Too little too late at Last FM

Today both Last.fm and Spotify have announced (or should I say leaked in the case of the latter) news on advancements in their “social” music services.

Rumours have surfaced that Spotify will be working even more closely with Facebook. The music platform already allows Facebook friends to share playlists and lets users listen and subscribe to other friend’s Spotify tracks.

The leak is vague but it would seem that the two platforms will become even more integrated with Spotify becoming a portal for the Facebook user’s soundtrack to their online socialising.

This news, rather coincidently comes on the back of a big announcement from Last.fm which has hired a team of developers to give the portal a facelift making it more ‘mainstream’ by allowing users to sign in via their Facebook account and share songs.

Vice-president Matthew Hawn said: “We now need to focus on making the service more mainstream and plugged into people’s other music experiences and social networks. If Foursquare is where you publish your location, and Facebook is where you socially connect, Last.fm should be where you publish your taste in music.”

Hmmm. Isn’t this all a case of (far) too little (far) too late?

Last.fm was fantastic when it started out almost 10 years ago now and really came into its own around 05/06, providing personalised internet radio, music recommendations and personalised playlists from the listening history of itself and other players such as iTunes and Windows Media.

However in 2007 it was purchased by CBS for £140m and failed to progress. The timing of the takeover also collided with the UK launch of Spotify which really caused Last.fm major headaches, especially when Last.fm ignorantly stopped its on-demand service and introduced subscription fees.

Essentially the service became a poor man’s Spotify, with the latter simply becoming better at providing everything that Last.fm wanted to do.

As one heavy user of both services told me: “Last.fm started with an elegant way of connecting music enthusiasts with hard-to-find music and with each other.  Good data and the scrobbling concept were fundamental. Once it sold up there was no survival plan for the original central ideas and simple market economics drove it into being something different that was never going to work.

“Soundcloud and Bandcamp have taken over much of Last.fm’s early spirit but they still lack the simple fluency and data management that Last.fm offered. Market economics, yet again, has given us second best.”


Some holiday snaps from Nerja, Spain


I’m not Jack

This blog post from my boss, Stuart Bruce, inspired me to write this.

We both work at Wolfstar Consultancy, a public relations and social media agency consultancy. Here’s the main point of Stuart’s article:

I definitely don’t want to be an online PR expert, or a social media expert or a digital content expert or anything similar. They are all far too narrow a discipline. I want to be recognised as a public relations thought leader and not a social media thought leader.

This is Jack. He's not happy. He never is.

Before joining Wolfstar I worked at an integrated agency called Public. Our industry would class Public as having a traditional or mainstream PR function. But even though that was often what we provided, it was far from the truth. In fact the majority of our PR campaigns in recent years were delivered via blogger outreach or social media.

We knew that the most effective way to communicate and engage with the customers of our food and grocery brands was to go directly to them via social networks. And it worked. Our PR function had naturally progressed to embrace online and social, just like all good comms agencies in recent years.

Since moving to Wolfstar, a agency consultancy classed as a social media specialist, really little has changed in the way I operate. Rather than speaking to journalists about food products, I’m speaking to bloggers about phone apps. The content is different but the technique, minus a few clever social modernised media tricks (©Wolfstar Consultancy), is still pretty much the same.

I still need to find a great story to sell in (even now I haven’t learnt how to polish a t***). It’s just that the medium and the contacts book has had to extend online.

And anyway, I’m still speaking to traditional media. We’ve already set up various projects with tabloid newspapers and men’s lifestyle and health magazines. It’s just now that we work to ensure that these mediums push consumers back into the online space where we can communicate with them directly.

To sum up, I’ve gone from a traditional agency to a social media agency consultancy and I’m practicing just as much mainstream PR at the latter.

You see, good comms is all about the big picture. It’s not just about the medium. It’s about how best you can make the different mediums work together to achieve your results.

This is another Jack. He's not happy (inside).

But here endeth the lecture because, as much as I’d like to say that I’m a master of all trades, the truth is that in reality I’m pretty much just a Jack. When it comes to ‘all trades’ anyway.

I have serious expertise in some parts of my work but, and I have to be honest here, I also fall shorter than a short thing in others.

And here’s the point. I should embrace that.

Haven’t we been telling our clients for years that a point of difference is a good thing? Agencies and consultants need to distinguish themselves. Isn’t it far better to set yourself apart than disappear into the crowd?

At a recent new business meeting the client – a senior marketeer at a household name dept store – seriously loved the fact that Wolfstar was an expert in social.

He wanted to turn to experts to achieve his goals. He didn’t want to farm everything out to someone that could do everything, just in case they couldn’t really do everything.

And maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s best for the client that we don’t do the whole job. Why save some pennies to stay under one roof with one supplier when the job could be absolutely nailed by bringing in a team of experts.

This guy's a Jack. Damn he's happy.

I’m proud to say that I work for a social media agency. To say that I understand more about that part of the mix than any other. I’m an important cog in a seriously good wheel.

When I speak to other PRs from mainstream background I’m often confronted with cynicism on social. But explain the rationale behind why social works and how it enhances the customer brand experience, more often than not those arguments are quickly dismissed.

I agree with Stuart that you don’t want to be put into a specific box or pigeon holed into a silo (is that possible?) but at the same time I have to question whether that is really such a bad thing.

If being a master of social media is what makes you stand out then isn’t that what you should be?

Better that, than being just another Jack.

< Strikethrough edits courtesy of @stuartbruce >


Mark Hanson

My friend and colleague Mark Hanson died this week. I knew he was good at his job and I knew that he moved in political circles but I never realised how much his work had inspired so many other people in my industry including some of the most senior people within the Labour party.

But that was Mark. He never told you anything about himself.

I first met Mark when I came for my second job interview at Wolfstar. It’s safe to say that I’ve never endured an interview quite like it.

I had already met the company’s directors Stuart and Tim and they had left me in little doubt that as long as I passed some “quite tough” tests on my return I was the man for the job. I would also have to briefly chat to deputy director Mark Hanson, just to make sure that he liked me.

Nervously confident I came to the second interview. I knew that if I could hold everything together the job was mine.

Then Mark happened.

Just seconds into my test he unassumingly strode into the meeting room (I’m not sure if you can assumingly stride anyway but that’s what Mark seemed to do). He began my character assassination.

Mark: “Do you mind if I chat to you for a minute Chris?”

Me: “No, not at all” I said breaking off from the strategy document I was rapidly trying to get my head around.

“How are you doing? Is everything good with you?”

Mark: “Erm….yeah. < long pause > So, tell me about you.”

Cue my long ramble about all the amazing coverage I’d generated for my clients and all the awards and plaudits I’d received in my career.

Mark: “OK. < long pause > Can’t say I’ve heard about any of those things.”

1-0 Mark. Sh*t he knows I’m not good enough.

Mark: “You’re a family man, yeah?”

Me: “I am. I’ve got a little girl. Part of the reason I want to work here is that I want to push my career so that I can give her the best I can.”

Mark: “Right… are you sure you’re prepared to sacrifice your life for this company. Work long hours. Put your family on hold. Looking at your CV you’ve wasted a lot of time at your last place. Are you sure you’re really up to it. Are you sure you have thought this through?”

2-0 Mark. It was like he could see into my personal insecurities. I could barely hold everything together for the rest of the interview. It was the toughest I’ve ever had. God knows how I passed.

I told him as much when I started working here. He seemed surprise and laughed it off but I knew he knew what he’d made me feel. Mark always knew. You could never pull the wool over his eyes.

He’d tell me later that, in the interview, he didn’t think I was good enough but that I’d proved to him wrong in my first few weeks. He told me to be proud of myself and that I was good enough to go to any agency I wanted to go to.

I’d only managed to be good enough in those first few weeks because Mark had taken me under his wing from day one. We worked together closely on several pitches and I had a lot of one-to-one time with him.

Given more time I feel like we would have become good friends. He was the type of person you want to know throughout your career. One of those that you turn to for advice or a nudge in the right direction.

The first few weeks were a real rollercoaster here and Mark took the time out to put me all my worries at ease. I always tried to return the favour and ask him if everything was OK at his end but he always just sighed “…yeeaaahh.”

Nothing else. He never let you in.

I wish I’d have known what he was thinking so that I could have told him not to worry about anything and that everything would be alright. How can things not be alright for someone so genuinely talented, modest and caring? Jesus Mark.

All I can say is that he was a seriously good guy. I don’t feel like I really knew him but I feel like he knew me. And that’s what made him special.

He was always about other people. Never about himself. And I think that might be why we’ve lost him.

Shit Mark. I’ll miss you mate.

Rest in peace.

C x


This is my blog

Not a regular thing. Just some thoughts from time to time.


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