Thom Yorke & Discovering New Music, Part II

Interesting post by Ian Rogers over at fistfulayen.com on “the race to be trusted”, an outline of a talk he gave at Digital Music Forum West this month.  I heard Ian speak for the first time at this same conference in 2007 and he’s continued to be steady voice amidst a gaggle of shrill amateurs commenting on digital music’s evolution and development.  

The whole talk is worth a read, but a couple of the points seemed to coincide really interestingly with some of the points I’d made in my last post about Thom Yorke.  From Ian:
  • “the “innovation” Google+ brought and the “subscribe” feature Facebook just rolled out; they’re both Twitter-like unidirectional “follow”s, so I can follow the stream of someone who I’m not friends with. Why would I want to do that? Because I’m interested in what they have to say and trust them to be one of my filters, even though I don’t know them.”
    • I thought this touched nicely on the idea I posited last time that even though I don’t KNOW Thom Yorke, I’m interested in what he has to say and the music that he might be listening to.  But more important than this is, after the initial “oh, I think I might like what he’s listening to”, there has to be a consistent, worthwhile and relevant stream of content, otherwise it’s of no use to me, no matter WHO the person is.  Which leads nicely to the next point ….
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    •  “My prediction is this: five — wait, almost fell for the over-optimistic entrepreneur thing — FIFTEEN years from now we will all rely on a set of trusted brands to deliver us our content. Each of us will probably get more than 75% of our content from less than ten brands that we follow. What draws us to these brands is trust, trust that was hard-earned by honesty and and the delivery of value in return for our precious time.”
      • As I’d mentioned in the last post, I’ve been struck by how conservative my filters have been over the years – maybe 7-8 blogs/magazines  have connected me to 90%+ of the new music I’ve listened to in that span, and that’s been because of a slow buildup of trust.  What’s really interesting though is that Thom Yorke’s output, whether on radio/spotify/blog, enjoys the benefit of already having a lot of my trust due to 15+ years of being a massive fan of his work.  He’s had to prove it over the last few months, for sure, but he’s managed to crack my top 10 new music filters in a LOT less time it would take a brand new outlet BECAUSE I already had a lot of trust in him.   Which is actually in direct contradiction to the NEXT point Ian raises i.e.:
    • “Owners of copyright cannot be Trusted Brands. If you are at a record label or a TV network I have terrible news for you: YOU CANNOT BE A TRUSTED BRAND. I worked at a record label owned by my friends where our friends were the artists and we chose who we signed very carefully. Still, every album isn’t great and as the owner of the copyright you’re never going to be the one saying, “Stay away from this one, it’s a little stinky.”
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        • Thom is just such a copyright owner.  And yet, here he is, with my trust.  I suppose, strictly speaking, he’s not the kind of copyright owner Ian is talking about here – but it does highlight the blurring of lines between what the old world and new world define as copyright owners and what a “copyright owner” will be in the future.  Radiohead are truly a new breed of copyright owner, born off the back of major label success but completely independent.  But importantly, the trust I give to Thom has very little to do with Radiohead (the Trusted Brand Ian might refer to here) and a LOT to do with Thom the person suggesting amazing music. 
    • Finally, Ian had a few ideas about why any brand trying to be a Trusted Brand would fail.  One I found interesting was  “#3:  It’s unclear where you stand. Open an issue of Rolling Stone, turn to the reviews section, and count the number of reviews that have 3 stars. Really? You don’t like or love anything? It’s all just ok? Why the fuck are you telling me about it then? In the future we don’t care about anything that’s three out of five stars, time is too precious. We want help finding what’s awesome, or knowing what to avoid.”
      • If I had money for every time I came across a recommendation outlet that at first blush seemed like a winner, but then consistently just fucking hedged it’s bets, never being too critical or praiseworthy or WORSE YET just copy/pasting press releases and trying to pass it off as content, I’d be a rich man.  I can think of 5 or so on the island of Ireland ALONE that try to push this crappy agenda and they’ve long since been banished from my Google Reader because they’re just noise.  The Emperor has NO CLOTHES people.  Or “As Bob Lefsetz schooled me: have balls, speak your mind. That’s how you build trust and audience.”
    Good stuff, Ian.  Thanks again 🙂

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    Thom Yorke & Discovering New Music, Part II