Anybody read Doonesbury this week? The comic strip is taking on the music industry's problems. If you're behind on the plot, check it out from the beginning at the main Doonesbury site on Slate.com.
In it, occasional character Jimmy Thudpucker, an "artist," is back and dropping terms like "social burning" and deploring the state of the music biz. That's why he's jumped labels and signed with Burger King -- which is streaming his new music in the ladies room and selling digital tracks at the register along with Whoppers.
It's a fairly obvious rip at the Starbucks/Paul McCartney deal, with Jimmy singing "Won't you buy my tune with your Value Meal?" McCartney did much the same in this video on Amazon.com.
The year is only halfway gone, and already labels and artists are delivering on their promise to take bigger risks and trying new experiments. To whit -- EMI's DRM-free move, Warner's licensing deal with Lala (and less fortunate run with AnywhereCD.com), Trent Reznor's alternate reality game, Macca's Amazon begging, er... "fan outreach."
Some are desperate, half-assed attempts that have one foot stuck in the business models of old, while others are breaking new ground. When you use words like "risk" and "experimentation" then you've got to expect a few hits and misses.
Sure we'll make fun of the artists and the labels that stumble along the way, just as we'll praise the innovations that work. But the point is that people are trying to think outside the box, which taken overall is a net plus for the industry overall.
And I can't help but wonder if any label exec has already contacted Burger King to make the Doonesbury farce a reality. I give it even odds.
I'm still struggling how to feel about Amp'd Mobile's bankruptcy this week. On one hand, they certainly talked a good game-setting themselves up as the hip, edgy answer to the stodgy wireless industry. Big operators take a safe approach to content services, and are primarily stuck concerned with selling voice minutes. Amp'd, meanwhile, was going to show us all how mobile media and entertainment should be done.
One of their billboards proclaimed "Our Awesome S**t Makes Their S**t Look Like S**t."
Yet it seems that Amp'd knows even less about running a wireless business than it claims the big carriers know about selling content. Almost half (80,000) of its subscriber base were non-paying deadbeats. D'oh! How does a pre-paid service screw that up?
Look, I don't want to kick anybody when they're down, and nobody hopes more than I that Amp'd can survive this crisis and emerge from bankruptcy as a valid service provider.
I also don't think Amp'd bankruptcy is an indictment of the mobile entertainment value proposition or the content-centric business model. On the surface, it seems the bankruptcy is a combination of bad management and bad timing.
But here's where Amp'd and anyone else pursuing a mobile-only strategy will have a challenge going forward -- it's not just about wireless anymore. I don't care if Amp'd's s**t is any better than Verizon's s**t or Sprint's s**t if that s**t is only available on my phone.
The future is multiplatform (see this week's Digital Entertainment column). Regardless of where I get my s**t from, I want to access it from not only my phone, but also my TV, my computer, whatever.
As competition heats up among the various network providers to be the one point of access for all these devices, where exactly does a standalone wireless player like Amp'd play a role?