Posts from the Blog Business Category

At 14:30 on Saturday, I’ll be at Midem talking to Peter Gregson about revenue streams, business models, music, technology, expensive coffee and free stuff. It’ll be fun. Here are the details from the Midem brochure:

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Last year, I got an email confirming my “Gold Status” at Midem*. Apparently I’ve been eight times over the space of a decade. This came as something of a surprise – it seems like only yesterday that a very kind colleague took me under his wing and showed me round Cannes for the first time.

Still, eight (nonconsecutive) trips later, perhaps it’s time to share some of that advice.


On May 10th, my little company (Proper Discord Ltd) celebrated its first anniversary. Since then, I’ve had the privilege to work with some amazing clients, we’ve made some lovely records, built some interesting companies and welcomed a new baby into the family.

I relaunched this blog a year ago with a video offering unhelpful advice on pronouncing composers’ names.

I stole the idea, quite shamelessly, from this.

My video clocked up more than 26,000 views* on YouTube, of which more than 3,000 happened last week, after (though not necessarily because) the New York Phil shared it on Twitter (which was nice of them).

I really like playing around with all the statistics you can get from YouTube. It tells me, among other things, that the average viewer in the US and UK watched 50 seconds of that video: long enough to enjoy the funny bits, but not long enough to catch the message I wanted to get across. I’ll bear this in mind for other projects, where it might make more sense to put the commercial call to action nearer the start.

You know what’s weird, though? While the average English-speaking user watches 85% of the video, the average Bolivian viewer watches 142% of it. Jordan, Estonia, Indonesia, Armenia and handful of other places also enjoy >100% “engagement”.

To begin with, I thought this must be some sort of mathematical error, but then I realised these viewers weren’t watching it for fun.

They were studying it.

So next time you meet somebody from Estonia, write “Thomas Tallis” on a piece of paper, and ask them to read it out loud. Just in case.

* Divide 26,000 views by Boyle’s Constant, and I should be able to sell almost two albums. Seriously. This stuff is commercial gold. I’ve never really made a coherent effort to turn YouTube views into blog traffic – this isn’t what the videos are for – but it’s interesting to see how little traffic it does generate. In the last year, a total of 13 days worth of video has been streamed from my channel. It probably wasn’t all watched at work, but any time you spent watching my videos could have been spent working, and at the US minimum wage, that’s $2,385 worth of time spent bringing 244 people to my blog. That’s right. Each visitor I get from YouTube costs the music industry $9.77.

To give you an idea of just how bad this is, I got more incoming traffic (284 visits) from Google+. I didn’t know there were 284 people on Google+.

Almost all the incoming traffic comes from Facebook, search engines and Twitter. Some posts go crazy on Twitter, others on Facebook, I can’t figure out any logic to what is popular where, so I put it down to luck: it’s unlikely enough that a post about statistics related to marketing classical music would go viral anywhere.

$9.77 is about £6.23. My work website ( doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but that’s ok, because it’s well targeted: I make £16 for every visitor I get. Since gets 60 visitors for each one that it refers to the blog, an entirely YouTube-based marketing campaign for my business (via this blog) would cost the music industry £23.50 in lost productivity for every £1 I made in increased revenue, assuming, well, a whole lot of “it would carry on just like this” stuff we should really have learned our lesson about by now. Anyhow. This footnote is now longer than the post to which it is appended, and we should probably both be getting back to work.

But, like a Beethoven coda, this footnote keeps coming. I could have stopped there. Or the paragraph before. Really, it would have been perfectly adequate with just the first  paragraph. Or even just the first line. That had all the good bits in it. The rest was just excessive development. But I can’t seem to find a way. I should just stop typing. Like Miles Davis said, or is supposed to have said, just “take the horn out of your mouth”. But somehow it’s not that easy.What would Beethoven do? V-I-V-I-V-I. I. I. I.







…and I made this to entertain you.

A little bit of housekeeping:

  • When I started this blog, I kept it loosely anonymous in an effort to keep casual readers from confusing what I write here with what my boss thinks. Since I now work for myself, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but let me be very clear: the ideas expressed here are and always have been my own personal thoughts and opinions and not anybody else’s. Ok. Enough disclaimers: in case you didn’t already know, it was me all along.
  • I’ve recovered all the old posts from a backup. Posts should be at the same URLs so your bookmarks and links should work again, but a few images have disappeared. Please bear with me while I track them down.
  • The email subscription list did not restore from the backup. If you used to get posts by email, you’ll have to subscribe again. You can do that at the bottom of any page.
  • If I’ve done this right, existing RSS subscribers should get new posts. I might not have done this right, though, so just in case, the feed url is:


The Philadelphia Inquirer’s music critic has written a piece on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s downloads that contains an impressive litany of the misinformed clichés that can emerge when music critics try to write about technology. Or music. It makes me kind of angry.

First up, he opens with a colorful metaphor that doesn’t really mean anything:

This time, the journey to the summit of Strauss’ Alpine Symphony is obscured by fog and slowed by mud – which shouldn’t happen when the trail guide is the Philadelphia Orchestra.

You can’t really argue with fog and mud, but don’t worry. This fog-laden muddiness is the premise upon which this article is based, so why bother to examine it?

The orchestra’s 2008 performance of the Strauss tone poem was highly acclaimed when recorded live in Verizon Hall; some even pinpointed the Alpine Symphony as the moment when current chief conductor Charles Dutoit claimed the Philadelphia Orchestra as his own.

Look. They either played it well or they didn’t. There are a lot of reasons why you might have liked the concert and hated the record, and very few of them have much to do with either the playing or the technology you’re about to blame for it.

But though the lavishly scored piece is the flagship release in the orchestra’s reentry into the recording market on high-profile websites – with 35-plus titles that include Shostakovich conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, Beethoven symphonies led by Christoph Eschenbach, and distinguished guests such as Vladimir Jurowski and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos – one could argue that it should never have been released.

It was certainly a lot quicker to write this paragraph than it was to actually listen to 35 albums. Don’t even get me started on “one could argue”. They won’t even stand for that on Wikipedia. (more…)

I was poking around the WordPress dashboard today, and noticed that only about 10% of my readers have signed up to get new posts by email. That’s not really surprising: I’ve never really tried to get anybody to sign up. Given that it’s the best way to read my blog, I suppose I should put some effort in. Here’s why:

1) The posts will arrive fully formed in your inbox, a few seconds after I’ve posted them. Reading them is more fun than working, and nobody will know the difference unless you snort Diet Coke out of your nose while trying not to laugh.

2) You’ll get posts before they show up in Google Reader, giving you enough time to send a cease and desist before too many people see what I’ve written about you.

3) That also gives you a substantial window in which you can use my jokes as your own around the office and get away with it. If one of your co-workers later spots them on Proper Discord, you can say “That asshole! He’s always stealing my stuff”.

4) You won’t have to rely on my notoriously unreliable viral marketing.

5) You’ll only get emails when I post something, which tends to be about twice a week.

6) Emails always contain the full text of the post, so you can read them during your commute when you don’t have internet access. Unless you drive. That would be extremely dangerous.

7) You can unsubscribe whenever you like. The unsubscribe link is at the bottom of every message.

8) I won’t give your email address to anybody. Not even the Canadian Viagra people, no matter how nicely they ask.

9) You’ll feel much less like you’re missing something by not following me on Twitter, where I mostly just bicker with a bunch of publicists, James Rhodes and that guy from the Chicago Symphony.

10) You can read all my stuff without ever dealing with this ridiculous white-on-black design, which I’m told some people find hard to read, but which I can’t be bothered to change – partly because I can’t find any evidence that black-on-white text is inherently more readable, and partly because I suspect that changing it will just annoy a whole other bunch of people who like it that way.

The sign-up box is on the homepage. Do it. You know you want to.

If you’re one of the 10% of readers who already subscribes to email updates, then I apologize. Reading this was a total waste of your time. I promise not to do it again.

Both Anne Midgette at the Washington Post and David Ng at the LA Times linked to my review of Renée Fleming’s new rock album.

David quoted the New York Times, the BBC, and me. Does that seem strange to anyone?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. It’s quite an honor to have two such impressively credentialed commentators let me do the talking. It just seems a bit odd that they didn’t do it themselves. It makes me wonder how Fox News might approach arts commentary:

“Some guy in Northern California thinks Renée’s album sucks. We don’t particularly care whether or not it actually does and we don’t want to alienate any potential viewers by taking a position on the subject so we’ll ask you a barely related leading question that allows us to sneak in a completely unverified statement as if it were fact: Should Obama have endorsed the record by inviting her to perform at the Whitehouse? Call us now and tell us your views.”

Maybe this is how music criticism works now. Maybe the nation’s critics have followed my mother’s advice, and aren’t saying anything unless they have something nice to say. Maybe I should do the same. Maybe that’s unfair: Maybe David’s trying to give a balanced report of a record that has polarised listeners1. Maybe somebody at Decca’s PR department has naked pictures of everybody, and that’s why it was so hard to find a negative review of the record from a major news outlet2. Maybe somebody at Decca’s PR department has naked pictures of me too. I didn’t hold back, so I guess we’ll find out now3.

1 …into the two distinct groups of “don’t like it” and “don’t know any better,” because the appreciation of music is completely subjective unless you disagree with me, in which case you’re wrong.

2 Unless you count The Awl as a major  news outlet. They went to town on it.

3 NOBODY wants to see that.

If I was any good at learning from my mistakes, I’d be seriously smart by now.

In just over a year, Proper Discord has had 100 posts, 300 comments and 25,000 page views. What haven’t I learned? You can tell me in the comments. Here are ten things I didn’t know before… (more…)