4 Business Lessons I Relearned at NAMM

Endorsee, one of our portfolio companies, had its coming out two weeks ago today at the NAMM show in Anaheim. It was my first NAMM proper, having attended Summer NAMM last year. We spent our time introducing the product to over a dozen music equipment companies in one-on-one meetings. During these meetings and our time on the show floor, I watched, listened and learned a lot from my cofounders, NAMM veterans themselves, and the companies we spoke with.

For those, like me, who’ve spent their careers in technology, it’s easy to get caught up in the pace and approach of the industry. To spend days focused on lofty things like business models, user experience, growth hacking, customer development and traction. To operate under the belief that speed wins, and every dollar shaved off your burn rate or slide from your pitch deck is a competitive edge.

In tech, it’s the game we choose to play, and we learn to play it well if we wish to succeed.

The music business, on the other hand, is playing a long game (whether by choice or necessity is a topic for another day.) This becomes even more evident at NAMM. Here’s what I relearned at this year’s show.

Relationships are how it gets done.

In the land of conversation rates and user acquisition, it’s easy to lose sight of actual human beings. Making our rounds at NAMM, I saw time and time again people who’d been doing business together for decades slow down, take time for long handshakes or hugs and have thoughtful conversations. They were paying as much respect to their relationships as the deals they were doing.

Craftsmanship matters.

With an increasing focus on experience over features and functions, the tech industry is beginning to learn this lesson. The app economy, in particular, has increased our focus. Even so, we spend much of our days in documents and data. Getting your hands on a gorgeous, handmade guitar or even a single wooden drum stick made with care is a viscerally different experience.

Putting your hands on a great product – there’s nothing like it.

Passion carries the day.

Passion for instruments, playing and performance – making music. This is when I saw people at their best at NAMM. Watch a kid or an old-timer pick up an instrument they admire to play a few perfect notes, and you’ll see the same thing in their faces: pure joy.

In that moment, they aren’t doing it for personal gain or a business win. They’re doing it because it’s their passion, and it’s priceless.

Lasting change comes in its own time.

Reading through the program guide and studying the show floor, I couldn’t help but think that as a microcosm of the music business, NAMM is simply behind the times. But that was my highly subjective view as a technologist and early adopter. The more accurate view and crucial lesson I must always remember is this: industries are made of people, and people change when ready, not simply because more advanced technology is available.

This post originally appeared on Back Porch Group. High-res

4 Business Lessons I Relearned at NAMM

Endorsee, one of our portfolio companies, had its coming out two weeks ago today at the NAMM show in Anaheim. It was my first NAMM proper, having attended Summer NAMM last year. We spent our time introducing the product to over a dozen music equipment companies in one-on-one meetings. During these meetings and our time on the show floor, I watched, listened and learned a lot from my cofounders, NAMM veterans themselves, and the companies we spoke with.

For those, like me, who’ve spent their careers in technology, it’s easy to get caught up in the pace and approach of the industry. To spend days focused on lofty things like business models, user experience, growth hacking, customer development and traction. To operate under the belief that speed wins, and every dollar shaved off your burn rate or slide from your pitch deck is a competitive edge.

In tech, it’s the game we choose to play, and we learn to play it well if we wish to succeed.

The music business, on the other hand, is playing a long game (whether by choice or necessity is a topic for another day.) This becomes even more evident at NAMM. Here’s what I relearned at this year’s show.

Relationships are how it gets done.

In the land of conversation rates and user acquisition, it’s easy to lose sight of actual human beings. Making our rounds at NAMM, I saw time and time again people who’d been doing business together for decades slow down, take time for long handshakes or hugs and have thoughtful conversations. They were paying as much respect to their relationships as the deals they were doing.

Craftsmanship matters.

With an increasing focus on experience over features and functions, the tech industry is beginning to learn this lesson. The app economy, in particular, has increased our focus. Even so, we spend much of our days in documents and data. Getting your hands on a gorgeous, handmade guitar or even a single wooden drum stick made with care is a viscerally different experience.

Putting your hands on a great product – there’s nothing like it.

Passion carries the day.

Passion for instruments, playing and performance – making music. This is when I saw people at their best at NAMM. Watch a kid or an old-timer pick up an instrument they admire to play a few perfect notes, and you’ll see the same thing in their faces: pure joy.

In that moment, they aren’t doing it for personal gain or a business win. They’re doing it because it’s their passion, and it’s priceless.

Lasting change comes in its own time.

Reading through the program guide and studying the show floor, I couldn’t help but think that as a microcosm of the music business, NAMM is simply behind the times. But that was my highly subjective view as a technologist and early adopter. The more accurate view and crucial lesson I must always remember is this: industries are made of people, and people change when ready, not simply because more advanced technology is available.


This post originally appeared on Back Porch Group.

Music and Tech Are Completely Different Animals. Or Are They?

Tech invests in talent in the form of developers, engineers, and marketers, then retains them through compensation and stock options. Music invests in talent in the form of artists and retains them through complex legal agreements.

Tech produces a product and sells a license to it, historically as “packaged” software, but increasingly as a service. Music sells recordings, largely in the form of physical product and downloads, but actually just licenses it. Both are moving rapidly from ownership to access. The former embraces it, while the latter is conflicted, to say the least.

[[MORE]]

Tech employs customer discovery and development in order to find the ones who’ll buy. Music markets to large demographics swaths based on previous product sales.

Music has always been about “user experience.” Tech has only recently discovered that they should too.

Tech builds platforms and components with an eye to reusability and longevity. Music builds hits and sometimes brands.

Tech is free market. Music is semi-regulated.

Tech is West coast code. Music is East coast code.

Tech (read: consumer apps) have a shelf life measured in months and shrinking. For Music, it has always been so.

Music has numerous revenue streams on which to build. Tech has license fees or subscriptions and sometimes service and support.

Tech product is directly and inextricably connected to the company that makes it. Music (read: labels and publishers) has almost no direct connection to consumers.

Tech embraces “release early and often.” With few exceptions, Music releases only finished, polished product.

Tech was once all need, but has become equal parts want. Music has always been want, but is striving to be need.

This post originally appeared on Back Porch Group. High-res

Music and Tech Are Completely Different Animals. Or Are They?

Tech invests in talent in the form of developers, engineers, and marketers, then retains them through compensation and stock options. Music invests in talent in the form of artists and retains them through complex legal agreements.

Tech produces a product and sells a license to it, historically as “packaged” software, but increasingly as a service. Music sells recordings, largely in the form of physical product and downloads, but actually just licenses it. Both are moving rapidly from ownership to access. The former embraces it, while the latter is conflicted, to say the least.

Read more

Nashville – The Next Music Tech Hub

Nashville boasts an economy among the strongest in the country, a cultural experience that’s captured the hearts of critics and connoisseurs, and an entrepreneurial community that is attracting upstarts at a record pace. Combined with an unparalleled creative community, Nashville is ready to shine.

Moreover, Music City has an opportunity to become the next hub of music technology.

[[MORE]]

Why Nashville?

All of Back Porch Group’s partners came or returned to Nashville because of the unique opportunity we saw to help build the next music business, and to build it here. I returned after 15 years away in Toronto, the Valley and Chicago. Brian came back after over 25 years in LA. Mike practically fled LA for our fair city. We’re as bullish on this place as it gets.

The highly competitive cost of living, warm climate and natural beauty, a rich heritage of creativity and a bone-deep love of music all make us love this city. And those are just the perks.

What makes Nashville a natural hub of music tech is as much by-the-numbers as from-the-heart. Here are a few:

Forbes ranked Nashville tops in job growth, second only to San Francisco
Nashville bested Seattle and San Francisco and came in just behind Austin on Forbes’ Best Places for Business and Careers list
Under30CEO ranks Nashville fifth, just behind New York City, on its list of Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs
Money magazine noted Nashville as one of the top next generation startup cities, suggesting that entrepreneurs “forget Silicon Valley, and try Boulder or Nashville instead.”
And as great as these accolades are, they don’t capture the opportunity that Nashville’s creative community offers. Musicians, photographers, filmmakers and artists of all types are everywhere in this city. Spend a few days in East Nashville or on Music Row, and you’ll find the city teeming with makers and creative collaboration. While the Nashville Chamber is working to complete its latest economic impact study, in 2006 there were over 19,000 people involved in music production alone in Nashville.

On the startup front, Jumpstart Foundry, where I serve as a mentor, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, and StartupTN, are each making capital and significant experience and expertise available to a wave of entrepreneurs.

Is there still work to do?

Absolutely. Here’s where we need to keep plowing ahead.

Talent: Attracting top developers, and – more than that – great hackers is one of our biggest challenges. From Nashville Technology Council to Nashville Software School, numerous groups are focused on “growing” great developers locally, which is important. But we can do more to tell the story of why talented developers and experienced hackers should start their next music tech company here. And they should.

Money: There’s a tremendous amount of money in this town, but most of it is on the sidelines when it comes to tech investing. While healthcare and life sciences command attention and dollars, tech-savvy VC and angel funding falls well short of demand.

Culture: Old guard thinking and good ole boy networks hold sway over much of the business community in music and beyond. Risk tolerance is comparatively low, and (mostly) outdated views of Nashville and southern cultural weigh on our image.

The good news: this is all changing, and more of us hell-bent on accelerating this change show up daily.

From a position of economic strength, to a great quality of life, a music and creative community like no other, and a startup ecosystem in overdrive, the future of Nashville is very bright. To look out five to ten years and see Music City as a thriving hub of music tech is easier than ever.

This post originally appeared on Back Porch Group. High-res

Nashville – The Next Music Tech Hub

Nashville boasts an economy among the strongest in the country, a cultural experience that’s captured the hearts of critics and connoisseurs, and an entrepreneurial community that is attracting upstarts at a record pace. Combined with an unparalleled creative community, Nashville is ready to shine.

Moreover, Music City has an opportunity to become the next hub of music technology.

Read more

Back Porch Reads

Over at Back Porch Group, we’re running a little experiment to gather and share the “You gotta read this!” articles we pass around daily. What started as a way to keep from flooding each other’s inboxes has turned into a collection of inspiration and insight, covering music, tech, entrepreneurship and more.

If you’re a Flipboard user, give our magazine a look. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Microsoft, iPhone and Digging New Wells

This week Microsoft released an Office companion app for iPhone. It’s free, which is good, but without a $99 subscription to Office 365, it’s a virtual paper weight. Not good.

By requiring a paid subscription up front, Microsoft missed a great opportunity to attract new users to their flagship Office product and to reintroduce it to those who long ago left them behind for Mac, Google Apps, iWork and a host of other alternatives.

Read more