Posts tagged “osaka”

Wild and Free

Me on bass, Firefly Club, Osaka, Japan, 2001

I had the TV on in the background the other night while I was doing some work around the house–I’ll admit it to you–I was watching E Hollywood True Stories, “Joe Francis Gone Wild.” (Francis is the guy who created Girls Gone Wild (NSFW))

Anyway…about halfway through the show, I heard a really familiar sound fading up in the background. I turned up the volume on the show, and, sure enough, it was a piece of a song from a CD I recorded a few years ago.

ghost7, New Directions in Static, 2004

As the wow feeling of hearing something I had made broadcast this widely subsided, I started thinking about other aspects of the situation: shouldn’t someone have contacted me, shouldn’t I be getting paid for this?

And here’s where the irony, or at least the thought-provoking conundrum, begins.

I know how hard it is to earn a living playing music (or even just to cover your expenses). Yet I have, ahem, “friends,” who download all kinds of “free” musical content. And when I lived in Japan, I had other, ahem, “friends,” who rented lots of CDs from Tsutaya (the Japanese Blockbuster Video) and copied them onto MiniDisc to build their music collections, thus depriving the artists of their cut of a CD sale. (For a great breakdown of the traditional music industry business model, and a startling look at the reality of making a living as a musician, check out Moses Avalon’s website and book, Confessions of a Record Producer).

My initial self-righteousness about getting paid for the use of my music highlighted a clear differentiation I’ve been making between creative “product” that comes out of the “entertainment industry” and what’s made by people like me, whose primary livelihood is something other than their music, art, etc.

Now that any content placed in the public arena is almost instantaneously redistributable, whither goes the business model/s for creative production? Are songs-as-products becoming obsolete, to be replaced by songs-as-loss-leaders, a la the Starbucks/iTunes “song-of-the-week” card?

How, in this freewheeling new world, will it continue to be possible to shift enough units to pay for the production of something like a U2 album or a feature-length film?

CD Cover, George Lynch (ex-Dokken), 2000

New analysis covered over at O’Reilly on Radiohead’s 2007 “pay-what-you-like” experiment for selling their album, In Rainbows, would seem to support the loss leader model, with the attention generated by the online trading of the album seemingly as valuable as any actual money earned through paid downloading.

I’d add as well that firing up the tour bus remains an essential part of the prospect. Aside from tribute bands, no one’s found a way yet to pirate the live performance. (Although perhaps the scenario in Kiss’ 1978 movie, where the band is attacked by a lookalike robot band, suggests one possible model.)

VHS box, Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park, 1978

But back to more grounded futuristic pondering. Is Karl Marx’ dream of making means of production accessible to ordinary people coming to fruition via peer-to-peer content sharing and the free flow of certain types of “raw materials?”

As the “redistributability” of content facilitated by the internet crossbreeds with technology and approaches like just-in-time production, 3D printing, and mass customization, will other types of product production also be wrested from commercial producers?

And will someone from E True Hollywood Stories please contact me about that royalty check?

Communication Confusion over Confirmation Confusion

Andrew points out that Kyoto and Osaka are near each other and that was probably behind the offers from Expedia that I had complained about. Helpful info that I didn’t have, but unfortunately, it got worse.

A few days later I received email from Expedia

To: Steve Portigal
Subject: Steve, here is your itinerary confirmation for your 01/02/08 Osaka trip
[deletia that makes reference to our Osaka trip multiple times]

Even more concerned than before, I wrote them and received this message

Dear Expedia Customer,
Thank you for contacting us.

We regret that your experience with was not satisfying. Comments such as yours are read by numerous people within Expedia and help shape our policies and practices as we learn and grow.
If you have further questions, feel free to reply to this e-mail or contact Expedia customer services at 1-800-397-3342 and reference case ID 36793797.

In other words, I submitted a complaint and they aren’t going to act on it, unless I submit it AGAIN. Okay, I do that.

The next message is even worse.

Dear Expedia Customer,

Thank you for contacting us.

Kyoto, Kyoto-fu (Change name) itinerary number: 121380781812

If you have further questions, feel free to reply to this e-mail…

No actual communication. Is anyone out there? I try again.

Dear Expedia Customer,

Thank you for your immediate response.

Please accept our apologies for the misunderstanding with your hotel reservation. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Your itinerary serves as a confirmation of your purchase, and we’ve sent an updated copy of it in a separate e-mail. You can also access your itinerary online at any time. Here’s how:

Again, no one is addressing my key question: why does my Kyoto reservation keep getting referred to as my trip to Osaka? Once more into the breach…

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your reply.

Please accept our apologies in regards to the misunderstanding with your reservation. We regret any inconvenience that may have occurred and would like to assure you that every reservation is important to us.

Your problem may stem from incompatibility between your browser and our system. We have already escalated this technical issue to the appropriate department.

In the interim, your hotel reservation at the Hotel Monterey Kyoto is confirmed while the “OSAKA” tag line have caused you such inconvenience, the printed itinerary of your reservation is still binding and a confirmed reservation for a hotel in Kyoto, Japan and not in Osaka.

So somehow my browser is causing them to send me email messages about a different city? The crucial piece of info (thanks, Andrew), that these are nearby cities, never appeared, and a spurious technical issue was blamed (it’s not a browser issue; perhaps they want to blame the model of car I’m driving for the emails they are sending?) but at least a human being intervened and confirmed that what I thought I bought was indeed what I bought.

Great job, Expedia people! Ridiculously poor support to go with a rather silly system! Let’s hope we don’t have an actual problem at any point.

Confirmation Confusion

We’re sorting out the accommodations for our Dec/Jan trip to Japan, and I noticed this distressing bit of interaction with Expedia.

After booking our hotel in Kyoto, we get an itinerary named (loosely) Kyoto, and details of the hotel (including its name, which has the word Kyoto in it), and just generally good confirmatory feedback.

Further on down the page comes the upsell.
Osaka? But we’re not going to Osaka?! This caused a definite brief panic verifying the rest of the information in the itinerary to be sure that Expedia didn’t just put us in some other hotel in some other city.

Tip: if you provide automated upsell information that appears to reflect some contextual understanding of your customer, make sure it’s right, or you will cause them distress and extra work, reducing confidence

Dan Writes: Scene and Herd


Are we having fun yet?

Friday night in San Francisco, I heard the following conversation (reported here verbatim) as I walked by the wondrous doorway pictured above:

Guy: (walking a few steps into entryway)
Look at how cool this place is.

Girl: (standing on sidewalk outside entryway) There’s no one in there. What you need to understand is it doesn’t matter how cool it is if there’s no one there.

A few years back in Osaka, I was talking to some Japanese friends about the phenomenally busy “Yogrian Tabby” frozen yogurt shop that had just opened up in the Umeda underground shopping area. They told me that sometimes in Japan, new shops will hire people to show up en masse, creating lines, which attract customers, who then attract other customers, and so on . . .


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