Archive for January 10, 2008

Trent Reznor Meets Real Life And Weeps

January 10, 2008

Note: This posting contained a major math error. I’m surprised no one commented on that. I’ve fixed the error and added some sentences in light of that. I’ve decided not to uglify this post with strikethroughs (which is my normal course of action) and instead just have this note up front.


Trent Reznor: Why won’t people pay $5?

And then Reznor ended the hoopla last week when he reported on his blog that 154,449 people had downloaded NiggyTardust and 28,322 of them paid the $5 as of January 2. In the blog, Reznor suggested that he was “disheartened” by the results.

So what’s that percentage-wise? That’s 18.34!

In the Days of Yore when there were no home computers and things were done via mail order, I read up on direct marketing (what we usually called back then junk mail). A phenomenal response rate was considered 3%. That’s right: three percent! For a very successful campaign.

Find that hard to believe?


What are the average response rates to direct mail campaigns quoted as at the moment?

Is there anything specific to the test and measurement industry?


My industry is Office Products, and 99% of our bsuiness comes from direct mail marketing.

We see a 1% response rate when mailing to Prospects or inactive customers.

It’s closer to 2% when we mail a ‘special offer’ to existing customers. (like a big sale on a specific products line).

In that same thread, here’s someone who got the same Old School education I had:

I’ve been told that a good rule-of-thumb is that 2-3% response rate signifies a successful campaign.

Emphasis added by me.

So, given the historical reality that’s persisted, does Reznor really have something to complain about? He had a sell-through of almost one-in-five people!

Just because this is The Internet, does that mean people will change their natures? That people on the Internet somehow don’t have a level of resistance to a sales pitch?

I don’t think so.

I bring all this up not to dump on Reznor or to ridicule him. I want everyone out there to understand the difference between Internet circulation and percentage of sales.

This is going to be a life-and-death issue for every creator as we vie to try to exist off Internet revenues.

Many people are going to see a sell-through rate they might consider disappointing and become discouraged and give up. That will thin the competition — but in the process some really good people might be scarred by not understanding two key things:

1) Life is hard (harder than you think!)

2) Everything takes time (longer than you can imagine!)

A friend of a former friend was trying to make a living as an actor in Hollywood years ago. He was told by someone with more experience that it’s not the best people who make it — it’s the people who persist. (And I’d have to imagine that the people who persist also wind up being better actors along the way!)

There are many factors that go into rejection or disinterest. They range from trivial factors of everyday life to inexplicable emotional barriers that vary according to personal mood. It does no good for me to provide any sort of list of specifics; it’s best just to take this as a given and not go crazy over it or waste time trying to develop specific strategies to overcome every possibility.

Look at it this way: When wars are fought, it is the broad campaign that’s the focus, not “Gee, as we go into this battle, how will we defeat John Smith, John Jones, John Doe, etc, etc, as individuals.”

In Reznor’s case, there are several questions that need to be asked:

1) How many downloaded and listened to the music?

2) How many listened to one track, didn’t like it, and stopped?

3) How many listened to all of it but didn’t like it?

4) How many downloaded it out of sheer curiosity yet never listened?

5) How many downloaded it for reasons other than listening to it?

And that’s just five questions. Many more can be posed.

Reznor himself brought up one possibility himself:

Yes, there is a possibility that people downloaded it and the same people went back and downloaded it and paid for it and that can throw the numbers off.

There are many, many ways to slice this up. That’s why market researchers and people in marketing departments get paid money. They are specialists at that. Just as every creator is a specialist in his or her individual creativity.

Reznor, however, broaches a subject I have a great big problem with:

[T]he way things are, I think music should be looked at as free. It basically is. […] In my mind, I think if there was an ISP tax of some sort, we can say to the consumer, “All music is now available and able to be downloaded and put in your car and put in your iPod and put up your a– if you want, and it’s $5 on your cable bill or ISP bill.”

Well now hold on right there. What makes music so damned special?

There are thousands and thousands of ebooks out there being downloaded for free — many of which have never been published as ebooks (they’ve been scanned from paper; just ask J.K. Rowling!). I’ve yet to see any writer state that a special ISP tax should be levied for that. The same with photographers. The same with graphic artists.

And this brings up a whole new set of questions:

1) Who will benefit from the distribution of that tax?

2) Will anyone who puts up a crappy track on MySpace be entitled to a cut?

3) How will music plays be monitored? By download? By online play? If by online play, will people be restricted to X number of plays so a script or other method of automation won’t inflate the number and falsely increase someone’s share of the tax?

4) What about music that’s outside the U.S.? What about people who come here from other countries — to live or just to work — who only listen to music over the Internet from their home country?

And those are just four broad questions. Many more can — and should — be asked.

I don’t know what was in Reznor’s head when he embarked on his endeavor. I don’t know what he imagined the outcome would be.

Reznor might have imagined that because he liked something, his fans would. That’s just not so. I can speak for myself here in stating that there are writers whose work I love who have recommended other writers to me — writers I’d already made up my mind not to read, and writers I’ve tried to read but quit before getting through a few pages of their work. I can even speak in terms of music. I loved the now-defunct band Girls Don’t Cry. On their MySpace page, they list The Killers as one of the bands they love. I hate The Killers (I won’t say more than that; it’s beside the point).

Reznor might have been under the illusion that because he was famous and his work was liked that he could do the same for someone else too. That, again, is just not so. I’ve seen famous people promote others they wanted to see succeed and sometimes, for whatever reasons, it just doesn’t happen.

What I’d like to know is:

What percentage of Reznor’s fans — according to the readership of his online presence and according to his physical recording sales — participated in downloading that music? That would be telling statistic in itself. That could bring something approaching facts into play.

If Reznor is looking for elucidation — aside from the historical propensity for certain kinds of sales efforts netting shockingly-low returns that are considered actually successful — he should commission professionals to conduct a survey of his fans.

However, he would probably be disappointed by the low rate of participation in that too!

Welcome to real life, Trent.

Life is harder than you think and things take longer than you can imagine.

For everyone.


uncov: Truth 1.0 In A Web 2.0 World

January 10, 2008


The writing produces suicidal envy in me.

The photos (as above) put me on the edge of abomination abdominal* herniation.

Even the names of their JPEGs are howlers: delivery-of-fail

Stop reading here right now. Go there.

*That has to be up there in My Top Ten Typos. Wow.

Cars Of The Future: Lose Weight Or You’ll Walk!

January 10, 2008

Tata Nano

Tata Nano, world’s cheapest new car, is unveiled in India

It is a little over 10ft long bumper to bumper, can seat four passengers comfortably, has reached speeds of 65 miles per hour and is set to transform the concept of travel for the masses in India and in poorer parts of the world.

This is the People’s Car, the world’s cheapest car at a starting price of 100,000 rupees ($2,500) or the equivalent of a DVD player in a Lexus.

Warning: Poor and loud sound (all the clips are like that right now)

The Air Car

Welcome to the future!

After fourteen years of research and development, Guy Negre has developed an engine that could become one of the biggest technological advances of this century. Its application to Compressed Air Technology(CAT) vehicles gives them significant economical and environmental advantages. With the incorporation of bi-energy (compressed air + fuel) the CAT Vehicles have increased their driving range to close to 2000 km with zero pollution in cities and considerably reduced pollution outside urban areas.

The Smart Car

Smart USA

Good things come in small packages and the smart fortwo is no exception. Each model’s revolutionary design conveys innovation, functionality and joy of life.

The base pure model comes standard with convenience features such as a 5-speed automated manual transmission with manual or automatic mode, central remote locking system, 2-spoke leather steering wheel, radio-ready console, and more. Air conditioning, power windows and alloy wheels are optional. Be sure to check out the passion coupe and passion cabriolet that offer more standard features at an outstanding value.

In the rest of the world, these cars can carry 2-4 people.

Here, 1/3rd to 1/2 of an American.

And, oh, Detroit — prepare to go totally bankrupt. To India!

MacWorld 2008: All About Portability

January 10, 2008

“No, no, no,” Steve Jobs said as he looked at his marketing team. “I’m not having these … boat anchors … distracting from the point of the show! They’re ready, so announce them now. Get them out of my way!”

The dialog is imaginary. But I don’t think the point can be missed.

Apple is clearing the decks to focus on portability.

2008 will be The Year Of Apple Everywhere.

This is what I expect, some of which has already been rumored:

1) Major iPhone OS Upgrade, constituting most, if not all, of the long-rumored Death Star Upgrade

2) iPhone storage capacity bump, possibly including a CPU speed bump

3) iPhone for 3G networks

4) The iPhone SDK — with demonstrations of finished applications that can be bought now

5) A portable wirelesss keyboard

6) The slim MacBook we’ve already seen in a leaked photo

7) Movie studios sign onto The iTunes Store for both rental and purchase, giving AppleTV a new push

And that very special One More Thing…

8) The death of the Mac Mini and in its place…

9) An Apple tablet, the Mac Mini II — but it will only be as a technology demonstration, with shipping still months away. Just like the original iPhone. And that wireless keyboard I expect will work with both the iPhone and Mac Mini II (and, if you must, any Mac).

Go Out and Still Get Things Done