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Business, Entertainment - Written by on Sunday, May 31, 2009 22:33 - 1 Comment

Steve Guengerich
Lessons from the entertainment industry for the collaborative enterprise

Last month, I read a couple of amazing articles, both chronicled in Wired, that reminded me again why entertainment is such a big business. There are amazing, seriously fun, focused business people amongst the creative class.

First was a stunning article about Trent Reznor and the Nine Inch Nails iPhone app. Yep, you heard it right: the NIN iPhone app…I have it my phone now. It’s been a while since one of my colleagues, Ian Da Silva, wrote about Mr. Reznor, who is Nine Inch Nails.  But the gent has not gotten any less intense or tech-savvy. In the new article from last month that I refer to, Reznor sounds even more like an enterprise 2.0 guru than ever. Here are but a few choice quotes:

Regarding the inertia of the music industry: “Anyone who’s an executive at a record label does not understand what the internet is, how it works, how people use it, how fans and consumers interact — no idea,” he declares. “…They’re in such a state of denial it’s impossible for them to understand what’s happening,” Reznor says.

“As an artist, you are now the marketer…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think music should be free,” Reznor says. “But the climate is such that it’s impossible for me to change that, because the record labels have established a sense of mistrust. So everything we’ve tried to do has been from the point of view of, ‘What would I want if I were a fan? How would I want to be treated?’ Now let’s work back from that. Let’s find a way for that to make sense and monetize it.”

Regarding the decision to use off-the-shelf resources — Blogger, Twitter, FeedBurner, Flickr, YouTube — rather than trying to duplicate what other people had already created: “They’re going to do a better job than we are and they’re going to have a lot more resources to put into it.”

Lastly, regarding the one part of NIN.com that Reznor had custom-built at the piece at the center of it all: the database of fan info that has been harvested from the registration process giving Reznor 2 million e-mail addresses: “If The Slip [NIN’s most recent album] had ‘X’ number of downloads, we know who those people are and we’ll reach out to them with the next thing we have,” he says. A concert coming up in Atlanta? It’s a simple matter to send out e-mails to everyone within a hundred-mile radius of the city. “That seems to be the most valuable thing you can get — a way to reach people,” Reznor says.

Second was a fascinating article about the crazy cool guys at MacHeist. If you are a Mac user (I’m not on the desktop; iPhone only), then you’ve probably heard of this gig. Running for its third year, as the Wired article explains “MacHeist consists of a series of online missions, and the completion of each stage unlocks access to a free Mac application. The difficulty of the puzzles encourages community collaboration in MacHeist’s forums. And the entire scheme is designed to promote the sale of a Mac software bundle.”

But, here’s what I love about this deal: it’s an absolutely novel way to sell software. Check out the economics: “Putting on MacHeist is neither cheap nor easy, but the payoff is big. Overall, MacHeist 3 sold more than $3 million worth of bundles, earning about $750,000 for charity, $1.25 million for independent software developers, and $1 million for MacHeist. After $400,000 in marketing and production expenses, that leaves a fat payday for MacHeist’s founders.”

Isn’t that a trip? I love the creativity, inventing a sales model that stands out in the crowd and engages people intensely in a way that just about nothing else could do in a down economy. The whole thing completely changes your notion of the traditional model of software sales. 

Forget the drudgery of shop-bot price comparison or scanning the aisles of OfficeMax for that bundle of Mac utilities. Play, smile, learn, and buy. In this spirit, I say it’s time for the Enterprise Heist – an approach as completely unconventional for selling enterprise applications to large organizations.

Both the MacHeist and the NIN articles are examples of what some creativity and elbow grease can do. I encourage you to read the full versions of both articles. Tell me about the best entertainment-inspired business stories that you’ve run across. I’m sure there are some great ones.



1 Comment

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Graham Ellison
Jun 11, 2009 12:12

Thank you for the link to Trent Reznor and the Nine Inch Nails iPhone app. Steve, but I was totally underwhelmed by the lame presentation:

A handheld high-level shot of two guys sitting at a kitchen table, one with the confidence of a performer and the other the demeanour of a nervous techie?! Oh dear. What were they doing before we got there???

And then there was that nauseatingly repetitive noizetrack! He’s in the music industry? And this is all he can muster?

I’m genuinely intrigued by this app. but seriously couldn’t listen beyond the bored, banal and prosaic way they began to describe how to log onto the portal. It made me wonder if I’d learn how to commit suicide there! And if not actually take my life, then maybe commercial or creative suicide!

Without actually admitting to Apple fanboy status, I may be the world’s MOST enthusiastic Apple, and in particular, iPhone advocate. But iPhone’s greatest asset is its very creativity. This from NIN was the complete antitheses of the term creative.

From the quotes you offer here, I get that Trent Reznor has a nail sharp take on the music industry – from the inside out. I get too that he understands the need for the artist to be his or her own marketer… but someone needs to talk to him about the value of good presentation.

Please tell me the app is worth looking at.

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