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4 Research-Backed Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance and Fire Up Your Creativity at Work

Posted by admin on Apr 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

I recently read an article in The New York Times that discussed the importance of work-life balance and it struck a chord with me. Hat tip to @mikasalmi for the heads up. The article elaborated on the idea that we live in this “always-on” environment. We’re constantly checking our e-mail, responding to text messages, envying pictures of our friends’ latest amazing trip and those addictive viral memes that leave you wondering where the last 10 minutes of your life went. With the influx in technology we are able to access social media at the drop of a hat. An article in Inc. says that the average person spends over four hours a day on their mobile device. We are in a state of constant connection.

But there is no way that staring at your phone all day while simultaneously using it for work purposes is healthy. We need time to de-plug and cultivate that creative thinking.

1. Re-wiring your brain

I recently published a piece on neuroplasticity— the brain’s way of re-wiring itself to adapt, or even re-adapt, to certain situations. Dr. Iroise Dumontheil at Birkbeck University said she feels social media is affecting the brain’s plasticity, and that periods of time spent on social media could potentially cause the brain to change.

“We know that medium to heavy multitaskers, who engage in multiple forms of media simultaneously, tend to demonstrate smaller gray matter area in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for top-down attention control,” said Caglar Yildirim, an assistant professor of human computer interaction at SUNY Oswego. “Altogether, this means that if you are too dependent on your smartphone, you are basically damaging your ability to be attentive.”

There has got to be some sort of research that says when you aren’t able to balance work-life, your productivity, physical health, and mental health go down. Well, sure enough, there is.

2. Using your work-time to your advantage

A researcher by the name of Marianna Virtanen at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health concluded that there is a connection between being overworked and having impaired sleep and depressive symptoms, as elaborated in an article with the Huffington Post.

The piece went on to say that working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean we as employees are more efficient, as describe in Parkinson Law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” You may have an assignment that will only take 30 minutes, but if you have six hours to complete that 30-minute assignment… You’ll most likely end up using the full six hours.

According to a study in the Lancet on people who work more than 55 hours a week, those people have “a 33 percent higher risk of stroke than those toiling a more sane 35 to 40 hours each week, and a 13 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease, too,” says an article in The Washington Post. The article also covered a study by a researcher at Stanford who found that productivity starts to diminish at around 50 hours per week. The study concluded that there was no difference in productivity for those employees who worked 70 hours per week versus 56 hours per week.

This may be a bit harrowing for those who work those extensive hours a week, as I know I personally would not like to be at higher risk for a stroke nor heart disease. That’s where that right-brain creativity comes into play.

For many entrepreneurs, you always “could” be working and you have to discipline yourself not to work. You really almost have to schedule time not to work. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’m sure many of us can relate to “sneaking work emails” during vacation to avoid a (well-deserved) evil eye from our spouse or family members.

But there’s hope!

3. Finding an out-of-work hobby

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that employers could potentially benefit from encouraging employees to pursue an outside-work hobby in order to break from the stress of work. The study also found that those participating in creative activity had both indirect and direct effects on performance-related outcomes.

Another study, in which participants “completed a self-report measure” evaluating their involvement in ten different kinds of leisure activities, along with their positive and negative psychological states. In addition, measurements of participants resting blood pressure, cortisol levels, BMI, waist circumference, and “perceived physiological functioning” were evaluated.

The study concluded that the more leisure activities the participants took part in, the lower the blood pressure, cortisol, waist circumference, BMI, and “perceptions of better physical function.”

4. Meditation

As entrepreneurs, we may feel like we might not have the time do participate in ten leisure activities a day, but just so much as a quick meditation could decrease stress-levels.

Please check out a piece in ScientificAmerican.com entitled Mind of the Meditator written by Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and former cellular biologist; Antoine Lutz, a research scientist at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Richard J. Davidson, the director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior and the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The article delves into the science and effects of three major types of Buddhist meditation: focused attention, mindfulness, and compassion and loving kindness. Studies for the article found that these meditations decreased distress and increased better control of emotions. They even found that, through magnetic resonance imaging, 20 expert practitioners of a type of Buddhist meditation had a more substantial quantity of brain tissue in the prefrontal cortex and the insula than a control group did.

Even spending a few minutes each day can lead to improvements in one’s mental well being.

An article in Medium written by Blake Powell describes his journey after reading a book called The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. The book revolves around the idea of embracing the present moment instead of worrying about the past or the future.

Powell recommends starting off with just 10 minutes of meditation a day. “In the span of a month of meditation,” said Powell, “I noticed myself tuning into my thoughts more readily and catching myself before becoming my thoughts, instead noting them as ‘feelings’ and snapping myself back to the present moment (and this becomes almost effortless with practice).”

I’ve personally found that these lifestyle habits, like meditation, are what really gets our creativity flowing. The best creative ideas seem to come to people when they’re out of the office. Founders often come up with great ideas for features, products or companies while doing things they enjoy. An article in Forbes coins this “the spontaneous idea,” saying it’s one of the “three primary paths to a new business idea.”

So, is it possible to balance your work-life? Yeah, I really think it is. Spend time with your family, delve into conversations with your kids, go on a run with your dog, find something that sparks that creativity and lowers your stress-level. Just for fun I recently built a skateboard halfpipe in my basement with my kids using almost entirely scrapped wood that I found in dumpsters or discarded on the street.  My son and I built an electric guitar so we could both learn about the challenges of wiring, setting the action and painting a guitar. My current project is working on a funk album with a fun bunch of amazing musicians. The time I spend throwing myself into non-work-related forms of creativity really boost my overall attitude and effort, particularly when it comes to work itself.

If all else fails, meditate for twenty minutes a day before work. And if that doesn’t work, as the Zen saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

 
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2018: Most Notable Moments in the Business of Music

Posted by admin on Feb 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

With each passing year, it seems the events in the music sector become more and more notable. 2018 was a year with several significant events in the music industry. It’s been out with the old and in with the new, with changes in archaic music licensing schemas to music streaming taking center stage in several arenas. From these events, it seems like 2018 has set 2019 up for what could be, yet again, another exciting year in the industry. Let me elaborate a little…

Spotify’s Direct Listing

Probably the most significant event this year in music was Spotify’s direct listing. Overall, the effect of this listing was unbelievably positive for the music industry.  Most would agree that liquidity is always good for an industry. Through their direct listing, Spotify offered a means for shareholders to sell their shares on the open market without the usual restrictions in lock-up agreements and investment banking underwriting fees. While direct listings are by no means a new concept, it was the first time in history that an offering of its size was done using this “bankerless” approach. Moreover, liquidity events, particular in sectors as beleaguered as music, often remind investors that they can achieve financial returns. As VCs see exits, their FOMO gets stimulated and more investment capital pours into the sector. More capital means that more entrepreneurs have a chance to innovate, which eventually and ideally drive opportunities for content creators.  Finally, the innovative direct listing provides a market price for an acquisition currency should Spotify choose to add new tech to its product portfolio. 

Music Modernization Act

Also known as the MMA, the Act rectified an archaic set of regulations regarding music licensing.  While many of the new laws embodied in the act are specific to industry practices for the PROs (Performance Rights Organizations), there will be an attempt to standardize royalty agreements and processes.  Most interestingly, the MMA will establish a Mechanical Licensing Collective which will try to solve the complex issue of matching songwriters to sound recordings via a publicly available database. This database will specifically help companies who stream interactive content or allow downloads. Music producers and engineers who played a role in recordings will also now be paid whenever their song is played via satellite radio services and online. Additionally, royalties will be given to artists whose songs were recorded before 1972. Prior to the MMA, there was no federal copyright protection for songs recorded before February 15,1972.

Music Acquisitions

Some of the biggest events of 2018 were in M&A. Apple acquired Shazam for approximately $400 million­– one of Apple’s biggest acquisitions. Anyone with an Apple or Android device can use Shazam to identify music, television, and other media within that person’s radius at the click of a button. Apple has made some adjustments to Shazam, making it ad-free. The acquisition seems like a smart move on Apple’s part, considering they’ll have access to data from Shazam’s 120 million users.

Another big move was ByteDance’s $800 million acquisition of Musical.ly. The app boasts 100 million active users monthly in the US and 300 million monthly in China. In August, ByteDance announced it would change Musical.ly’s name to TikTok. Through the app, users are able to create up to fifteen-second clips of themselves lip-syncing to songs or sound bites. Users can collaborate with other users and create joint videos on a split-screen.

Finally, Pandora acquired AdsWizz, a digital advertising platform, for $145 million. “We built the AdsWizz platform using innovative technology in service of a simple idea: provide value to all stakeholders in the digital audio ecosystem – including brands, listeners and publishers – with relevant, engaged and highly targeted advertising experiences,” said Alexis van de Wyer, CEO of AdsWizz, in their press release.  While approximately 20% of Spotify’s revenues come from advertising, 80% of Pandora’s revenues come from advertising so the acquisition clearly underscores the company’s focus on bolstering it’s ad-infrastructure. With the recent acquisition of Pandora by Sirius XM we will keep an eye on how Pandora’s model evolves now that it is part of the satellite radio behemoth.

Fitness and Music

When you think about moments when people listen to music, enjoying tunes to fire you up for a workout immediately comes to mind. Fitness app usage has increased by 330% over the last three years and there are now approximately 38k fitness apps in the Apple and Android stores. Most importantly, we’ve found that when users workout to music while using these apps, they are 2.2x more likely to return next month, thus less likely to cancel their app subscription. That’s good for fitness apps who watch their user LTV like hawks. Moreover, music listeners are 2.8x more likely to return in a quarter. Check out a white paper we put together that goes into more detail about the profound effect of music on fitness.

Strength in Streaming

According to an article in Business Insider, 75% of music listening in 2018 was using streaming services. This number has climbed from its original 50% of music listening in 2016. This 75% is equal to $3.4 billion dollars in revenue in September of 2018, according to an article in The Verge. In 2018, digital download sales were down by 27%, as were the sales of physical music purchases at 41%. Streaming’s growth rate is the largest of any listening category, leading at 1 million new subscribers a month. Furthermore, out of the 159 million monthly active listeners in music streaming, 71 million of them are premium subscribers. According to Nielsen, there were more than 70,000 albums released in the music streaming world by the midpoint of the year. Seems to me like the music streaming trend is definitely the industry’s friend and I think it absolutely suggests that growth is full steam ahead.

The Millennial Population has Baby Boomers Beat

The day has come: Millennials are now the largest age group in the US at 83.1 million, according to a census from 2015, defeating the Baby Boomers’ population of 75.4 million. According to data shared with Digital Music News, Millennials listen to 75.1% more music daily than Baby Boomers. Within Spotify specifically, 72% of the app’s listeners are Millennials. I think it’s safe to say that Millennials are really the ones driving the music industry.

Streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music, give users the opportunity to share their music on social media. In the month of August 2017, 73% of Millennials used Facebook, 32% used Instagram, 28% used Snapchat, and 14% used Twitter. With the combination of Millennials’ use of social media and music streaming, the music industry is really reaping the benefits Millennials are having on the industry.

#MeToo

This year at the Grammy Awards, Kesha stood with an army of singers, including Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day, and Camilla Cabello, performing her song “Praying” in tribute to the #MeToo movement. Janelle Monáe introduced Kesha by saying, “It’s not just going on in Hollywood, it’s not just going on in Washington [D.C.], it’s right here in our industry as well.”

However, the music industry hasn’t seemed to experience the #MeToo movement that Hollywood has gone through.“Experts say this could be due to several factors. Among them: the music industry’s history of sordid behavior characterized by the slogan ‘sex, drugs   and rock ‘n’ roll’; the sexualization of females entering the industry; the competitive nature of pop music; and a lack of females in leadership/mentoring positions,” says an article in USA Today.

But there is strength in numbers. Singers have banded together, like Kesha and Lady Gaga.As of recent, Gaga defended Kesha in court with Kesha’s sexual assault lawsuit against music producer, Dr. Luke.  Entertainment as a whole seems to be showing that there’s zero tolerance for bad behavior for executives. Let’s hope it continues.

What’s Next for 2019

Here are a quick predictions on what to expect in 2019:

Fitness will continue to be a major driver for music streaming and potentially music revenue. With Peloton’s looming IPO, fitness will continue to be a major distribution point for music.

Wearable devices, like Bose’s new AR Audio Sunglasses, are on the rise, as it was estimated that portable fitness tech generated $6.4 billion in sales this past year, increasing profit by 10% each year, according to an article written by Cherie Hu in Forbes.

Podcasting ain’t dead. It will continue to be an important player within audio entertainment.

Music streaming will continue to grow as a percentage of overall music industry revenues, but artists still cannot rely upon music streaming as a way to make money. Top artists will make over 75% percent of their income from live concerts alone. It’s important for artists to get on the road and do those live shows, which is why you should get out and support your artist at your favorite local venue.

Labels and Publishers will continue to evolve. We will see shifts in the way rightsholders allow innovative companies to use their content to provide new services and music experiences. The shift of the old guard to more forward-thinking digital savvy executives is already paving the way for this shift in mindset.

I’m excited about the possibilities for 2019. The music industry continues to change for the better. The big players aren’t going away, but things will just look a lot different.

Resources:

https://www.lw.com/mediaCoverage/spotify-case-study-structuring-and-executing-a-direct-listing-harvard

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/03/business/media/spotifys-wall-street-debut-is-a-success.html 

https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8216857/music-modernization-act-what-is-it-why-does-it-matter-jordan-bromley

https://blog.songtrust.com/what-is-the-music-modernization-act

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/05/06/music-modernization-act-mma-mechanical-licensing-collective-mlc/ 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/business/media/music-copyright-digital-services.html

https://copyrightalliance.org/ca_post/6-things-to-know-about-the-music-modernization-act-s2823/http://www.copyright.com/blog/music-modernization-act-introduced-house-senate/ 

https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/24/apple-closes-its-shazam-acquisition-and-says-the-music-recognition-app-will-soon-become-ad-free/ 

https://www.techradar.com/news/why-did-apple-buy-shazam-here-are-five-potential-and-particularly-good-reasons

https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/2/17644260/musically-rebrand-tiktok-bytedance-douyin

https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/29/pandoras-acquisition-of-audio-adtech-company-adswizz-is-complete/

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180529005470/en/Pandora-Completes-Acquisition-AdsWizz

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahlandrum/2017/05/12/millennials-are-relying-on-music-more-for-a-better-workday/#600fb46d736e 

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/06/02/millennials-listen-more-music-baby-boomers/

https://www.businessinsider.com/music-streaming-accounts-75-percent-consumption-album-sales-charts-2018-7 

https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8096452/digital-revenue-streaming-music-2017-dima-midia-report

https://www.statista.com/outlook/209/100/music-streaming/worldwide#market-revenue

https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/20/17883584/streaming-record-sales-music-industry-

 
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Re-wiring Your Brain for the Better? Meet Neuroplasticity

Posted by admin on Jan 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

There are a lot of stellar aspects that come with running a company. I spend my time pursuing an idea that I’m passionate about. I get to work with some amazing people. I also get to meet other great founders who figure out clever ways to tackle numerous challenges. While the benefits far outweigh the negatives, you can’t get the good without the bad. One of these negatives that can really hinder a CEO from doing their job properly is anxiety. Anxiety affects 40 million American adults daily. But combine anxiety with working overtime, trying to inspire employees, being a good spouse and father and keeping up a personal life? It’s not exactly a cakewalk. It’s something that I’ve been struggling with for years.

I recently attended a conference that sparked a flame of interest in me. The conference involved a guest speaker who spoke about anxiety, specifically for CEOs, since we live in high-pressure situations most of the time. This speaker elaborated on coping mechanisms for anxiety, but honed in on one in particular: neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s way of re-wiring itself to adapt, or even re-adapt, to certain situations. The neurons in the brain will actually change their structure in response to any new information crossing the brain. I highly suggest reading The Brain that Changes Itselfby Norman Doidge, M.D. It is packed with compelling research and even the history behind why the medical community rejected the concept of a brain that can re-wire itself.

The speaker, using this idea of neuroplasticity, said that he would repeat mantras to himself aloud when anxious, such as, “You are great. You are confident.” By using this tactic, the brain, ideally, will be able to re-wire itself via these mantras and positive attributes so that one day, it will recreate its neural pathways and stop anxiety issues altogether. Sure, it’s sounds a bit hokey and bizarre – you wouldn’t want to be seen in public talking to yourself.

But before you jettison the idea, Dr. Shad Helmsetter, an expert on self-help, wrote a book entitled What to Say When You Talk to Your Self, which is based upon the idea that you can help yourself purely on motivational self-talk and a positive outlook. C’mon, we’ve all been guilty of talking to ourselves either via that Austin Powers “inner monologue” or outright uttering words of self-encouragement. Look at tennis players that are having a complete dialogue with themselves between points to fire themselves up. If you don’t have the time to read the entire book, have a quick listen to Joseph Rodrigues’ audiobook, where he deconstructs Dr. Helmsetter’s book and offers his own personal lecture based upon the book.

With this idea of motivating yourself via positive reaffirmations and mindset, scientists may really be onto something with using neuroplasticity to decrease personal anxiety and stress.

Before this whole concept of neuroplasticity, the brain was thought of as an organ with a set number of cells that we lose over the years. Neuroplasticity, however, is based on the principle that the brain is not really an organ, but an actual muscle, that is completely malleable, no matter if you’re 10 years-old or 90 years-old.

Then there comes along the idea of neurogenesis, delving deeper into this idea that the brain can re-wire itself. It is the process by which the brain actually creates new neurons. Each of these neurons is one of 100-billion (give or take) specialized cells within the brain that each have their own job. While this process is crucial during embryonic development, the theory is that neurogenesis continues throughout an entire lifespan.

What I really wanted to know was can we, as executives, function better if we use neuroplasticity and neurogenesis to our advantage, and how long will that process take?

I recently watched a TED Talk by a PhD student named Don Vaughn at UCLA. He told an anecdote about a three year-old girl who was diagnosed with a rare disease called Rasmussen’s encephalitis, which causes chronic epileptic seizures and also adversely affects speech. The only actual treatment to cure this disease is a hemispherectomy: the removal of half the brain.

As we know, one half of the brain controls the other half of the body, so by cutting out half the brain, this little girl would be left hemiplegic. Vaughn went on to say that just four weeks post-op, she walked out of the hospital, despite half of her brain being removed. How was this possible?

Our brain, Vaughn explained, can sense loss of neural-tissue and can use neuroplasticity to re-wire itself so that the body can function as it is supposed to. There are also countless examples of this throughout the book that I mentioned earlier by Dr. Norman Doidge.

Vaughn’s TED Talk reminded me of people who have language disorders caused by brain damage such as strokes, also known as aphasia. Those with aphasia have lost the ability to speak. The part that really blows my mind is the stories I hear of those patients in speech therapy. Speech is controlled by the left brain. Music is a right brain concept. However, singing involves both sides of the brain. Clinicians who work with patients with aphasia have reported that while the patients may not be able to speak, they are able to sing. By practicing to sing before speaking, aphasia patients are able to stimulate both sides of the brain and thus re-learn to speak at a faster pace.

Getting back to anxiety. Music has also been known to diminish anxiety through what is known as “sound therapy.” I recently read an article about a group of neuroscientists in the United Kingdom who put together the top ten songs that decrease stress.

This began with a study on a group of participants who worked on arduous puzzles as fast as they could. The participants were connected to sensors and these sensors tracked their levels of stress, caused by the puzzles, via brain activity, blood pressure, rate of breath, and heart rate.

Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, the leader of the study, concluded that one song, entitled “Weightless,” by Marconi Union, had the greatest effect on participants’ general anxiety. While listening to “Weightless,” participants’ anxiety decreased by 65% and their physiological resting rates decreased by 35%.

Marconi Union composed “Weightless” with sound therapists, producing an arrangement of harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines in order to decrease the listener’s blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels.

The article goes on to say that stress can actually increase changes of heart disease, obesity, depression, gastrointestinal issues, and asthma. A paper, from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools, on common stress factors in the workplace concluded that stress from the workplace alone could result in more deaths than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza.

In my opinion, we need this stress-relief wave more than ever. In my professional life, we are seeing an increase of companies focused on wellness and meditation to reduce stress. One company is Sanity and Self which has created a highly successful meditation app. We’ve been working with them to create a curated music experience to help maximize relaxation. Check it out here.

This idea of taking the time out of our day to de-stress has become even more poignant to me over the years.

About 15 years ago, I started practicing qigong, which is an ancient Chinese practice to improve mental and physical health by posture, movement, and breath-technique. The goal of qigong is to harness your “qi,” meaning “energy,” through “gong,” meaning “skill cultivated through steady practice.”

Included in the practice of qigong is meditation. I try to start every day with a 5-15 minute session. I often have difficulty focusing – my mind wanders to a myriad of topics that are floating around my brain – the daily schedule, dropping my kids off to school, etc. But, eventually my mind usually calms down and I can figuratively sweep away many of these superficial thoughts. When I can focus, in just a few minutes, I feel completely grounded, almost like there’s a shield around me, repelling any sort of stress. If I’m extremely focused, I’m able to meditate for an hour.

And, as you can imagine, mediation also relates back to neuroplasticity. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and MIT have found that those who meditate actually have an increase of thickness in areas of the brain that control attention and process of sensory input.

“Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being,” said Sara Lazar, leader of a meditation study at Harvard and a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. “These findings are consistent with other studies that demonstrated increased thickness of music areas in the brains of musicians, and visual and motor areas in the brains of jugglers. In other words, the structure of an adult brain can change in response to repeated practice.”

It seems to me that meditation and neuroplasticity go hand-in-hand, with their common theory of re-wiring the brain.

While some may feel that the next great frontier is exploring space or finding new creatures in the deepest oceans, I feel that the new biggest frontier is right here in our own bodies: our mind. If we can continue to use neuroplasticity to our advantage, we as people, executives, and leaders may be able to fine-tune our focuses, gear up our drive, and get one step closer to the individual we have envisioned for ourselves. Time will tell as we learn more about this unchartered territory, but I’ve had a lot of fun learning about this and trying a few basic experiments out on my own.

Links from research

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/neuroplasticity/ – What is neuroplasticity

https://www.amazon.com/Brain-That-Changes-Itself-Frontiers-ebook/dp/B000QCTNIW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1546475792&sr=8-2&keywords=the+brain+that+changes+itself

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40362 – Medical definition of neuroplasticity

https://www.brainline.org/author/celeste-campbell/qa/what-neuroplasticity – What is neuroplasticity

https://www.britannica.com/science/neuroplasticity – Neuroplasticity info

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/enlightened-living/200806/neuroplasticity-the-revolution-in-neuroscience-and-psychology-part-i – Neuroplasticity: The Revolution in Neuroscience and Psychology, Part I

https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain-basics/brain-physiology/what-neurogenesis – What is neurogenesis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776484/ – The human brain in numbers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzbHtIrb14s – TED Talk, Don Vaughn “Neurohacking: rewiring your brain”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201702/how-do-neuroplasticity-and-neurogenesis-rewire-your-brain – How Do Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis Rewire Your Brain?

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/rasmussen-encephalitis/ – Rasmussen’s encephalitis

https://www.nqa.org/what-is-qigong- – Qigong

https://www.iqim.org/about/history-of-qigong/ – Brief history of qigong

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2006/02/meditation-found-to-increase-brain-size/ – Meditation found to increase brain size

http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/RegainingIndependence/CommunicationChallenges/From-Singing-to-Speaking-Its-Amazing-To-See_UCM_310600_Article.jsp#.W-zleZNKh-V – From singing to speaking: it’s amazing to see

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/10/sing-something-simple-the-therapy-that-helps-stroke-victims-to-speak/ – Sing something simple: the therapy that helps stroke victims to speak

https://vocalprocess.co.uk/ufaqs/singing-uses-different-parts-brain/ – Does singing use different parts of the brain?

 
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Intermittent Fasting: A Possible Means for Kicking Cancer, Weight Loss, Mental Clarity, and Efficiency

Posted by admin on Nov 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

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It’s no secret that becoming health-focused has hit this century like a tidal wave. There’s a surplus of apps focused on health and fitness, and a limitless amount of articles and books on topics like feeling like you’re in your twenties again.

Admittedly, I’ve fallen prey to this surge of health-focused material. We recently launched our health vertical, Health.fm, which has been really showing us how many companies are now using fitness as a means to improve their health. Through all the research I’ve done to improve my knowledge of the health and fitness world, I stumbled upon the idea of intermittent fasting. Hat tip to John Rafferty for the initial advice and the inspiring story about Mike Maser.

During this discovery phase, I realized that intermittent fasting can potentially help you, as an executive, to save time, keep focused, keep your energy levels up, all while helping you to feel better about yourself as a whole. These elements all add up into making you a better leader.

This whole idea of testing intermittent fasting came about through my interest on how diet can affect your performance, specifically in a business context. But let me tell you a story that about a great guy who put cancer behind him.

In 2014, Mike Maser, CEO of FitStar, later acquired by Fitbit, had been diagnosed with stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Being diagnosed with stage IV means that the cancer has already spread to the organs and bone marrow, in addition to the lymphatic system. Determined to beat cancer, Maser came upon the research of biochemist Dr. Valter Longo. Dr. Longo’s research has shown that fasting could increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy, along with decreasing chemotherapy’s side effects.

Dr. Longo conducted an experiment to prove this using mice. He found that the mice that fasted during chemotherapy continued to maintain their healthy cells, while their cancer cells were still receptive to treatment.

Maser decided to test this experiment on his own and would fast for five days. The result: Maser became cancer-free after only two rounds of chemotherapy. He was scheduled to have six rounds.

John Rafferty also shared the term ‘autophagy” with me – I had never even heard about it before. The word’s etymology comes from the Greek roots for “self” and “to eat.” During autophagy, cells will create membranes that are made to search for dead, weak, or disease-ridden cells. The membranes will then envelop those sub-par cells and take them to an area of the cell known as the lysosome. There, in the lysosome, the negative cells are broken down and burned by the lysosome, creating energy. Thus, like the Greek etymology, the good cells eat your bad cells.

While this idea of fasting may seem pretty radical, it’s an ancient practice, and virtually every major religion has promoted fasting. In Christianity, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights. Judaism has 25 events throughout the year associated with fasting, including the holiday Yom Kippur, where practitioners fast from sunup to sundown to atone for their sins. In the religion of Islam, for the entire month of Ramadan, eating is not allowed until sundown. The list goes on.

Needless to say, this practice is not new. And, most importantly, the research has shown that fasting isn’t just good for you, it’s great for you! There are numerous studies that show how fasting can reduce inflammation, create weight loss, promote ketosis whereby the body seeks ketones or fat molecules for energy, and even reduce insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients.

So I tried it. Keep in mind that I’m far from being a doctor and I don’t recommend this for everybody; this is just an experiment I tried on myself.

There are numerous fasting strategies. First, I decided to try a 16/8 fast. In a 16/8 fast, you fast for 16 hours and then during those 8 hours, you’ll skip breakfast and only eat lunch and dinner. After dinner, you won’t eat again until the next day for lunch. I found that this fast wasn’t too difficult, mostly due to the back-to-back meetings I scheduled from 8:30-4. I didn’t make any changes to my daily fitness regimen nor did I alter my diet. Part of the experiment was to change only one thing– skipping breakfast.

The results were promising: I lost weight and my energy levels continued to remain high.

After trying the 16/8 fast, I tried ‘OMAD,’ also known as “one meal a day.” As you can imagine, this required much more mental discipline than eating two meals a day. I drank green tea and coffee to curb the hunger. At around 4PM, I really had to keep focused on my work to avoid snacking. I usually scheduled a meeting or conference call to keep me disciplined. At various points it was absolutely brutal and the hunger was almost unbearable. This obviously was highly counter-productive and distracting.

Despite the severe exercise in self-discipline, I was surprised by the amount of weight I dropped while doing OMAD, considering I kept my diet and boozing at their normal levels of consummation. It was remarkable.

As a further experiment, I tried every “bad” food that you could imagine: pizza, pasta, hot dogs… and the list goes on. On one occasion, to the horror of my wife, I topped off a gluttonous meal with as many donuts as I could eat. No joke. I felt sick and disgusting, but damn, those donuts tasted good going down.

The next day, no weight gain…

At the urging of my wife, I met with my doctor and a nutritionist. I also had blood work done to check my cholesterol levels and to see if any other markers looked off. While my LDLs and HDLs were slightly elevated (but still under 200), my triglycerides plummeted. The general takeaway from both the doctor and the nutritionist was that while a lot of the research is still early, the positive results of fasting are promising. Based on the blood work results, the medial advice I received was to keep going.

There were a few downsides, too.

For starters, my intensity for cardio-based workouts dropped. I just didn’t feel like I had enough energy. Moreover, as my weight dropped, my strength also decreased, given my inability to lift as much weight and complete as many reps as I had been able to do previously. I discussed this with a trainer who explained that fasting depletes the body of glycogen, which is what athletes rely upon for a quick fuel source. Unless you can convert your body into a state of ketosis, where you burn ketones (a topic for another post), without glycogen you won’t have the ability to access fast energy and perform at an optimal level. It became especially apparent during martial arts training, where my sluggish performance resulted in getting hit… a lot.

Also, fasting can be disruptive to family life, particularly during the weekends. My family likes to eat, so meals are an important social aspect of our lives. During the week, breakfast time is a mad rush trying to get the kids out of the house and they can’t monitor my eating when I’m at the office. During the weekend, it’s pretty hard to hide the fact that I’m not eating at breakfast or lunch. That leads to questions about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. My kids expressed an interest in trying it, and that’s when my wife burst a gasket.

I realized three things while fasting:

1. It is unbelievable how much time we spend eating.

I have had countless lunch meetings. It takes traveling time to get to lunch, an hour or more to eat, and then travel time at the end of lunch to get back to the office. That’s two hours of highly productive time lost, not to mention the crash-and-burn scenario that usually comes after a large lunch. When I started skipping lunch during OMAD, I was surprised how much time I freed up.  Assuming saving an average of 1.5 hours per day, I’d amass almost a full day of prime, productive-time work by the end of the week.

What really makes it brutal are those wonderful smells of delicious food wafting through the air. To combat that, I booked meetings around that lunch hour, all in-person and phone meetings— none of which included food.

2. My mental clarity improved.

While fasting, I didn’t feel the usual need to bombard myself with caffeine (other than to curb hunger). Because I simply skipped lunch, I didn’t have the typical post-lunch crash-and-burn scenario. I had high amounts of energy and was focused.

3. The physical effects fasting had on my body.

Since fasting, starting in May, my weight has dropped from 173.5 lbs. to 164.3 lbs. My body fat percentage also dropped by 3 absolute percentage points. While I’m not doing OMAD everyday, I bounce between 16/8, OMAD and sometimes just eating three healthy meals that are nourishing. (Hat tip to Mika Salmi for the sage reminder). I also often throw in a weekly cheat day, based on Tim Ferriss’ recent book on body hacking, and notice that there’s no weight gain after being disciplined for five days after the gorge. Fasting has also been known to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. I skipped my typical summer cold and my wife mentioned that I didn’t have that “puffy” look anymore. Yay!

Once again, I am not a medical professional and am not prescribing this type of lifestyle for anyone, but it’s been fascinating to test this in my personal life and it definitely seems to be working for me. Probably most important is that I’ve developed a better relationship with food and realize that I’m not a slave to eating at specific meal times.

Fasting may not be the key to everyone’s success in their health, but it’s given me the opportunity to focus on my health when I thought I didn’t have the time. Turns out, I do have the time. And being mindful about my health? Well, it works, for me at least.

Research Links

https://vimeo.com/287355660 – Kevin Rose and Mike Maser Discuss Surviving Cancer and the Future of Zero

•  Zero is Maser’s new fasting app

https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/05/zero-fasting/ – Kevin Rose’s fasting app Zero beefs up with new CEO, $1.2M funding (“How fasting helped Mike Maser beat cancer and get back to startups”)

https://blog.usejournal.com/saved-by-zero-594c489fa348 – Saved by Zero — Surviving Cancer, Discovering Fasting, and Turning It Into My Next Career Journey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9WGQn44XQo – How to Clear Your Body of Senescent Cells Through Activating Autophagy – Dr. Rhonda Patrick

https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/apoptosis.htm – What is apoptosis?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGafhm1cuSI – Dr. Valter Longo – Fasting Cycles Retard Growth of Tumors (ORIGINAL VIDEO MASER WATCHED)

https://www.statnews.com/2017/06/13/fasting-diet-valter-longo/ – He wants to sell you a $300 ‘fasting diet’ to prolong your life. It might not be as crazy as it sounds

https://lymphomanewstoday.com/lymphoma-prognosis/ – Lymphoma Prognosis: What You Need To Know

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-44005092 – Can the science of autophagy boost your health?

https://greatist.com/live/autophagy-fasting-exercise – Autophagy: The Real Way to Cleanse Your Body

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2016/press-release/ – Nobel Peace Prize: Yoshinori Ohsumi

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/11524808/The-history-of-fasting.html – Why fasting is now back in fashion

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/11/jeanette-winterson-why-i-fasted-11-days – Why I fasted for 11 days

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/southern-and-jewish/a-few-facts-about-fasting-in-jewish-tradition/ – A few facts about fasting in Jewish tradition

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jerrybowyer/2017/01/06/looking-for-a-cognitive-enhancer-skip-the-drugs-and-try-fasting-instead/#399472db4592 – Looking for a cognitive enhancer? Skip the drugs and try fasting instead

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/gandhi-begins-fast-in-protest-of-caste-separation – Gandhi begins fast in protest of caste separation

http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/circle3.html – Dante, Circle 3, canto 6

https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/bible-questions-and-answers/why-did-jesus-fast – Why did Jesus fast?

 
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Fixing a Maytag Neptune Gas Dryer that isn’t Drying

Posted by admin on Nov 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

My Maytag dryer recently stopped fully drying.  We called the repairman and unfortunately, the earliest he could come was 10 days from the time I called him. We had already been hanging our clothes for days and I had had enough.  So I took matters into my own hands to fix the dryer myself.  Something about dealing with both gas and electricity didn’t seem wise, but hey, that’s why they have YouTube.  This was an incredibly helpful video.

I also learned that the most common problem for Maytag gas drivers are when two gas solenoid valves stop functioning.  They look like this:

Basically, when they stop functioning, the ignition coil does not get hot enough and the gas does not ignite.  The unfortunate result is that the dryer simply does not produce heat and obviously your clothes remain wet.

The beautiful thing is that they can be purchased on Amazon for around $10.  You can buy them here.  It’s even more amazing how easy they are to replace.

Obviously, make sure you turn off the gas valve and unplug the dryer from the wall.

Good luck!

 

 
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When Friends Die

Posted by admin on Apr 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

jim tramel jeff yasuda

As I write this, tears roll down my face like confused streams that have lost their way. For I am confused and lost. It is beyond my comprehension how such good people can be taken away so quickly and unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago I learned of a hopelessly tragic, terrible and unexpected occurrence.

My friend died.

And, I am in shock.

 

It was only a few weeks ago when we were toasting glasses and telling jokes over a nice meal and great company. We talked about work, our first-world “problems” and how they got in the way of our dreams, and our wonderful kids, who sometimes weren’t that “wonderful.” Life was good.

And now my friend is gone.

Jim Tramel was an incredibly good person. He was a great dad. A great husband. A great friend. And perhaps the very way that he died is the ultimate demonstration of who he was as a person.

He died a hero trying to save his daughter.

The circumstances of his death are less important than the celebration of his life. But, we can’t help but to try to find answers to explain what greater force allowed it to happen. How could such a good person be taken from us? Why is life so cruel? Who is at fault?

In my disbelief and shock, I initially became angry searching desperately to find someone or something to blame. But in the end, there is no one to blame and only sadness. Desperate sadness. The type of sadness when you can’t breathe and momentarily lose hope.

That’s what it feels like when friends die.

 

In college, one of my best friends and roommate committed suicide. To this day, I blame myself for not being available in my friend’s darkest hour. I was studying for a test, was running late for practice and was generally stressed with inane minutiae that would only bother a twenty-year-old. He asked if I had “just a minute” to talk to him about something on his mind. I said I was “too busy.”

Those were my last words to him.

When I got back from practice later that day, he had taken his own life.

What I would do to go back in time and punch my self-absorbed self back then in the face and say, “Help your friend, damnit!”

But I can’t. And I still live with regret about it. And I’m helpless to change the past.

That’s what it feels like when friends die.

 

I cannot even begin to imagine what Jim’s dear wife and family are going through. I am afraid to reach out to say something for fear that I might make it worse for them. But my heart goes out to them as they begin down the long path towards acceptance and recovery.

But perhaps it begins with a celebration of his life.

Jim was the type of guy that always put a smile on your face when he showed up. His soul patch would wildly bounce up and down as he laughed. He was not one to ever be stingy with the smiles. He was a master griller and was the consummate host. Even while he was closely monitoring the temperature of a burger – yes, he put a thermometer in a burger to gauge its doneness to perfection – he was refilling your glass with an awesome vino from his cellar or making sure you were a happy guest.

He was also quick to help a friend in need. On the professional I often reached out for advice or an introduction. He was always there to help. Always. He was the physical embodiment of “pay-it-forward” and was clearly a net-contributor in the start-up world.

In the days to come, my state of shock and disbelief will likely fade to acceptance and sadness. In so many ways, his life was similar to mine – a dad of an older child and younger twins working in the crazy startup space. Perhaps that is why his passing hits home so hard. We often don’t release how precious life is until it is so quickly taken away. The sadness is unbearable, but the memories of how he made life better for me and everyone with whom he interacted helps to lessen the pain.

May he live on forever in our memory and in our hearts.

 
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2015 – A year of Change in the Business of Music

Posted by admin on Jan 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

2015 has come and gone in a flash and it was an exciting year in music on many fronts.  Apart from the senseless tweet squabbles between various artists for publicity stunts and Kanye’s announcement that he’s running for President in 2020, there were several moments that will shape the music ecosystem for years to come. The industry is still scrambling to catch up with the massive changes in listening habits and the fallout has been painful to watch at times. More than anything else, last year was about the changing of the guard. Old institutions becoming less relevant, streaming services wielding more power (and battling it out amongst themselves), and top-selling artists flexing their own muscles in answer.

Below is a chronological list of the top of events that highlight this ongoing saga as the music industry slowly figures out how to create a formula that benefits labels, listeners, artists, and the technology platforms.

timeline3

February 9, 2015 – Beck Wins the Grammy for Album of the Year for his album Morning Phase

Beck moved on from irony and chunky beats with two albums ago, and, with Morning Phase, continues to embrace beauty in a messed up world. There are many derivative moments throughout the album, but it is a lovely collection of tunes meant to inspire us through dark times. That said, the win for Album of the Year was a huge upset, and not just to Kanye. The nominees were as follows:

Beck, Morning Phase

Beyonce, Beyonce

Ed Sheeran, x

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour

Pharrell Williams, Girl

Why it’s important- A once vaunted institution widely blasted as outdated

In the days that followed, the blogosphere exploded with questions around the voting process, the politicking, and the fact that the ballot itself created a split vote – Beyonce v. Sam Smith in pop, Beyonce v. Pharrell in R&B, and even Ed Sheeran v. Sam Smith who are both from England. It made people question whether the winners accurately represented what the masses believe or was more of a reflection of an outdated process.

Ultimately, the truth behind what happened probably doesn’t matter, but I’m sure it was a close vote. Controversy often brings exposure, which is good for the artists.

Good coverage here

April 30, 2015 – Grooveshark shuts down after a protracted legal battle with the major labels

Grooveshark, which launched in 2007, was sued for a whopping $17 billion in damages.  At its peak, Grooveshark grew to over 50MM monthly uniques through its on demand streaming service.  Users were able to upload music to the Grooveshark servers and those songs were made available to all for listening and sharing purposes.

Why it’s important – The end of an era

Grooveshark was one of the last holdouts of startups that have lived by the “infringe, get big, then ask for forgiveness from the labels” strategy.  This has never been a winning strategy as evidenced by familiar names like Napster, Imeem, and Project Playlist (btw – there’s a new Playlist that is going live soon that is doing cool stuff).

The aftermath was also terrible when Josh Greenburg, its CTO and co-founder was found dead in his apartment just a few weeks later.  No evidence of foul play or suicide was ever found.  I considered Josh to be a friend and spoke to him from time to time about technical solutions to streaming challenges.  Josh was 28.  May his soul rest in peace.

Good coverage here

May 19, 2015 – Pandora begins acquisition spree with purchase of Next Big Sound

Next Big Sound, founded in 2008 by Alex White, provided comprehensive analytics on the popularity of artists and their music across social media and various streaming services.

Why it’s important- The battle for streaming supremacy heats up

A senior company executive said the strategy was to bring on the team via an “acqui-hire” to help Pandora with its data strategy. Pandora’s service is ultimately based on data – both demographic and behavioral – from their 250m + users, so this acquisition is an obvious move.

Pandora’s first and only previous acquisition was a terrestrial radio station on June 11, 2013.  The company continued with additional acquisitions of TicketFly on October 7, 2015 and Rdio on November 16, 2015.  Pandora is clearly embarking on a “buy vs. build” strategy as it looks to augment its product portfolio.  Let’s look to see what other acquisitions take place in 2016.

Good coverage here

June 21, 2015 – Taylor Swift gets Apple to change their artist compensation policy within hours of writing a heartfelt letter to the company. 

The key issue was that prior to the launch of its new streaming music product, Apple announced that artists would not be paid during the 3-month trial period that new subscribers could sample the service. Swift’s message to Apple was polite, but also painted them as a giant that is ridiculously out of touch with artists.

Why it’s important- Power plays continue, and record labels are not a part of the conversation

This is the first time in memory that an individual artist single-handedly forced the hand of a multi-billion dollar company.

Taylor threatened to remove her album “1989” from Apple Music.  Within hours, Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of Software and Services tweeted, “”#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.”  He then followed that up with “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.”

One lens by which to view the exchange – Jimmy Iovine’s old school label tactics clashing harshly with Jobs’ legacy. Iovine led the negotiations with the labels that required them to give up their music for free. Interestingly missing in this whole exchange? The labels. This conversation was between Apple and Taylor Swift – artist and platform. The good news for artists is that this may signal a shift of power away from those that invest in music to those that make it.

Good coverage here

June 30, 2015 – Apple Music launches

I remember reading this impressive post on TheNextWeb about Apple Music.

I, along with the rest of the world, couldn’t have been more excited for the launch. In reality, though, the user experience is not intuitive and the internet grumbled loudly about the disappointment. Apple Music is completely serviceable, but we were promised amazing. So, how have they grown? With so many consumers already locked into the Apple ecosystem, many of us have acquiesced while we wait for improvements.

Why it’s important- The battle for streaming supremacy heats up, part 2

Apple Music was largely panned until CEO Tim Cook revealed in October that it had amassed more that 6.5MM paying users with an additional 8.5MM in the trial phase after a few months.  This was in contrast to the market leader Spotify who claimed to have over 20MM paying subscribers across the globe, amassed over many years.

Eddy Cue claims that Apple is in it for the long haul.  With a cash balance of over $200 Billion, I think it’s fair to say that Apple has some flexibility to take its time to figure out how to convert the massive global iphone user base to the service. It will happen, but it’s just a matter of time… unless they simply acquire Spotify or Deezer.

Good coverage here

November 13, 2015 – Terrorist attack at Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris

We are all aware of the tragic and horrific coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris in mid-November that shocked the world.  One of the attacks took place at the Bataclan Theater at a performance by the California rock band The Eagles of Death Metal.  89 people died.

Why it’s important – First direct target placed on music fans

U2 also cancelled its tour through Paris that was scheduled only two days after the attacks.  Since then, U2 rescheduled for December and the Eagles of Death Metal will be returning in February.  The Eagles of Death Metal have been grateful for the level of support from the Parisian and global community after the tragic events.

The band has asked musicians across the globe to cover their song, “I Love You All the Time.” Every dollar from the sale of the song will go towards the families and victims from the attack via The Sweet Stuff Foundation.  It is the first time the music community has mobilized against terrorism.  We expect to see more mobilization using social media in 2016.

Good coverage here

November 20, 2015 – Adele releases ‘25’ and rejects streaming platforms, including Spotify

With fans waiting over 3 years for the album, anticipation for ‘25’ was at a fever pitch by the time it released in November. On the eve of the release Adele penned a heartfelt note to her fans that included “i am so overwhelmed and grateful to be able to even put out another album, and put it out how i want.” Adele is said to have been personally involved in the decision to hold back on streaming, although many decried it as a foolish move initially.

Why it’s important – Another point on the boards for the artists

At the time, famously cranky critic Bob Lefsetz called Adele “dumb and uneducated” for holding the album back from streaming. Post-game analysis paints a very different picture. Music Business Worldwide estimates that the album has taken around $115m in retail, which is conservative. They also did the math to figure out how many streams on Spotify it would have taken at the current royalty rates to reach that number. The album would have to have been streamed 16 BILLION times to generate that same amount of cash, which is impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I still think streaming is the future, but this case just illustrates that the industry has yet to figure out the right formula to map usage to revenue.

December 16, 2015 – CRB comes out with ruling to moderately raise rates; Pandora’s shares are up 20% in aftermarket trading

The Copyright Royalty Board, which regulates royalty rates to be paid to labels for music streaming via internet radio, recently announced the new rates through 2020.  This affects companies that stream music under the compulsory statutory license for internet radio such as Pandora, iHeart Radio, 8Tracks, and Feed.fm.

Why it’s important – Streaming services handed a small win as they become the leading music consumption platforms

This ruling was highly litigated and involved numerous expert witnesses from the industry.  It represented a compromise between streaming services and the copyright holders and will govern rates for the next 5 years.  Streaming services will pay .17 cents for every time a user listens to a song.

Pandora had argued for a rate plan of .11 cents per listen.  SoundExchange, which handles royalties on behalf of the labels and recording artists asked for a rate between .25 and .29 cents per listen.  The market reacted positively to the news and shares traded up more than 20% once the news broke and erased any uncertainty that had previously depressed the stock price.

Since Pandora is the industry bellwether for music streaming, and the fact that many investors look to the company as a proxy for how the music streaming services are doing, it was a closely watched announcement.

Good coverage here

There were many more examples of tumult that is shaking out as the tectonic plates collide in the industry, but these examples were standouts. It’s not a zero sum game and we’re hoping that labels, artists, and technology companies can find ways to deliver music to the consumer in a way that all parties can live with

 
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It’s time to ditch the old radio ad model

Posted by admin on Nov 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

How jazz wisdom helped us think differently about in-app promotion.

Jazz Great Miles Davis

I’m a jazz head.  I started studying jazz guitar when I was 13 as part of a protracted negotiation with my guitar teacher.  I wanted to learn how to play Mark Knopfler’s  solo on “Sultans of Swing,” by Dire Straits.  He wanted me to learn how to play Joe Pass and Miles Davis tunes.

“I’ll teach you that kind of music if you learn how to play Jazz,” he postured.

“Um.  Isn’t that the kind of music that old people listen to?”

The lesson came to a swift close at that moment.

I cautiously returned a week later and explained that I was up for the challenge.  During that week I tried to learn everything I could about jazz.  I went to the school library and listened to old records by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Joe Pass, Bill Evans and others.  I just didn’t get it.

There were no lyrics.  The musicians seemed to have endless solos that sounded completely out of key.  To make matters worse, ALL of the musicians took a turn playing some crazy solo.

But over time, I learned.  I learned that there is a method to the madness. I learned about the creation of musical tension and subsequent release.  I learned about playing “out” when soloists would purposely play out of key to heighten that musical tension and how returning back into the proper key would create a heightened feeling of release.

One of my favorite jazz artists is Miles Davis.  Miles created the modal jazz movement which exploded on the scene with the landmark album, “Kind of Blue.” It was a direct contrast to the bebop jazz era and use of ornate lines and superfluous notes (as Miles would say) popularized by by Dizzy Gillespie.  Miles’ solos were beautifully phrased, and they deliberately used few notes.

When asked about the Spartan quality of the new modal style by critics, Miles explained, “Music is the space between the notes. It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.”

The clear simplicity of that statement lodged in my brain. It’s a concept that extends itself to more than jazz phrasing.

Professionally, I’ve been working with my team to leverage music in apps as a tool to build engagement, retention, and revenue for brands.  In a page taken from Miles’ philosophy, we’re working with companies to use the spaces in between songs to reach their customers in new ways.

Rather than just utilize the traditional radio ad model, we have an opportunity to create interactive callouts and personalized messages that leverage those spaces more effectively. For example, we worked closely with a large adult beverage company to power music in the mobile app of a popular winter music festival.  Bringing music from the performers into the app is a no brainer and drove huge gains in attendee engagement.

In fact, average app session times increased 13X to nearly 10 minutes when fans listened to radio.

To add to the experience, we also included house audio spots that included more into on the artists, updates on schedules, and callouts for secret performances. The content kept the fans coming back – an average of 40 sessions per fan during the festival.

Moving over to the retail vertical, smart retailers are focused on finding ways to drive more cohesive experiences across the digital and physical realms. Customers expect seamless service and consistent branding at every touch point. We recently worked with American Eagle Outfitters to promote their latest Reserve, Try, Buy product in app. While customers stream hand-curated stations during their shopping experience, they are subtly reminded that they can easily reserve clothing in the app, then pick up at a store near them. Utilizing in-app radio to drive sales in the app has been incredibly effective, and now we’re finding ways to help get foot traffic into the store, as well.

Space can be used in a lot of ways.  Miles Davis believed it should be sacred – a time for listeners to relax and reflect.  Brands are using it as another opportunity to communicate with their audiences.

Rather than shouting at users with another discount or call to action, the success stories are built around delivering relevant, personal, unique content that augments the music experience.

Back to the inspiration for this post: I’m just glad my guitar teacher opened my eyes to the awesome world of jazz. Just last week, I tried to teach my son how to play a jazz tune.  “Isn’t that what grandpa listens to?” he asked. Some perceptions never change.

Jeff Yasuda

 
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How the Music Industry Is Creating a New Breed of Entrepreneur

Posted by admin on Aug 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

Here’s an article that I just put up on Inc.  Bands are exploring creative ways to diversify their revenue streams and are becoming more entrepreneurial in their approach to exploring new strategies.  Perhaps an intersection of Silicon Valley and Entertainment?

Check it out here

 
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My Debut on National Television… with a few speed bumps

Posted by admin on Oct 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

I had an opportunity to appear on Fox Business News for a show called Risk and Reward with Deidre Bolton.  They reached out to us a few months ago and asked us to be on the show for a 5 minute startup spotlight.  The Fox team was incredibly informative and helpful.

As you can imagine, for my first appearance on national TV, my nerves were firing hotter than usual.  To complicate matters, my twins have been waking my wife and me up several times a night for the past few weeks.  Sleep deprivation is a sure-fire way to take one off his or her game.

My marketing guy and I walked into a studio called MediaOne on Battery Street which acts as a remote studio for several television shows.  They film you and transmit the recording to HQ with about a 15 second delay.  These guys are real pros and are super helpful.

Inside, the individual studios are about 15 feet by 15 feet rooms painted black with a background screen and a small desk.  There are two extremely bright lights and a large camera lens where you direct your commentary.  Since there is a delay, there’s no way to see yourself and your only connection to the outside world is a little earbud that they place in your ear.    While in many ways, the interview was like a telephone conversation, I needed to remind myself that my actions, facial expressions, etc. would be televised.  No one wants a deadpan guest, right?

I sat down behind the desk, got wired up, and then… had a coughing fit.  Perhaps, some water went down the wrong pipe – who knows – but I couldn’t stop and I had to run to the bathroom.  Ugh…

When the fit ended, I came back and felt I was ready, but the lights just seemed so darn bright to me.  Nonetheless, the interview began and I was off to the races.  I thought the questions were good and hopefully my answers made sense, but my eyes started killing me.  Unfortunately, I started to blink… a lot.  I knew there was nothing to do about it and I knew that I couldn’t shield my eyes from the light, but I just persevered.

In the end, I thought it went OK.  When I asked my mom what she thought she said, “You blinked too much, but we still love you.”  Thanks mom…

Here it is…

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