Tagged: What Music Taught Me About Business

Malsurement: Measuring The Wrong Thing

measurement-by-seamstressMusic industry pontificator Bob Lefsetz highlights how incredibly easy it is to be lured in to measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

The quick summary:  Billboard, the company that lets you know Katy Perry is again at #1 in the charts, recently announced plans to include downloads and streams when calculating the Top 200 tracks.  Sounds great, right?

Here’s where we learn about measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

Part of Billboard’s new calculation is an attempt to squeeze the new into the old: Ten downloads of a track equal one album purchase.  When was the last time you purchased an album, let alone a physical CD?

Lefsetz captures the essence of this mistake. In an online world, streaming equals listening equals the right thing to measure…

“The only thing that counts is listens. Sales are irrelevant. Especially of albums…”

“But the whole [music] industry is based on albums so they don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater…”

“Do you see Netflix telling us how many views equal one DVD? Come on.”

Yikes.  He’s right.  I work in mobile today, which suffers from malsurement (that’s bad measurement) everyday.  Almost every data point measured in mobile is measured because that’s the way it’s always been done on your desktop website.

Best example: click-through rates.  You see an ad, you click on it.  This breaks down so fast on mobile, it’s just outrageous. Somewhere between 30-50% of all clicks are accidental, because you’ve got fat fingers, or you’re two martinis deep while checking tomorrow’s forecast.

Easy fix. Have everyone in the entire global ecosystem of mobile adopt better metrics.  Dammit.  That ain’t gonna happen, at least this decade.  Billions of dollars, millions of ad campaigns, and thousands of sales pitches all hinge upon click-through rates.

My point, if I have one, is that marketers, product managers, sales people, and the big bosses at companies large and small all struggle to measure the right data for the right reasons.

Measuring the right thing for the right reasons sometimes isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be.

But you should still try.


A/B Testing And Failing Fast…With a Band

Once upon a time I used to stay up late, like 3am in the morning late.  That’s what happens when you play in a band and your set doesn’t start until 10:30pm.  The whole night was fun until the dark underbelly of performing is exposed…load out.  Hauling out heavy, clunky equipment between narrow doorways, up and down stairs, and up hill both ways is rough on your knuckles, your buzz, and your post-show glow.

For us to get to show night, we clocked 10’s of thousands of hours seconds, preparing for the show.  Before lean agile split test pivoting to fail fast was popularized and glorified in the startup world, we inadvertently stumbled across this philosophy in the band.

Can You Feel the A/B Testing Here?
Can You Feel the A/B Testing Here?

Whenever you’re making anything up from scratch, you try a few different versions before you settle in on the final take.  Try B minor up on that change…no wait…D minor sounds even sadder…yeah…do that.  Now drop it down a third…aww yeah.  This holds true for composing as well as startup marketing, product development, whatever.  The best gauge of success of those adjustments remains audience/customer feedback.  Speaking of which…

"Easy" not so easy to perform...well.
“Easy” not so easy to perform…well.

And then there was the time we played “Easy”, by Lionel Ritchie, at a Friday night Shakori Hills festival.  Afterwards, my wife said she was embarrassed for us, and the event organizers told us we could never play there again.  We failed fast and left the crooning to the experts.  Turns out Easy really ain’t that easy to do right.

My “Less Is More”

Credit to Nomad Slim

Everyone has certain codes they try to live by, whether conscious of them or not. One of my personal favorites is “Less is More”. I personally believe this mantra holds true for anybody attempting to create, build, or deliver anything of value. A few quick personal experiences.

As a recovering salesperson, I’ve done my share of “show up & throw up”. That’s when your best prospect finally takes your call and you rattle off the 30 reasons your company is so great for them before they can even speak a word. Before you even know what they want. I have Brandon Wilkins, who was my sales colleague at the time at Bronto Software, to credit for this particular lesson. Immediately after verbally overwhelming a prospect, Brandon pulls me aside and with his characteristic charm spouts “Davis. Dude. Everything you said was awesome. Just say it slower and with less words”. Doesn’t seem like much, but it floored me. Thanks for that, B. Less talking = more listening = more selling. To this day I keep a post-it note glued to my desk that demands “Talk Slower”.

Saleperson's Nightmare
Saleperson’s Nightmare

Another incredibly exciting work story to which us work folks can relate is what I have just dubbed as Salesforcification. You heard it here first. That’s when every freakin’ department decides they want the sales team to capture 40 points of data about a prospect or customer and enter it in to Salesforce. Oh yeah, you don’t get credit for your deal until you have it all entered. Sheesh. The focus should be on Less data that has More impact on what really matters. Plus, grilling your brand new customer with 25 questions about what vendors they use strictly for your own corporate benefit is just plain rude. If you’re implementing or managing Salesforce, don’t let this happen to you.

And now a fun case study with audio. Back when I was cool I played guitar, wrote Excuses Album Coversongs, and attempted to arrange the band as well. Figuring out who plays what & when. Our first arrangements were a sloppy mess. Check out “Blue Jay” on our CDBaby page here. 5 years later we were starting to get the hang of Less is More on “Smelling Like a Rose. We played less notes and the music sounded more better. At least to me.

If you open your mouth to speak, if you write an email, if you tweet, if you code, if you post/pin/whatever, quality [almost] always trumps quantity.