Tuesday, July 31, 2007

micropayments are a lie

i've been meaning to write this post for a long time. waaay back, when i worked for SEIU, a co-worker and i were talking about this issue, even before i really got into digital media and payment issues.

anyway, it turns out that one of the puzzles we've been trying to solve with calabash is that of pricing. how to price an mp3. how do we bring the price down from the $0.99 arbitrary price that apple established to a real price point? how do we let the market act on the price of a music track, and really find the "true" market value of an mp3? well, obviously, the scientist in me just wants to run a lot of tests. set the price of tracks at a wide variety of prices, and let the market act. let artists set their own prices for tracks, and step back, watch, and learn.

however, one impediment to that pricing plan is this - the merchant fees associated with transactions done by credit card or paypal. credit card transactions have fairly large fees ($0.05 - $0.50 depending on transaction size), and paypal is even worse. paypal has some nice interest rates for consumers, and some nice features, but merchants pay for it all. paypal fees are close to double that on credit cards.

a proposed answer to this dilemma has been micropayments. these unicorn-like payments are described as allowing all sorts of price point transactions, allowing new pricing models, blah blah blah. anyway, all the schemes i have seen from vendors who we have thought about dealing with at calabash always involve some variation on the following: users buy some "Credit" or don't get charged on initial transactions. they then get charged at the end of the month, or use the credit piece by piece on small transactions on the site. which isn't really micropayment now is it? basically, it is the same thing - one charge for $5 instead of 50 charges for $0.10. meaning that customers still have to put in $5 or the merchant has to pay a huge % fee on a very small transaction.

anyway, i have a lot to read, as i'm really starting to take this idea from my head onto paper. i've put a couple links below, which i need to read as well, but here's hoping for some good conversation on this issue. i'll be back for more posts on this same subject.

to read:
wikipedia entry on micropayments
misunderstanding micropayments
the case against micropayments
paypal micropayment press release
another bloggers take on micropayments

allofmp3.com are crooks!

i have posted on other blogs about this as well, but you know i got to talk about it here on my own blog. the site allofmp3.com was a site based in russia that supposedly was "legal" under russian law (according to the site and its defenders). however, as the article in the header link details, "Russian prosecutors are targeting Denis Kvasov, former owner of controversial MP3 store AllofMP3.com, with copyright infringement charges that would include jail time, according to published reports."

now, allofmp3.com was an amazing site from the perspective of a consumer, but awful from the artist perspective. as a consumer, you could get cheap music delivered quickly to you in your choice of format, all without DRM or copy protection. brilliant. however, they didn't pay any artist anything, so forget about it from the artist perspective. the challenge in my mind is how a company can deliver something like the service of allofmp3 while paying out to artists and labels. apple ain't doin' it now, nor is emusic, nor anyone else. calabash is trying to develop a download manager, and we are spec'ing the project of encoding everything in a variety of formats, or writing some scripts to dumb down lossless files on the server on demand. amie.st is doing some good stuff with delivery, and if you get stuff early, you get it cheap there. so a reputable answer will arise sooner or later.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Boston Herald Article on the GU Tour

Hip-hop hits Hub
By Chris Faraone
Friday, July 20, 2007

Ben Herson went quite a bit out of his way to organize the Global Underground hip-hop tour that marches through the Middle East nightclub in Cambridge Sunday night.
The founder of world-music label Nomadic Wax, Herson, a Newton native and Hampshire College alum, traveled as far as Tanzania and Senegal to scout hip-hop talent.
“I went to Senegal in 1998 with a friend just to visit,” Herson said from New York. “In the marketplace there I discovered the hip-hop section. I couldn’t believe how many original artists there were in that country alone.”
Since his first African outing, Herson’s interest in world hip-hop expanded. Through Nomadic Wax, he connected with the artists featured on the Global Underground tour, who include Chosan (from Sierra Leone), MC Eli Efi (or LF, from Brazil) and rapper Laylo (Dominican Republic), Zuluboy (South Africa) and DJ Boo (Philippines).
“In the beginning, we focused on African hip-hop, but now were looking at it as a global label,” Herson said. “World hip-hop has a unique flavor, the flavor of whatever country or culture these guys are coming from.”
Chosan, who was born in West Africa, raised in London and now lives in the Bronx, received American exposure when he appeared in Kanye West’s “Diamonds of Sierra Leone” video. He said his tour mates might come from different backgrounds, but they share a common sensibility.
“We’re all representing the same kind of spirit,” Chosan said from New York. “We’re all poets and performers by nature.”
While it’s impossible to squeeze all international rappers into one category, there are some themes that show up across the globe - themes, one could argue, that have driven hip-hop since its conception in the United States 30 years ago.
“Hip-hop in Brazil is its own political party,” Eli Efi said in an e-mail interview. “Hip-hop in Brazil is the outcry of the excluded.”
According to Boston-based music consultant Erich Ludwig, who regularly collaborates with Nomadic Wax, a universal spirit shines through the language barrier.
“When I listen to these guys,” Ludwig said, “especially when I can’t understand the lyrics, it’s all about the music surrounding the rhymes and the flow behind the rhymes.”
Not every rapper on Sunday’s bill will be twisting foreign tongues. In order to properly represent planet hip-hop from Jamaica to Jamaica Plain, promoters asked globe-trotting Boston duo Foundation Movement to join the tour.
“This tour is about style and world perspective and Foundation was the natural fit for Boston,” said Ludwig, who recently was a presenter at the United Nations-Habitat Global Hip-Hop Summit in South Africa.
Having witnessed firsthand the contributions international MCs have made to rap music, Global Underground organizers hope their tour will dispel some myths about foreign hip-hop.
“These guys aren’t just copying 50 Cent and Ja Rule,” Herson said. “They have their own unique styles.”
“Some people think that because I’m from Africa I’m going to come on stage in a sheepskin,” Chosan added. “But I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy. I always have been and I always will be.”
Nomadic Wax Global Underground Summer Tour, with Foundation Movement, Chosan, Eli Efi and Laylo, Zuluboy, DJ Boo and others, at the Middle East, Cambridge, Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 day of show; 617-864-EAST.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


DJ Boo on the 1s and 2s on tour with Global Underground
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Global Underground Percussion

Chauncey rippin it up on djembe.
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Rebel Diaz - Global Underground @ Middle East

Lah from Rebel Diaz _killin_ it on tour with Global Underground.
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tour continued

the tour ended up on a high note at the middle east on sunday night. great show, great energy. even overheard the indy-rock hipster staff at the middle east say that this was the best hip hop show they'd seen!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chosan at Galapagos

Chosan (from Sierra Leone) rips it up at Galapagos on Thursday night, July 19th.
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Eroc at Galapagos

Eroc from the Foundation Movement flanked by Op (Foundation Movement) and Chosan.
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tour started, lessons learned, press gathered

we just kicked off our little mini-tour for the Global Underground Hip Hop 2007 season last night at galapagos in brooklyn. the crowd was enthusiastic, but less in numbers than we had hoped. the musicians were great, although we had a different line-up than anticipated. and we're ready to roll onto providence and boston!

speaking of boston, we got some great press today in the boston herald, so check it out!

our line-up changes had to do with some events beyond our control. Zuluboy couldn't make it out of South Africa and get to the shows, which was a bummer, but we saw that one coming. However, Eli Efi and DJ Laylo, who went home to Brasil for a couple weeks, are still stuck in Brazil due to the awful TAM plane crash in Sao Paulo. They were supposed to fly out on TAM back to the US shortly after the crash, and are now stuck in Sao Paulo, with the word that they may be home within 10 days.

Fortunately, Ben is well connected with some other great talent, and we pulled in Bamboo and Koba for this show, in addition to the already lined up DJ Boo, Chosan, Foundation Movement, and the African Underground percussion all stars. They all pulled it together and threw down a very nice show. Each act doing one song, then passing the mic. Very fun flow, good vibes, and a good time. However, we were charging $12 at the door. So small paying crowd, big guest list. Some previous shows Nomadic Wax has done has had 300+ people come through, but charging $5 at the door. In a city where Lauren Hill is playing a free show this week, and ?uestlove is hosting a party for $10 cover, I think we overshot our market. We'll pull down cover in Providence and Boston to $10 at least, and hope for better results.

I shot some photos last night, so I'll go through those now and upload a few. Peace.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

john boutte

if you don't know this man and his voice, you should. we had the pleasure of seeing him in new orleans in a club during jazz fest. wonderful. this was his regular weekly residency, and a pack of local regulars jammed in early, grabbing the chairs around the edge of the room, and sitting on the floor down in front of john. kind of like a little library show. however, john and his group (bass, trumpet, guitar) threw down like no library show i know. sweet, deep, penetrating vocals and wonderful musicians to back him up.
anyway, i bring him up now cause my music library is on shuffle. i'd been hearing a bunch of great urban african music (hip hop, kwaito, dub, etc) and then . . . . john.
wow. woah. wonderful. so i had to write a quick post and shout him out. thanks john. for the music. for ya'll out there, you got to check him out.

from his website:
Who is New Orleans vocalist John Boutte?

Think of Nat Cole, and then of Jackie Wilson, and then of Marvin Gaye, and then of Sam Cooke, Joe Williams and Jimmy Scott. Not of them actually, but of the moods that surrounded them, and especially of their audiences. Think of the way they treated an audience, of the way they read the room. Think of how the audience felt about themselves on the way home. Then treat yourself to the music of John Boutte.

John has won Best Male Vocalist of the year at both the Best of the Beat Awards (including the most recent 2006 award) and the Big Easy Awards. His critically acclaimed collaboration with Cubanismo, Mardi Gras Mambo, won multiple awards including a Big Easy Award for Best Latin Album, and a Best of the Beat award for Best Latin Album by a Louisiana Artist