Long Live The Queen

curation is king

This article is on the money. Over the years working with brands and artists and copyright owners there is always the discussion of who is going to work with who and for what audience. Many times this is thought out, but often people are just concerned with “getting what everyone else has” – keeping up with the Joneses. If there is a hot band or artists, everyone wants to work with them because they still see the BIG numbers more often than the big picture.

No matter what your business is around content; advertising, retail, B2C, B2B, distribution and funding – having a content CURATION strategy is the most important thing you can do today.  People consume what is put in front of them more often if it is the RIGHT thing put in front of them.  In a global economy where you can buy the same jeans, music, sodas, movies, books – anything – in almost any part of the world – CURATION – choice is important.  And knowing your consumer is the first step.  Who are you talking to with your content choices? What are they looking for? Presenting everything overwhelms the senses and ultimately unless you are Wal-Mart or Target – difficult to succeed. And even these two gigantic brands choose what content they will be promoting or associating with  carefully.

We often also let our own personal preferences get in the way of our consumer – one of my favorite mantras is: “Repeat after me – I am not the demo”….it is important to know this when choosing what content to curate – keeping an unbiased data driven (and gut driven) approach to your consumers/viewers/users is key. This isn’t something everyone can do on their own; and certainly those of us having worked in content development and marketing for years know that it is a careful mix of selection, promotion and positioning that gets the consumer to relate to the content you have to offer – or at least some of it.

Content Is No Longer King: Curation Is King


Curation King


“Content is King” — no longer. Today, the world has changed. “Curation Is King.”

Ok, I hear all the content-makers sharpening their knives to take me on.

I’m ready.

First, why content is dead:

Content used to be the high quality media that came out of the very pointed end of the funnel. Articles in the New York Times. Movies from Miramax. Thursday night comedy from NBC. Books published by Simon and Schuster. Creative folks wrote pitches, treatments, sample chapters, pilots, but only the best of the best got published.

Then, the web came along and blew that up. Kaboom! Now content has gone from being scarce to being ubiquitous. Bloggers make content. Flickr photographers make content. Facebook posts are content. Tumblr publishers make content. Content isn’t King because it isn’t scarce. It’s everywhere, it’s overwhelming, and it’s gone from quality to noise.

Which isn’t to say that this is a bad thing — it’s actually very very good. It’s freedom. It’s public discourse. It’s new communities that were previously silenced by their inability to access broadcast distribution outlets now getting to have their chance in the spotlight.

As someone said to me a few weeks back: “Andy Warhol was wrong. We’re not going to be famous for 15 minutes. We’re each going to be famous for 15 People.” Indeed.

So let’s look at the relative explosion in content and why this trend is only going to continue to grow massively:

Devices: Everything makes media now. Cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, iPads, web cams, as well as location aware software like Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and a zillion others. The combination of where we are, what we like, what we’re doing and what we’re saying all creates micro-media. Content is being exuded out of our digital pores.

Bandwidth: 3G is here, 4G is around the corner. Wifi is slowly but surely being pushed out and shared, though it’s currently strangled by passwords and firewalls. But just watching the ‘check in’ phenomena of Foursquare is a clue about how quickly content creation is becoming an everyday part of what we do.

Sociology: People like sharing. They like sharing bite size info about what they’re doing, where they are, who they’re with, what they’re buying. They massive influx of consumer created crowd content shifts content from scarcity to abundance, and then to an overwhelming fire-hose of undifferentiated data.

So, what institutions does this ‘Content Tsunami’ put under pressure?

Publishing: In a world where everyone makes content, publishing is no longer able to lay claim to being the ‘best’ maker of quality content in their field. In fact, content creation is costly and painful though this may be, may not result in measurably better content than content curation. Mixing creation and curation is essential for survival. Check out Huffington Post for a mix of created, curated, and crowd-sourced content.

Experts: It used to be that there were a handful of folks who where thought of as experts in their field. So the folks who owned the publishing platforms got to determine who was an ‘expert’ and build their brand. Now, that’s upside-down. Social media superstars are able to create visibility though leadership and personal brand value with ubiquity of voice. The new Expert is the leader with the most twitter followers, not the person on the speed-dial from CNN.

Advertising: We’re standing at the end of an era. “Mass Media”, the ability to reach large segments of the population with a single message is essentially over. For advertisers, the need to find content in context, and to have that context be appropriate for their message and their brand is critical. So, Curation replaces Creation as the coin of the realm for advertiser-safe environments. No longer can advertisers simply default to big destination sites. The audience is too diffuse and the need to filter and organize quality crowd-created content is too critical.

Search: Search was a critical solution to bringing audience to the web. But today the vectors that you can “search” on don’t reflect what audiences need to know to find what matters to them. Search provides the name, date, and other algorithmically chosen variables. But what makes an article right for Huffington Post, but wrong for News Max? The voice of the content and the context, which require human curation and crowd collaboration.

We’ve arrived in a world where everyone is a content creator. And quality content is determined by context. Finding, Sorting, Endorsing, Sharing – it’s the beginning of a new chapter. And not since Gutenberg have we seen such a significant change in who’s able to use the tools of content creation to engage in a public dialog.

The emergence of a new King — a Curation King, reflects the rise of the new Aggregation Economy. It is an exciting time to be in content, and the best is yet to come.

Steve Rosenbaum is founder and CEO of Magnify.net, a NYC-based Web video startup. He has been building and growing consumer-content businesses since 1992. He was the creator and Executive Producer of MTV UNfiltered, a series that was the first commercial application of user-generated video in commercial TV.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/content-is-no-longer-king-curation-is-king-2010-6#ixzz0raQENkFi

“We just got signed by McDonald’s”

I’ve been talking about this for a long long time. There have been movements over the years toward this; Bacardi and Groove Armada was one that was very deep in that their record was released by Bacardi, much different than writing a song for bacardi. We’ve seen that with Lenny Kravitz and Absolut; and many of the others in this article. The big agencies all have music departments and yes they produce music for commercials, original recordings, licensing – but if brands and agencies really want to get into this business it will take much more than just a 20mm TV campaign for an artist to succeed.  Are these new entities ready to brand the artist in addition to the brand? Ready to put them on the road, go into the studio for more than a 30 second TV spot? Create publicity for the artist? Book them on Kimmel?Take meetings with Clear Channel? Have a product manager to hire a confab of independents to perform these services?

No matter what your “label” looks like or what it’s name is…your marketing partner when you are an artist needs to perform many other services other than getting a song out there. It will be interesting to see if this idea takes hold – for the most part every artist has a staff behind them that not everyone recognizes continues working on the project after release; unlike at  an agency where a spot is aired and it’s onto the next – yes Media Buying continues onward; maybe some experiential campaigns to support the program – but it is very different than committing to someone’s career.


McDonald’s, Pepsi, Coca-Cola Troll for Up-and-Coming Artists

Marketers Change Music Model of Going After Established Talent, Saving Money, Giving Halo of Discovery to Brands

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Seven years ago, McDonald’s tapped Justin Timberlake in a multimillion-dollar deal to launch “I’m Lovin’ it.” Now the marketer and a bevy of other brands such as Coca-Cola are bypassing the big stars — and in some cases the record labels — to become incubators for tomorrow’s superstars.

The fast-food chain is the launch sponsor for Artists & Brands, a music-media agency that aligns up-and-coming artists with campaigns that suit their style, a far cry from the marketer’s earlier practices of shelling out big bucks for jingles on spec. In the new model, artists get exposure, while marketers save on fees and get cool points for introducing people to new music.

IB Fokuz, who was discovered by Artists & Brands, has appeared in McDonald's commercials.
IB Fokuz, who was discovered by Artists & Brands, has appeared in McDonald’s commercials.


“In the prehistoric days, like when I started in advertising, you used to say ‘I wish I could have’ — name a big-time band — and then you’d negotiate a lot of money to get them,” said Marlena Peleo-Lazar, chief creative officer, McDonalds’s USA. “But so much has changed with the music industry, technology and the internet, you certainly still can go and get Sting if you’re so inclined — and have a blank check.”

“If you can find new talent instead of renting existing talent, there will be an association with the product, and that’s what I think McDonald’s is trying to get at,” said Ira Antelis, co-CEO of Artists & Brands. He cited “Grey’s Anatomy” and the band the Fray as an example of a lasting association, as well as Old Navy, which featured Ingrid Michaelson’s song “The Way I Am” in a sweater commercial.

At Artists & Brands, Mr. Antelis is partnering with Rodney Jerkins, a legendary music producer, and Daryl Jones, a top music attorney.

McDonald’s isn’t alone. Frank Cooper, chief consumer-engagement officer at PepsiCo Americas Beverages, pointed to Green Label Sound, a platform for independent artists that quietly promotes Mtn Dew, as an example of how brands will shape the music industry.

“You’ll see through Green Label Sound the rethinking of ownership of music, a rethinking of how to monetize it, how to build the brand of an artist,” he said. “And I think you’ll see where it’s coming from artists, managers, record labels and alternative methods of funding — and brands will play an incredibly critical part in that.”

Music Dealers
Eric Sheinkop, president of Chicago-based Music Dealers, a business-to-business music-licensing noted a sharp increase in demand in the last two years, as his staff has grown to 30 people from three. Music Dealers opened a New York office last month, and has a London location opening in September.

Music Dealers works with clients such as Maxwell House, Corona and GMC to find the perfect song for campaigns. The company works from a database with thousands of songs by independent artists that have been prescreened and approved, often turning requests around in a day. Artists working on spec once took weeks or even months.

Mr. Sheinkop, who quit the music management business two years ago to focus on licensing, said one benefit of working with up-and-comers is that “artists are going to be so proud to be attached that they’ll push it for you,” he said.

But don’t count the labels out yet. Coca-Cola made a big splash with little-known artist K’naan last month. K’naan’s song “Wavin’ Flag,” with the lyrics rewritten for marketability, is the centerpiece of its global World Cup campaign. Released last month, it’s already No. 1 in China, Mexico and Germany. Coke signed K’naan to make appearances on some stops of its World Cup tour, leading up to the tournament. He’ll also be making appearances in South Africa.

But K’naan was already signed to Universal when Coke linked up with him. Joe Belliotti, director-global entertainment marketing at the Coca-Cola Co. stressed that the label has been a big asset in organizing every facet of the campaign and tour. “The music industry is going through an evolution, but there’s still really a necessity for record companies,” Mr. Belliotti said. “It might look like their role is changing,” he said, but “it’s got to be a collaborative process, really leveraging the power of each.”

Coke owns a portion of the “Wavin’ Flag” royalties, and all proceeds will be donated to provide water for schools in Africa.

Some marketers see potential to monetize these endeavors. While underscoring that it’s not Pepsi’s primary mission, Mr. Cooper said: “There’s absolutely an opportunity for us to generate revenue around some of the content and experiences we’re creating in entertainment.”

Why I Love Jonathan Lethem

jonathan lethem

A few years back I went to see Lawrence Lessig and Jeff Tweedy debate the idea of remixes/mashes/samples and it was moderated by Wired Magazine’s Steven Johnson.  It may be one of my penultimate moments as a digital media, wilco fanatic, and nerd all at once.  Wilco had just gotten sued for the sample inside “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”….It was one of the best discussions on creativity, influence and inspiration I’ve ever attended.  Worth at least what one might learn in an entire semester in an art class at college. Truly. If someone had told me when I was 16 I’d be sitting inside the New York Public Library listeneing to a lawyer and one of my favorite songwriters talk about sampling…well…you know…yeah right.

And THIS is why I love Jonathan Lethem. I’ve been a Lethem fan since Fortress of Solitude. I feel connt\ected to his path in that we have lived in the same cities and pats of the country and he writes about neighborhoods I’ve lived in – and my true conversion as a complete and utter junkie came when I read The Disappointment Artist. It’s rare that you read a memoir and then want to go back and read every book that the author wrote…but I did. To learn that Lethem ran the Philip K Dick fan club? His obsession with Star Wars? Music…it all made sense why I had been following him.

He recently took up head of the department post at Pomona college….i hadn’t visited his blog in a while. Am in the finishing chapters of Chronic City. And then…then I saw the below. And once more I thought. Damn I love Jonathan Lethem. This is a writer who is SO modern in his process, in his voice and here we see in his attitude. I love the collaborative process, love that he is “throwin it out there to those that want to participate” – it’s just so refreshing to see someone BEING intellectual with their PROPERTY rather than trying to hoarde it.

You get what you Give. And Lethem’s Giving ALOT.  Read this man’s books.  They are fantastic. I swear.

Image by Tony Fitzpatrick


A couple of years ago, after writing a piece for Harper’s called “The Ecstasy of Influence”, I decided to start giving away some of my stories to filmmakers or dramatists to adapt. (I also write some song lyrics and invited musicians to help themselves to those.) You can see some of the results here. The project continues, and anyone should feel free to leap in. The stories are available non-exclusively — meaning other people may be working from the same material — and the cost is a dollar apiece.

There’s a simple written agreement to sign, imposing a couple of minor restrictions. That’s it — once you’ve paid your dollar and signed the agreement, you’re free to adapt or mutate the story as you please, for whatever purpose, whimsical, commercial or otherwise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What gives?

I like art that comes from other art, and I like seeing my stories adapted into other forms. My writing has always been strongly sourced in other voices, and I’m a fan of adaptations, apropriations, collage, and sampling.

I recently explored some of these ideas in an essay for Harper’s Magazine. As I researched that essay I came more and more to believe that artists should ideally find ways to make material free and available for reuse. This project is a (first) attempt to make my own art practice reflect that belief.

My thinking along these lines has been strongly influenced by Open Source theory and the Free Culture movement, and by Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift.

Some of the Project’s stories are available here on-line, others can be found in my books. In either case, I’m assuming they’ll have more readers as a result of this project, and I like that, too.

Are all your stories available?

No, just the stories listed here. The rest I’m keeping, for the time being, for more controlled and exclusive uses.

Which rights are you giving away, and which are you keeping?

I should emphasize that these texts themselves may not be copied in any medium, or reproduced in anthologies or websites (except of course for fair-use excerpts). My publishers are the only ones I’ve allowed to do that, and the health of my partnership with them frees me to continue writing new novels and stories, so don’t monkey with it, thanks.

What I’m offering is the right to adapt these stories into stage plays and films.

What are the ‘few restrictions’?

The first is that I’d ask that films be held to the length of half an hour or less, keeping them firmly in the category of ‘short’. Similarly, I’d ask that playwrights keep to a ‘one-act’, or forty-five minute, limit.

For the most part, I’ve offered material that seems proportionate to shorter work. Though if someone wants to propose an exception, I’ll consider it.

Neither playwrights nor screenwriters should publish any adaptations of these stories in book form. Anything like that would put me in breach of my agreement with my publisher. The goal is to let short films and plays happen, not to create rival texts.

And of course, I’d ask always to receive credit as the writer of the source material.

Are there other artists doing things like this who were sources of inspiration to you?

Yes, lots. A couple of examples: playright Charles Mee’s (re)making project. David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts download/remix/share site. The web is also full of great examples of appropriated and reused cultural materials of all kinds, some of it created with permission, some not.

Though there’s nothing “digital” about The Promiscuous Materials Project (apart from the fact that you’re probably learning about it on the internet), it’s probably safe to say that it tends to be digital music and web-based-art (and aesthetic theory) which is pointing the way in this area, while those (like me) working in more traditional forms come around more slowly.

Why not call them ‘Open Source Stories’, or put them under a Creative Commons license?

I like the comparison to Open Source projects. But that description has mostly covered software, and the terms of most Open Source agreements are slightly different than mine. It could be misleading to use that name.

As for Creative Commons, I’m a fan. I’m strongly influenced, in this effort, by Lawrence Lessig’s writings. But my own plan had some specific contours which didn’t fit any of the Creative Commons licenses. So I invented my own type of agreement with other artists.

What if someone makes money from adapting one of your stories?

Great. Most short films and small theater pieces don’t make money. By offering these stories cost-free, I’m alleviating just the first of the financial hurdles an adapter is likely to face. If someone working from one of these stories does find distribution or other support that brings financial reward, I’m delighted, as I would be for any artist. For me, while I’m happy to make money from partnerships elsewhere, The Promiscuous Stories aren’t about that.

Are these just stories you figured nobody wanted? Why presume anyone cares to adapt them?

Of the sixty or seventy stories I’ve written, only a handful have ever been optioned by filmmakers (and at this point, just two have been filmed). None has ever been adapted for the stage. Many inquiries have come over the years, but often from younger artists easily discouraged by the cost of hiring a lawyer to negotiate exclusive rights, even when those rights are being made available inexpensively. I want to make material easily available to precisely such folks.

Some of The Promiscuous Stories have never received any inquiries, others have gotten several. One of them, “The Spray” has been the most-requested story I’ve published. In fact, it was the urge to allow more than one filmmaker to make a version of “The Spray” that partly inspired this project.

Anyway, I’m not pushing the material on anyone, only making it available.

It’s worth adding that I don’t believe there’s anything unusual about an artist giving away some permissions, more or less as I’m doing. Many writers occasionally agree to allow some underfunded filmmaker or theater director to adapt their work on the basis of a minimal option (often a dollar). Even if the contract promises a larger purchase price down the line, this future payment is usually a remote prospect. For me, the urge simply to free another artist to make an adaptation has often been much stronger than any concern over getting paid.

Will you add or subtract from The Promiscuous Stories?

If this goes well, I’ll probably add stories eventually. Since this is an experiment, I might also withdraw the whole thing if it leads to confusion or abuse. Or, if a problem emerges, I may adjust the terms somewhat. What I won’t do, as a matter of principle, is reverse myself and sell this material for exclusive use.

Are you interested in seeing the results? Do you want to collaborate with other artists on these projects?

I’m eager to see the results – who wouldn’t be? (Though if this project takes on any scope I may find myself hard-pressed to respond in detail.) But I’m not seeking to collaborate with other artists on these projects, no. My preference is to relinquish creative control of the material, in favor of seeing what someone else might do with it.

Isn’t it strange to have multiple films derived from the same source floating around simultaneously? What if they were exhibited side-by-side, say, at the same festival?

Yes, strange – but, for me, strange in a good way. And perhaps not much stranger than having multiple ‘cover’ versions of the same song recorded by different artists. I think it could be wonderful to see several adaptations from the same material exhibited together.

In fact, a few independent film producers and DVD distributors have expressed some interest in gathering the results, when and if they’re substantial enough to make such a gathering interesting.

You wouldn’t ever do such a thing with one of your novels, would you?

One of the instigating factors for this project was my being approached simultaneously by a film director and a theater director for the adaptation rights to The Fortress of Solitude. I wanted to say yes to both.

Ordinarily, this is seen as impossible: when a writer sells or options a book to a filmmaker or film studio, the theatrical rights are bundled in the package (along, with things like television rights, sequel motion picture rights, and theme park rights).

I decided to ignore precedent and find a way to allow both projects to move forward simultaneously. As of now, both are. (It may be that either the filmmaker or the theatrical director will find themselves hamstrung by some unimaginative investor’s requirement that all rights be controlled. I hope not. We’ll see.)

Most feature-length films are massive collaborative undertakings, requiring long preparation and loads of money. It probably wouldn’t be practical to deny a filmmaker exclusive feature-film rights: the risk of someone else adapting the same material would likely destroy any hope of gathering the collaborators and investors needed to begin a feature. For that reason I doubt I’ll be offering a Promiscuous Novel anytime soon. But I do have something different in mind for my next novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet. Watch this space.

What about the Promiscuous Songs page? What’s that about?

Why don’t you go there and have a look?

Did anyone really ask these ‘frequently asked questions’, or did you just make them up yourself?



If you’ve selected a story and you’d like to make an agreement, please contact: jonathansassistantlucy@gwi.net