Beatles to BT? would it work?

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On a day when Liverpool is celebrating, I thought that this would be a good topic to start my blog on.

Would ‘Beatles to BT’ work? i.e. If the Beatles had been starting out – would they have approached BT to sell their music? What would happen if they did? Would there be a Beatles – in the first place?

Yet, why do we see so many new content providers attempt to sell their content via the Mobile Network Operator?

There is a view that Mobile Network Operators should fund emerging content companies/creative media companies developing content for mobile phones. Indeed any investment in this industry is good and the idea thus has some merit.

But .. I still think .. Beatles to BT would produce a flat,corporate ‘anthem’ rather than a vibrant, rich symphony

Here are the reasons why

a) Operators can’t know what to fund. How do they decide what will be a hit? Even record labels/movie companies struggle to spot the next ‘Kylie’. Why should Operators(often engineers like me) go ‘kylie spotting’? Why should they enter an area which is clearly out of their realm of expertise?

b) Operators don’t know what to fund(which is different from (a)). Its not an area of expertise

c) Operators may have a lot of cash – but expect hard times ahead. More on this in subsequent posts. Thus, I would not expect Operators to be cash rich for long

d) Running a Mobile network is a business – not a charity. The Operator is in the business of making money – not in altruistic pursuits. Any form of ‘grant’ to emerging companies leads to a dependent companies. Such companies are rarely creative and rarely break free from the mother ship

e) Many operators already have venture funds. These have been only modestly successful and infact – largely unsuccessful.

f) There have been instances of ‘mobile only brands’ created by non operators. This week, the crazy frog overtook coldplay for the top stop. Granted, that the ‘frog’ has had massive TV publicity in the UK. Even then, it’s no operator brand. This means, a creative brand CAN be developed without backing from an operator.

So, what’s the right thing to do? I don’t pretend to know all the answers but one suggestion is to ‘create a viable ecosystem’ i.e. create an ecosystem where a thousand flowers bloom. No one knows which one will succeed but at least they need a fertile plot of land. This means doing less. Making technology cheaper. Making partnerships easier to set up. Picking up the ‘Amazon’ model of being a ‘marketplace’(which is not the same as a ‘pipe’)

The phrase ‘Beatles to BT’ was used by Tom Weiss in the OpenGardens meeting on May 19.