Class Review 03.21.16 — The Kanye West Class

Ok. The class wasn’t really about Kanye West.

But Prof had this one quoted tweet he was proud to share with us that kinda/sort of blew my mind a little bit:

It came from Corey Tollefson and included some “@’s”, one of which was Prof. I didn’t think much of it at first, but as I read the Tech Crunch article it was quoting, I realized that what’s happening is kind of incredible.

The writer, Tien Tzuo, noted that Kanye’s recent endeavor was the first SAAS album. I never thought of it on those terms and it kind of shook my way of thinking for just a second. So let’s rewind for a moment.

SaaS stands for system as a service, which are systems that updated on an on-demand basis. It’s dynamic, it’s efficient (sort of) and more or less the norm when it comes to cloud computing.

To be clear, Tidal (or any streaming service) is essentially the system, although they are generally understood as web and mobile applications (which can also be SaaS). However, Kanye is doing is something we really haven’t seen before — he’s live updating his album. Hypothetically, he can keep adding and subtracting songs and even change the name of the album altogether while it’s happening.

He’s crafting his own mixtape or playlist of his own work. You’re average music listener makes their own mixtapes with a mish-mosh of songs they like; Kanye arranges a playlist of himself for the world to listen to. That’s, like, such a Kanye thing to do.

The real conversation should shift from Kanye’s work on Tidal, to can Tidal capitalize off of this strategy. Often times when we think of streaming audio we think of the number of static album choices based on the licensing that all of these artists signed over to major labels throughout the years. Dynamic audio playlists are crowd-sourced or something you do on your own.

Peep these gems from the article:

“…he’s raising some really compelling questions about what constitutes an album in today’s world of always-on background music.”
“In short, I think he’s turning a product into a service, and opening up a lot of interesting new content possibilities in the process.”
“So what happens when a static product like an album turns into a fluid service like a music stream? All sorts of interesting things.”

When rumors of the trouble brewing at Tidal first surfaced, I didn’t want to become another naysayer. I still won’t. I think they can still technically win in key areas, and to be fair it’s a matter of product, differentiation and maybe some added value.

Yes, product, because product. More specifically, what makes your product unique. This inherently opens up the discussion of differentiation because the streaming wars are pretty intense. Tidal got Prince to commit which is pretty huge. It has Kanye doing all types of Frankenstein level lab work on an album. Perhaps this becomes the competitive strategy…

  • exclusive artist contracts and albums
  • in-house collaborations that you can’t find anywhere else
  • data-driven crowd-sourced talent (read: build a label using data, but get indie acts to submit their work)
  • create international partnerships (you know what Spotify has: k-pop; you know what Spotify does NOT have: an original k-pop act signed that’s getting illy in the studio with Pharrell or Martin Garrix and clinching the Korean-American audience in the states with pop hits)
  • encourage artists to continuously update their work and include alerts every time they do (eg. the on-demand component) — the key word is “encourage”
  • sign on more video content creators

The added value should really be the price. C’mon all streaming services are $9.99. Could you make it like $6.99?

When I was younger, the general illegal purchases you made in NYC included bootleg CDs and fake Rolex watches. On those CD stands on Canal Street you would often run into 2Pac’s cache of unreleased material under his Makaveli pseudonym. He had been dead for about 2 or 3 years, but it didn’t feel that way (or is he really dead???), because his music was still on the streets. There were upwards of 10–12 Makaveli albums, some with songs that had been on other albums, some that were b-sides from his Thug Life years, some tracks were studio session tracks or freestyles, some may not even had been him, maybe it was a dude who really sounded like ‘Pac trying to get put on.

Nevertheless, I often wonder how artists with the same intensity and passion as 2Pac would have embraced this type of technology. It’s hard to truly say, but it is nice to imagine that maybe he would have made music infinitely, constantly changing and evolving with various self-produced playlists.

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