Saturday, December 31, 2005

The best clubbing books

Books and clubbing are not natural bedfellows. After all, clubs are dark and the music is loud. Where have you got a place to relax with a good tome?

That said, club subculture is important. It has been documented in a range of books and viewpoints. Anyone involved in the culture or industry at any level should know what the scene is all about. Especially if you are lucky enough to earn money from clubbing and dance music.

So, here are the clubbing book that I think are essential to every library. Practical, theoretical and just plain fun. It will be updated regularly so make sure you subscribe to get updates sent to you.

The best clubbing books
Matthew Collin - Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House
Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton - Ministry of Sound: The Book

Review of 2005

Resident Advisor have come up with some excellent clubbing reviews of the year. It's the type of thing I want us to be doing - getting involved with all the big dance music events.
It makes me wonder how the heck they can afford to get people all over the world and into the big events. They do rank better than Gurn, but they don't seem to run a great deal of banner ads. Do they pay journalists? It certainly seems they do as the quality looks high. I will be keeping my eye on them a bit more closely and see what we can learn to improve our traffic.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The silence is deafening

Feedback is the most disheartening element I have come across so far.

We have a hardcore of users on the forum who seem to hate everything we do. I can ignore them without worry. First, they are not 'clubbers' in the sense they don't go out clubbing as much as they used to so they don't make up our most important audience. Second, if they didn't hate something new then I would worry. They always hate the new stuff.

My big worry is the lack of feedback from our core clubbing users - those who read the features and interviews, look at the gallery, join up every day and go out every week.

So my question is this: What can we do to improve the interaction between us and our members?

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Here is the news

I got my first pay packet from Ltd today and it still feels slightly weird to get paid to do this kind of thing. I'm still loving it, especially as things are on the up for both sales and content.

The real test is going to be the next few months where we have to start turning the ground work into significantly improved results. For me that means building relationships with people in the industry so we can nail the twin requirements of getting really good quality content and more sales. We are full of big ideas to make this happen. Once we have things up and running I'll make sure you are the first to know.

One thing I'm putting the finishing touches on now is a vastly improved news section. It has always seemed crazy to me that there is no single, reliable source of clubbing news on the net. There are a few places around that offer good content but nothing I would consider serious news. We started posting content (with very kind permission) from Dancefrontdoor which is by far the best news site, but they don't research it themselves and rely on news to be posted. That means PR people use it as a free advert, so it loses its edge as a serious reporting source. We are going to fill that gap.

We already have the section in place, and have had for a while. What we have not done is tracked stories on topics that are interesting to clubbers and kept them up to date. We don't have the budget for a full time news desk, but I have found a way to automate the search for stories. All I have to do is check daily for interesting ones and write them up.

It should be a dead quick and easy way to get new and search engine friendly content on the site for a very little amount of work. If it's not, I'll give you the rundown.

If you have an interesting news story you want me to look at you can submit it to us. What we don't want is thinly veiled press releases!

Oh yes, Merry Christmas.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sometimes you just can't give it away

What a mad day it has been today. I managed to sort out guest list places to Fabric in London today. I often do this because most clubs are happy to give a free guest list place or two in return for a review or gallery. This time though, the reviewer told me he could no longer make it. I thought it would be no problem at all to give the passes away.

My mistake.

80 emails and numerous calls later and nobody wants them. Everyone is either going far away for Christmas or already booked up. I have not given up hope yet though.

Anyone got a digital camera and wants to get in free?

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Talking to members

When the new version of the site launched, we asked for your feedback on what was working and what was not working. We got an overwhelming list of problems, several of which were fixed with no fuss or announcement and several were left unfixed.

I was reminded of this when I read recently on the site that it wasn’t working properly in Firefox, but I use the great browser myself with no real issues. So in the spirit of increased communications that I am trying to bring, this post is dedicated to site problems.

Here is what I promise: post a problem or an issue in the comments box, or email me directly (david [at] gurn [dot] net) and I will get back to you with an answer as soon as humanly possible – which means 2 working day at the longest.

So fire away…

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Dealing with pricing

Prices are the bugbear of every sales person. The theory goes that if only we did it cheaper, then hordes of customers would fall over each other to buy our stuff. This is especially true when selling advertising space on the internet, which has a very low cost price associated with it. It’s almost pure profit, so surely we can afford to dip the prices a bit. Lower prices equal more sales, right?

It doesn’t take a brain scientist to realise that this assumption is wrong. It’s not about the price, but about the value. As I was once told as a fresh faced young sales guy in a big PC company – people don’t buy 4” drill bits, they buy 4” holes. So, it’s really just a matter of working out how much a 4” hole is worth.

So how do you work this value out?

As with all matters of perception, this can be tough. Take one of our prices. We charge for running competitions on the front page. This is because a competition is just a big advert with a prize tagged onto the bottom. So, when a PR person offers us things to give away they don’t expect to pay for the privilege, but when a nights rings up asking for a cheap way of getting exposure, they are more than happy to do a couple of passes as well as pay up. Same product, same price, different perceived value.

You could argue that in this case we should split the offering up – so competitions are free and front page adverts are paid. That way you get the best of both worlds. We don't have the flexibility to do that at the moment, so that means (like a lot of sales people) that we have to work with what we have. In the case of our competitions that means avoiding wasting time speaking to PR people about it. They don’t have a budget they will never buy. Like Zamo in Grange Hill, we should just say no.

What are the other steps to success in pricing? Simply, we need to believe the price is right.

  • Market to the people who get the most value from the product.
  • Don’t worry about the customers who don’t value the product, as long as there are some who do.
  • Discounts for the sake of it show the customer that you don’t value the product and make them less likely to buy (This doesn’t include properly planned special offers).
  • The price must be right compared to the competition. If it’s not the cheapest, it must be the best. Being in the middle is fatal.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

How to make money from streaming media content

Pick-A-Mix is the part of the site that has streaming dance music mixes. It's always been one of our most popular sections but it has run into trouble. Firstly it's a loss making exercise. We don't charge clubbers to listen and we don't charge DJs to upload their mixes. Second, we have had to take it offline while we work out the legality of the service. We applied for an licence and were legal while the application was being sorted out, but the application got rejected for complex and boring reasons. So no more Pick-A-Mix until we redesign it.

Until then we have time to work out how to monetise the service. which made me think this might be a good excuse to come up with a few suggestions on how to make streaming media services profitable:
  • Subscription. Although very difficult, this could work with a 2 tier system with some free mixes. This would have to be at a suitable price point, which might be hard to find especially as most people are used to free stuff on the internet and there is loads of free mixes around. For this to work the quality would have to be very high to stimulate demand.

  • Sponsorship. There should be plenty of companies wanting to expose themselves to clubbers, it's a niche market and a half. Easy to setup and maintain, text and pre-mix audio clips would be unobstrusive but noticed.

  • Adverts. Normal radio shows have adverts in them so why not streaming mixes? This would upset the flow of a mix so would not be ideal, but if someone wanted to insert a 30 second ad in 100 mixes across a range of genres then a one off payment or per-play arrangement would work well.

  • Affiliates. When a track plays, have a link in the player through to buying it. A simple idea yes, if a little tough to implement well. It's a good way to add value to members as well as profit.

  • Donations. Asking for money is the most moral way of getting the section profitable, and at least one blogger lives off his donations, so it's possible. It requires a very faithful fan base and some good positioning of the request.

  • Hosting Fees. The DJ could be charged a fee for mix hosting. Other sites do this already but there are always plenty of DJs wanting exposure. Again it could be adapted into a 2 teir model where the first mix is free and additional space costs £x per megabyte.

  • Peripheral Services. DJs need stuff. Tips on improving their technique, access to the lastest cuts, studio time. There is a raft of ancillery add in services that can be offered in the spirit of being a solution provider rather than a one off sale.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What do people want in a clubbing website?

"What do people want in a clubbing website" is my big (existential) question of the moment. Our readers/members are the people who make the site the interesting and excting place to be. We need to be constantly coming up with ideas to keep them interested and coming back for more.

Lucky for me, a lot of content almost creates itself. Clubs are happy to give free entry to clubbers who promise to put pictures up on a high profile website, so our clubbing gallery and review sections look good. I like writing features so there will be plenty of those in the pipeline and the forums have always been busy.

My question remains though, what do clubbers want and how can we attract/keep members?

My Underused Featurelist
My Wishlist
  • Our streaming mix service is currently offline while we deal with legal stuff. It's a popular section and members are losing out while it is out of action. Getting it overhauled is a big priority for me.
  • A way for members to upload galleries, reviews and features without us having to do it for them.
  • A centralised comments section, a bit like the forums. At the moment comments are all over the place with no central point to check everyones comments
  • Move this blog to main gurn site and get more staff posting on it.
  • More people contributing to the site. I'm hoping that will come if we get the other bits right.
In the end though, this is just my view on where things should be going. I welcome comments from clubbers and promoters alike about this. What do you want from a site like Gurn?

More serious features?
More interactive stuff?
Easier to use?
Free pies?

Let me know via comments, email or private message (apart from the pies bit, I can't do that).

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