For most of my life, I had dreamed of working in the music industry. The catch? I didn't see any jobs which didn't require either a) making no money (I'm not greedy, but I don't want to live in credit card debt), or b) fucking over the artists. The latter gave me more trouble than the former. In the traditional music model, where was there room? There wasn't.
Thank God for the internet.
But even among all the technologies out there claiming to enable and ensure artist success, one stuck out to me: Topspin--they weren't just building tools, they were building solutions for how artists could legitimately ignore the traditional label structure and make a living on their own. This is the story of how I landed my dream job with Topspin.
Earlier this spring, I noticed my idol Ian Rogers had made the shift from heading Yahoo! music to heading Topspin. Here was a guy with nearly limitless options in the digital music world, and he took a position with a stealth startup with a 3-page website. Really? Surely there must be more to it.
There was. The more I learned, the more I was enthralled. Topspin was founded by Peter Gotcher (who, among MANY other things, holds an Oscar and a Grammy for creating ProTools recording software) and Shamal Ranasinghe (who managed MusicMatch for many years, including their acquisition by Yahoo!) and described themselves as enabling bands to become their own businesses. I was intrigued, to say the least.
Doing a bit of research on LinkedIn, I discovered my friend Mike Harkey (with whom I had chatted extensively about my attempted startups NewkBox and Scenem) had been a business school classmate of Shamal's at Stanford. I asked Mike if he would be kind enough to pass along Shamal's contact info, and he was kind enough to give me a very nice introduction.
Unfortunately, my e-mail to Shamal ended up in his spam folder. Oops. Luckily, a few weeks and a phone call later, Shamal uncovered my e-mail and shot me one in return. I then did a phone interview with a manager and with Shamal.
Then silence. Topspin was in the process of moving offices, and Shamal told me they needed a bit of time before he could come back to hiring decisions.
Luckily, being the Ian-stalker that I am, I noticed Ian posted something about a job on Twitter, so I took that as a sign that I should call Shamal again. I did, he said he'd talk to Ian the next day. Well, the next day I also received a rather lucrative job offer from a consulting firm in Dallas, so I had to apply a bit more pressure to Topspin. Within 10 minutes of my e-mailing Shamal, Ian called me (surreal, yes), sang my praises for 8 minutes, and spent 1 minute telling me they wanted me to start tomorrow. The offer letter came in 10 minutes later, with a note from Ian requesting an "I <3 TYWHITE" t-shirt (as featured in picture above).
I was sold. But I had to be absolutely positively sure they were for real (keep in mind, they were still in stealth and hadn't publically revealed any funding), so I asked them to fly me out. They said absolutely and had only rushed the offer knowing I had to make a decision on the other job soon.
When I arrived in Santa Monica, I was greeted by Shamal and a sparse office that had more musical instruments than computers. As the employees trickled in, they were all smiling, kind, and smart. They had all read my blog, been to my website, and probably knew more about me than I know about myself. Even one guy who hadn't started yet, but swung by the office briefly, had checked me out. This was a tight-knit group who knew exactly what they were doing, both with computers and with other people. Sold.
I did lunch with Ian (how many people would pay how much money for that opportunity?), where we saw his idol (ironic?) ride by on a one-speed. It was storybook. He then layed out why he chose Topspin over all the other opportunities he had. Sold.
I took an afternoon break (while Ian, Shamal, and Peter ran off to a Billboard cover shoot) to wander around Santa Monica (and take a nap) before returning to the office to sign my contract. When I returned, Ian was chatting it up with my old friend from middle school DA Wallach, whose band, Chester French, is making quite a splash even before their album drops. Unbelievable.
I signed my contract and have never looked back. I started last week and it truly has been a dream come true. These people are brilliant, creative, and highly motivated to produce the best products on the market. It's everything the digital music business should be: beautiful, powerful tools that sit behind the scenes helping the artists build their relationships with their fans. While it's been a journey to get here, the true journey lies ahead, as we play our (hopefully sizeable) role in changing the music industry forever. I'm not sure I've ever been more excited to be a part of something.
Thanks to all who have helped me get this far, and to those who will continue to help along the path to the future.