Buddha Bar

The last time I was in Paris I visited the legendary Buddha Bar, a trendy night spot on the Rue Boissy d' Anglais M. Concorde.

While often criticized for its high prices and marginal cuisine, the real draw is the exotic decor (complete with a giant Buddha statue presiding over the dining room) and fantastic music. There is even an eponymous music cd series showcasing tracks from resident DJs Claude Challe and David Visan. Buddha_bar

Now American club goers don't need to cross the Atlantic to get a taste of Buddha Bar; George V Entertainment (the same team responsible for the Paris location) have opened Buddha Bar New York City at 25 Little W. 12th Street, which promises to deliver the same alluring night life as its namesake.

Al and Leon Mash-up

Al_and_leonThis one's been traversing the 'net over the last week and it's well worth sharing.

A clever fellow over on MySpace mashed up some historic footage from Frank Sebastian's Cotton Club Show (1936-1938) with a modern hip-hop sound track, and the result is brilliant. This particular clip showcases early Lindy Hop dancers Al Minns and Leon James. You can see where break dancing got its start.



PSFK has posted an interview with Sacha Lewis, co-founder of "cultural destination" site Flavorpill. With a tip of the hat to Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class, Lewis has set out to create an online collective of cultural news, reviews, and events. From the interview:

Richard Florida defined the concept of the Creative Class in his book 'The Rise Of The Creative Class' - this a group he estimates at over 40 million people in the US alone.  These are artists, publishers, designers, etc  who all use creativity in their work and often fuel economic and social trends to the mainstream.    This class is the driver of our community -they are engaged, want to participate and importantly they embrace technology. One of our goals at Flavorpill is to stimulate this community and eventually appeal and covert the mainstream. Publications like Flavorpill and PSFK are ahead of the curve - we're seen as thought leaders for the Creative Class so it is shared our opportunity to expand peoples minds with dynamic, quality content.

Read the full article here.

Old School Music, New School Venues

ClassicalDigital music downloads and online fan communities used to be the domain of mainstream, top-40, and college bands due to their young, early-adopter devotees.

But it's interesting to see how a wider variety of musical genres have come to embrace - and even thrive within - these distribution channels.

Much has been written about Eric Whitacre, the 35-year-old classical composer who created a profile on MySpace where visitors could download and listen to his work, and then subsequently enjoyed a huge number of pre-orders for his latest disc (which landed at number 11 on the Top Classical Albums chart in its first week).

Now we see Peter Gelb, the former Sony Classical president who is set to take the reigns at the Metropolitan Opera in August, making big plans to leverage digital channels as a way to re-energize interest in the venerable Opera House. On his list: live, high-definition broadcasts of Met performances via digital streams and downloads and updated weekly radio broadcasts with more behind-the-scenes information (podcasts can't be far behind). According to Gelb, he'd like to create products that  "will work across the entire digital landscape -- whether it's on our Web site, through broadband services, iTunes and all the digital delivery platforms. We'd even like to offer ringtones."

It's nice to see the more traditional creative going where the fans are. Smart.

UPDATE: Even Pope Benedict is reportedly listening to the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin on his new iPod Nano!

Cory Doctorow at Harvard

The Harvard Computer Society together with Harvard Free Culture and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society hosted guest lecturer Cory Doctorow last night at an event that was open to the public. Doctorow, who is a blogger (BoingBoing), author (Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, among others), activist (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and podcaster gave a talk entitled, Set Top Cop: Hollywood's Secret War on Your LIving Room.

Doctorowflierweb_2The t-shirt clad Doctorow, with dark rimmed glasses on his face and iPod earbuds dangling casually over each shoulder, looked like any other techy in the audience. Armed with just a microphone and a laptop (for prompts; no typical PowerPoint slide projections in this lecture), he spoke nearly non-stop for one hour on a topic that he's clearly passionate about: Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the threat it poses to creativity. His casual dress and speaking style set the stage for the theme of the night: times are changing and the stuffy, buttoned-up business models of yore won't work any longer.

While conditional access creates a small speed bump to getting what you want (e.g., you must pay Apple 99 cents before you can download a song from iTunes), DRM proves a bigger challenge - it controls how you use the product after you "own" it. It prevents you from recording, backing up, manipulating, criticizing and remixing the media. According to Doctorow, this practice threatens innovation and competition, and flies in the face of the open source culture that is growing all around us. Doctorow argues that artists don't need DRM, and goes so far as to say that they suffer at its hands.

He spoke at length about big business' failure to develop Internet-ready business models and understand & support recent seismic shifts in the way content is created and shared. In effect, DRM treats the owner of the device/product (consumers) as a criminal, rather than an audience which should be wooed. He cited numerous cases of those who've "failed"

  • Sony Music and the rootkit fiasco that gained notoriety late last year
  • The arrest of ElcomSoft employee Dmitry Sklyarov during the Las Vegas Defcon hackers conference after giving a speech about his company's software, which is designed to crack protections on Adobe Systems' eBooks
  • Suggestions that the Recording Industry of America has effectively made a business model out of DRM, filing 700 lawsuits per month against those that violate their policies; at this volume, the settlements amply cover their legal costs. To Doctorow and others who are fighting for free flow of information and services, this is not a business model, but a "denial of service attack on the American legal system." (LOL)
  • TiVO recently pushed out a new update: if a show is tagged with restrictions (e.g., it can only be recorded at certain times, a certain number of times, or not at all), TiVO will honor those restrictions
  • The copy protection on coming HD DVDs is expected to be even more draconian

Doctorow argues that "there's no security in obscurity"; those who make their information readily available - and editable - will win in the long run, because they'll benefit from the collective knowledge of the community and their products will be stronger (and more relevant) because of it. In essence, tell everyone how it works so they can help expose any weakness or add-ons, and you can make a better product. True Internet-ready business models let product-centered communities form and create. He cites Creative Commons as an organization devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others legally to build upon and share; they advocate "some rights reserved" rather than "all rights reserved."

In all, it was an interesting talk, raising a lot of ideas and opinions on a highly-contested topic that will surely remain in the spotlight for months (years?) to come.

Planet Starbucks

StarbucksOn the heels of being named one of the most influential brands of 2005, Starbucks has announced plans to make itself even more relevant in our lives: soon, shop visitors will be able to load up their MP3 players with new songs when they stop to buy a coffee. The chain is adding this service - in addition to its existing music CDs for sale - at the request of its customers, according to Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment.

It's so interesting to watch this coffee brand morph into a entire lifestyle. People will wait in the longest of lines at this place...and it's ok: something about the Starbucks experience makes you feel relaxed, and you'll gladly wait your turn (not so at Dunkin Donuts, whose long lines move more quickly but seem frantic and stressful by comparison).

Starbucks' original success stemmed from its ability to turn the morning coffee break into a destination experience. Sure, the coffee is tasty, but it's about the whole Starbucks experience...the comfy chairs, the background music, the frothing noise from the cappuccino machines. People no longer just stop by in the morning on the way into work, they come back around 3 for the afternoon pick-me-up.

Then Starbucks added WI-FI, and it became an acceptable spot for "meetings." Business travelers and local workers alike will meet at the Starbucks for a cup of java and a brainstorm.

Next, they introduced dating. Brilliant! Find another coffee-lover on Yahoo! Personals, and meet at the local Starbucks for a chat. They even developed a cobranded site with Yahoo! where singles can find dating advice, locate the nearest Starbucks, and pick up a $10 Starbucks gift card for subscribing to Yahoo! Personals.

And just last week, they announced a partnership with Lionsgate Films to promote its new film, Akeelah and the Bee (via cup-warmers and a trailer on the chain’s in-store Wi-Fi network), and plans to add a few select books and DVDs to their existing CD collection.

Experiential marketing doesn't get much better than this. Can't wait to see what they do next.

UPDATE: In their April 17, 2006 newsletter, Peppers and Rogers note the following aspect of Starbucks' efforts to create an experience:

Experience transcends commodity
Starbucks Global Creative Director Stanley Hainsworth noted that when selling coffee the challenge is that the product is ubiquitous. Starbucks succeeds by connecting with customers personally. For example, he explained that baristas at each store memorize up to 200 customer names and what they drink, to promote a neighborhood feel. And all employees on the corporate side must work in a Starbucks store for a week as part of initial training. "It's more than just a product," Hainsworth said. "It's about creating an experience."

The Collective

CollectiveI saw a great band this weekend at the Pickle Barrel nightclub in Killington, VT. The Collective is a Philly-based ensemble that delivers an array of hip-hop and pop covers with a bit of funk thrown in. The band is high energy with two particularly animated frontmen on vocals that love to engage the crowd, and a set list that kept the entire bar hopping. TC has issued an EP of originals as well, called Live Underground, which is available for purchase at CDBaby.