The Real P2P Network
A lot of ink has been spilled talking about “P2P” and “P2P Networks”. Most of this ink has centered on the illegal distribution of media often conducted on these networks. Look at all the articles written on the music industry over the past four years and you’ll see a majority have been about this networking topology. Yet the real P2P area of importance has received less than its share of this ink.
P2P in a “Post-Grokster” world is about Person to Person. It is most importantly about the relationship between Performing Artist and Passionate Fan. This is the real P2P network.
Relationships matter in all areas of our lives. The Entertainment industry thrives on relationship. Without a fan feeling a connection to a song or artist, music becomes little more than background. This “elevator music” does little to inspire.
Since Edison’s invention of the phonograph record, the music industry has relied on various technologies to help make the connection with fans. Today’s systems are no different. Those of you who are sports fans seldom attend a game to watch the referee. Yet that is the focus we have had in music the past several years. The loss of billions of dollars to music piracy has caused the press and the industry to focus on a networking topology – peer-to-peer. And too often, technologists would have us spend our time thinking about the technology and how well it has been executed. A great referee keeps control of the game, applying necessary rules and structure, without becoming the dominant force of the game. I believe the best technology execution is, like the better referee, invisible to the fan. Technology is the enabler and not the focus. The fan is able to focus on their enjoyment of and connection with the music. The artist can create and market their craft without needing to become a techno wizard themselves.
The best technology empowers Artist and Fan.
I recently participated on a Digital Hollywood panel with Gail Zappa. Gail was aghast. Prior to the start of the panel, while the audience size was still small, she vented her frustration. “Everyone says ‘It’s all about the artist’, yet here we are to talk about the artist… and where are the people? Most of the sessions at these conferences are about technology with little attention to the issues of the artist and the fan.” She’s right.
How does technology empower a fan and artist? There are many examples. Here are two.
- Our company, PassAlong Networks, let’s fans share music with others using their existing instant messenger and email clients. Fill in your friend’s name, click send, and a rich custom page with music from the artist is available for your friend. The goal with Passing was to create the same type of experience that happens when you share music in the physical world. You hear something you like and you immediately want to share it with another person. Now you can. Instantly. Fans who share are rewarded with Points for successful passes.
- MySpace created a powerful social network, enabling a community of people to come together to share pictures, stories, and more. Many bands have used this social network to post samples of their music, show their touring schedule, and to “talk” to their fans. Fans can associate themselves with the bands that they enjoy. A relationship is started. Many experienced touring bands have leveraged this community to reach new fans. Many new bands have in turn leveraged the power of the community to build a fan base large enough to support them.
Many artists are not great business people. Fewer are outstanding marketers. The right technology platform brings distribution, marketing, and community to the Artist. Artists have avenues of distribution never before available. Artists can start with a community of a few and grow to support millions of fans. The platforms scale and enable reach and recognition never before possible. A few simple clicks of the computer mouse can empower an artist with powerful viral marketing and distribution tools. Globally!
Fans can easily stay in touch with their favorite artists. I have been told that 80% of fans of an artist do not know when that artist has new material out. Fewer can stay on top of the touring schedules to know when their favorite artists are coming to town. We recently released OnTour to address just this issue. We all lead busy lives. Technology is doing what it should when it enables us to hear important details through the din of everyday life.
So much more can be done to empower the Artist-Fan relationship. It is these Person to Person relationships that inspire us to think in new ways at PassAlong Networks. We are, after all, also passionate fans.