Dr. Ron Suarez
is our guest blogger this week. Ron is a serial entrepreneur and Arbor City Councilmember who recently founded Promovuz
, offering digital music promotion, statistics and sales. He is also a Media Futurist
at and the president of Object Insight
, Inc., a software engineering firm. Ron uses his Ph.D. in Cognitive Science for his work with User Experience and Object Oriented Design.
Want to join the conversation? Please send your comments to: [email protected]
you shouldn't begin trying to create a podcast until you've learned to
subscribe to one and listened to many. While there are many ways you
can subscribe to a podcast, about 90% of all subscribers use iTunes
So, download iTunes if you don't have it already. It a little confusing
the first time you try using iTunes to find a podcast, because even
though podcasts are generally free you have to click on the "iTunes
Store." Once inside, you then click "podcasts" and you'll see lists of
top podcasts. However, since the essence of podcasting is niche
marketing, try exploring by typing a keyword into the search box and
seeing which podcasts come up.
A really easy way to start creating a podcast is to use Gcast
All you need is Internet access to sign up and after that all you need
is a telephone. After setting up your Gcast account, you just phone in
and speak. This means you can do a podcast from anywhere your phone
picks up a signal. I've experimented with using this to record people
out at events and have the audio up on the web site in a minute. This
is so easy, it makes considering creating your own podcast for a few
family members or friends very reasonable.
If you want to record a conversation you can call a land phone using Skype
Before making the call, navigate to "Do More" in the "Tools" menu. Then
select the "call recorder" for installation. For editing and recording
the free Open Source tool Audacity is a first choice of many
podcasters. Now that you've got an MP3 you need to wrap that with the
necessary code to make it into a podcast. You don't need to worry about
this code if you chose the Gcast route above or countless similar tools
(use the advanced Google search to find sites similar to Gcast). But,
if you are going to take the next step, then feedburner
(recently acquired by Google) is a good place to get your recording
turned into a real podcast. You get statistics and all sorts of add on
If you want to do a really professional podcast,
then you'll want to have the media from each podcast episode embedded
into a blog post, which offers the ability to easily associate a text
post that describes your show both for your human audience and for
search engines. In that case the premier solution is the Wordpress
platform along with the podpress
most important thing is to just get started. Once you're hooked you
find the time to learn the more advanced methods or decide to work with
someone who has already done it. You can get to know local podcasters
through user groups such as the Detroit Podcasters Network
you're a musician and you have your own content. That's great, but you
still have to secure publishing rights if you performed, but did not
write the song. If you not a musician, but you want to create a podcast
with music, then you need to be sure your content is podsafe. I have
links to a bunch of sites that offer and define podsafe music in my Del.icio.us
account. Delicious is social software for sharing bookmarks.
What should you put into a Podcast?
interviews, so it not just a monologue and let people find out about
the artist. Some people may be concerned about giving away their music
in a podcast and loosing sales. This should not really be a concern.
First, don't put all of your tracks into podcasts. And, since I'm
recommending interviews, consider samples, rather than entire tracks.
If the interview is truly interesting, then you would not want entire
tracks anyway. Each podcast episode is one MP3, so people who want to
steal music from a podcast would have to edit it before being able to
listen to or share the song by itself to avoid a purchase.
enough for a fan to get the feel of the music and focus on delivering
the message you want. This, of course takes time and effort, but as
music artists, this is what you already do when recording your music.
Just make sure to find someone who is good at talking. Be sure to talk
about your history and let your personality show through.
podcasters use a music only format and if you don't have time for
interviews this is something to consider. By mapping podcast episodes
to blog postings, you can provide the additional info listeners would
like to have in the text of the post.
Podcasting Best Practices
- Use what you already know about your fans to influence your podcast productions.
- Commit to a doable schedule (e.g. weekly, monthly) and keep to it.
Don't release a bunch of episodes all together and then stop for a
couple of months.
- Provide easy ways for fans to give you feedback about your podcasts and communicate back to them directly.
- When you perform, let people know you have a podcast. Put links to
your podcast on your primary web site and in any print material you
- Audio podcasts that work well currently are about 20 minutes in
length. Successful video podcasts are only a few minutes long. If
people want more, they'll tune into a couple at a time.
- While you don't need MTV quality, think about what your audience will expect.
- Deliver information to your fans about your history, where you're heading and make sure your personality shows through.
- Write good descriptions for each episode and ideally have these
appear in a blog post that is associated with the audio or video
- Follow web standards, so your content will be found and also syndicated more easily.
- Have a web site dedicated to your podcast, but list your podcast in
all the popular directories. Ping these directories to ensure your
podcasts get updated.
- Get experienced people to help you who understand both marketing and the technology necessary to support your marketing efforts.
Of course, many podcasts are not about music and do not include any
music. Most of the advice here still applies. Even if the topic of your
podcast has nothing to do with music, you can reinforce your brand by
having a music clip that goes along with you "station or show ID." Try
listening at the Michigan Technology News Podcast
web site. Each episode starts with a teaser about the story, then the
main content is surrounded by opening and closing billboards that
identify the show and sponsors along with music in the background. I
didn't have to worry about copyrights for the music, because I
generated it on my Korg, EMX-1 electronic music production station,
which comes with hundreds of patterns you can remix into endless
In the next installment, I'll be talking about where you can go to get the tools you'll need to create a podcast.
I've seen both business and political leaders here in Michigan put an
audio or video file onto a web page and claim they have a podcast.
this further confuses the general public as to what makes something a
podcast. Claiming a media file on a web page is a podcast would be like
writing a single article, making copies you put on your front porch,
telling people they could stop by to pick it up, and then saying you
are publishing a newspaper.
A podcast is episodic, like a
television series with many shows delivered at regular intervals, e.g.
once a week. In addition, like a magazine or a newspaper, you subscribe
(usually free). With a magazine subscription, you don't have to go back
to the newsstand every week or month, looking to see if a new issue is
available and then decide to purchase it. The magazine just keeps
showing up at your door with no additional effort on your part. Podcasting
is a tool of great value for doing business in The Long Tail. Unlike
radio, there is no limit to the size or number of programs in
podcasting. The key of course is how to reach your audience and not get
lost in the thousands of podcasts that are getting launched on a
regular basis. This is where branding, search engine optimization and
knowing how to connect with your audience comes into play. Pull vs. Push
distinction between a podcast and simply putting media on a web page,
is significant in terms of Pull vs. Push marketing. For example, in the
old business model for music, radio stations could push songs and
create hits, simply by playing a song over and over again. But, now
people are able to select what they want and listen to it when they want it by subscribing to podcasts. Newspapers, TV and radio are push media. A podcast is pull media, because users select what they want and subscribe to it.
act of subscribing is significant because users who choose to subscribe
are implicitly gving you permission to keep providing them with new
episodes, which then arrive automatically, without additional effort on
the part of the subscriber. There is great power in this, as these
people are likely to be real fans and building a community around these
fans is more likely to increase concert attendance and even lead to
things like merchandise sales. Getting to know your fans better by
providing them ways to interact means you would be less likely to offer
them something they do no want, and it makes it easier to keep things
real. Thus, what might be advertising in a push medium, can really be
considered a service people want in a pull medium.
properly a Podcast can be like a syndicated newspaper column that
appears in different newspapers all over the world. A Podcast is a
media file (audio or video) inside an enclosure. RSS stands for really simple syndication.
most popular way people currently get a Podcast is by using iTunes to
subscribe to an RSS feed, but RSS is a standard and the future (or even
the present for some) may hold all sorts of interesting alternatives to
iTunes. In addition, iTunes itself will continue to evolve.
Is politics a dirty word in business? Should someone writing a
business plan stay away from controversy? Yesterday, here in Metromode,
I blogged about the a GLEQ
business plan competition where my company promoVUZ
took second place. Feedback from one of the judges warned me to not
refer to the exploitation of artists by the big labels. Another comment
said I should get off my soapbox. In meeting with my team, we realized
that what we did wrong in the plan was not the inclusion of music
business politics, but our failure in clearly identifying why the
politics are so important.
Good sales people will advise you
to clearly define your target customer and identify their pain point.
Our customer is the emerging artist who feels exploited by enterprises
like the big record labels and also wants more control over their art
form than a big label will offer. Given that one-tenth of one percent
of artists who try to get on a big label end up being successful and
that an artist might sell 500,00 CD's but still not make any royalties,
we share the politics of the artist who feels exploited.
the way we covered this for the investor should have had less focus on
our conclusions and more evidence that this is what the emerging
artists think. An investor doesn't really care if artists are being
exploited, but they should care that millions of artists will spend
money to avoid this pain.
The value of the big label in the past
was the money they spent on marketing for an artist. There is a
tremendous shift going on in the way an artists can now market
themselves. In subsequent posts, I'll go into disruptive technologies
like podcasting. Here, I'd like to describe a bit about the changing
nature of the relationship between the artist and the fans.
Two summers ago I attended a party at the home of Sam Valenti, who runs Ghostly International
an independent music label based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I went up to
Sam and told him how great is was that they had a fan group on Last.fm
Sam looked at me with a puzzled expression. Apparently, neither Sam nor
anyone at the label had even heard of Last.fm at that time. For those
of you who still don't know, Last.fm tracks listener behavior and helps
you to discover music you've never heard, by helping you browse through
the playlists of others, whose musical taste overlaps with yours.
other social networking sites, they also have the concepts of "friends"
and "groups." So, a number of "friends," mostly in Europe has
apparently formed a Ghostly "group." In the old business model a big
record label would have spent a lot money creating fake fans so that
they could eventually recruit real fans into a club. In the new music
industry, fan groups seem to now form on their own with the artists and
labels finding out after the fact. Note that the Ghostly label includes
tech savvy staff and not many people knew about Last.fm two years ago.
Last.fm is part of a general movement away from "taste makers" to folksonomy
based music discovery and this phenomenon extends beyond just the music industry.
as is the case with research and development across many industries,
small business innovates and then large companies buy them to gain the
benefits. Last.fm was recently acquired by CBS for $280 Million. Read
the press release
Can a purely digital play succeed in Michigan? Will the various
players from investors to needed staff who "get it" be available to us
in Michigan? Can we avoid having to move to the east or west coast?
These are the questions I continue to ask myself.
The Great Lakes Entrepreneurs Quest (GLEQ) business plan competition came to a conclusion on June 12, 2007. My new company promoVUZ
took second place in the emerging company category along with a $5,000
cash prize. We provide digital promotion, stats and sales tools for
emerging artists in the independent music market.
Even if we
had not won any cash the overall experience was well worth the hard
work that our team put into writing the plan, because we actually came
up with a totally new revenue model. The final part of the competiton
included delivering a 3 minute elevator pitch, which in our case is
what moved us up into 2nd place. The written plan was seriously
questioned by a couple of the judges. People had told me that I should
avoid trying to describe certain concepts like doing business in the long tail.
However, one judge, who understood our plan used those very words in
his feedback, even though we did not include them in our plan.
fact that the majority of Amazon book sales are from books that are not
in the top 200,000 is evidence of the business opportunities in
Perhaps the most significant
misunderstanding was about why a giant like iTunes or Amazon wouldn't
eat us alive. While acquisition by Amazon could certainly be an exit
strategy for us, we are positioned quite a distance away from them in
terms of the customers we are targeting.
We started off two
years ago doing work for Toolshed, a company that does promotion for 30
independent labels. The bands in this market may seem like members of
the long tail compared to "hit makers" who get played on broadcast
radio. However, we are moving much further down the tail and we are
targeting emerging artists. From their perspective, "long tail" artists
with a significant loyal fan base seem like "hitmakers," even though
they may not be getting radio play. While the average Joe has not heard
about many of these "long tail" bands, each one of them has countless
emerging artists who want to be like them.
Thus, even inside
the long tail, there are minor "hitmakers" at the heads of mini-long
tails within the tail. And, I am sure that this "tails with the long
tail" phenomenon is not unique to the music industry where I am
building my business. We are marking out new territory that the likely
competition would not consider - at least not in the near future.
According to authors of the book Blue Ocean Strategy,
by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, "Companies have long . . . battled
over market share . . . in overcrowded industries, competing head-on
results in nothing but a bloody "red ocean" of rivals fighting over a
shrinking profit pool. (they argue that) . . . tomorrow's leading
companies will succeed not by battling competitors, but by creating
"blue oceans" of uncontested market space ripe for growth."
Now, of course, how does one describe those totally new markets in the Blue Ocean to a business plan judge. Hmmm?