Thursday, July 31, 2008

I wish we were a rock & roll band

We're working hard across McClatchy to discover and embrace new relationships with our audiences, moving from the old gatekeeper paradigm to a new model of conversation, sharing and co-creation. It's a huge shift for us, coming right in the midst of wrenching economic dislocation, but so what? The payoffs are enormous: survival, and, more importantly, better tools for democracy.

These relationships are shifting everywhere. One of the most analogous for us, in some important ways, is the music industry. In the midst of a wrenching economic dislocation ("They're not buying CDs! They're stealing songs on p2p networks!") traditional record companies are hurting. Many artists are likewise dislocated (remember Metallica's stance?) while others proved impressively prescient (believe it or not, see Courtney Love's analysis).

Long before the age of Napster or Limewire – back when music piracy meant bad bootleg concert tapes and stolen studio recordings – the Grateful Dead had already explored the new frontier. Their business model, now a commonplace amongst many progressive bands: "Give away the music and sell the experience." (John Parry Barlow (among his many other accomplishments, he was a Dead lyricist) has written presciently on such matters; start your exploration with The Economy of Ideas.)

This is all a rather longwinded way of introducing you to this website devoted to R.E.M.'s world tour 2008. It's an "official" band website, but it's entirely fan driven – a tour de force of tagging and the integration of social media tools.

Isn't there a community of people who care about, oh the Iraq war, for instance, who might come together in such a shared environment if we made that possible? Could you discover geographically bounded communities (our real venue as a business) that would love their leading local media company to empower this for them? What other, better ideas can you think of?

Yeah, it's the end of the world as we know it (sorry). But there's another world awaiting.


  1. Anonymous4:01 PM

    News tends to be partisan, though, while fans of a band are fans of a band, regardless of politics. Fans also want to celebrate and share art they admire, whereas the Iraq for (for example) is hard to admire or get excited about. Enraged, perhaps, but that's a different kind of motivation, which leads to an obligation of involvement (if any at all), rather than a volunteer promotion for Artist X.

    What amazes me is that we haven't yet cultivated fans of POSITIVE news / actions. You'd think the building of schools and playgrounds would be the kinds of cool, proactive ventures that people could rally behind more easily than the rigors of economic politics. Hmm...

  2. Anonymous11:04 PM

    would this perhaps be in reference to gary's idiotic video which ended with the stones "you can't always get what you want" ? just wondering.

  3. Anon1104: Yeah, that must be it. Thanks for the helpful insight.

  4. Anonymous7:34 AM

    Howard, you're a lot grumpier with people these days. Maybe it makes you feel better to snap at especially immature posters, but the fact that you're doing so gives no particular comfort to those of us in the McClatchy hinterlands, parsing your words and trying to read the corporate tea leaves.

    Yeah, we know. It's your blog and you can do what you want. You might think twice about saying that so often, too.

  5. Damn, you're right. I felt like I was just sticking up for the good work in Tri-Cities, but it actually is grumpiness. I'll do better.