Failure is big part of the dotcom experience. If your business hasn’t imploded in a cloud of VC-funded, coke-fueled hubris, you haven’t lived. Most of the world lost their ass on the Internet ten years ago, but here in the classical music world, we’re old school. We still use real words as domain names. Luckily, ProperDiscord.com is here to help with a remedial freeconomics lesson: ten sure-fire ways to set your music startup on the slow but steady route to bankruptcy.
1) Plan to take market share from a massive multinational company by implementing something they can copy faster than your tiny startup can gain a foothold in the marketplace. Make sure that your company leaks like a sieve so all your well-funded competitors know what they’re copying before you’ve finished it, ruining any chance that they might buy you out instead of stealing your idea. Bonus points if you can’t patent your idea. Even more points if you could have but didn’t.
2) Put the word “portal” anywhere in your business plan. This isn’t 1998. Just to be clear, at no time soon will you pay for good classical music editorial by selling advertising, and people won’t visit a site that doesn’t answer a specific and clearly identifiable question or need – especially one that is adequately covered by a combination of Google, artist/venue websites and wikipedia. Bonus points if people who have visited your website keep asking you what it does.
3) Run it as a hobby. Nothing spurs innovation like a wealthy auteur who doesn’t need to listen to anybody’s advice and can afford to run for years without ever turning a profit. Bonus points if you undermine the whole market by giving away free content while you play at being a dotcom impressario.
4) Market your niche retailer on accessibility – because what people really want is to discover something they didn’t know they wanted in a place they never go.
5) Create an information product that is only useful if everybody adopts it simultaneously, or which requires your partners to undertake massive engineering work for no discernible reward to anybody but you. What are you? A communist? An anarchist? An idiot? Companies won’t do this. Not even on the Internet.
6) Launch your high-end, niche retailer before it is even halfway finished, and invite comparisons to established mega-budget multinational superstores in the hope that everybody will judge your shop not on the way it works now, but on the way you expect it will work in about a year’s time. Make it ugly on the principle that classical music consumers are too interested in high art to be distracted by mere aesthetic concerns. Bonus points if you expect people to give their credit card details to a website with multiple spelling errors on its homepage.
7) Design a site that is perfectly easy to use once people have read the help file. Behave as if that’s ok. Conduct useability tests with members of your family. Keep interrupting to show them how to do stuff that they’re obviously too dumb to work out.
8) Use an audio format that plays on exactly none of the most popular jukebox applications as if people didn’t have record collections until they started shopping from your store.
9) Create a complex and expensive technological solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Sell it to non-profits. Expect their excitement to last more than two news cycles.
10) Create something that has repeatedly failed before. Make no effort to identify the causes of those failures, and anticipate a radically different outcome to an almost identical business plan. If your idea is to build a platform that lets artists create cheap, simple, customizable websites with widgets for streaming music, tour dates, photos, videos, a forum and regular fan updates then congratulations: you’ve invented MySpace.
I might just start a hosting company. Seriously. It’s like taking candy from blind sitting ducks in a barrel.