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

Trackbacks & Pings

  1. Topspin, Act 2 | Topspin Media on 16 Mar 2011 at 3:32 am

    [...] – I did a slightly different post about the journey at my personal blog This entry was posted in Presentations, Press, Release Notes. Bookmark the permalink. ← [...]

Comments

  1. @thclark wrote:

    Great Video overview…just sent to some buddies in bands, could never explain it well enough to them before.

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