Watch This Week In Startups, Topspin Weekly Webcast

I’ve been a fan of This Week In Startups for a very long time. I watch it (and Mark Suster‘s This Week In Venture Capital) nearly every week. So it was an honor for me to be asked on the show. Watch the video below for some talk of the early days of the web + a showing of my NeXT tattoo and the boots I bought in Austin last week.

We’re doing a weekly webcast at Topspin, too. Tune in Friday’s at 11am PT to ask questions live. Last week’s is below. Enjoy.

Hope to see you tomorrow night in Hollywood, and/or Wednesday at UCLA.

ian

See me Friday, See you Monday and Wednesday

The Well, Hollywood

In the shameless self promo department, here are a few things coming up I’d love to see you at:

FRIDAY, MARCH 25th, 11AM PT
TOPSPIN WEEKLY WEBCAST (RSVP)
– No matter where in the world you are, please join Bob Moz and me for this Friday’s LIVE FROM TOPSPIN (we really need a name for this) webcast. If you have questions about Topspin bring them along, else we’ll review the week’s music industry news and argue about which Buzzcocks record rules the hardest.

FRIDAY, MARCH 25th, 1PM PT
THIS WEEK IN STARTUPS (Watch live here)
– Right after our webcast I’ll head up the street to the Mahalo/ThisWeekIn offices to appear live on Jason Calacanis’ This Week In Startups. Jason told the music business, “MP3 will be your Vietnam” waaaaay back in 1998 so we should have plenty to talk about. You won’t want to miss this. If you can’t tune in live, no worries, ThisWeekIn will stream and Podcast it for posterity.

MONDAY, MARCH 28th, 8PM PT
TOPSPIN / UCLA THE MUSIC BUSINESS NOW MEETUP (RSVP)
– Join Topspin and the instructors from the UCLA/NARAS course “The Music Business Now” (Jeff Jampol, Lenny Beer, David Dorn, Bruce Resnikoff, and me) at The Well in Hollyweird to celebrate the start of the course next Wednesday (see below).

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30th, 7PM PT
THE MUSIC BUSINESS NOW AT UCLA EXTENSION (Register here)
– Next Wednesday and every Wednesday thereafter for the next 12 you’ll find me at UCLA with music industry vets way smarter and more experienced than me (see above) teaching a course called “The Music Business Now”. This course is at UCLA Extension and open to ANYONE who would like to take it, not just UCLA students. Jeff and crew have been teaching this class for many many years and do a killer job. I’ve had the pleasure of guesting in the class the past two years and was always amazed at the passion and seriousness they tag-team this class with. I was shocked, honored and pretty damn excited when they asked if I joined them. I was an associate instructor in Computer Science in grad school in the mid 90s and always enjoyed it. There’s still time to sign up for the course and you can even come to the first couple for free and decide to sign up for the remainder after (deadline for signup is April 13th). Tell a friend. Would love to see you every week for the next 12! Should be very fun and informative for all (including and maybe especially me).

I hope to see you in all of the above!

ian

Topspin, Act 2

In April of 2008 I left Yahoo! to join a brand-new and still-stealth company called Topspin. Founded by Peter Gotcher (Digidesign) and Shamal Ranasinghe, the vision which drew me in was one of building software which would do for media marketing what software had done for media production (ProTools, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, etc) in the fifteen to twenty years previous. Having worked at the consumer end of the value chain (Nullsoft, AOL, Mediacode, Yahoo!) for a number of years I felt the best place for me to make a serious dent in the future of media was to return to where I started, the content creator end.

At Topspin we’ve been building that software ever since and been lucky enough to have some of our favorite artists as our beta testers. If you’d have told me when I took this job that in our first three years we’d have a chance to work with David Byrne & Brian Eno, Arcade Fire, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Beach House, Yeasayer, Dirty Projectors & Bjork, Eminem, Antony, and Linkin Park, I’d have laughed, looked up, and said, “In our dreams.” We aimed for 900 artists at the end of 2010 and ended up with more than 4,000 artist accounts. Wow.

Thank you to everyone who helped make these past three years possible, from the artists to our incredible team at Topspin (investors and advisors included). It takes a village and y’all are it. It’s an honor and a pleasure to get to grind this out every day with you.

So what the hell have we built, anyway? Topspin’s software has been built to serve the direct-to-fan marketing and retail needs of the thousands of artists we’ve been working with. As we’ve been trying to solve the challenges of marketing and releasing art direct to consumers on the Internet we’ve been working those solutions into an integrated platform which can be operated by anyone marketing art. Topspin helps you manage your stuff — digital media or files of any kind, t-shirts, posters, box sets or anything you can describe and deliver, tickets including an iPhone ticket scanner, and memberships and fan clubs. It helps you build awareness for unheard and unseen art through streaming players and tools which make sharing easy. It helps you build direct connections with prospective fans via email, Facebook, and Twitter and communicate to build a real, trusting relationship with those folks. And it helps you sell to your fans, anywhere they are, in whatever currency they’d like to transact in, on Facebook, your web site, etc. It is a feature-rich, powerful, non-trivial piece of software.

In fact, where we’ve taken the most criticism is over the lack of ease-of-use of this sprawling platform. It’s true, I’ve pushed the team for a breadth of features rather than ease-of-use. We’ve spent much of 2011 trying to take the breadth of our offering and make it easier to explain, grok, and ultimately use. We’ve removed confusing bits from our user interface, reduced the number of clicks it takes to do many tasks, changed the overall look/feel, and added simple overview videos throughout the application to give a first-time user a better sense of what’s going on. As we exit our prolonged “beta” we’ve finally pulled together a proper Web site which attempts to clearly explain what our software does and how you use it. That said, our vision for Topspin is to be Photoshop, not MS Paint, ProTools not Garage Band, Final Cut Pro not iMovie. None of those products are something you just sit down and start using expertly without some practice or instruction. The learning curve yields power. Our software is not (yet) in the league of those, but I think we are certainly where those software packages were in their first few years and versions.

For Topspin, last week’s work week still hasn’t ended. We’ve been working around the clock getting this week’s software release ready and putting in place all the pieces to spread the word about it. Today we opened Topspin to every artist, musician, filmmaker, and author who would like to find their way to our web site at http://TopspinMedia.com. We’ve been working toward this day for more than three years and I appreciate any and all artists you send our way. Thank you.

I hope you’ll check out what we have going on this week and get up to speed on the new Topspin. There’s plenty for you to participate in even if you’re not in Austin this week. Please take a look at the below and add a few of these to your calendar.

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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16th

WHAT: Topspin available to all artists!
WHEN: All day and forever, starting today.
WHERE: http://TopspinMedia.com

10:30am
WHAT: Topspin Demo
WHEN: Live at 10:30am, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

1:30pm
WHAT: Case Study: Linkin Park: Aaron Ray of The Collective, Topspin’s role in Linkin Park’s 2010 album launch and tour
WHEN: Live at 1:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

3:30pm
WHAT: Case Study: Yeasayer: Jason Foster offers a detailed review of the band’s direct-to-fan efforts
WHEN: Live at 3:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

5:00pm
WHAT: Digital Music Meetup w/ Hypebot, Mobile Roadie, MusicMatters, MXP4, Songkick, Soundcloud, Topspin, and Virb
WHEN: 5:00 – 8:00pm
WHERE: The Belmont

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THURSDAY, MARCH 17th

10:30am
WHAT: Topspin Demo
WHEN: Live at 10:30am, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

1:30pm
WHAT: Case Study: The Decemberists: Stu Smith walks through an incredible album launch of 2011
WHEN: Live at 1:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

3:30pm
WHAT: Topspin Direct-To-Fan Grant Winner Announcement! and Case Study: Tigers That Talked
WHEN: Live at 3:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

5:30pm
WHAT: [PIAS] + Topspin Happy Hour
WHEN: 5:30
WHERE: The Belmont

7:00pm
WHAT: [PIAS] Presents a killer lineup including Agnes, Summer Camp, and VERY SPECIAL GUESTS SOME PEOPLE WON’T LET US ANNOUNCE FOR REASONS I SHOULDN’T SAY!
WHEN: 7:00pm
WHERE: The Belmont and we’ll broadcast live if we can!

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FRIDAY, MARCH 18th

10:30am
WHAT: Topspin Demo
WHEN: Live at 10:30am, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

1:30pm
WHAT: Case Study: Concord Music Group: Jason Feinberg discusses D2F campaign for Gregg Allman’s latest
WHEN: Live at 1:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

3:30pm
WHAT: Case Study: The Civil Wars: Nate Yetton walks through their direct-to-fan campaigns
WHEN: Live at 3:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

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We’ll be back with our weekly “Live From Topspin” webcast next week, too.

Thanks as always for the support.

ian

Run It Off, SXSW

I know SXSW is supposed to be fun, but truth be told it’s mostly work for me. Last year the only music I managed to see (apart from GBC) was two songs from one band (the band was Twin Sister and I went on Yancey‘s recommend, and he was right, they were great). SXSW is demos, dinners, and meetings. Someday I will go for the music.

I’ve managed to stay sane and productive the last two years by staying sober (not my usual state for 7 straight days) and running a bit. This year I decided to see if there was a SXSW running group and sure enough, I found one on Facebook. Looks like it only goes through Interactive, though. Anyone want to keep it burning through Music with me?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

Tuesday: 5 miles easy
Wednesday: 5 miles a little harder, maybe tempo run
Thursday: 5 miles easy
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Long run, 9-10 miles

Anyone want in? We’ll meet where the Facebook group does: Outside the Susanna Dickinson House, which is near the convention center at 5th and Trinity. Here’s a map:
http://snipr.com/sxswrunrun (the giant structure south of it is the Convention Center).

See ya there.

ian