Tag Archives: shopping

Jeremy Silver – The Future of Music industry [Thinking digital session notes]

Courting Dulcimer Love

Image by killermonkeys via Flickr

Music industry, and what’s going on around there. The general perception is that this is the industry in the flames. Internet has impacted music industry in the earliest stage. This is industry that believes that Sex, drugs and rock and roll is not going out of style. But they maybe missed on the style. They also don’t believe in disruptive technology.
But music is unique. Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia. His book talks about the fact that music is in the different part of our brain than language and reason. There is something ancient about it.

Music is always about the technology. Musical devices are basic technological artifacts that change the way music is created and also received.

CD’s are not selling anymore, but digital downloads are growing at 35% pa. But they’re not growing fast enough to compensate for CD’s. They are not caching up, because P2P is much more convenient to get your music.

This is a fundamental change that happened, that is undermining the institutions that music industry has created. Usual example is the notion of copyright in the mashable world.

The worst possible PR campaign: RIAA suing downloaders.

But .. at the end of the day, the music industry is still funding the artists. The net affect of all this is that the industry is in flux.

Yet it’s not all bad:

  • Mobile music is growing and all the operators are launching mobile music distribution services.
  • Live scene/shows are selling out. People want to go, and have that live experinece. They value increasingly the value of the moment.
  • People want to engage in the music themselves. Huge shift in the selling of music instruments. (3 millions guitars bought in ‘07 in US; source: music trades). The sells of different equipment correlates with the currently popular style of music.
  • Music making in school. 75% of UK secondary school is using Sibelius 5, software for music composing.

We are not the edge of disaster, but we are the edge of incredible change. It’s an explosion of all the good new things.

The new environment music industry is working:

  • New talent approaching (slicethepie, sell’a’band). Both companies are leveraging punter leverages. It’s like fantasy football but with real band. You can invest 20 quid into the band and as they raise money they can get more famous and do better stuff.
  • Topspin.com – it’s a cottage industry. Every artist just needs some online tools to promote yourself and they’re creating a platform for that.
  • Piracy – interact and consume. Piratebay/torrents, napster as a streaming service and what Radiohead is doing in the download space.
  • Discovery tools – last.fm, Pandora, AOL music etc. One llama – plasma view/their own point of view on how music connect to each other.
  • Blogging – MySpace, imeem, The Hype Machine, Music Bloggers United, Digital meltdown, Dr. Schluss’s Garage of Psychedelic Obscurities

The bottom line is: there lots of new business models. This is a classical long tail market and there are plenty “Web 2.0” opportunities in music space.

While the superstars are still important, the general trend is showing that national/regional artists are growing in relative to big guys. But they are big brands, and they can talk to old media. They also work with brick & mortar stores.

There is a new interesting place: “Cutting edge obscurity”.

Usability reflections: The failure of search in online stores

Source: ShutterstockRecently my Sennheiser headphones died after a decade of everyday abuse. I wanted to buy something similar in about 100 Eur class. Sadly the two biggest Slovenian stores failed to help me locate a perfect new pair in a number of ways.

I started with EnaA and entered into their search general term “headphones” (slovenian: sluÅ¡alke), since I was not really attached to any brand. This is part of output I got:

enaa1

The built in search provides suggestions towards categories inside the store but fails to give you better context in which sections of store these categories are. If you are wondering, the first “Bluetooth headphones” points to “Audio/Video section” and the second to “Car accessories section”. Observant reader will also notice failure at standardization with first category using comman to separate microphones from headphones while last category uses ampersand sign (that is actually not used normally in Slovenian language).

They also sadly sell mostly cheap computer headphones so at that point I turned towards their competition Mimovrste. Same query this time returned following result:

mimovrste1

In this case categorization was done nicely as “Headphones” in “Audio/Video” > “Audio” (section). Here as user I could see how hierarchy works. One could argue that turning this left to have the more general on left would be better since we are more used to such notation from everyday lives and also applications like Windows Explorer which opens folder from more general towards more precise.

I had another wish for the headphones, to have detachable cable since in my experience the cable fails every few months. After inspecting into more details one promising headphone I noticed something interesting:

mimovrste2

The connector type is defined as “6.3mm stereo jack, with adapter included”. Here my question was adapter for what?

While this might seem like nitpicking it is actually quite important since some Sennheiser headphones (like HD 555 model) come with connector that will not fit into your iPod and you need a converter (which might be what is implicitly mentioned in that sentence). What would be helpful in this cases would be small link at the end of the row like “(confused?)” that would take you to a sub page with a few pictures of different connectors like the one in the iPod and such, explain the names so you would then feel confortable with your choice of headphones. This is online store after all where you can not turn the box around and see how it looks. (The argument about “Googling” is irrelevant here since you do not want your potential customers to wander away).

Since I was already noticing slips of the stores I decide to see if they could help me out with my little annoyance, that is the fact that I do not know how to spell “Sennheiser” or at least for me the usual spelling is “Senheisser” or just “Senheiser” with double letters. Since this is a big brand I would image they would know how to correct my spelling mistake:

enaa2

mimovrste3

There are two interesting facts to note. While it might be acceptable for EnaA not to suggest correct spelling, since they actually do not carry the brand – they found one match in one of their partner stores that had the actual product name misspelled! (Trying the luck with misspeling other brands also did not produce suggestions)

Mimovrste did a bit better with a large category list at the bottom, but also failed to correct my spelling. As a naive consumer that wants to buy a certain brad with hard to spell name, it should not be acceptable that I either have to guess the correct spelling or enter it into Google to get it to suggest me right spelling (even though this might produce also produce a list of more specialized online stores at the same time).

Lessons learned

Providing good search is not easy and should be treated as a separate usability review. In this case clear categorization and failure to suggest proper spelling produced breakage on my part while browsing which made me switch online store in hope that other one makes the process easier.

What interests me a bit more is that I actually failed to buy one pair of headphones since the description was not understandable to me and there was no clearly visible way how to get help on the connector part. This could be seen as part of the guidelines as “Speak users language” and “Provide help”.

Zemanta shopping

Living at Zemanta HQ in London is always a fun event. A couple weeks ago we went online shopping for groceries. These are a couple of photos that happened during this process. Even though it was quite fun, we since decided that is much better for our recreation if we bring things ourselves from nearby supermarket.