Ring in the new year with two awesome (and free!) albums

Happy New Year! Check the video above for an old friend, great songwriter, and all around good dude Marty James (Grand Royal fans will remember him from Scapegoat Wax, newer heads will recognize him from One Block Radius) in a video w/Snoop Dogg over a track produced by GBC-member Scoop Deville.


Ring in 2011 with free albums from two Zoe-approved favorites, M.I.A. and Yeasayer. More info in this blog post at Topspin’s site.


I’ll finish my year-end list this weekend. I promise! Stay tuned.

Enjoy and be safe tonight,


Tis The Season

Kenny “The Tick” Salcido, partying with one of the biggest stars in history, Pt Dume, 2010

Happy Christmas eve, everyone.

In lieu of a holiday card this year we released a sampler of music courtesy to some of the great bands who used Topspin in 2010. Stream by hitting play and download all the MP3s for free by clicking the “Enjoy” button on the player. Feel free to share with a friend. Click here to see the whole card and read the short letter which accompanied it.

Also be sure to get the free Santa song from DidiPop I posted earlier in the week.

Have a great annual celebration of unbridled consumerism. Joy to you and yours.


Make Santa Claus (or a kid you love) happy tonight


The past two years I’ve taken my daughter, Lucinda (now 4), to Bonnaroo. We go with a friend, stay in a house up the road in Sewannee, and generally have an incredible time. We went the first time because we were invited by friends, we went back because Lucinda loved it so damn much and asked for nearly a year straight when we were going back. Take a look at the shot above and it pretty much says it all. Toddler, covered in salty layers of humidity and high on M&M ice cream sandwiches, diving into a crowd in a Sonic Youth shirt. That’s my girl.

Last year, just after we landed in Nashville, we made a friend at the rental car desk. Just some small talk with a very nice woman who has kids near Lucinda’s age. Oddly, we pulled *back* into the rental car lot just behind her nearly a week later, and struck up another conversation. Turns out the woman, Deborah, wasn’t in TN for Bonnaroo as I suspected, she was there recording her second children’s album under the moniker DidiPop. We chatted and exchanged some well-meaning “see you in LA” talk and she handed me a copy of her first album.

We popped it in the car on the way home and have listened to it hundreds of times since. It’s become a favorite for Lucinda and she knows every word. Good news for all y’all parents is it’s not going to make you want to put a screwdriver in your eyes like a lot of kids music does. It’s cutesy in parts but Deb has an incredible voice and there are lots of clever musical moments within. First couple listens through I was hearing kids music but on subsequent listens I heard Deb’s creative approach to connecting with the kids and having a musical moment at the same time. She’s good at it.

She’s just released the record she was recording in Nashville last June, DidiPop Goes to Hawaii. I spent a wee bit of time helping her get it set up on Topspin, too. You can buy both her new album and her first album for a kid you love right here on the DidiPop web site. Idea: you have a bunch of kids birthdays and baby showers coming up — why not buy a stack of Deb’s CDs to have on hand so you always have a thoughtful and unique gift? Give kids something they’ll love, keep good music in their lives, and support a local artist all with one fell swoop.

Also, she’s giving away a little holiday track she wrote. You can stream or download the MP3 in the widget below, or watch the video with a toddler you love on YouTube.



In other news, my OTHER daughter brought home her 5th semester report card from MIT: 2 As and 2 A+s. Daaaayyyyyummmm, girl! Do we need to find a HARDER school for you or something?! Also, she’s finished her “best of 2010″ mix. Trying to get her to post it. When she does, I’ll link to it…

Zoe and Lucinda’s papa

“Yo, pay attention and listen real closely…” – DJ 3rd Rail’s Big L Mix Tape from 1999


Driving across LA with Brad and Danny a couple weeks back we started talking about favorite MCs and I mentioned Big L, always high on my list despite a career cut too short in the streets of which he spoke. Danny mentioned the family just released 21 unheard songs (including a track with Kool G) and I scooped them all at Amazon for $4.

In 1999, shortly after L’s death, I bought DJ 3rd Rail’s mixtape tribute to Big L the way mixtapes were meant to be experienced, on cassette (for those who remember, I copped the tape from Sandbox Automatic, where I spent a lot of money on hip hop in those days). It’s among my favorite hours of hip hop, doing justice to a talented MC who never had the chance to make a perfect album but had many a clever verse over classic DITC production. The tape collects the best tracks from his albums alongside his incredible singles (from School Days to Size ‘Em Up).

The tape is probably in a box in my garage but I remembered ripping it to MP3 once upon a time, too. I was looking for some other items on an old hard drive over the weekend and tripped over the files. Here they are temporarily for your listening pleasure. Enjoy, and please support L’s family by buying the new 21 track previously unreleased collection as well as his previous two (one posthumous) full-length records.

I’m always surprised how many people I consider hip hop fans haven’t heard so many of these tracks. If you fall into that group the audio below is going to make you very happy. Enjoy. If you’re easily offended and/or don’t love hip hop, Big L isn’t for you. Don’t hit play. Seriously.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F478664 Big L 3rd Rail Mix Tape by iancr


SF MusicTech, December 2010

Gallagher IBM

My first tech conference was working Comdex for IBM in 1993. My job was to show the research I was doing for the Indiana University Music Library which involved streaming Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” or Miles’ “Freddie Freeloader” (literally the only two tracks we had encoded for the demo) from an RS-6000 equipped with a “Shark Multimedia File System” to a PS/2 runing OS/2 across TCP/IP after doing a fake search in a primitive Web browser. It was one of the first “streaming media” demos, certainly the first one I’d ever seen. My job also involved me wearing an IBM polo shirt and a pair of khaki pants I bought at the Las Vegas GAP (I didn’t own any nice pants). My booth was right next to a booth where every hour Gallagher would run through a schtick which involved putting a typewriter, a TV, a Nintendo, etc into a box and pulling out a ThinkPad (oh and of course smash watermelons). I caught and joined him in the parking lot getting weeded. It was pretty damn exciting for a kid from Indiana.

But I spent the rest of the 90s not being invited to conferences and not seeking them out. I’d get asked occasionally to this or that and oblige when possible, but believe it or not I’ve never really considered myself a conference-goer. Once I was at Yahoo! Music doing the conference circuit became part of my job and I did my best. Still, I didn’t go to things I wasn’t invited to and generally tried to spend more time in the office and less time out on the road. The same has been true at Topspin. I know people think I’m some sort of conference whore but the truth is I say no way more than I say yes and only participate when I think it’s good for Topspin. My favorite part of my job is working with our team to grow the business; I fight hard to keep my calendar faced in toward the company as much as possible and not out glad-handing.

But there are a few great conferences in our industry, ones where I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get real work done every year. MIDEM is at the top of the stack, I get more business done there every year than any other conference. It’s been a real pleasure to work closely with MIDEM the last couple years as they broaden their outreach to entrepreneurs. I’ve made great friends and together we’ve done some real business (look for another big announcement built at MIDEM last year in January of this one). SXSW is probably second on that list given Topspin’s business. Unfortunately I’ve barely seen any music the last two years there but that’s because SXSW is non-stop grind for me each year. The last two years I’ve actually gone out of my way to *stay sober* the entire week just so I could make it through. It’s like running an ultra-marathon. I’m really looking forward to helping with the SXSW Accelerator program this year.

One event which has truly turned out to be excellent and I will go to each year invited or not is SF MusicTech. Brian Zisk and his team have grown SF Music Tech over the last few years into something which really embraces the spirit of where the industry needs to go, people who love music and people with talent in technology coming together, celebrating innovation, dealing with issues of copyright head-on, being honest about how we are and in many cases are not making money. They’ve done an incredible job pulling interesting and different people for the panels, not the same talking heads you see at most of the others (which is why they almost never invite me, I’m sure! I don’t blame them!). In the early days the gathering happened too frequently but they’ve slowed it down and made each event more valuable the last couple of years. It’s a simple, one-day event with two big social evenings. I’ve had incredible conversations with people way way smarter than me each and every time I’ve attended.

Brian reached out to me last week and asked if I’d help moderate a panel which was coming together unusually close to the start of the event. It was a panel suggested by WMG’s Ethan Kaplan and a good idea. It’s not a panel about Topspin’s direct-to-fan marketing approach, which hopefully is a good thing as my participation won’t be self-serving. Hopefully I can draw on my experience working with labels as they try to relate to the Internet starting in 1994 to pull some advice from the panel which will help others considering their approach to existing music companies. My notes preparing for the panel are below. Please come if answers to the below questions look interesting to you. Leave additional questions you may have in the comments and I’ll try to get them answered.

See you there,

What Music Companies Need From Startups

Startups often want to work with labels, managers, and other big companies in the music space. While the intent is almost always good, starting from a love of both music and technology, the approach often lacks enough insight into what these companies need to gain any traction. On today’s panel we’re going to discuss what these big companies actually *want* from startups and how various approaches might be received.

Our panelists are:

Ethan Kaplan – Warner Music Group
Ian Hogarth – Songkick
Rachel Masters – Red Magnet Media
Aaron Foreman – Universal Music Group
Moderator: Ian Rogers – Topspin

First of all, let’s learn a little about each of our panelists. Ethan and Aaron, can you tell us about your jobs at two of the majors and what sort of startups you generally come into contact with?

Rachel, tell us about your current company but also about the kind of folks you worked with when you were at Ning.

Ian, you work not only with labels but as you’re in the live space you work in the space of the 800 lb gorilla, Live Nation. What kind of large music companies do you find yourself dealing with at Songkick?

Ethan, what are some of the common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make when they’re approaching WMG? Aaron?

Rachel, how do you help broker and navigate these waters?

Ian, do you think entrepreneurs *should* try to work with these companies or should they build their technology so they don’t have to?

Aaron, can you give us a little detail on what your department does and what sort of technology would help improve your daily life?

What are some of the technologies used today by the music companies: labels, live, publishing, merchandise, etc?

How much development is happening in-house at music companies? Who is doing what?

Entire panel, is there a killer app no one is creating? Do you see a hole in the “big music companies need this” market no one is filling?

Doping In Running: The Confessions of Eddy Hellebuyck


Just finished this article in Runner’s World about doping in distance running. Great read re: a top athlete, Eddy Hellebuyck, who shot EPO, denied it, and finally came clean (pun intended). Definitely much better journalism than you would expect to see crammed between the product review of the latest running beanie and an ad for the Disneyworld Marathon.

Reminded me of the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster, which did a stellar job pointing out the hypocrisy behind the American “work hard and play fair and you will win!” mantra while we celebrate cheaters at every level of professional athleticism. Informative and eye-opening but touching and personal, too. Also recommended.


So Ya Thought Ya Might Like To Go To The Show

Roger Water The Wall

I was lucky enough to see Roger Waters and co perform The Wall at Staples Center on Monday night. I wasn’t planning to go but was invited by a friend and damn I was glad I had a chance to witness it. More theatre than rock show, they construct The Wall during the show and by the time of intermission the band is fully behind it. The music is great, true to the record with not one but two David Gilmour impersonators (one vocal and one guitar) and Thin Lizzy’s (and original touring member of The Wall circa 1980) Snowy White. But the highlight for me was the non-stop projection on the ever-growing wall. The production value was HIGH and FLAWLESS. Roger Waters is 25 days older than my dad and The Wall is 30 years old; I’m not going to pretend it’s cutting edge material (while watching I couldn’t help but wonder: “What if we were watching the Bob Ezrin-produced concept record from a year later — Music From ‘The Elder’ — at Staples Center 30 years on?”). Regardless, it was great. I’m glad I had the chance to take it in.

I was 7 when The Wall was released. The AOR radio station near where I grew up (Goshen, IN) was 95.5 WAOR (in Niles, MI). My mom won $95.50 worth of records at Just For The Record in Mishawaka on WAOR. That was a *lot* of money to spend on records at the time and particularly to me, a budding eight year-old record collector, it seemed like you could buy every record in the place with all that cash. Mom told me she’d buy me one record out of her allotment. I requested The Wall a) because I wanted it desperately and b) it was a double record and I’d have never been able to afford it on my own. She acquiesced and I lived with that record for the next 8 years of my life.

I’m not sure I can back the ticket price, but if you get a chance and can swing the cost, you definitely want to see this show.


It’s The Freestyle

Chicago Blowout, 1986

In 1986 my dad drove Kris Kurtz and me to Chicago in his car, which at the time was an old mail jeep with aluminum riveted on over the rust and a little hole in the roof so it rained in the back of the jeep when it rained outside, to the Chicago Blowout skate contest. I would have been 13. Autographs galore on the shirt above, including Gator (!), Philips, Hawk, Swank, Jeff Kendall (INDIANA!!!), Eddie Reategui (DAGGERS), Mullen, etc.

“Professional” skateboarding was mostly vert skating at the time, “street” hadn’t happened yet and there was this weird gymnastics side sport known as “Freestyle” which featured “atheletes” who were either older dudes into Ovaltine (Ray Meyer), odd euros (Per Welinder), employed by Sea World (Primo and Diane), or Canadians (Kevin Harris). The undisputed king of the sport was a goodie-2-shoes Physics major somewhere in Florida, Rodney Mullen. It was tech, the outfits were goofy, and really, it wasn’t cool to the kids. It felt a far cry from the deep-rooted Fuck You of the origins in Dogtown.

Then “street skating” started gaining popularity and the new heros were The Gonz, Natas Kaupas, etc. The fire hydrant spin in this video is STILL legendary.

(for a complete history of this transition and just how terrible its impact was on two human beings, check out the Gator movie or the Hosoi movie)

Late in the 80s Matt Hensley (currently the accordian player in Flogging Molly, seriously) started applying the technicality of freestyle to street skating. It’s hard to overstate how our jaws dropped when we first saw him skate.

Street skating moved from flow to tech, and the king of freestyle skating became one of the world’s greatest street skaters. It was as if he’d been practicing for 10 years waiting for the sport to catch up to him. Sure there were a bunch of tricks a lot of people didn’t even *want* to learn, but the entire sport had a new-found respect for Rodney Mullen, the king of tech.

I was reminded of all of this when @renatak sent me the video below last night. I read Thrasher and The Skateboard Mag cover to cover each month but I’d never heard of Killian Martin before. I know why. He’s not exactly a skateboarder’s skateboarder. Former gymnast, kinda pretty, super tech. The mags I read are still pretty rooted in the Fuck You and celebrate skaters like, well, Antuwan Dixon. But Killian is way talented and carrying the Freestyle torch. Go for yours, son.

Speaking of Freestyle, this isn’t but it’s nice (via @timonk):