It's very refreshing to speak with a technology company who, for a change, knows where it fits best in the digital entertainment value chain.
Too often some new company launches out of nowhere with some decent code and a dream, thinking they're going to take on the established sources of online entertainment just because they have some cool new technology.
But good technology doesn't equal a good consumer business, which is why after several minutes of technical explanations and important sounding acronyms, I was relieved when the newly launched Vusion Inc. -- an HD video streaming technology provider. The company told me they had no intention of launching their own consumer service.
"We're an Internet and video engineering company," VP of marketing Grover Righter said. "We don't know how to do brand promotion. Our job is not to pick the best artists (or) promote them or help them produce stuff."
Amen, brother. Vusion's first public customer is Island Def Jam, which uses the technology to stream music videos in high definition. The technology works great, the videos are crisp, clear and load quickly. All signs point to a successful model.
Clearly, the company is infatuated with its technology, but is not so blindly in love that it foolishly tries to launch as a branded consumer-facing service. In the online video space, that may have been possible three or four years ago. But now there's this thing called YouTube, which dominates the Internet video market with a 70% share.
To go up against a behemoth like that takes some serious marketing and branding chops. Fine for you if you have what it takes, but just having some killer technology isn't going to cut it.
Actions speak louder than words, which I know is an ironic thing to say coming from someone who makes his living as a writer. But with the cacophony of hype over new music services growing ever louder, there are two ways to set yourself apart from the crowd these days -- speak louder than anyone else or just let your actions do the talking.
Choosing the former is Steven Nowack, who launched a new digital-music-service-slash-"record label" this week by the name of SOS Records. In launching the mostly shrug-inducing service, he dials the hype meter well past 11, creating more skepticism than admiration in the process.
From overdramatic claims like The Day That Music Was Set Free" to the drafting of Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a celebrity endorsement, the entire spectacle sets off the BS alarms (Desmond Tutu? Really?). The site aims to turn the fan into the ultimate A&R rep by letting them vote on their favorite tracks. The highest-ranking then get production assistance and, presumably, some kind of recording deal.
Translated another way, SOS Records aims to populate its site with free content from artists desperate to do anything for exposure, and expect music fans will flock to listen to music they've never heard before just for the privilege of voting for their favorite songs. And somehow this will generate enough traffic to bring in advertisers paying enough to make the 5%-10% of revenue SOS is paying participating artists and producers worth their while.
While I applaud the idea -- if genuine -- to democratize the artist discovery process. But we all know what opinions are like. Executing such an effort is much more difficult that it sounds, social networking technologies notwithstanding.
Far from a revolutionary new service, SOS is just one of many new online services that offer different shades of the same concept, none of which will likely have any noticeable impact on either how music is discovered and acquired, nor on the careers of the artists involved.
Historic? More like history.