What is SOPA, anyway?

We’ve all heard so much about SOPA in recent months, and yet many people seem confused about what it means or if it impacts them (it DOES).  Here’s a brief summary that you may find helpful if you’re new to the story:

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) were an attempt by lobbying groups representing various intellectual property (IP) right holders (music, movies, books, games) to introduce a Federal law that restricts how IP can be shared online, with the goal of protecting IP owners from the growing impact of piracy on their business. It was defeated by a broad and loud outcry of technology professionals, bloggers, concerned consumers and internet users who lobbied against its perceived heavy-handedness. Some lobbied against the ramifications of certain clauses in the suggested law, and others lobbied against the entire effort as a concept.

The issues that SOPA/PIPA attempted to address are important: Online piracy costs billions of losses to right holders. Businesses and IP creators are in the right to seek improvements in the law to curb online piracy. However, the problems with the suggested law proved to be complex, as it stood to grant the government far-reaching power into the conduct of any company that touches consumer-generated content. In fitting fashion, the opposition was driven by consumer-generated content sites: By bloggers. The nature of the debate, coupled with several parallel incidents, proved why passing a censorship-driven law is a dangerous step for law makers.

The original language proposed in the law would have been very general, and it would have meant that popular sites on the internet – Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and any other site dealing with user-generated data – could immediately be in breach of the law. The bill also proposed allowing the government to quickly shut down such sites with the first indication of any infringement.

The opposition to the bill spread like wildfire – and in January culminated with several leading web sites announcing a 24-hour “black-out” to protest the Bill. The opposition was able to articulate the danger that the Bill, as written, represented to social media, to innovation, and to existing businesses worth many billions of dollars. In that way, it became a debate between which industries deserve more protection, IP owners or technology and internet brands.

But it went deeper than that: Social media and user-generated data are now considered an important tenet of what the World Wide Web is really about for society. So the issue of government right to sensor became a matter of philosophy about social and political issues – extending far beyond the narrow economical issue the bill intended to address.

And so, SOPA/PIPA was shelved. But the issue is not over and dead – the matter is still being worked on by groups on both sides of the argument.

In January, during the same week when SOPA was shelved, the Federal government, swiftly and rather unilaterally, closed a file sharing service called MegaUpload. The authorities arrested its management team and owners overseas, and seized the entire company’s assets (including IP stored in its cloud service by thousands of end-users which were left with no recourse). This was done at the guise of protecting IP owners, but without the usual legal proceedings you would expect to see in a law suit state-side. The incident is being contested in courts, and more information is being revealed every week about the legal process the government used to make it happen. Interestingly, the New Zealand Courts (where the CEO of MegaUpload was arrested) have declared the action illegal.

Many bloggers claim this incident proves the risk of empowering governments with the right to act unilaterally against private companies. Moreover, it brings to question the need for SOPA/PIPA: If the government can do what it did to MegaUpload as is, why do we need additional law that grants the government any more rights?

As well, did the government have the right to take this action against MegaUpload in the fashion it did?  Why was MegaUpload’s case singled out for action while others have not been pursued? Is there any difference, technically and legally, between MegaUpload and, say, YouTube, iCloud, or any other cloud service or user generated site?

These are mission-critical issues that affect the core of what many companies and many individuals do on the web, how we use the internet, and indeed what role technology plays in our daily lives. Plus, the laws governing these issues differ per country, which adds to the complexity of addressing such matters. We can’t ignore this key socio-economical and political issue, and it is our duty to get involved if we expect to have a stake in the results. Stay informed.

(Shachar Oren, CEO)

Developing artists while your CFO is riding you

On Thursday, February 16th, Jim McDermott wrote a wonderfully thoughtful opinion piece about the major labels’ strategy behind licensing deals “advances” – an issue that has been debated repeatedly within the industry over the years, and recently got re-ignited on a panel in SF. You can read the article and join the conversation at Digital Music News, the article’s name is “Ex-Major Label Exec: ‘You Can’t Develop Artists When Everyone Thinks You’re an Extortionist’”. I added my own voice to the conversation yesterday, and I am posting my comments below for your reading pleasure (smile). Would love to hear back from you here (you can comment below) or at the DMN site. 

You Can’t Develop Artists When Your CFO is Riding You For Numbers
I don’t see the status of the industry as something that was developed intentionally by labels over the years. I think you would agree it’s quite the opposite, since they’ve been rather reactionary all along (at least since I joined in during the mid 90s, this is my point of view). Let’s take a step back for a second and consider our short digital history:

I think record companies got spoiled during the internet bubble days, when the “advance payment” model was introduced and most start ups had lots of cash from VCs to pay for access, pay to play. With many companies then going out of business in the aftermath of paying “advances”, the cash went straight to the bottom line. What a wonderful model!

We are, of course, dealing with (most of the time) public recorded music companies. These companies used to own hard goods – plants, studios, stock, etc. – and the mentality of the public company CFO is to try and drive stock price and revenue and margin increases by any reasonable means necessary.

During the past decade, while labels were getting out of those physical asset management business lines, they were also creating “digital business development” units that were originally designed to explore, approve and license new digital business models. But before you knew it, those units became a P&L center, with their members in charge of driving revenue numbers. Sales. So advance fees became a new business model. Even thought the bubble was gone, with iTunes launching there were plenty of other large profile entrants to the marketplace that could and did pay entry fees.

In the past handful of years, there has been a healthy shift in the industry, and most such “biz dev units” merged with “distribution” – and indeed, the decisions made about “advances” and such today are a lot more strategic in nature and driven by a holistic approach to the prospect, not a dry requirement to meet a red line. They are not punitive, but rather driven by a realistic approach of short and long term opportunity per prospect.

Reality still presents a challenge when one takes “art and entertainment” (where product quality is very hard to predict) and attempts to drive a public company with it. You just can’t make projections like you do with pizza. Back when there was stock to “play with” on the books, and plants, and studios, there were other elements to the business that drove recurring revenues. Catalog was business too.

Today, the revenue is mainly about the art itself, the IP. The result is that well, if the money is on the table with a major opportunity, it is hard to fault a businessman for trying to make a sale. There is no right or wrong in an open market environment. You can of course argue this has nothing to do with the art and is unfair to artists – that is an entirely separate story altogether.

Yes, taken as a whole, over the past say 15 years, the industry’s restrictive and punitive approach has done it more damage than good. I think it was due to a lack of strategic vision and to short-term, quarterly-numbers focused approach. Things are changing for the better, though time would tell if it’s too little too late.

So in the end of the day, I understand both sides of the argument, and believe that, with respect to our 2012 reality, the “truth” is in the middle and in various shades of grey.

On a separate note, I remain curious about the limited long-term vision that record companies take to their business line. They have realized a decade ago that their real assets are the IP. But the largest diversification has been 360 deals? Why not expand what IP means? How come the major labels don’t control Apps, games, and other IP? Why distribute just one line of digital IP (and the smallest at that)? We all know labels would do well staying focused on music, it’s what they know best. But the public entity that used to own plants, studios, stock, the public company that seeks aggressive growth – has so many exciting opportunities in front of its face these days, and yet none have acted on it. Diversification seems to be a more exciting and constructive approach than arguing with digital retailers over pay for play fees. Just an idea.

Shachar Oren, CEO

The Inaugural Georgia Music Day

Where's Waldo?The local music community celebrated the inaugural Georgia Music Day at the Capitol on January 24, 2012.

Neurotic Media’s VP of Sales Gary Eaton and CEO Shachar Oren attended the event. Participating Artists Included Black Crowes, Train, Rolling Stones, Third Day, Sugarland, Zac Brown Band, Drivin N Cryin, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Corey Smith, and Anthony David.

Kudos to Georgia Music Partners and the Recording Academy® Atlanta Chapter for organizing the event and for our Representatives at the State Capitol for their support.

We hope that in the weeks and months to come, we will see decisive action taken by our Representatives to deliver incentives that help propel the music business in Georgia to the next level. Onward and upward!

Brands as (Music) Tastemakers

In 2011,Gary Eaton VP Sales Neurotic Media 90% of all US music sales came from just 2% of the albums released (Nielsen Soundscan).

For those that follow these trends, this isn’t new information or even perceived as a new dynamic. In fact, over the history of popular recorded music, a handful of artists / albums have typically always accounted for a majority of sales on an annual basis.

In today’s digital landscape, the ease and economics of access to recording technology and digital distribution has made it simpler than ever before for an artist to create and release a project. Here’s a little perspective: In 2011, there were almost 77,000 albums released which sold one copy or more (Nielsen Soundscan).

It seems like almost everyone is recording and releasing music – but is anyone actually being heard?

The truth is, the enormous pipeline of new releases is so expansive and vast that it’s a challenge for even the most avid consumer to stay up to date. This is a problem. It’s a problem for the artist who is struggling to gain an audience – and it’s a problem for consumers who don’t want to be exposed to all the new music (77,000 albums!?) – just the good new music.

Sure, radio is still a leading force in music discovery, but we all know how limited and narrow their playlists are programmed.

This problem creates a landscape of opportunity for brands. Consumers “may” feel loyalty to a brand, but they are passionate about music. Why not connect with that passion and become a voice of authority, a destination, a valuable filter in the eyes of your customers by exposing them to the good new music? This can take the form of an artist discovery program, pick of the week, song of the day, etc. Conversion, activation and loyalty will grow as result of truly connecting with the market you are looking to influence.

Whether a brand has a well-defined personality – or is simply looking to change their image or voice – music is a powerful tool that helps you express the brand attributes that you wish to emphasize. Music helps brands communicate to consumers in a language they understand – and create an emotional relationship.

Here at Neurotic Media, we have the technology and the music (millions of songs) to curate a campaign specifically for your needs. If you’d like to explore how this strategy might fit your particular objectives, please send us an email. We’d love to explore the possibilities with you.

(Gary Eaton – VP Sales / @garyeaton)

Best Albums of 2011

2011 was a great year of music that featured a long list of noteworthy releases. Here are the top albums that moved us the most here at Neurotic Media – the albums that echoed off of our walls daily as our computers fought each other to be heard. Todd usually wins that battle BTW (listens to hard core metal and such). But we do get to share and enjoy each other’s different flavors and diversify our tastes. So, here are our recommendations for the year – and feel free to share yours with us below too:

Above and BeyondAbove & Beyond: Group Therapy – This really covers the entire spectrum of electronic music. Above & Beyond are some of the best producers with their emotional hooks and catchy beats. (Earle Smith) 

 

AdeleAdele: 21 – Adele’s sophomore album showcases her timeless voice and her ability to cross the pond and dominate the charts in multiple countries with personal songs jetting straight from her heart. (Stephen Lam) 

 

 

ArchitectureArchitecture in Helsinki: Moment Bends – Sexy pop for smart people. This isn’t on Britney’s playlist. (Mazzy Solana) 

 

 

AWOLnationAWOLnation: Megalithic Symphony – The most positive, spiritually sarcastic rock you will ever hear; even your mom will like it. (Mazzy Solana)  

 

 

Bad Meets EvilBad Meets Evil: Hell: The Sequel – Eminem at his best. (Tim Kohler) 

 

 

 

Beastie BoysBeastie Boys:Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 – Hard to believe these guys put out their first album 30 years ago. This latest project finds their energy, rhymes, production and beats still going strong. It’s like a party for your ears! (Gary Eaton) 

 

 

ColbieColbie Caillat: All of You – This project shows the best of her husky tone, relaxing guitar and encouraging lyrics. (Ling Zhu) 

 

 

 

Hayes CarllHayes Carll: “KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)” – A steady fixture on the Texas scene, Carll delivers an album full of exceptionally clever and insightful lyrics in his trademark slurry twang . The song “Hard Out Here” is reason enough to be on a best of the year list. (Gary Eaton)

 

ColdplayColdplay: Mylo Xyloto – This album strays a little from the original sound of Coldplay but you can still hear where they started and they stay true to their sound. (Stephen Lam) 

 

 

Cut CopyCut Copy: Zonoscope – Australian pop so good, you won’t realize you’re dancing too hard until you get pulled over. (Mazzy Solana)

  

 

DevotchkaDevotchka: 100 Lovers – An amazing pop record, sounds like rock n roll Gypsies, a colorful canvas of melodies and song. (Shachar Oren)

  

 

EmeryEmery: We Do What We Want – Most bands in the Post-hardcore genre put out an album or two and fall off. Emery is different, they have continued to impress since 2004, and their latest album is definitely one of their best. (Todd Jones)

 

 

GameGame: The R.E.D. Album – Most know Game is lyrically talented, but the guest spots and out-of-this-world production make this album the best rap album of 2011. (Earle Smith) 

 

 

 

Holy GhostHoly Ghost!: “Holy Ghost!” – This album is so sexy you would think Holy Ghost was French, but they’re from New York so it’s much funkier. (Mazzy Solana) 

 

 

 

Lady GagaLady Gaga:Born This Way – A mind-blowing sophomore album. (Stephen Lam) 

 

 

 

Man ManMan Man:Life Fantastic – All life’s lessons in a single album. They literally tell you to punch your dad in the face if it will make you feel better. It’s like Rock for happy pirates. (Mazzy Solana) 

 

Mister HeavenlyMister Heavenly: Out of Love – It’s not any secret that I love Islands, so I was pre-destined to love this album. Add Honus Honus from Man Man, Joe Plummer, and an occasional tour appearance by Michael Cera and you get this heavenly musical experience. It has a sort of old school feel but is still very relevant. Definitely has an Islands-y vibe. Saw them live this year and they were all wearing matching friendship shirts! (Becka Hardy)  

Portugal, The ManPortugal. The Man: In the Mountain In The Cloud – A great alt-pop album, with fun musical tributes to the likes of Pixies, ELO, Supertramp and others mixed in if you listen close enough. (Shachar Oren)  

 

Sick PuppiesSick Puppies: Polar Opposite – An acoustic EP of some of their most popular songs. Allowed me to really listen to the words without the organized confusion of multiple instruments. (Earle Smith)

 

 

Thile and DavesChris Thile & Michael Daves: Sleep With One Eye Open – A fiery duo of acoustic masters playing traditional bluegrass songs with passion, speed, authenticity and technical brilliance. (Gary Eaton)

  

 

Eddie VedderEddie Vedder: Ukulele Songs – Heartfelt lyrics and an acoustic sound make this album excellent for those quiet, reflective moments. Classic Vedder. (Tim Kohler)

 

 

  

But wait, there’s more! Here are a few additional notable releases we liked this year:

Battles: “Gloss Drop” – This album sounds like two (or more) robots having sex: math rock at its finest while still being ridiculously dance-y. (Mazzy Solana) 

The Civil Wars: “Barton Hollow” – Absolutely (and truly) breathtaking. (Gary Eaton)

dEUS: “Keep You Close” – A wonderful new record from this Belgian band, which sort of picked things up where Radiohead left it after ‘OK Computer’ and been running with it ever since – this new album is the best since their mid-90’s debut, a strong, fun, innovative rock record. (Shachar Oren)

The Ghost Inside: “Returners” – This album actually came out in 2010, but I didn’t find out about it until this year. These guys are definitely one of the best hardcore bands to come out in the last 5 years. (Todd Jones)

Hooray for Earth: “True Loves” – I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t just love this band because of the name. (Becka Hardy)

Sondre Lerche: (self titled) – A fantastic release from one of today’s strongest alt-pop writers, in the tradition of Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, The Beatles. Unmatched vocal range, beautiful writing and composing, he just makes every complex song sound so easy and effortless. (Shachar Oren)

Silkie: “City Limits Volume 2″ – Most dubstep that comes out is released as singles or EPs, and even when an artist releases a full album it’s rare that I can listen to the entire thing end to end. Silkie expertly weaves jazz and funk influences throughout the album but still manages to stay true to the dubstep roots. (Todd Jones)

Stinkahbell & Psy:am: “Don’t Tell Mum About Ibiza EP” – Two highly anticipated up and coming dubstep producers. They’ve both put out some good tracks this year, but their EP together really set the bar for what they need to do in 2012. (Todd Jones)

STRFKR: “Jupiter” (Remastered) – I didn’t discover the dance party that is STRFKR until more recently, so I missed out on the original release of this album. Luckily, it made its way to me in the form of this re-release this year. Highly recommended if you’re into the synth-pop thing! (Becka Hardy)

The most popular thing in the world

Earlier this week I was on the phone with a new business contact, a poteGary Eatonntial client to be exact. We were talking about his business, how we might work together, etc.

As often happens, the conversation turned to the universal appeal and power of music and he quickly said “It’s the most popular thing in the world.”  I told him that was a great line and that I’d probably have to use it at some point in the future.

The person I was speaking with went on to explain that he couldn’t take credit for the line, that he had in fact heard it in an interview with Donald Trump.  He said when Mr. Trump was asked “What is the most popular thing in the world?” that he gave a one word answer “Music.”

Sure enough, I found a clip online. Not sure how I missed this but it’s from 2004 in a sit down with Ali G (a character played by Sacha Baron Cohen). In true comedic form, Ali G goes on to argue that the correct answer is ice cream.  Sorry Ali G, I’m going to have to side with Mr. Trump on this one.

(Gary Eaton – VP Sales / @garyeaton)

Big wheels and Christmas music

I caEarle Smithn remember during my 7th Christmas, I received a big wheel. Boy was I ecstatic! So much so, that I was allowed a one day reprieve by riding it throughout the house as soon as I got it – attempting donuts and all by applying the plastic brake as hard as I could! The reprieve lasted three minutes…

To me, Christmas isn’t about receiving gifts; it’s about celebrating the birth of Christ, being thankful that I have the ability to put a smile on the face of someone else – and make their holiday as joyous as it was for me when my grandparents put one on mine that day.

Christmas has a special place in my heart and I have an appreciation for what drives my Holiday spirit and creates joy in my life: It’s by far the music! Hearing a favorite Christmas song, or remembering a specific place or event when a Christmas song comes on – there’s no substituting that. The power of music makes the holiday season an enjoyable one for me every year.

(Earle Smith – Neurotic Media Production & Merchandising)

Mistletoe, music and memories

Music is clearly an important part of the Holiday season. It’s the one time of year when millions of us all across the nation are living our lives to a shared or similar soundtrack. And with those “songs of the season” come memories.Gary Eaton

As a personal example, every time I hear one particular Holiday song, I am immediately taken back to my Indiana childhood, probably around the age of 8 or 10. In this instance, the memory is of gray winter skies, snow on the ground and me standing in the hallway (in my pajamas I might add) looking into the living room with the Christmas tree in full view.

The song that evokes these memories is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Glen Campbell. The funny thing is, it’s not my favorite Christmas song – it’s not even my favorite version of this song. But it is one that has some of the most powerful, vivid memories associated with it.

I’m sure you have your own examples as well. These types of experiences are one of the reasons why Holiday music can be such an effective part of a brand’s promotional strategy. There’s an opportunity to tap in to the nostalgic holiday memories of consumers and/or create new memories for them as well. I don’t know if the value of that can even be measured, but I do know that music moves all of us – especially during the Holiday season.

(Gary Eaton – VP Sales Neurotic Media / @garyeaton)

A perfect karaoke place, a perfect karaoke song

Do you feel shy and nervous to sing karaoke even though you always wish to go to the karaoke place?

I wasLing Zhu always wondering why my colleagues feel too shy to sing karaoke while they are quite confident in speaking in public. In contrast, I am quite open in karaoke but shy to speak much in public. The answer is that American karaoke is quite different from Asian karaoke. In normal American karaoke, you need to sing to everybody, all the friends and strangers in the public room. And everybody is staring at you when you are singing. However in Asian karaoke, only your friends can listen to you in a smaller but private room. Inside this separated room, there are always bigger screens, fancy spinning lights, drums, bells and computers. When you sing, your friends can find many ways to get involved, support you and enjoy themselves even though your singing skill is not that good. So no worry for them if you miss the notes or can’t reach the high pitch!

If you still feel a little nervous even in Asian karaoke, then pick the song “Jingle Bells” first. We have tried this song several times and it brings most fun every time. Everyone, old and young, men and women, American and non-American can sing this song with you. Interesting enough, everyone just can’t stop clapping hands or even dancing in lines with its rhythms, especially when it comes to “Hey jingle bells, jingle bells.” Can’t believe it? Try once during this Christmas holiday!

(Ling Zhu – Neurotic Media Developer)

Brands and Holiday music

When I was getting started in the music business, one of my first assignments was to go through a large box of cassettes from a record label that specialized in Christmas music. For the next few weeks, all I did was listen to their holiday music and write reviews and descriptions for each project.

Little did Gary Eaton I know that this assignment was an indicator of things to come. As it turns out, Holiday music makes for a significant business for record companies and brand partnerships. In fact, I went on to work with holiday music on an almost year-round basis (try to contain your jealousy please). Over the years, I’ve created a long list of branded holiday compilations that have gone on to sell millions of copies.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way is this – when brands are working with Holiday music, one of the keys to success is this three-word motif: Know your audience.

If you are looking to appeal to a broad demographic base, it’s often best to use traditional artists such as Bing Crosby, Nat “King” Cole, Dean Martin and other similar performers.  Those artists have provided a seasonal soundtrack for multiple generations. The warmth of the Christmas spirit is deeply rooted in nostalgia, tradition and family. Classic Holiday recordings from legendary artists are often as relevant to a twenty something as they are to grandparents, simply because we’ve all grown up with this music.

Seasonal tracks from contemporary artists can certainly be an effective strategy – particularly if your target audience is a younger demographic. Just keep in mind that newer material does not have the historical track record to make an emotional connection with older consumers. There simply aren’t many memories associated with a new song. I have seen holiday promotions fail by brands choosing contemporary music over traditional artists. By choosing a specific newer artist(s) the brand limited their appeal to a very small niche group. At face value it may seem that using a current artist is a compelling choice for the Holidays – and it can be – just be sure to consider the full spectrum of dynamics when making these decisions.

Of course, each situation is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. If you are considering holiday music as part of your brand strategy, we’d be happy to discuss options and possibilities. Please feel free to give us a call 404-688-6858 or email us if you’d like more information.

(Gary Eaton – VP Sales & Marketing)

Neurotic Media’s 10 YR Anniversary

Neurotic Media Party - Team ToastMy 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

Neurotic Media Anniversary - CEO's speechBefore 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…  

2001 

Shachar Oren circa 2001Peter Jennings circa 2001This 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.

Neurotic Media old logoWe 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.

2002

ItchiSix 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.

2003

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.

2004

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.

PrinceThe 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!).

2005

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.

2006

McDonaldsIn 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.

2007

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!

2008

In 2008 it was more work and more growth, with more members joined the team including Evan, Abby, and Becka.

2009

Neurolinq Open API Developer LabWe 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.

2010

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!

2011 

Neurotic Media's HQWe 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.

Future

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  

Todd Jones, Neurotic Employee of the DecadeNeurotic 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!

Ling Zhu, Neurotic Employee of the YearNeurotic 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)

Soundtrack for Fall

The leavesSoundtrack for Fall are starting to turn yellow, orange and red here in Atlanta. The sun is setting a little earlier every day and the air is crisp. It’s Fall. Without question, my favorite time of year.

And since 1992, every year around this time, there’s one album in particular that moves to heavy rotation on my playlist. There was no “hit single” or chart topping activity, but it’s remained a favorite of mine since it was released. Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” is my annual soundtrack for Fall. Something about Neil’s trademark vocal delivery and the primarily acoustic arrangements just seem to speak to me on a personal level during this season. The production feels earthy, the guitars are crisp and the harmonies by Nicolette Larson, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor are laid back, soft and gentle. For me, the Fall season just isn’t complete without several listens to this album in its entirety, especially the title track. If you’re not familiar with “Harvest Moon” you can click here for previews. Who knows, it may become a seasonal soundtrack of your own.

This speaks to something that is instinctive: Music is personal to each of us. It’s important. It matters. We’re all moved by music of some kind – we’re just often listening to different soundtracks.

How about you? Are there specific albums that move you this time of year?

(Gary Eaton – Neurotic Media VP Sales)

Interviewing your idol

Nich Cave and Shachar Oren 1994At the risk of dating myself (yeah, tough that), I want to share a little story from Lollapalooza 1994, when I got to interview Nick Cave for WRAS 88.5 and photograph him for a magazine I wrote for. Cave was an artist I’ve idolized since the late 80’s, I listened to anything he had released, and I was amazed by his lyrical talent, his musicianship, and his dramatic delivery. I expected to meet an idol. I had no idea what that meant, but I had high expectations. After all, he had developed a strong and unique “brand” for himself. I was green at what I was doing and I was very nervous going into this interview.

Nick CaveThe interview went well: Cave acted a bit sheepish in the beginning, but loosened up as we went and got sarcastic and even foolish at times. He answered all of my questions with interest and I felt I had plenty to write about when it ended – about his experience on the road, his life in Brazil at the time, the latest record he released (Henry’s Dream), things of that nature.

When the interview was officially over, things got really silly. The Bad Seeds – Cave’s band – had been sitting across from us all along in the expansive green room in Lakewood Amphitheater, talking among themselves, drinking beers and entertaining several girls (no idea if spouses, girlfriends or groupies). Cave got up to join them and made his way to one of the girls, grabbed her by both hands, and pulled her down to the carpeted floor with him. They started rolling together on the carpet from one side of the room to the other like toddlers playing a silly wrestling match, while the band members cracked up laughing and cheered them on. So here I saw a new side of Cave: The band’s Jester. The party leader, hungry for attention. 

Nick Cave Lollapalooza 1994I couldn’t quit put together why a man of his age and stature would behave with such adolescent playfulness. But something did click: He was a human being. He was no longer the mysterious persona behind the sounds, lyrics and images of his records. He was no longer the untouchable stage figure who belted out rock phrases and worked the crowd with strong theatrics. He was a human being, a person, someone who can come across as sensitive and childish on one hand and as a confident leader on the other.

This early experience helped me put “stars” in perspective and eased my way into many other interviews I conducted over the years. I still buy anything Cave releases of course, including the last two awesome Grinderman releases. He’s still at it, creating music and performing – and presenting the same “dark knight” (and I mean dark, not in the Batman sense of the word) brand of music to us. And I suppose I am still at it too, listening, observing, and writing about it.

(Shachar Oren, Neurotic Media CEO).

Digital music sales on the rise

As someGary Eaton one that’s worked in the music industry for nearly 25 years, I’ve seen quite a few changes and trends. Over the weekend I was reading a piece in Billboard that highlighted some encouraging news: Sales of digital music in 2011 are up significantly compared to the same period in 2010. Of course, the overall trend for digital music sales have increased year over year, but the current jump is significant.

According to Billboard, Nielsen SoundScan estimates the increase in digital music sales by the end of 2011 may represent an additional $300 million of revenue compared to last year. Billboard states, “American consumers have purchased an additional 12 million digital albums and 90.5 million tracks on top of what they had purchased at the same point in 2010.” If these numbers are indeed met by the end of the year, 2011 may represent one of the most significant shifts in the music industry that any of us have witnessed.

That’s quite an exciting story! And it confirms something we all know: People are passionate about music! Here at Neurotic Media, we use the passion fans have for music to put the spotlight on our clients and help them achieve their business and marketing goals. This is what infuses us with passion and purpose in our daily interaction with our clients. Music can likely play a vital role in the marketing and promotion strategy of your business too. Let me know if you’d like to explore the possibilities.

(Gary Eaton – Neurotic Media VP Sales)

Something that changed my view of music forever

About four years ago, I was watching the movie “Cellular”…a pretty decent movie, but I can honestly say that I can’t remember half of it because of what happened next. During the end credits, something happened to me that changed my view of music forever. The song “Sinnerman” (Felix Da Housecat’s Heavenly House Mix) by Nina Simone was playing and it sounded like nothing I’ve ever heard before.Earle Smith

Directly after, I looked the song up on the internet, and from there, started to look up more and more songs. I had NEVER been a house music fan before this. I listened primarily to rap. Rap. A genre so hopelessly watered-down with regurgitated beats and meaningless repeated lyrics.

Soon after, my iTunes was filled with nothing but house music. All kinds. Now I’m a house DJ and I don’t even listen to rap anymore. House music has taken over my playlist, and my life. So uplifting, positive and fun.

I’ll have to catch up to Felix and thank him one day.

(Earle Smith – Neurotic Media Production & Merchandising)

Music Midtown 2011 Delivered

The Black Keys at Music Midtown 2011I missed this festival. Back in the nineties they use to produce 2-3 days events, with multiple genre-centric stages to accommodate a broad range of fans. Like many festivals back then it got a bit too big too fast, and eventually a bit out of hand. The last Music Midtown I attended about a decade ago was produced on an asphalt parking lot in midtown behind the Civic Center, which made for a horribly hot experience and one I would ever wanted to repeat.

This weekend, Music Midtown returned from a 6-year hiatus to Piedmont Park, with two stages in the meadow – a grassy valley surrounded by a sloping hill shaded by trees. This was a return to true form – a comfortable, beautiful venue for the festival.

Most bands on the lineup were developing, relatively unknown bands. Personally, the only one that shined for me in that mix and picked my interest is Young The Giant – I will have to listen to their album. And then, The Black Keys, baby! The Black Keys are, well, just so good! Solid, intimate performance, amazingly energetic and totally fun.

Coldplay at Music Midtown 2011The headliners – Coldplay – opened with a bang. Literally: They launched their first song with fireworks. I was worried about how their performance would translate in the park setting. I saw them a year and a half ago when they came through Atlanta in support of their last album, they performed to a sold out Phillips Arena back then, and provided plenty of theatrics on stage which I was worried would be too cheesy following a full day of raw rock n roll. However, in Piedmont Park, they focused more on the music and less on the theatrics – and used impressive pyrotechnics and lasers to augment the music with some exciting drama. Most important, Coldplay’s musical performance was simply wonderful. Towards the end of their show they also performed a couple of new songs that sounded wonderful (one is a single in waiting…); and then, closed with fireworks again.

Thank you Music Midtown! Looking forward to next year’s event, which hopefully would be even bigger!

(by Shachar Oren, Neurotic Media CEO)

All Work and No Music Makes Stephen A Dull Boy

Stephen Lam

To borrow a well known phrase, “All work and no music makes Stephen a dull boy.”

Although I have no musical ability, my entire life revolves around music.  Music is my way of connecting with others…it’s also my way of “getting away” from the world. The feeling I get when a song comes on that relates to my life is profound.  Music to me is a way of life and without music it wouldn’t be a life worth living.

Since I started my internship at Neurotic Media about a month ago, I have learned a lot about merchandising and marketing online stores as well as how to operate their vast computer system database.  Merchandising and marketing music has actually helped expand my musical palette and increase my willingness to listen to different types of music.  I have discovered a few new artists along the way such as singer-songwriter Randy Montana and Australian indie rock band The Temple Trap.  Both have two very different sounds, but after I gave them a listen I enjoyed branching out of my normal pop/rock/alternative comfort zone.

As an intern, I’ve been able to experience working with great, hardworking people who love what they do and encourage my work.  And I’m excited to learn as much as I can about music and marketing while I’m here.

(Stephen Lam – Neurotic Media Intern)

Bubbles, Daisies and Good Music

Anyone that knows me wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I could probably spend every day surrounded by bubbles and bouquets of daisies on the beach at sunset. And that’s pretty much how my wedding played out.

I went to a wedding recently in the middle of a Moulin Rouge themed antique store.  The bride and groom walked down the “aisle” to a Smashing Pumpkins instrumental and left to The Beatles “When I’m Sixty Four”.  And it was perfect.  When you’re surrounded by boas, masks and mannequins, you don’t necessarily expect to hear Pachelbel: “Canon in D.”

There is nothing wrong with tradition if that’s your thing, but since music is such a big part of my life, I put some serious thought into deciding on the music for my [our] own wedding.

Becka WeddingWe were married on the beach.  After we had been pronounced man and wife, my cousin played an acoustic version of the first part of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”  Even though my cousin’s performance was competing with the sound of the waves, this was the first song my husband and I heard as a married couple. It was the transition from the ceremony to our lives together.

“What a beautiful face I have found in this place that is circling all round the sun…”

And though there are some songs that come and go throughout your life, this one continues to inspire me. Everyone needs a little inspiration [and maybe some bubbles and daisies and good music].

 “…and one day we will die and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea.  But for now we are young, let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see…” (lyrics by Jeff Mangum)

(Becka Hardy – Neurotic Media Label Relations & Account Management)

A Proper American Voice

Ling ZhuPronouncing words in English is quite different from pronouncing Chinese when one speaks. The tonality, the weight placement in a word, and many of the shared sounds between the languages are just handled very differently, which I have found over time to be an interesting challenge.

In order to establish my proper “American voice”, I needed to feel more relaxed in my mouth and move the “center position” of where I make sound a little bit backward in the mouth cavity.

When I started practicing this, I tried to sing American songs with simple lyrics and rhythms like “Twinkle little star”, “Do-Re-Mi”, ”To be with you”… I still do this today, almost twice a week: I go to my apartment gym (which luckily is always empty), and sing those songs more loudly than I can bear. I can really feel my improvement in my daily speech and accent, and this in turn helps ease the daily pressures at work and in living in the USA and talking to people in general. Music/speech therapy, if you will. 

I met a nice guy a few days ago that was willing to help test my singing skills. So I started to sing: “…You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray; you’ll never know dear how much I, I, I like you (ah, yes I changed the lyrics here); please don’t take my sunshine away…” To my surprise, he launched into singing with me. His green eyes sparkled and I could sense that his heart was speeding. So was mine…

(Ling Zhu – Neurotic Media Developer)

Playing for nobody

Todd JonesI started DJing at clubs about 3 months ago. For the most part, I’ve been blessed with playing to relatively crowded rooms. Over the last three weeks, however, I’ve played two shows that were totally empty. The first one had about 20 people in a club that holds 300, and the second night was even slower. At one point, a friend of mine that had come for support turned to me and said “I think we know everyone in this room right now.” The crowd was literally personal friends that had come out to support us, and three other people.

Even though the room was virtually empty, I got a lot of positive feedback about the way I played the shows. Everyone said that I was into the music, and rocking out just like I had when I was playing to a full room. What all these people don’t know is this is exactly how I act when I’m sitting at home or in my office listening to music as well. I guess the moral of the story is that if you’re doing something that involves music, for work or please, as long as the music moves you, then you’ll be ok.

(Todd Jones – Neurotic Media Production Director)