songs of Innocence, he is saying he really wants people to hear it, and that “It’s our most personal album.” Many of these songs don’t actually seem to be exploring “innocence,” but rather an ecclesiastical foray of youth and life and ultimately redemption. Here’s my writeup on all the parties involved with the Apple deal. For now, here’s how to get the free album.


How to Get the Album

  1. Open the Music app on your iOS device, or your iTunes music library on your Mac/PC
  2. Search for ‘Songs of Innocence’ under the artist or album tab
  3. Click the iCloud icon to download. You can also listen via streaming

On October 13th the physical release drops. It comes with a 24-page booklet. A deluxe, gatefold double album, contains an acoustic session of songs from the album and four additional tracks: “Lucifer’s Hands”, “The Crystal Ballroom”, “The Troubles (Alternative version)” and “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight (Alternative Perspective Mix by Tchad Blake).” The album will also be available as a gatefold, double white-vinyl LP with an exclusive remix of “The Crystal Ballroom.”

What are your favorite songs on this album?  

 

Here’s my “review” of the U2/Apple/Interscope Deal

Related–>Super Bowl Synergy http://wp.me/p26kfi-t4

Business (and Life) Lessons from the World Cup (and my Dad & Son)

Art Brown, captain and goalie of the West Point soccer team, in 1961.

Art Brown, my father, and captain and goalie of the West Point soccer team, in 1961.

In watching the World Cup and my son’s traveling soccer games, I’ve come to realize that a look at the basic differences between offense and defense gives insight on human behavior and personalities that we can all use in business, as well as life in general. In this exercise, players on offense might be executives, marketers, salespeople, creatives or anyone with a higher profile role and/or more extroverted personality. Players on defense might be accountants, HR staff, production, engineers, or anyone with a more back office role or more introverted personality.

As you read these simple observations, be thinking of your own behavior and how you interact with your colleagues, clients, vendors, family and friends:

  • Offense requires inventiveness whereas defense is preventive — Those traits are typically not equally strong in the same personality
  • Inventiveness in its nature is improvisational, and yet defense requires impromptu responses
  • Offense is creative and opportunistic–you only have to be “on” when you have the ball
  • Defense is high-stress and requires keen alertness at all times*
  • Offense is easily measured and recognized by what happens (goooooaaaaalllls!), so those on offense get a lot of credit and recognition
  • Defense is measured by stats such as saves, but the vast majority of people don’t look for that data
  • Offense is high-profile and every time someone scores, there is massive celebration
  • Defense is, for the most part, only noticed when they make a mistake
  • The camera always follows the ball which is 100% of the time with the offense

Offense requires inventiveness whereas defense is preventive
Those traits are typically not equally strong in the same personality

For what it’s worth, here’s some personal context. I played soccer growing up and was half-back. Kind of half offense and half defense, but colleagues of mine would probably tell you I mostly play offense. That said, I do come from a good “defense” bloodline. My dad was an all American goalkeeper and captain of the West Point team during college, and he later became a coach and the officer in charge of the West Point soccer team. So, he must have been very trained and groomed for this, right? Not. On his first day of soccer ever, when he tried out for his high school soccer team, the coach asked, “Who here plays basketball?” My dad raised his hand. Without yet seeing any athletic endeavor from my father, the coach said, “You’re goal keeper.”

So, here are some takeaways from my perspective:

  • Neither offense or defense is better than the other
  • It takes both good offense and good defense to win
  • The goalkeeper is the ultimate defender–and during the game is more important than the coach–seeing the whole game and interconnecting the team’s individual players via strategy, coordination and communication
  • Maybe we could all stand to look for and celebrate the metrics of our colleagues on defense (If a defender’s goal is to stop goals, then they “score” goals when they stop them)
  • Everybody on the team is on both offense and defense, they are just on different places of the field
  • Offense and defense are on the same team (Don’t fall into the trap of seeing someone with a different personality or role than you as your opponent)

Everybody on the team is on both offense and defense,
they are just on different places of the field

Did this help you? What insights do you have from this, or from any sport?

*Since Germany whipped Brazil 7-1, I’m mindful how german shepherds trained for protection sometimes get severe anxiety due to their feeling of responsibility to allow nothing to happen. The anxiety comes from having to be always ready, always on.

Super Bowl Synergy: Free Music From U2

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Here’s a quick, practical example of Super Bowl-sized synergy. Synergy is the collaboration of two or more organizations to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Synergy works best when it’s just a natural alignment of organizations’ regular activity. When you align what companies are going to do anyway, nobody has to spend additional money and the impact is far greater–exponential even.

Here are seven organizations and their individual goals. Let’s see if they align and synergize:

U2 wants to sell music. They need a big debut for their next album

iTunes wants brand exposure and market share

Red (the not-for-profit) wants to raise money and awareness to get medicine to the poor

Bank of America wants to be the top of mind brand bank to this generation

This generation wants global impact, and, like every generation, they want to feel cool

The NFL wants big, cool commercials during the Super Bowl broadcast

The poorest of the poor need medicine to stay alive

Here’s what these seven separate groups are doing together this Superbowl Sunday:

Bank of America will run a TV commercial during the Super Bowl that will feature U2 and debut their new single “Invisible.” The spot will tell consumers they can download the single for free on iTunes, and that BofA will donate $1 to Red for every download (up to $2 million). Consumers will also become aware of this need and can donate additional funds to Red with the click of a button. Those donations will be matched dollar for dollar by other Red donor organizations such as the Gates Foundation.

It’s good business and contributes to the common good.

The campaign is expected to raise more than $10 million in total to fight AIDS tuberculosis and malaria. Everybody wins (except for the losing team of the Superbowl). It’s good business and contributes to the common good.

My guess is that Monday after the Super Bowl, U2 will easily hit that two million download goal. And, iTunes will gain market share. And, consumers will get free music. And the Super Bowl will get buzz. And, Red will have raised $10 million. And, the poorest of the poor around the globe will get medicine so they can stay alive.

Below is a pitch from Bono on how you can help eradicate this disease. And, remember, you’re helping do just that simply by downloading U2’s new single “Invisible” from iTunes on Super Bowl Sunday.

20140125-072707.jpgHere’s another example of synergy and alignment: You can listen to my friend Mark Hall’s new Casting Crowns album, Thrive, for free on iTunes Radio. You can buy it, too, and also read his new book, also called Thrive (published by my company).