Tuesday, June 26, 2007

If music be the food of love, dance on

I traveled across to London yesterday to meet with Tony Wadsworth and his EMI team in the UK. Under Tony’s leadership, and with Ronn Werre’s passionate pioneering, we (Saatchi & Saatchi) have just put together a first for the industry in a partnership with EMI. The first project out of the box? We have been appointed to market the entire Beatles back catalog globally. How do you like them onions!

On the way to the meeting, I was listening to stuff recently added to the playlist on my iPod. Four albums are staples for me this week. Springsteen’s Live In Dublin, with the Sessions band, is his best album since Born to Run. The Boss keeps growing and keeps reaching out to more and more people. Recently, I had a session with David Lauren and the Ralph Lauren team on ‘American Living’, their new concept for JCPenney. If anybody epitomizes this quality, it’s Springsteen. Ok, you can’t beat the E Street Band; but the band Springsteen has with him playing the Seeger Sessions is the next best thing. The album combines some amazing favorites like 'Atlantic City' and staples I was brought up on in the Pete Seeger days. 'Deep Protests' has been completely updated and hammered home; Springsteen on top form musically and vocally. Thinking about it, 'How Can A Poor Man Stand In Such Times And Live', is probably seventy years old now but has been updated so it can rage at today’s US political environment. I never tire of hearing 'We Shall Overcome' – it takes me back to more innocent times – and The Boss’ duet with Mrs. Springsteen on 'If I Should Fall Behind' is one of the great love songs of all times.

Here’s a leap. Springsteen to Springfield. Dusty Springfield was the first of the UK pop divas and the first white woman to sing with a black voice. The BBC have dusted (that’s not the worst pun that’s ever been made) off their archives and put together the best of her music from 1962 to 1970. The big songs are sung beautifully from 'I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself' to 'In the Middle of Nowhere' and 'You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me'. Then there is the Bee Gees' 'To Love Somebody', a track I had never heard from Dusty before. Apparently she recorded it for her greatest album Dusty In Memphis, but somehow the tape got lost in a fire. Typical of the times. Don’t miss it this time round.

A contemporary of Dusty’s, but from Queens, New York, was Mary Weiss, the lead singer of the Shangri-Las. Who will ever forget 'Leader of the Pack' and 'Remember'. I’ve always considered Mary the forerunner to people like Debbie Harry and Cyndi Lauper, but with a more dangerous sexy edge (very Queens!). Forty years on, she has finally released a solo album. The track 'Heaven Only Knows' is sensational.

And finally, iTunes have at last put The Traveling Willburys’ two albums into play. My great friend and colleague, Jim O’Mahony, alerted me to this and I downloaded them on the spot. I’m going out to Virgin this morning to buy the ‘got-to-have’ three disc deluxe set which has previously unreleased bonus tracks. Twenty years ago, The Traveling Willburys, Vol. 1 appeared with one of the world’s greatest songs, 'Tweeter And The Monkey Man'. And can you believe it the song is now a tv show! On top of that, 'Dirty World', 'Congratulations', 'Last Night', 'Margarita', and 'End Of The Line' are all just brilliant. To top this all off, Roy Orbison steals the show on 'Not Alone Anymore', which puts 'Pretty Woman' and 'Running Scared' into the shade.

Was that flight to London six hours? I barely noticed.


Susan956 said...

For years I've said.. "I'll really know I'm getting older when I hear someone say - Who are the Beatles?".

Various people challenged me on this saying kids would naturally know the standards - even from the upswing in interest on 'retro'.

Six months ago I heard the words:

Who are the Beatles?

Good lord. *Blink*

So, as you set about to market the backlist, perhaps consider who may not know and why it would be great if they knew. Who are the [living] national/international treasures of music and why should we ensure all people possible know about them?

Susan956 said...

Re IPod. I love mine and consider it one of the best gifts I've ever been given. It gives me privacy (really important to me at times), my 'ownworldness' et al.

However, your image choice today Kevin reminded me of the ear pieces. No-one I know uses these ear pieces unless they have to or are lying down (very comfy in bed). Everyone I know has bought upgraded headphone sets to use on their IPod.

I've been in stores and retailers themselves don't speak well of the ear pieces. They're treated like one of those purchase items that you naturally will upgrade if you want better sound. The IPod itself is considered wonderful but the earpieces less than the quality of the unit.

If this is a universally shared view..(question mark) then would one avoid advertising the units using such an image as you chose? Or....?

Is this where Apple could offer a secondary set of upgraded earpieces or headphones proper..perhaps using a series theme to make the purchase enticing and contextualised?

Piotr Jakubowski said...

It's interesting to track the emergence and revolution of portable music players, not only the iPod.

I remember a day a few years ago when we bought our first computer with a CD writer, and all of a sudden, I could listen to my music, in the order that I wanted to listen to it. I could have Metallica next to the Gypsy Kings, Guns and Roses next to unknown indie bands.

This ties directly to what you've mentioned about the powershift in consumer engagement. The iPod paired with iTunes seems to have been one of the first products that stimulated this mindset, as consumers were given more power to control exactly what was on the playlist (not to mention the order). And now with products such as the Tivo, it seems that this is becoming an advent of change for the industry.

When I was living in Tokyo for a few months last year, my second-gen iPod broke on the first day. My train ride to the city was 1.5 hours round trip, and some form of entertainment was necessary. I remember instead of buying a new iPod, I decided to read. This proved to be a valuable test and experience, something I will never regret. Even after purchasing another iPod this past Christmas, I have re-discovered my hunger and passion for reading, setting aside time to fit that into my schedule.

As per susan995's comment, in my honest opinion I think the white earphones have reached cult status themselves. Although they may not provide the best sound quality, they seem to provide a visual indicator that the person is carrying an iPod (and is therefore cool).

I think Apple is doing a great job in staying away from pairing iPods with specific earphone/headphone upgrades. This way, should the customer want to upgrade, they are not limited by the choices or skewed by the "recommendations" provided by Apple. It fits perfectly into the iPod philosophy of being yourself and being a reflection of the music that you own.

At the end of the day, I think Apple is more focused on selling units at the maintained price point (which hasn't increased despite upgrades) as the product itself is enticing enough for consumers to make a purchase.

Susan956 said...

piotr.. I find your comments insightful and educative.

I would agree that the ability to order music any old how on the IPod pulls a certain power over to the consumer although I long for the day when I can provide a verbal cue for a music change as sometimes I want to hear various excerpts of music quickly and without manually fiddling. That's just a mood desire thing.

Does this capability of ordering music however equate as Kevin suggested "consumer owning the brand"? I'm not convinced this is entirely true although your example has certainly challenged me and, as suggested, pulled me over to 'the other side' somewhat.

I guess this is now a discourse on what defines or what is the definition of 'brand control'. For me brand control will arise from consumers directly influencing product and product advertising.

Re the headphones. Hmm..again an interesting comment you offered. I read and then saw the distinction between those who want to be 'cool' and those who really DO like their music or are more 'about' the music than image. I'm in the latter group. If advertisers observe two general camps in the consumer base who do they pitch to or do they pitch to both?

You provide a fairly convincing argument for Apple not offering an upgrade re the headset. I can think of another argument also tho yours carries greater power and weight. This is an issue I'd take to the consumer base as a pilot (in terms of research). I *suspect* that older consumers are less interested, and indeed often shy away from, trying to look 'cool'.

It's interesting the number of people here who have spoken about returning to reading. A few years ago I read a book a week. Now I tend to read pulp and PhD business theses which I examine. I've never been good at listening to music AND reading seriously. I find my mind floating in between the media and not really grabbing either as such. Perhaps a wonderful state for the subliminal message! :)

(And a shout out to the many wonderful and evocative narrative theses emerging from the business field).

Susan956 said...

I thought earlier this evening of Burt Bacharach. I would highly recommend the album he did with Elvis Costello 'Painted From Memory'. The track 'Such Unlikely Lovers' is SO unmistakenly Bacharach. There is a moment in the song when the music falls away (violin largely) like water over a fall..and you think...ahhhh, a Bacharach.

I watched his interview in Sydney today and welcome him to our shores. What a gift and talent.