My thanks to everyone who participated in this Friday’s party and raised a toast to Neurotic Media’s past, present and future – you truly helped make 11.11.11 a Friday to remember!
Thanks to all – employees, clients, partners, investors, friends, family, and colleagues – for celebrating our success. You have been a part of this journey and we thank you for your ongoing support.
I want to take a few minutes and share Friday’s experience with those of you who could not attend. Below are highlights from my speech, accompanied by pictures from the party.
Before Neurotic Media
Before I founded Neurotic Media I majored in music – something most people tell you to never do. When I first started recording and interview artists in college, I could have never imagined working with the likes of Tori Amos, County Crows, Nick Cave and Greenday, may it be via live recordings, on-air interviews, or promotional work. I fell in love with the trade, and I decided to try and build a career in music.
My first experience with the internet as a music promotion channel was when I was working for Ichiban Record: We had one PC with a 14K modem, and we used to stand in line to send emails to radio stations, publicists and retailers about our new releases. It took ages! Remember AOL’s “Welcome, you’ve got mail” messages? This was 1995.
In the late 90s, I was fortunate enough to work for Amplified Holdings, a digital music pioneer, where I had great mentorship from the likes of Frazier Hollis, Jim Swindel, Wayne Parker and Russ Chandler, and an opportunity to learn a lot about the start-up and high-tech business. We created the first-ever business-to-business digital one-stop service. And then the bubble burst…
This year presented the opportunity to strike out on my own, and I invited Peter Jennings (on right – and yes that’s me on the left), who worked with me at Amplified Holdings previously, to join me and found a company. One of the most common things people ask me is how we came up with the company name.
Well, we came up with a couple of hundred names on a whiteboard – this and that “…Tech” and this and that “…it” – and it all sounded boarding, contrived, and too techie.
We wanted a name that is entertaining, fun, and catchy – and represented the feel of the times. And in mid 2001, well, I think we were ALL very neurotic, weren’t we? And so we went with Neurotic Media… We set out to try it for three months and just see if we could make it work.
Six month into it in 2002, not only did we make it work, but we were launching our own Neurotic Media platform – using four old personal computers! The DB servers were called Itchy and Scratchy. One of them is used by Todd as a door stop to his office (picture on right).
This was also the year that I got rid of my hair. I felt like I was no longer working the creative side of music and I had to talk to investors. I needed to look “serious” and I foolishly believed back then that a short hair cut was the ticket.
By 2003, we were working with the four major record companies – UMG, Sony, WMG and EMI – syndicating promotional downloads through major portals including MSN, AOL and Yahoo. This was a marketing function and we established ourselves as a strong B2B music service.
This year is when Apple launched the iPOD and re-launched iTunes, and marketing dollars started shifting away from marketing syndication on portals to placement and promotions through download store – which in short order became iTunes, Amazon and Napster.
It presented a challenge – the marketing dollars were shrinking… but because we built enough trust with our main clients, our clients asked us to basically design an “iTunes in the box” system that they can use with their entire catalog to support private-label solutions. Record companies started sending us millions of songs to host instead of a handful or promos, and asked us to build a robust stores system – an enterprise class system. Part of this change involved shifting our business model into a Software as a Service model.
The shift started with some of our marketing portals. For example, MSN partnered with Prince’s label to build a co-branded Prince/MSN store for Prince’s new album, and hired us to build it. A representative from Prince’s record company called daily, for a few weeks, for details about the build-out and the user experience. He worked with Peter and I closely to get it done, and we spent hours on the phone with him…. We learned later that all those calls we received were actually from Prince himself! Since we were both huge fans, we found that story exciting and a bit frustrating too (we wish we knew it was him when we were talking to him!).
We spent the year building the new platform that the record companies had asked for in 2004. It took us over a year to build it.
Peter Jennings died tragically one month before our new platform was launched. This was a very hard period for us, a dark period. It was a different company without Peter, and it has been so since. But we knew Peter would want us to go on, and with the help of many colleagues, friends, and the hard work of many employees, we continued to forge ahead.
There were some bright spots too in 2005 as well: Todd Jones joined the team and brought enthusiasm, energy and deep understanding of the technology. My sister Hila also joined the team to help for a few years and made a big difference. We made it through. I was thankful to have the support of family, friends, and new colleagues during this tough year.
In 2006 we took on McDonalds for a Pirates of the Caribbean value-add campaign for people who supersized their Mac. A lot of our employees indeed supersized their Mac because of their excitement for this promotion.
With McDonalds, we reached a million music downloads in one month – and that is when we knew we had done it right, built the right solution in the right way. We were ready for more.
Work, work, work. Growth. We needed more resources and were lucky enough to get our first round of angel investment. Thanks to those investors who join us tonight for your continued support. Particularly Randal Foster, who is actually a “Founding Angel” having made his first investment as early as 2004 – thank you for believing in us that early and sharing our vision and enthusiasm for the space over the years!
In 2008 it was more work and more growth, with more members joined the team including Evan, Abby, and Becka.
We launched our open API developer lab, NeuroLinq, as the first-to-market API tool available openly for developers to prototype apps, widgets and sites within the music space. We launched several clients on this solution rather swiftly.
Mazzy also joined us at this time and added enthusiasm and sassiness that our team really enjoys.
Tim joined our team as VP of Development and successfully brought our R&D and maintenance in-house. He also brought Ling on Board as a Junior Developer. We now had a full in-house development team for the first time. Earle joined us in 2010 as well and has been a great addition to the Production team.
We were still working in our old building. One day, I got stuck in the foyer with a broken door lock after a late night on a Friday. I had to call a locksmith to get out. As I waited several hours for him to arrive, I realized it was time… we had to move to better offices!
We moved into our new office here at The Stoveworks building, which is a creative and fun space! People started bringing their dogs to work and I started to feel great about our company’s culture. My dog visits with me too sometimes.
Gary joined the company this year as well and has been heading up Sales. We established “Amplified Brands” this year as a service, and we also built first-to-market mobile/social/music technology that you all have access to tonight via the QR Code on our poster – this is about location-based marketing incentives using music as the reward.
We established a new brand for Neurotic Media this year – “music that moves” – because we have come to know how powerful our music is in driving customer behavior, and because we move millions of music downloads for our clients each year. It is a fun new branding message and it seems to resonate well with people.
We have some fantastic innovations launching in the next six months, so stay tuned for those. Beyond that, we’ll build things that I can’t yet imagine. Our future is wide open and full of possibility. For now, all I know is that I get to work at a company where I can listen to music all day with people I love.
A New Tradition
Neurotic Employee of the Decade award was awarded to our Production Director, Todd Jones, for his diligent service of client needs and dedication to Neurotic Media since starting as an intern back in 2005.
Thank you Todd!
Neurotic Employee of the Year award was awarded to our Junior Developer, Ling Zhu, for her hard work and the ton of extra homework done right on a regular basis. Ling’s work ethic has been incredible since joining us a year ago.
Thank you Ling!
Thank you DJs Ari-El and Johnny K for the grooves, and thank you JK & The Lost Boys for the live music!
Additonal pictures are available on our Facebook page.
(Shachar Oren, Founder and CEO)