free markets, free culture

Archive for the ‘new indie-stries’ Category

DIY Days, a roving conference for those who create, comes to Philly on Aug 1

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DIY Days logo big

Feel less guilt about the Indienomics blog, as my time is going directly to an independent media conference this weekend. If you are in or close to Philly, consider checking out DIY Days this Saturday. It’s free and interesting 🙂


Written by @hellopanelo

July 27, 2009 at 8:06 am

Take this equation and run

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(limited editions x low prices) + the internet = art for everyone

That’s the formula Jen Bekman used to launch 20×200, a website that spotlights 2 new art pieces a week, priced from $20 up, according to size.

If you’re 1) an art-world outsider and 2) broke like me, shopping for art is not easy. You get your big-box retailers selling you mass market wares (Ikea, Crate and Barrel, Urban Outfitters) or you have to do a lot of hunting on your own: roaming the street markets of SoHo or paying admission to art shows to haggle for pieces.

In contrast, websites like 20×200 offer enjoyable, laid-back browsing. You get to read a little about the artist and their inspiration for the work. You can browse high-res photos of the work, and detailed information about the edition, pricing, and quantity.

It’s a great example of a traditionally offline market (the buying and selling of art) taking advantage of an online space and adjusting for how people engage with prospective purchases on the web. 20×200’s U/X design (user experience design) is spot on, as illustrated by their awesome and deceptively simple infographic for estimating print size:


Written by @hellopanelo

April 2, 2009 at 11:45 am

The next Big Idea — the insaner, the better

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What’s a meta for?

Metaphor has scandalized philosophers, including both scholastics and semiotics, because it seems to be wrong: It asserts an identity between two different things. And it is wrongest when it is most beautiful.

– Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle

Like the artist with collage, the author who arranges a metaphor has to ask — will it blend? That is, will the two disparate concepts come together and create a metaphor of new meaning?

Shakespeare says the world’s a stage. Life, to Forrest Gump, is a box of chocolates. A dream deferred, says Langston Hughes, is a raisin in the sun.

Creating and marketing nonsensical products

Big Think Strategy — a book from marketing maven Berndt Schmitt — continues this line of reasoning. What are the seemingly unrelated ideas we can pull together to inject new life and meaning to a brand?

Schmitt likes to rip up magazines to mix the metaphors.

The Big Idea is a card game you can play for the same effect:


Game theory + chaos theory = idea generation

The deck of cards features nouns and adjectives. Mix and match the cards, then try to market and pitch the resulting wacky products — Erotic Chowder, Mentholated Shampoo.

Sumana H. — intrepid marketer when she wants to be, and a previous interviewee — brought my attention to this game, by way of her pitched ads for these nonsensical products:

  • Edible High-Priority Chowder, to cure anxiety of choice at the salad bar
  • Herbal Natural Chainsaw, strong enough for a logger but made for a hippie
  • Networked Beer, to ensure you never feel like you’re drinking alone [Ed. note: Isn’t that what meetups are for?]

Cheapass Games, the cheeky manufacturers of this boardgame, challenge your marketing wits: “Do you think you’re the marketing whiz who can talk the public into a Perforated Kilt? Then you’re ready to play The Big Idea!”

[Note: Cheapass Games is an indie-nomics enterprise on its own, noting that most games are overpriced and generic. Dice, pencils, plastic parts — “these generic bits and pieces can account for as much as 75% of a game’s production cost, and that cost gets handed to you.”]

Not just a game: wacky product/service combos in real life

These (seemingly) nonsensical products — and services — are the wave of the entrepreneurial future folks! Just scroll through the list at, a running tally of new business ideas just ridiculous enough to work.

Like this, my current favorite — a mashup of current obsessions:


Written by @hellopanelo

March 27, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Mood-altering “motivationals” — kitten posters, possibility books, and physical talismans

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In his book Snoop, psychologist Sam Gosling says we keep some stuff around to assert our identities (brand-name goods, affiliation markers), but other stuff we own to regulate our moods.

Sound familiar? What are all the things we surround ourselves with, to subtly or obviously motivate us towards goals?

Successories is a company that has seized this market for “visual motivation.” (I like to think they got their start from that inspirational “Hang in There” kitten poster from the 70’s.) You’ve seen the Successories posters before — a majestic bald eagle accompanies a pithy statement on “Excellence”, or a crew team rowing in early dawn exemplifies some proverb on “Teamwork.” The imagery and language of Successories is ripe for parody, not lost on, whose line of Demotivators posters are committed to “Increasing Success by Lowering Expectations.”

Successories is cheesy because it’s manufactured and corporate-minded. What does a DIY approach look like for motivational propaganda?

In the 2005 film Last Holiday, Queen Latifah keeps a “Possibilities Book” — a scrapbook of magazine clippings and handwritten notes of her dreams for the future. When she finds out she has a terminal illness, she sets out to fulfill every dream in her possibilities book (which apparently involves going to chef Gérard Depardieu’s hotel chalet restaurant in Prague.)

In the web 2.0 world, a possibilities book could be something like, a site that “makes your life a list.” You put you goals down, 43 things you want to do before you die, and get encouragement from others and presumably the motivation that comes from just expressing a specific ambition.

dollar1Sometimes the things you carry, literally, are an expression of your ambition. A young Jim Carey — way before his big break, working the stand-up comedy circuit in L.A. — once wrote himself a post-dated check for $10 million and carried that around as a tangible reminder of his goals.

But back to web 2.0 and the DIY approach.

Why not make your own visually motivating posters? After all, only you know what gets you out of bed in the morning. For these people, it’s simple: Make Something Cool Every Day. For Jeffre Jackson, blogger at Pink Air and inspiration for this post, he’s created his own nifty set of DIY motivation collages…


Written by @hellopanelo

March 21, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Pure Solo: Karaoke 2.0?

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Real music, fake musicians

My friend Tan is both a Guitar Hero video game enthusiast and a student of the real guitar. Sometimes she hosts guitar lessons at her place — there’s real sheet music, and chord-learning, and pitch-whistles, and strings to cut.

When I come over, though, I always reach for the plastic toy guitar for some video game time. My friend Alexa asserts, “We Asians don’t want to learn to play a real instrument, we just want to play a game of it.” This is true for a lot of people, not just Asians! (Though we do love shortcuts.) Heck, some people dispense with the guitar altogether and go for 100% showmanship.

The cult of performance

Communal showmanship also drives an older performance-based phenomenon, karaoke. It’s so simple, there’s no “learning” how to be a singer. You have a mic, you’re in the room with friends (strangers too, if you’re brave), the background music is automated, and the lyrics spoon-fed to you. Everything’s in place, you just have to warble out a tune as best you can.


Pure Solo is a new company that wants to take karaoke to the next level. Their beta application has 10,000 legally licensed “backtracks” for songs. You can record yourself singing over these tracks (using their free audio software), download the finished product for a few dollars, and email the finished track to your friends.

Business model

In an interview with the Guardian, CEO David Kaplan explains the biz model: “We have a straightforward pay-per download model for the backing track and accompaniment and give the software away for free.”

David sees personalization and recommendation as key elements to his biz strategy too. “The core of our business is a personalized musical experience. Everyone loves to hear themselves play or sing – we take that a step further and make the process quick & easy and allow users to legally share the end results. The viral effect of this sharing should not only spread the word but also drive content requests and recommendations.”

Smart “social entrepreneurship” move

Pure Solo partnered with Take It Away, a division of Arts Council England that encourages people to learn and play music. They even subsidize instruments! You can borrow up to £2000 at 0% APR to purchase any kind of musical instrument. (I recommend an electronic drum kit… on a T-shirt.) In another example of a profit-within-a-nonprofit, this program is operated by ArtCo Trading Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary and registered LLC.

My picks for “Karaoke 1.0”

Pure Solo has a good idea, but it’s not Karaoke 2.0 as much as it is a lower barrier-to-entry for recorded songs and personalized entertainment. A recorded song from a friend is a neat thing to have, but karaoke will always be about the spontaneous, live gathering of tipsy people who want to sing their hearts out. (And the people who, inevitably, want to record them and post the videos to Facebook.)

  • Sing Sing (E. Village)– downtown divey, for those gritty rock songs
  • Japas 38 (K-town) — flat rate for unlimited songs, sushi, fried foodstuffs, and booze
  • Monster KTV (Flushing) — if you really want to go all out (literally, you have to go to Queens) this place has enormous rooms (downright palatial) with multiple small-cinema-sized projection screens and a delicious spicy beef noodle soup.

Written by @hellopanelo

March 11, 2009 at 11:54 am