Are we learning from Lady Gaga and Troy Carter?

You don’t have to like her music, you don’t have to like her fashion sense, but you do have to have some admiration for the way she conducts business.

English: Lady Gaga performing on the Fame Ball...
English: Lady Gaga performing on the Fame Ball tour in Minneapolis, MN at the Fine Line Music Café. Remastered with Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve long thought Lady Gaga is one switched on lady, and yesterday I read an article in Wired.CO.UK that proved it. Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s manager, was the subject of an interview that described how he has made the most of social media to propel her career. Not only that, he is now in the process of creating a new social media platform called Backplane, that looks set to provide a community hub for the Little Monsters (Lady Gaga’s fans) and a means for her to bypass the record companies and sell her content directly through the platform. Here’s how his plans have been described in the Wired interview;

For several years, Carter has been plotting a digital disruption of the music business and, by extension, the whole entertainment industry. In addition to his offices in Los Angeles, which employ talent managers and communications and support staff, he has a team of nearly 20 engineers and executives in Palo Alto, working seven days a week developing something called the Backplane, a social-media platform that will allow celebrities to combine all the elements of their social-web presence.

Yes, that’s right. This platform is not just about Lady Gaga, it’s about the entertainment business in general, and plans are afoot to pull other celebrities and even sporting clubs in. Here’s more detail from the interview explaining their grand plans;

The Backplane aims to gather content and interaction into one hub, which could completely alter the economics of Hollywood: revenue that once flowed to corporations will flow to artists. “Up until this point, we’ve been data dumb,” Carter says. “If a kid goes and buys a CD at Best Buy, we have no idea who the person is, how many times they listen to it, or anything like that. But we’re building to the point where one day we’re going to have access to all of the data. There will be a time where we’ll be able to release music through the Backplane, where we’ll be able to release music videos through there, we’re going to be able to sell all our tickets through there. Over a period of time, we’ll be able to build that audience so they’ll know exactly where to come.”

As it stands now, many celebrities use a variety of tools to communicate via social media. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube are all employed, but they are all separate entities. Backplane has stated their intention on their site;

The Backplane team is creating a new type of social corridor. We believe that audiences seek new and more meaningful ways to connect and engage with each other. Backplane fills a gap in the current social spectrum by empowering sharing and conversation that is effortless but not automatic.

Smart, huh? And look what they’re doing to enable discussion with fans across language barriers;

They needed a chat function. That was already in the works; the Backplane was using Google’s translation software so people from all over the world could chat in one language.

There is much to learn from Troy Carter and his vision. This kind of entrepreneurial thinking needs to emanate from somewhere. Troy grew up in a rough neighbourhood in West Philadelphia and got some breaks that found him working with Will Smith. His willingness to do pretty much anything that was required led to other job opportunities. He even went bankrupt at one stage, but eventually found himself introduced to Lady Gaga. Me, I’d like to know more about his schooling. Was he introduced to creative thinking in the classrooms he occupied? Was he inspired by someone in his youth who saw something in him and encouraged this kind of willingness to take risks and think outside the square?

What are the implications of this new approach to shaping and growing a career for education? Plenty, in my book. We need to be exploring this new business model in our classrooms and make sure our students have a keen understanding of the benefits of utilising social media to create your brand and proactively develop employment opportunities. Schools themselves can learn plenty from this. How many are utilising the tools of social media to communicate with their communities and grow their brand in a positive, proactive fashion?

Take note too of the job industry driving this change. If you take a look at the jobs board on the Backplane site, you’ll see that coders are in hot demand. If we’re going to see the Web become the vehicle for dissemination of not only ideas, but content, then we’re going to need a skilled workforce to meet the demand that is sure to ensue. The Khan Academy are about to release an education portal that teaches Computer Science fundamentals through interactive drawing. But let’s not rely on the self motivated to fill the positions that will arise. Let’s open up kids’ eyes by teaching the elements of coding in our schools and educating them about the career prospects that await them if they choose to master it.

Another lesson here also for the book industry. Publishers, are you taking note? Because I bet authors are. We’ve already seen J.K Rowling begin to control her ownership and distribution of content with Pottermore. I’m guessing there are quite a few high profile authors, and low profile ones too, who would be interested in Backplane and the possibilities there for controlling their content and profit margins.

Changing times call for changing approaches across many sectors. Lady Gaga and the team behind her are people to watch. You can learn more about Troy Carter’s background and his approach to the music business by watching this Keynote interview from the Music Matters conference in June 2012.

He speaks my language.

Is community the new business model? – Comview presentation

Earlier this week,  I presented at the Comview conference here in Victoria. It’s run by the VCTA, (the Victorian Commercial Teacher’s Association) and my presentation was about the impact of social media on business today. The presentation is the culmination of a lot of what has been occupying my thinking this year about the changing nature of our world and our pressing need to respond as educators. In my view, we need to prepare our students for the here and now, and future scenarios awaiting them when they enter the world of work.

I’ve had educators push back at me in tweets when I’ve expressed this kind of thinking, suggesting that we are preparing students for many things, not just the workforce. While that’s obviously true, when I look at the amount of time I spend at my workplace, and then the time I devote to it out of school hours, I’m pretty convinced that a large part of our role does connect with preparedness for places where you spend a large proportion of your time. And that, my friends, would be your place of work.

Of course, quite a bit of this presentation was discussing the scenarios of the workplaces of the future. The distinct possibility that many of our students today will be remote workers, people working in a flexible arrangement from home, where the lines are blurred between what is working hours and what is downtime. What was also discussed was the challenge this places on employers, who will need to ensure a sense of workplace community even though their workplace may be distributed to places far and wide.

Leveraging social media for your own good was another feature of my presentation. I so admire Jesse Desjardins and the way he has utilised social media to propel his career. You must visit Jesse’s Slideshare page to see how his creative presentations and advice have helped to secure him a position as the Social Media & Advocacy Manager at Tourism Australia. (and he’s not an Australian- fancy that!)

Very frustratingly, once again, I am unable to embed my presentation on this WordPress blog. Something to do with Flash not being supported by WordPress according to a forum discussion I found. You can find the presentation by visiting http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/Presentations, or by clicking this link. Like I said, It’s the culmination of a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, and a lot of hours putting it together. I did use a few slides from a presentation available on Sliderocket that is free for users to use. It just happened to fit nicely with my subject matter. The majority of the slides are my own creation, using screenshots of sites and CC pictures from Flickr. Some feedback would be nice, so feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think.

 

A Shoe Story

I’m fussy about the shoes I wear. I don’t like shoes that make me feel masculine; I like a feminine cut and something that’s stylish. That doesn’t mean I’m teetering around on stiletto heels or anything like that. Far from it in fact, but I will sacrifice comfort if it means I’m wearing a shoe that I really like.

Which brings me to this week’s tale.

While visiting our close friends this past weekend, I noticed the shoes my God-daughter was wearing. Here, take a look.

Nice shoe, huh? I thought so too. Exactly what I’ve been looking for to help me trek through Italy next term with a group of students. (Lucky me – that’s another tale I’ll be telling soon!) My God-daughter informed me they were Tony Bianco shoes that cost her $190. She had tried to get them from an online site called Styletread for $142, but no stock was available in her size so she’d had to venture to a retail store to make the purchase.

On my return home, I began the search. I found Styletread, located the shoe and saw my size was available. I then thought there might be an even better deal available, so I did a bit more hunting. I discovered a site offering a $10 discount if I input the code on the Styletread site. By 10.30pm Sunday night, I’d placed the order paying $132, and saved myself $58 by doing it this way rather than the traditional retail store method of purchase.

I received an email with details that helped me track the order. I checked around 10.30am this morning (Tuesday), and noted my order had been dispatched from Sydney, had arrived in Melbourne and was with a courier on its way to my address. When I arrived home at 2.30pm this was what greeted me.

Less than 48 hours since I’d placed the order, and the shoes were in my hands. On my feet, actually, and I’m pleased to say they fit perfectly, have a feminine cut and are really comfortable!

So, what’s the lesson here?

The lesson is this. Business models are changing. If I, as a consumer, can save myself $58 on a purchase, not have to leave my home, and have an item on my doorstep in less than 48 hours, then this is something I’m going to do. I’m going to bypass the traditional method of purchasing, and I’m figuring plenty of other people are going to be doing this too. This IS going to have ramifications for society as we know it. I’ve written about this already this year, and I’m starting to wonder what we in schools today are doing to prepare our students for a different way ahead. Are we still fostering ideas of employment in industries that will find themselves in serious decline? Are we thinking about industries that will thrive in new conditions and promise employment opportunities? Are we teaching our students enough about how they might use the Web for interaction and how they create sites that can support new business models?

My shoe purchase tells a story. There are lessons here that need learning.