Posts tagged ‘business’

April 30, 2017

#127) Drinking problems: Why “Worlds Apart” won’t get me to buy Heineken

There are two reasons why Heineken’s new “Worlds Apart” ad won’t make me by the beer.

The short reason: I don’t like Heineken. No matter how artfully an advertisement’s visual look is curated, how lovingly its message is crafted or how on fleek its hashtags are, if I don’t like the product, I’m not spending money on it.

The long reason: call me a hater, but Heineken takes the easy approach with “Worlds Apart.” You’ve heard the old adage “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” Well, no one ever got criticized (at least by the media, the entertainment industry and other People Whose Opinions Matter) for touting diversity. No one ever got fired for joining the fist-shaking mob chasing down someone or something that has been publicly offensive: John Rocker, Larry Craig, Todd Akin and most recently Pepsi and their controversial ad.

Indeed, “Worlds Apart” has been hailed as the antidote to Pepsi’s reviled campaign that featured Kendall Jenner as a saint who instantly creates world peace by giving a police officer a Pepsi in the middle of a giant protest. By contrast, “Worlds Apart” is hitting all the right notes. An anti-trans man meets a trans soldier. A climate change denier meets an activist. A feminist meets a man who feels that feminism is all about man hating. Without knowing that they hold opposite views, these pairs of people get to know each other. After they build a bar together in a warehouse, they learn of each others’ contrasting opinions. They are then given the choice of walking out or discussing their differences at the bar over a Heineken. (Spoiler alert…)

Unity. Diversity. Beer. What’s not to like?

Perhaps if I felt marginalized the way some of the people in the commercial do, I might have an entirely different perspective, but my questions are:

  • Is it the job of a beer (or any other food or beverage product) to teach me about diversity or is its job just to taste good?
  • Has the “I used to hate _____s but now that I’ve met one, I don’t hate them anymore” trope perhaps run its course?
  • Are there sometimes when it’s best to just politely walk away from a discussion you would prefer not to have?
  • Does this commercial expect people with more “acceptable” views to rethink their positions too?
  • Doesn’t Heineken’s response to the Pepsi backlash feel like a perfect sibling volunteering to teach a kombucha making workshop at the prison where the family black sheep is doing time for soliciting an undercover cop posing as a 14 year old boy online? At least a little bit?

Granted, part of advertising is to convince the target audience that purchasing the product will make them feel a certain way – inclusive, tolerant, conscientious –  but, and I say this as someone who has quaffed an ale or two in his time, at the end of the day it’s just beer.

I do believe that “Worlds Apart” is coming from a good place. I think it was made by honest people who care about the issues – yes, they are trying to sell beer, but I also think they want to promote civilized debate and discussion – and want to create something positive in the wake of Pepsi. I’m just not quite ready to jump on the Heineken as Heroes bandwagon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Heineken does hold a special place in my heart that no other brand – not even any IPA – can claim, but it goes back to something that happened when Kendall Jenner was a twinkle in Bruce/Caitlyn’s eye. My wife visited Amsterdam when she was in her early 20s, took the Heineken brewery tour, did what people do on such a thing and then became the only person I’ve ever known to go to the Anne Frank house while intoxicated. If that doesn’t prove that we’re meant to be together, nothing does.

But I digress.

And I still don’t like beer.

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July 6, 2016

#116) Learning from ketchup

“Would you like to upgrade to medium or large?” she asked.

“No thanks.”

“Any dessert for you today?”

“No thanks.”

“Thank you, pull up for your total.”

At the drive through window, she asked, “Would you like any ketchup for the fries?”

“No thanks.”

“Anything else I can get you?”

“No thanks.”

“Have a nice day.”

“No th…sorry, I mean, you too.”

I parked beneath the shade of a nearby tree and hungrily pulled out my feast. As I put the three packets of ketchup back in the bag, I found myself  wondering how much revenue businesses lose by being so busy focusing on sales that they don’t see the inventory walking out the door.

June 23, 2016

#113) You can’t give it away: #3 (The heartless bastard who wouldn’t let Amazon make a charitable donation for him)

“Would you like to make a donation to your favorite charity (at no cost to you?)” Amazon wanted to know. It turned out that some of the products in my cart were eligible for “AmazonSmile”, the online retailer’s charitable contributions program. Win-win, right? I mean, what kind of heartless bastard wouldn’t want to donate at no cost to themselves?

This guy. (Did I mention? I am the titular heartless bastard.)

In this edition of “You Can’t Give It Away” we will look at my motivation (or lack thereof) in not making a mouse click in the name of philanthropy. If making someone’s donation for them doesn’t do the trick, how are nonprofits supposed to raise a buck?

Whether it’s buying a product, ordering a service or even making a donation, “free” isn’t always the goal. Donors may have any number of motivations, be it emotional satisfaction, belief in the cause or Jewish guilt. According to this article on Philanthropy News Digest, “[P]ersonal connections — not trending topics, gimmicks, or social media engagement itself — are the key driver of charitable giving.” A prompt for a mouse click does not a personal connection make. Indeed, blogger John Kenyon articulates a skepticism many feel about donating through a corporation: “Unfortunately, for years I have seen nonprofits waste time, energy and hope on similar online charity malls…My issues with them – and with AmazonSmile – are…that they only benefit nonprofits with a large supporter base and they usually have a negative overall ROI for organizations that participate.”

Ease of donation can also mean a less rewarding experience for the donor–and makes it less likely that the donor will contribute more in the future. As this article about Amazon Smile notes, “Without a cost there is no actual exchange with the charity. Yet the charitable reward exists. So the question is if you’ve already received a reward, at no cost to you, are you more or less likely to give to a charity when the time comes?”

Let’s face it: when every other social media post in your feed is a Kickstarter or a Go Fund Me and  Rite-Aid asks you if you want to round up your change for charity,  you don’t have to be a heartless bastard to feel saturated by solicitations. Yes, we want to give but sometimes we just want to buy crap online and be done with it. When I am in that mood, vaguely altruistic ideas and omnipotent click buttons just don’t do the job the way a well thought-out invitation and the creation of a personal connection to the story can.

Well, that wraps up this edition of You Can’t Give It Away. I realize this post begs the question, “How can I find time to work on my blog but I can’t be bothered to click a button for the benefit of mankind?”

Told you I was a heartless bastard.

May 23, 2016

#111) Autopsy of an unfollow #3: Cover Band Central

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The challenge that social media platforms present to businesses is providing enough content to stay visible without over-saturating. The victim of my latest unfollow, the Facebook page “Cover Band Central” is guilty of the latter.

Indeed, it’s a tough balance and finding that happy medium can be like finding the exact right spot on the shower handle. Unlike the subject of my previous two unfollows, Sci-Babe and The Sound, Cover Band Central usually stays on point with their posts (no puppies or Founding Fathers quotes here) while managing a variety of subject matters: articles from other music business outlets; humorous memes, inspirational quotes and more. The problem: most of it’s just not that great.

As of the moment of my unfollowing, the five most recent posts on the page were:

1) “Top Ten Reasons Why Your Cover Band Is Not Successful” (article from Spinditty) (I take such lists, especially those titled up-style, with a grain of salt; where does someone who’s supposedly gigging enough to justify telling me that I’m not doing more shows find the time to write such an article?)

2) A picture from Musicians Unite reading, “I simply love playing people’s favorite songs for them. I’m playing music and it feels great. That’s what it’s all about.” (Yes, it’s inspirational and peppy, but my mortgage broker doesn’t accept inspiration or pep as forms of payment. Additionally, as someone who’s often been saddened by seeing people talk over music that speaks deeply to me and absolutely lose it over music that I find rather superficial, I have trouble relating to this mentality.)

3) A picture of an enthusiastic conductor (Gustavo Dudamel?) conducting a symphony with the caption, “Most orchestras are just 1800s cover bands.” (Cute and witty but forgettable. I should note though that one of the user comments is on the mark: “I am sick and tired of people crying about cover bands….If they spent the time and effort that they spend on crying and hating them on their own material they would be farther along.” Well said, Jim Crise.)

4) An article by Steve Witschel for Musicians Unite: “What Is So Wrong With Playing Covers?” (Steve, if you love playing covers so much, why not just play them instead of writing about how much you love playing them?)

5) A picture with a Carlos Santana quote: “When you play from your heart, all of a sudden there’s no gravity. You don’t feel the weight of the world, that’s why people love it. Insurmountable problems disappear and instead of problems you get possibilities.” (Sure, everyone loves a good aphorism, but it’s easy to dole them out when you’re as successful and famous as Santana. A quote from him or any other legend about their early struggles and how they didn’t give up would be more interesting to me.)

Cover Band Central’s tepid oeuvre of shared content is a result of the page’s lack of a clear mission. As the self-described “#1 Page on Facebook for cover bands and musicians” they are “Designed to educate, motivate, entertain, and inspire.” I have found virtually none of the posts to be educational. When it comes to motivating and inspiring, more “show, don’t tell” would help the site and yes, I did pick up a few entertaining memes before the page ran its course, but most of them are available elsewhere online (if you’re reading this, ten bucks says one of your non musician friends has sent you “He told me he’s a musician, but he’s a ___ player” thinking they’re the first one to do it).

I have no ill will toward CBC and leave them with the suggestion of encouraging more user interaction, thus increasing the variety of perspectives and content while still staying true to the page’s expressed mission.

December 12, 2015

#103) How not to complain #4: Heil…Taylor?

Life’s three certainties are death, taxes and looking silly when you trot out a Hitler/Nazi comparison. The latest individual to break Godwin’s Law is critic/author Camille Paglia, who recently used the term “Nazi Barbie”, referring not to Klaus but Taylor Swift.

Paglia’s essay in “The Hollywood Reporter” has a viable premise: female bonding, particularly in the entertainment industry, can be a double-edged sword. On one hand,”girl squads can be seen as a positive step toward expanding female power in Hollywood.” Paglia also notes however, “Hollywood has always shrewdly known that cat-fighting makes great box office.”

So far, so good, but Paglia loses her credibility by admonishing Taylor Swift to “retire that obnoxious Nazi Barbie routine of wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props…”

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that Holocaust survivors reading Paglia’s words may find that comparing a pop singer to a Nazi is a stretch. It’s understandable for Paglia to dislike seeing women trying to rise in the entertainment business by latching onto a queen bee such as Swift, rather than “focus[ing] like a laser on their own creative gifts.” Sure, Swift is nothing if not calculating and no one will ever accuse her of being subtle. But when it comes to murders, however, Swift trails the competition by about 11 million. As tempting as it is for musicians like me to say, “Shake It Off” is no “Mein Kampf.”

To her credit, Paglia falls on her own sword, at least to a degree, by admitting, “Writing about Taylor Swift is a horrific ordeal for me because her twinkly persona is such a scary flashback to the fascist blondes who ruled the social scene during my youth.” Fair enough, Cam, but let’s face it: you weren’t the only teenage girl who’s had to deal with fascist blondes.

Anne-Frank-Desk

 

 

 

May 11, 2015

#92) An open letter to the small businesses of America

Dear Small Businesses of America,

I would like to take this opportunity to respectfully request that you get your shit together.

Not all of you, of course. Some of you do everything you can and as a political independent who favors decentralized economies and who has several friends who own small businesses, I admire your collective efforts to provide top quality goods and services. Many of you are pillars of your communities. Some of you, however, have been disappointing me lately.

Without naming names it’s hard to provide specifics, but let’s just say this: if I walk into a restaurant and see a long line being slowly served by dour-faced employees, I’m marching my sorry ass across the street to the chain store where bright-eyed servers address me by name. Yes, it’s a bit Stepford-y, but when it comes to lunch, I’m happy to settle for a skin-deep experience if it’s pleasant (and more importantly quick). When I walk into your liquor store, I’m doing it because odds are you have beers other than Bud Light. Looking down on me because I haven’t read your wine blog doesn’t add to my experience and though I have to bite my lip to say it, more and more big boxes are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon.

Look, I get it. Owning a business is fucking hard. Democrats want to tax and regulate you into extinction; Republicans talk a great game about supporting small business but when the rubber hits the road they can never seem to get out of bed with the Fortune 500. Serve loyally and faithfully day in day out and no one notices; one off day and it’s all over Yelp. It’s not reasonable to expect that you will have the same enthusiasm five years in as the day you opened. All I’m asking is that you put your best foot forward.

I think of my favorite small businesses as friends. As a heterosexual male, getting my hair cut is simply an errand to check off the to-do list, but thanks to the Den and JH Color Machine, it’s now like getting to hang out with friends (with beer). Though I no longer live near Olives Gourmet Grocer (you may remember them from #30) the family-like vibe exuded by the store makes me want to go out of my way for their terrific Cubano.

Even good friendships have their ups and downs and most good people will forgive imperfections. We want the friendship to work, just as we want to see the little guys succeed. Some friendships just aren’t meant to last though, whether because of little things or the big things. If you forget your customers’ names, the clerks at the big store down the street will remember them, even if it’s just because corporate has ordered them to read your credit card.

Sorry to rant; remember I’m here for you.

Cheers,

D-Lock

July 23, 2014

#81) An open letter to the restaurant customers mentioned in post #80

Dear restaurant customers mentioned in post #80,

Recently you collectively have come under fire for complaining about slow service when surveillance footage indicated that your behavior–mainly cell phone related–increased your length of stay by an average of 50 minutes.  In addition to being asked by the restaurant itself to “be more considerate”, you’ve also received your share of finger-wagging from those ranting about how rude today’s kids are, accompanied by cries for the banishment of electronics from restaurants.

I’m not here to add to that; I’m here to make a suggestion.  I’ll get to it later.

First of all, I support your right to take selfies at the restaurant; to take pictures of the food; to use the establishment’s Wifi connection.  (I get it; your data plan doesn’t grow on a tree.)  When you eat at a restaurant, you’re paying not just for food and convenience but also for atmosphere; you are entitled to include your cell phone as part of the atmosphere, at least if you aren’t gabbing away too loudly on it.  As I mentioned in post #80, if restaurants aren’t willing to cater to the cell-phone related needs of paying customers, they can’t cry foul when said customers head to more tech-friendly spots.

I also understand why you take selfies and pictures of the food.  It’s not about ego (okay, it’s a little bit about ego, but despite what they might tell you, baby boomers and Gen-X’ers have egos too; if the Kodachrome had been able to take good selfies, you can bet your entire library of Ellie Goulding downloads that the children of the ’70s would have taken tons of them).  It’s about keeping a memory alive.  Why do people spend money to go to Cancun?  The vacation itself is fun, but it’s really the memory. It’s perfectly understandable to take many pictures to keep the memory of a vacation alive, so why can’t one do the same at a restaurant?

As promised, here’s my suggestion.  While vacations come along once a year if you’re lucky, most people eat out at least once a month or perhaps more so.  Just enjoy the moment.  You may be bummed if the pictures from your once-in-a-lifetime safari or Greek isles cruise didn’t come out, but odds are you’ll be at another restaurant before too long.  You may enjoy the taste of your food more if you aren’t worrying about which filter to use when photographing it.

Yes, some meals are truly special occasions.  There are some restaurants you may only visit once in a lifetime.  I’m not telling you not to take pictures. I’m suggesting that the memories shouldn’t come at the expense of the actual experience.  It’s not your job to adjust your habits to make a restaurant staff’s job easier.  Don’t do it for them.  Do it for you.

 

March 23, 2014

#75) Book review: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

This is an unusual biography, not just because of the unique story of its subject.  It is a biography by a writer who had nearly unlimited access to his subject, whom he interviewed forty times in preparation for the book.  It’s also a rare example of a biography that was written with the knowledge that the subject was near the end of his life.  As Jobs tells Isaacson near the end of the narrative, “I wanted my kids to know me…when I got sick, I realized other people would write about me if I died…[t]hey’d get it all wrong.  So I wanted to make sure someone heard what I had to say.”

Isaccson and Jobs knew each other but it was only when Jobs realized his cancer was potentially terminal that he enlisted Isaacson to write his story.  Isaacson points out an interesting irony: while Jobs was known as, for lack of a better term, a control freak, he specifically declined authority on what went into this book or stayed out of it; he didn’t want the bio to “seem like an in-house book.”

The result is an overall positive, inspiring reading experience.  Isaacson takes us into Jobs’s childhood and youth in Silicon Valley, where the personal computer revolution was beginning.  Seen historically as the property of institutions and corporations, computers were being used by members of the counter-culture as a means of personal expression.  With Steve Wozniak, Jobs quickly makes Apple into a success, but pays the price with his own ego and arrogance, leading to his banishment from the company in 1985.  In the ’90s, Jobs discovers a digital imaging company called Pixar and helps them merge with Disney to create computer-generated animation before returning to Apple and spearheading the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

Isaacson’s in-depth interviews with Jobs provide insight.  Apple products have a reputation as being particularly intuitive and an early pilgrimage to India instilled in Jobs the value of intuition.  “The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world.  Intuition is a very powerful thing…[t]hat’s had a big impact on my work.”

We also get a sense of how Jobs viewed electronics as having human characteristics.  For example, the handle on the iMac is described as “approachable.  It’s intuitive.  It gives you permission to touch.  It gives a sense of deference to you.”  One sees the roots of the Pixar mentality of giving inanimate objects human souls, such as in “Wall-E” and “Toy Story.”

Yet there are a few flaws that hold the book back from being truly great.  Isaacson tends to go into a lot of technical detail about the computer designs, the various business deals between Apple, Pixar, Disney and Microsoft and other less-exciting subjects without making them seem particularly interesting.  Some of the visits to the bargaining table are rendered vividly; Isaacson doesn’t hold back when describing Jobs’s various tantrums or his “hero/shithead dichotomy”.  For the most part though, Isaacson failed to get me too excited about whether Jobs received 4 or 5 points on a Pixar deal or the difference between the circuit boards of the Apple II or the Lisa.  Isaacson also doesn’t elaborate in areas that could probably use more detail. In describing the unveiling of the iPhone, he says, “In a career of dazzling product presentations, this may have been the best.”  Yet he spends only half a page describing the event.  (Isaacson devotes a whole chapter to the launch of the Macintosh, describing the seminal “1984” commercial and the unveiling of the computer; here, he is at his strongest as a narrator, artfully building up the level of excitement throughout the chapter.)

The book also could have been more detail oriented.  Usually details bore the crap out of me; I prefer to enjoy the big picture than to fuss over i’s being dotted and t’s crossed. That said, this is a biography of someone whose attention to detail was extreme.  Isaacson’s writing style is frequently awkward and lacks the type of flow that Jobs would have wanted.  The most notable example is that many sentences often start with “but” or “so”; in the index, the Beatles’ album “Abbey Road” is misspelled “Abby.” Is it forgivable to make a few mistakes in a nearly 600-page book? Almost everyone would say yes–but Jobs, at least the man portrayed by Isaacson, would have noticed and said something.

Needless to say, a book about a figure as influential as Steve Jobs shouldn’t just be a sketch and on the whole Isaacson’s tome does the man justice.  Readers who are deeply interested in the details of Jobs’s life and perhaps have an interest in computer technology, business and other subjects covered in detail will find everything they want here.  Those who are more casually interested in Jobs and want to learn more about the broader aspects of his life might be better served with Wikipedia.  For my part my experience with this book – which lasted almost three months, including three trans-continental plane trips – was hit or miss.  At times it resembled the bulky, awkward feel of the PCs that Jobs saw as the enemy throughout his career.  At times Isaacson hits the nail on the head and reading the book was the intuitive, Zen, naturally flowing experience Jobs desired all of his products to deliver.

February 13, 2014

#71) How do you know?

How do you know?

I mean, seriously, how the fuck do you know?

This simple, timeless question was recently brought home to me by a TV commercial.  Like any good commercial, it failed to actually instill the name of the product in my head, but its message resonated with me nevertheless.  An adult is shown some fancy new product he’s supposed to buy and hesitates.  During his hesitation we see him flash black to junior high, when he dumps a tubby blonde girl: “Sorry, Brooklyn, it’s just not working out.”  In another flashback, now at college age, he declines investing in his friend’s startup: “What can you do with just 140 characters?” Which brings us to the present; the implication being that he doesn’t want to pass on yet another thing that will end up being huge.

Apart from its amusing storyline, the commercial has hit home for me on a personal level.  Since starting my hiking blog, www.nobodyhikesinla.com, I have been fortunate to keep the company of dozens of blogging experts.  Counsel that has been given to me about how to successfully monetize the blog includes T-shirts and other swag; creating a mobile phone application; eBooks about the hikes, branching out to other cities (coming soon: http://www.nobodyhikesinwichita.com).

With demeanor ranging from polite to borderline hostile, depending on the intensity of my expert’s pitch to me, I have invariably rejected most of these ideas, not because I want to be difficult, stubborn or ungrateful, but just because in most cases, I don’t feel that the potential for revenue justifies the effort and expense of, say, hiring an app developer or handling (gulp!) physical inventory, that bane of the existence of anyone who has ever tried to develop an online revenue stream.  My hesitation to endorse these ideas is based on information I’ve gathered about my site traffic, link clicks, etc (I have been known to spend hours a few minutes here and there perusing statistics related to my blogs).  While the revenue the site has earned – mainly through advertising; also through affiliation sales, the Nobody Hikes in LA Guidebook and donations – is a little bit short of Fortune 500 status, by breaking the three-digit income threshold, NHLA stands apart from at least 81% of the blogs out there, according to Infographic.

That being said, a part of me has to ask: what if I am wrong?  Are eBooks based on hike writeups the wave of the future?  By passing on these opportunities, will I become the next Nolan Bushnell?  (In the mid ’70s, after founding Atari, Busnhell had an opportunity to invest in a startup created by one of his employees: a certain Steven Paul Jobs.)

History abounds, of course, with stories like this: numerous record producers rejecting the Beatles; board game makers  passing on Monopoly; the Portland Trailblazers drafting Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan.  Hell, there’s even one from my own family: in the mid 1960s in New York, my dad and uncle Joe were involved with the city’s thriving folk music scene.  One of the misfits hanging around the fringes was a scruffy kid from Minnesota named Robert Zimmerman, whose presence was a nuisance to everyone, be they veteran musicians who didn’t want him fucking up the songs or young women whom he was trying to bed.  One of the latter category was waiting for my uncle Joe to meet her at a cafe and when he showed up, she was laughing.  “This homeless looking kid tried to hit on me,” she said.  “When I brushed him off, he said, ‘But I’m Bob Dylan!’  I said, ‘Well, I’m here waiting for Joe Lockeretz.'”

To bring it back to my original question, strictly speaking, no, you DON’T know.  You can, however, make sound decisions based on odds and information.  I consider the fear of passing on a great opportunity to be the converse of fears such as being struck by lightning, being attacked by a shark or being in a plane crash.  Just as plane crashes make the news because of how rare they are, stories such as the Beatles’ early rejections make history because of their infrequency.  Yes, it’s inspirational to hear these kinds of tales and their positive messages shouldn’t just be dismissed.  It should just be noted, however, that these events are the exception and should have limited influence on your decisions, investment and otherwise.  And if you do end up on the wrong side of history?  At least you’ll have some good stories for the grandkids.

January 28, 2014

#70) You can’t give it away: #1 & #2

Good afternoon readers and welcome to another new sub-series of D-Theory posts.  In this series I will write about free things I’ve been offered but have turned down.  The world is changing and sometimes free ain’t good enough.  In this series of posts I will explore why.

The rule for these posts is that the declined free offer has to be made aware to me by permission marketing; the provider of the free products described here will in fact have reason to believe I might be interested in it.  In other words, you’re not going to find any free vacations for listening to a time-share sales presentation.  Offers described in this series will truly be no-strings-attached; yet I have still declined.

I don’t wish to make these posts a negative reading experience; rather my goal is to enlighten.  As a vendor, it’s easy to assume that “free” is some kind of magic word that will automatically get you the results you want; this is a mistake I’ve made many times when I’ve been on that side of the equation.  I hope that by sharing my own experiences I can help readers understand the consumer’s perspective.  If you, the reader, has either declined a free offer similar to one that I describe or perhaps have made a similar offer to your customer base but have had disappointing results, feel free to share your stories.  Without further ado:

#1) Mark Knopfler, “Privateering”

Last October my wife and I saw Mark Knopfler, former guitarist and lead singer of Dire Straits, in concert.  After purchasing the tickets I was given a link to download Knopfler’s latest solo record, “Privateering.”  I have not yet done so.

As a musician, I understand Knopfler’s desire to keep creating and growing as an artist.  I also can guess that, just as I get tried of playing the same songs over and over again, Knopfler probably isn’t in a hurry to bust out “Sultans of Swing”, “Walk of Life” and “Money for Nothing.”  Here’s the problem: I think I speak for the majority of his audience when I say that I’m not paying for “Privateering”; I’m paying for “Sultans of Swing”, “Walk of Life” and “Money for Nothing.”  I did not hear any of those songs.

The concert was still an enjoyable experience; the musicianship was top notch and the songs were good.  Some of them were on “Privateering”, but I can’t remember which.  My non-downloading of “Privateering” is not intended as a slight on Knopfler or as a revenge ploy for his set list.  It’s simply a reflection of the fact that, while Knopfler might have put just as much effort into “Privateering” as he did into his earlier music, it’s the latter which is in higher demand by myself–and I’m guessing, the majority of his fan base.  Making something free doesn’t automatically give it urgency.

#2) $10 Sam Ash gift card

Sam Ash, the nationwide music store chain, has been providing customers with a $10 gift card for an in-store purchase of $50 or more.  No-brainer, right? Here’s the problem: The gift cards are mailed to you, come with an expiration date and they can only be used in the store.  The motivation behind the gift card is obvious: Sam Ash wants you to come back to the store and buy more stuff.  All well and good but when I have to spend $5 in gas (not to mention an hour in transportation time) to redeem my $10 card, I’ll just order stuff online without the discount.  Removing the expiration date might help; if I am going to be near both a Sam Ash and a Guitar Center and need to pick up strings or another accessory, if I have the Sam Ash gift card and know that I can use it regardless of the date, my decision will be easy.  The lesson here is that “brick and mortar” businesses have to be able to counter the convenience and effectiveness of online shopping and that a $10 gift card probably won’t do much to tip the balance.