Unreturned love…

We love the GEMA (German collecting society), but this love has not been returned… :(

OK, I admit, that we love the GEMA is a bit exaggerated, but at least until recently we did not have any feeling towards them. Due to our last conversations with this institution this feeling slowly but steadily changes - towards the negative. Seems like GEMA wants to use its power as a monopoly to keep innovative, forward thinking and good-hearted start-ups out of what they probably consider as their market.

Here is the case:
GEMA, just like most other European collecting societies, works with exclusive contracts. That means, (German) artists that want to have their copyrights exploited by GEMA – and there is no other institution doing this in Germany – need so sign a deal with GEMA transferring all their rights exclusively to them. This includes ALL current and future works of that artist as long as this contract is standing – usually 6 years (which extends automatically for another 6 years if not cancelled on time, of course)! No single work can be excluded. It’s all or nothing – artists give up control and GEMA takes over. The consequence is that artists do not have the right to decide anymore how their copyright should be exploited and how not.
So, GEMA-members do not have the right to publish any of their work under Creative Commons License without the collecting society’s consent (this actually accounts for members of most European collecting societies, too). That is crazy, but sounds nonetheless manageable as we thought. So we tried to talk to GEMA to make a deal.

It seemed like a clear cut case: Artists can make money with us by exploiting their copyright efficiently and directly through Creative Commons Licenses. The GEMA’s job is to make money by exploiting its members’ copyrights and returning that money to them. So why don’t just GEMA and SellYourRights make a deal that enables GEMA-members to sell their stuff under CC-License and to make money from that. If GEMA insists, some part of that money could be redirected to GEMA (what actually does not seem to make much sense, as GEMA would need to return that money to its respective member anyway; but well not everything makes sense in this world).

This would be a clear win-win-win situation: Artists could set their music free under CC-License and make money from that. GEMA would have made their members happy and secured another revenue-stream for them. And we could have opened our service to all GEMA-members.
But we did not count with a monopolist’s ignorance (or execution of market power). Their simple response was: “No we don’t want that – period.” This response has a nasty aftertaste. An aftertaste that was underlined by the first sentence of GEMA’s response to our further enquiry: “…I understand that you do not want to give up your business-model, but…”

This is one of the finest examples of anti-competitive practices I know!

We will certainly take action against that, but this will take time. Lots of time… Until then we can only advice all GEMA-members that are interested in working with Creative Commons Licenses to have a very close look at the income-statements GEMA provides for you. Do the maths and take your freedom to leave this organization. It may pay off for you…

Yeah - Widgets…

This is how our widgets look like. They allow you to reach out to your fans to collect the cash you need to set your music free throughout the web… enjoy!

This one is in German:

This one in English:

First Successful Release…

…and this even for a good cause!
On April 1st Bob V reached the cash he asked for to release his new album “Passion and Elegance” into the public domain. All money collected was donated to VIDAS, a non-for-profit organization in Italy caring for terminally ill people.

The album is now available under Creative Commons Attribution  Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa). Get Bob V’s music here, listen to it, remix it and have fun!

We are extra excited about this success! We are not even done yet with all our software implementation - Bob succeeded with using our MySpace-prototype only! Plus our technology was used for supporting people in need - this is just great!

Thus, while working on the beta-version of SellYourRights we are planning further test-runs like this. So stay tuned…

On core competences, beliefs and the vision-mission-fallacy

As Parahlad and Hamel have taught us, businesses compete on the basis of core competences. A core competence is “an area of specialized expertise that is the result of harmonizing complex streams of technology and work activity”.

But where does this specialized expertise arise from? What is it that lets one company gain that special expertise, but not another one?  Drilling down what one might perceive as a causal chain that ultimately leads to this special expertise, one might come up with the conclusion that the reason behind lies in a company’s competence in delivering innovative solutions, which in turn depends on a company’s competence in recruiting and motivating the best people, which in turn depends on… Such a causal analysis does not seem to make much sense. Sooner or later it will end up in a chicken-egg-problem.

So far Mark Earls convinced me with his latest book Herd, that the true reason for the development of a companies herd_bookcore competences is in what the company, and that is the people who work, life and run the company, truly believes. Note that this has nothing to do with the mission and very little with the vision of a company. It’s about what you as a professional accept as truths about how your world functions or should function.

However, like too often great ideas of great thinkers haven been distorted over time by a vast amount of management literature piggy-backing onto them. So have Peter F. Drucker’s great thoughts about the purpose and the objectives of an enterprise turned into a vision-mission-fallacy where a lot of big words are used to create a lot of hot air. I am not saying it’s a bad idea to have a vision or mission statement. I am just saying that having such statements which consist of just empty shells and are not based on true and lived beliefs is pointless. The ultimate question Drucker is asking is: “What should our business be?” This question can only be answered in a sustainable way if we base those answers on our beliefs. Not on customer-polls, not on trends, but on what makes it worth to get up every day, to work your ass off and to make that enterprise a success. An inside-out approach.

Beliefs are probably the most powerful and contagious psychological constructs. They cause financial crisis, wars but also the most altruistic and humanitarian activities. They are the very basis of a company’s competitive edge. Live them, but live them wisely.

Happy 2009

For most of us years ending is the time to hold and to look back on what has happened and what was achieved. At the age of about 100 days it’s probably more exciting to look ahead and to see what is coming next. This, despite the fact of those 100 days being extremely eventful and challenging.

No doubt, 2009 will become even more eventful, challenging and, of course, successful! There are some significant hurdles we have to take in the first half on 2009. The most important milestones that have to be achieved in order to move ahead in our endeavor to change some paradigms of digital content distribution.

The first step to be completed is the objective proof of concept. Even though our first shot did not disprove our approach towards the distribution of digital media, it still was not what we wanted. So what we need early 2009 are some fearless and innovative artists that will rock the digital world with us. The software for this is in place and can be easily adjusted to each artist’s needs. Right now we are in touch with some very promising acts. Let’s see what the next year will bring.

A second very important milestone is the development of a highly appealing, state-of-the-art platform for empowering both creators and consumers to efficiently cooperate for revolutionizing the digital world in joint effort. What exactly is planned I cannot reveal right now (mainly it’s still pretty much work in progress). However, just like our approach everything we do shall be as fair, transparent and open as possible. Thus, we will certainly include some sort of developer platform, will make some of our code publicly available and will develop schemes that allow the community to benefit from our growth.

Yet another stage to complete early 2009 is to find some follow up financing. Being in the middle of the biggest financial and probably economical crisis of the last 70 years does not really facilitate this endeavor. Thus we need to be extremely careful about how, when and where to ask for money. There have been better times for that and usually it’s a one-shot game. Nonetheless we are content that we will be able to overcome this hurdle, too. Even though our endeavor is quite risky - to try out something new always is - this risk is highly scalable. Beyond, what we have to offer eventually has the potential to add significant value to both our customers, the creators and the consumers of digital content, and can solve some of the very fundamental problems the industry is facing right now. Thus we are content to not to die prematurely.

Last but not least, there is the tremendous task to spread the word of what we have to offer. To release as much digital content as possible into the public domain, to ensure the best and fairest revenues for participating creators and to achieve the best values for participating consumers we’ll need to turn this approach into a mass-phenomenon. Being advocates of democracy and freedom without the big war-chest of some of the established competitors we’ll rely significantly on guerilla tactics, grass-root approaches and the word-of-mouth to achieve this. However, we are content that our approach’s openness, transparency and fairness will facilitate this endeavor.

Those are only the biggest challenges we have to face in 2009. Certainly an exciting year. But before jumping at these upcoming adventures, we would like to thank all the people who supported us so far. Whether we succeed or not will mainly be a matter of finding enough people believing in this approach. From this stance much more support will be needed in future.

In this spirit we wish all of you the very best for the year 2009. May all your dreams come true and all hurdles being taken!

Bjoern and Marc

Our first shot revised

Yesterday our first trial ended. Marcus Loeber’s album „At the very moment“ could not have been released, as we did not manage to collect the amount asked for. So what went wrong and what are the next steps to get SellYourRights on the road?

Let’s put it this way: This initial trial failed due to a fundamental miscalculation. However, the data we could collect convinced us that the innovative model we developed for the distribution of digital content basically works. The failure was rather due to some misinformation based on which some very basic parameters of the test run were set. In any case this test provided some very important and essential data for improving follow-up SellYourRights-auctions.

The very first steps on our agenda for the year 2009 are to run a second trial for verifying our model and, of course, to develop our platform into an appealing and easy-to-use tool for all different kinds of creators. 2009 will become an extremely exciting year for SellYourRights. Hope you stay with us.

Gulli.com thinks SellYourRights is worth trying

Gulli.com published their thoughts on our model (sorry, it’s available in German language only):

SellYourRights.com neues Vermarktungsmodell für Musik im Probelauf

Der Countdown für die erste Runde eines neuen experimentellen Vermarktungsmodelles läuft. Ab heute bis zum 26.12. wird auf ReleaseMyAlbum.com beziehungsweise SellYourRights.com das Album des Pianisten Markus Loeber zum Verkauf angeboten. Nicht aber auf dem herkömmlichen Weg. Die Macher des Projekts haben sich ein interessantes und recht erfolgsversprechendes Distributionsmodell einfallen lassen, welches hoffentlich funktionieren wird. Wovon der Erfolg abhäng ist? Letztlich nur von euch!

Nicht nur den Lesern von gulli dürfte dieses Szenario allzu bekannt vorkommen. Denn seit Jahren werden Musikfans als Piraten mit Messern zwischen den Zähnen und Musiker als von Hunger und Abhängigkeit bedrohte Leibeigene stilisiert. Die ehemals ach so stolze und prächtige Armada der Plattenfirmen leidet unter den ständigen Attacken und fühlt sich zunehmend von allen Seiten bedroht. Noch vor wenigen Monaten holte man auf der Musikmesse Popkomm aus, um das allseits bekannte Klagelied anzustimmen. Gorny, Gibb & Co.: Uns geht es so schlecht! Demnächst also Kiel holen für die RaubMordKopierer? Schiffbruch ahoi oder etwa doch Land in Sicht?

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Proof of concept coming

There has not been an update on this blog for quite some time now. The reason is simple. We’ve been very busy working on a first pilot for testing our SellYourRights-approach. The software is almost done. We are testing right now. You can have a peek at www.sellyourrights.com/loeber.

We were lucky enough to win the pianist and composer Marcus Loeber for our first run. Marcus is a forward looking, innovative and successful musician, who produces some very unique piano music. He was immediately convinced by our idea and agreed to release the digital version of his new solo album in SellYourRights-style.

Now we are happy to announce that his new Album “At the Very Moment” will be auctioned on his MySpace-profile between December 12th and December 26th. This trial will run under the name Release My Album!

Visit Marcus profile and release his album. Prove that fairness in digitalbusiness exists and the free digital content has a future. Meanwhile just listen to his music…

We had some visitors…

Seems like even before we started the world got some interest in us. This is very nice for us, but also means that we have to speed up our endeavours even more. First, for not leting you wait for too long and second, for always being a step ahead of potential competitors.

So who were our visitors? The first was Handelsblatt’s Junge Karriere (a German magazine for young professionals), who was interested in talking to us about the current financial and by now economical crises and how it affects our young start-up. We told them the crises, certainly made fund raising more difficult, but still we are not too worried as our idea is ground-breaking, our business-model stable and our benefit to customers real!
The second visitor we had was a team from n-tv (a German news-chanel). They were interested in a quite similar topic, so our interview was simple: “Fund raising might be more difficult these days, BUT…!” ;)

Media-coverage is nice, but having our service out soon much nicer! Our next step will be the idea’s proof-of-concept. So stay tuned…

If you think you have an unique idea…

you can be assured someone else had it before!

This is what I had to painfully discover today after I read about the Street Performer Protocol! Seems like J. Kelsey and B. Schneier had a highly similar, I would say the same, idea pretty much exactly 10 years ago! Therefore I want to give credit to them through this post.

Being a straight-forward person I’ve sent an email to B. Schneier this morning to congratulate him on his idea and its 10th anniversary. Being a practical person I took that opportunity to ask him about further refinements or the actual implementation of the Street Performer Protocol. His response was that he’d be happy seeing someone realizing it, but till now didn’t see this happen.

I am looking forward to deliver this pleasure any time soon. Till then I am just happy that we can celebrate the 10th anniversary of our approach just about 30 days after this blog went online. Time is flying…