As you know, big ad agencies, especially traditional ad agencies, are full of shit. They want desperately to seem relevant and current and will say whatever it takes to bring in the most relevant and current people, especially in digital and social media. Notice I said "say" and not "do."
They'll tell you about all the cool stuff they want to do but it's all talk. They'll bring out the shiny objects, mood videos, apps, and show you where the pet project incubator is in order to convince you how with it they are. And how valued and needed your contributions will be. They'll throw a bunch of cash at you to sweeten the deal. And you take it either because you want the money or you truly believe they mean it. Poor you.
Problem is, in a year or so you get wise and leave. What's worse is that when you are brought in, there is usually a big announcement. You are made to feel integral to the team. A real "game changer." And by the time you leave, there are generally questions as to why you started in the first place. The excuse when you leave or get let go is that you did not 'fit in.'
Think about that. They hire you because of your accomplishments, and fire you for the same reason.
Something similar to this caught my eye when I was reading Magnet magazine this morning, which is currently being guest edited by Camper Van Beethoven multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Segel. (He's the long haired one in the photo above.)
Thing is, Segel is a super talented guy. In addition to Camper, he's also appeared on some seminal albums of the college and indie rock vain, including an E.P. by the very missed Sparklehorse. The dude's been making music for quite a long time. You'd think he'd be a valued asset to music streaming services. And yet, according to his editorial, that wasn't the case. Pandora hired the guy to be a so-called "listener advocate." How'd it work out?
I used to work there and got fired for continuing to “question decisions that had already been made” by the company. In fact, as per usual, I had to continuously speak my conscience, and that was really not what a company of any sort wants, especially, it seems, after they become a publicly traded commodity and are beholden to shareholders to make money, more money. And this even though my job title was “Listener Advocate.” (Actually, this meant that ultimately all that I did was answer emails, despite my background.) And one of the things that Tim, specifically, didn’t want to hear was that since he himself is active politically on behalf of the company, these things make the company politically responsible.
Sound familiar? Be your amazing self, just don't try to teach us with all your silly knowledge and experience. And for heaven's sake don't question anything we do or we'll let you go. Especially when we're busy lobbying the government with our new team member Clear Channel. By the way, the "Tim" in the above quote, is a reference to Pandora founder Tim Westergren.
The thing is, in any type of business, whenever politics takes precedence the culture is destroyed. I've worked at some shops that were so political they made Belarus seem like a bastion of democracy. If you manage to navigate it and have any sort of integrity, you can't help but feel like blood is on your hands at the end of the day.
The question I'd like to have answered is how many musicians were consulted or brought on board when Pandora was just getting off the ground? Or any of the other services? My guess is very few. Because the commoditization of music, be it streaming or digital downloads, or illegal downloads, is not much different than the so-called golden age of music, when big record companies ran the show. It's all about the cash and not about the artists. The only difference really is now, artists are potentially making less than before.
If you read the rest of the editorial you see that Segel still has a lot of heart for Pandora as a service (not presumably as a business.) Despite its flaw, as an algorithm for determining music it is unequaled. It's a bit like leaving an ad agency you worked for and still reminiscing about the amazing people you worked with, despite not having gotten anything produced.
Where the difference lies is that ad agencies are frankly not nimble or smart enough to try and influence public policy so they can make more cash the way the Silicon Valley companies are. This is why über-monopolies like google set up shop in Germany long before they plan on becoming players there, simply because lobbying takes time. Whereas, ad agencies only care about the bottom line this quarter.
Advertising. Music streaming. One is short sighted, one takes the long view. if you work for them, (never with them) either might screw you in the end.
Guess which one is more dangerous in the long-term?