daring fireball

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John Gruber is probably my favorite blogger; he’s smart, articulate, direct, insightful, and funny.

His ostensible focus is Mac commentary, but there are frequent forays into UI, design, and even business strategy.

He recently posted the following. I added the red underlines.

As I read this post, my teeth clinched, thinking of all the stoopid arguments I’ve gotten into with people who insisted that whatever project I was working on had to render in Internet Explorer (jackasses), I realized that – as recently as yesterday, and pretty much for the past two years – I’ve been trying to get people to stop worrying about 800 pound gorillas with respect to the music industry.

Yesterday, I gave a brief speech to some potential incoming freshman who are interested in music business. I, naturally, said that, but for some infinitesimal number of people in the music business, the majors are irrelevant. (I was later informed that a parent of one of said prospective students is a muckety-muck at one of the majors – so it goes.)

I’ve been preaching this same sermon for quite some time now. The majors are the 800 pound gorillas for 99.999% of people in the music business. The problem with this is that they create distraction, false expectations/hopes, and cause people to generate “strategy” that is predicated on a logical fallacy. The artist thinks, “Artists get signed to major labels. I’m an artist. Therefore I will get signed to a major label.”

The artist ends up engaging in a bunch of random acts of improvement because they think – based on their logical fallacy predicated on the 800 pound gorilla – that their actions will lead them to their manifest destiny.

Of course, this doesn’t happen. The artist then determines that her music just isn’t good enough. This may or may not be true; the music was never the issue. The issue was that the 800 pound gorilla led them on a quixotic progression of meaningless acts in search of something that isn’t there.

Had they removed the gorilla from their minds and instead focused on developing a plan that would allow them to monetize their passions and create art on their own terms (over the long term), they might (sure as heck are no guarantees) have been able to attain that goal. Certainly, their odds would have been better.

Here’s the thing. It’s not just the majors who are 800 pound gorillas in the minds of people in the music business. Nope. It’s radio (any format above non-com AAA), it’s print media, it’s myspace. These are all 800 pound gorillas that really have no bearing on your success as an artist.

To be clear, radio, print media, and myspace are not inherently bad (well, they sort of are…or at least inherently lame, and that’s bad), and they can (conceivably) have a place in an artist’s career. However, their places are subservient to other things.

What things? Things like creating real emotional connections with your constituents in a face-to-face (non virtual) manner and then leveraging the tech to accelerate this (see “The Straddle” related posts).

Things like viewing records as a tool set; a set of social objects that your constituents can use to develop and spread the Tribe.

Anyway, leave it to Mr. Gruber to perfectly and succinctly articulate what I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time now. As he would say, “Jiminy.”

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Excellent piece on Daring Fireball discussing the problems that Microsoft faces. They’re myriad, and Mr. Gruber articulates them far better than I could; I recommend you read the entire piece.

One line that stood out for me was the following:

“Xbox is the only thing [Microsoft] have that actually makes people happy….”

It seems like a throw-away line, but, in Mr. Gruber’s writing, nothing is a throw-away line. Instead, embedded in those few words is a pretty significant marketing lesson.

“Happy,” at first look, may seem less than sufficient as a description, but, I think it’s actually spot on. Bottom line: does the iPhone make me happy? Yep. Does a good bottle of wine me happy? Yep. Does Keith’s “Happy” make me happy? Yep. At the end of the day, I simply don’t have any time for products or services that don’t make me happy. And, happily, I have a ton of choice, and quickly jump ship when one product doesn’t make me happy. The dreadful teacher’s “service” Blackboard, for example, makes me miserable, so – whenever possible – I use Ning to manage my online classroom needs.

This idea of happiness relates directly back to my “law” of the Negative Correlation between Features and Customer Satisfaction. Basically, happiness ensues when a product or service does what you want it to do/is what you want it to be – at a higher level than you expected. One of Microsoft’s biggest problems is that they equate an abundance of features as relating to value/satisfaction; i.e. people are happier the more features they have. This is wrong. People are happier when the feature they want performs at a higher level than they expected.

Musicians, entrepreneurs, managers, etc. would be wise to determine what it is about their work/product/service that makes their customers happy, and then hammer that thing to a point where their customers’ expectations are exceeded.

In other words, happiness is a more emphatic version of “value.” We talk a lot about how a product must provide value. This is true. But, the truly great companies/bands/products don’t just provide value, they provide happiness.

So…this makes me happy:

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