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Every now and then, occasionally but increasingly frequently, I’m blown away by the efficacy of today’s targeted advertising. It may be purely coincidental ad placement, but sometimes the accuracy of an online ad is precisely right. When it hits the spot, advertising can actually be a good thing for everyone involved: a prospective buyer getting more relevant information on goods they actually want to purchase, an advertiser who ultimately transacts with a new customer, and the platform on which the connection was made. As wonderful as it can be, it feels a creepy when the targeted ad is so exactly right. How did they know? What information are they using to surface that particular ad at the most opportune moment? Was my information gathered without my permission or knowledge and traded to other parties in order for the ad to be delivered? I don’t know, and this lack of understanding makes me wonder and causes a bit of concern as to what other profile and behavioral information are being mined and traded about me.

These eerily accurate and spooky ads do haunt me at times when they hit the nail on the head. With so much at stake in the arms race of advertising, it seems that these types of spooky ads are happening so much that I’m going to start tracking and documenting them as #spookyadvertising.

Here’s the first example with context. On Saturday July 2nd 2016, I went into a Banana Republic in Union Square San Francisco and looked at their men’s shirts. I was looking for shirts that I could wear untucked at work, because in general I hate tucking in my shirt. I looked around the store and even asked someone who worked at Banana Republic about shirts that I could wear without tucking them in. After browsing a bit, I left without buying anything. Later that day, I got this ad on my twitter. This ad was for an online apparel company called Untuckit that sold shirts that are to be worn untucked. It was essentially a perfect ad. I browsed the site a couple times over the next two days and made a purchase.




How did they know I was looking to buy untucked shirts? It could be pure coincidence, or perhaps there was insight derived by my visit to a physical store at Banana Republic. I find it hard to believe that this ad was targeted based on the conversation I had in the store with a Banana Republic sales clerk. I’m still wondering exactly how they knew to surface that particular ad to me since it worked well in many different ways. Perhaps it’s a damn good guess as to what I would want to see in ad, and considering over 99.999% of ads surfaced to me don’t work, perhaps finally the odds were in this ads favor. #spookyadvertising.

Like untucked shirts yourself and feel like buying through Untuckit? Sign up through this link to get 25% off.







My career has been committed to building products and services for the creative community, so I’m super excited to join Pandora as a VP of Product to continue on that mission. I’ll be working with the great team at Pandora to build products and services for artists and the music maker community.

I’m fired up because I’ve had a lot of respect for Pandora through the years. Tim Westergren’s entrepreneurial story is legendary, and the entire team built the best personalized radio service on the planet. The numbers speak for themselves. With 80 Million active unique users a month, Pandora is by far the biggest Internet radio service and is responsible for more than 50% of SoundExchange’s total royalty revenue. It’s amazing to me that they’ve reached these numbers without any true network effect, which is a testament to the quality of their radio experience. Pandora’s also the leading pure music service (i.e., not YouTube) and the growth is just getting started as Pandora is only available in 3 countries (US, Australia, and New Zealand) whereas the other major services are available in 50+ countries.

Pandora’s technical prowess is second to none. The team created a magical and bulletproof listening experience for all kinds of music lovers across all platforms. They engineered a unique and comprehensive Music Genome to jumpstart great music into the ears of likely fans. The playlists are further optimized by harnessing the billions of preference data points from all their users, not an easy feat. It’s a music + data nerd’s heaven, which is a major reason I’m so jazzed to join the team.

I have felt the power of Pandora’s Music Genome first-hand when I was introduced to one of my all-time favorite songs, Mary on a Pandora radio station I created in sometime in 2006 I think. I fell in love with that song and would have done anything to listen to it again. Before the days where everything was available online, I spent a lot of time and effort to hunt that track down. Mary was a bonus track off the Japanese Import of Groove Armada’s Vertigo album and was completely unavailable in the US. I searched exhaustively in bootleg shops and across the web to no avail. I finally found it selling in a record store in Japan and got it shipped over. It was the best $60 I ever spent for one song. The power of music. It was then I realized that Pandora could deliver a music experience like no other.



Cover of Japanese Import for Groove Armada’s Vertigo Album



I’ll be working with some great people on building a better bridge between the music makers and Pandora’s massive base of music fans. We have a chance to significantly move the needle to improve the welfare of artists, while strengthening the connection to their fans. Given all the opportunity ahead to expand globally and empower more artists and fans through Pandora, it feels like we’re just getting started. Looking forward to the road ahead.



SXSW 2015

Time for the pilgrimage to Austin for SXSW 2015. Thank you to Karen Allen for inviting me to speak on her panel: Underground Railroad of Artist Revenue on Wednesday March 18th at 3:30pm. I’d love to see you there. It’s an interesting topic on the alternate revenue opportunities for artists. The craft and industry of being an artist are evolving rapidly, and people still need to make it happen.

I land on Sunday March 15th and leave Thursday 19th AM. Drop me a line on twitter if you’re going to be around. It’d be great to meet up.



I finally got around to watching the interview I did on NBC’s Press Here TV. It was filmed and broadcast in early November 2014, but I only saw the clip today. Thank you Aunny Delarosa for hooking it up. I enjoy talking about the things I love and am interested and do so publicly at conferences and on TV. I’m not a fan of watching it back, however. So I didn’t get around to seeing it and then forgot about it until now. This segment is about Taylor Swift pulling her music off Spotify. It was a short-term financial strategy that probably resulted in $1M+ in total incremental revenue for her last release, but it cost her a lot in terms of potential new fan exposure on Spotify. Ultimately it was annoying to her existing fans on Spotify since so many are now denied her music. Ironically, the massive amount of publicity this issue got in the press drove much awareness about Taylor Swift’s new album and introduced her to new audiences through traditional media. It may have been the best marketing move of her release. It was fun doing the session and sharing a car ride back to the city from San Jose with Josh Constine and Christina Farr.


As this calendar year fades for Topspin, I look back at what our team has achieved. We have been heads down, working hard to make radical improvements in our products and throughout the company. We’ve significantly progressed, and the Topspin team deserves all the credit for being exceptionally productive and fun to work with.

Last week we released a simple metric in our Topspin Platform app that calculates the average value of an artist’s fan. This AVF metric is an early precursor to how we will eventually measure the Life-time Value (LTV) of an artist’s fan in Topspin. It’s just the beginning and will evolve into a more useful number to help artists figure out how much they can afford to spend in acquiring fans in different promotional channels. This Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA) metric for a Fan can be weighed against how much revenue a potential fan brings to an artist.

These LTV – CPA > 0 types of calculations have existed in different industries and performed exceptionally well for many companies like Netflix.

Sometimes it’s easy to get rubbed the wrong way with terms like “advertising,” “profit,” “LTV,” when talking about art and artists. We need to be respectful that art and our human connection to it is highly personal and uniquely important beyond any monetary value we place on it. Topspin’s mission is to help artists make a living, and we tend to get excited and obsessed about introducing artists to proven marketing methods that could increase their bottom line. We will be championing the use of these standards and speaking in their terminology, but please keep in mind that it’s for a purpose: to help artists make more money.

Hannah Karp at the Wall Street Journal, wrote a story about the artist-fan data in Topspin and shared the different AVF metrics from several artists. For example, Arcade Fire’s is $6.26, Sigur Ros is $10.91, Umphrey’s McGee is $32.96, and the Pixies is $4.26. The AVF when looked at in comparison is not helpful because the metric is unique to different artists depending on the number of fans they have, their specific methods of direct marketing, and their product bundling and pricing strategy.

The AVF metric, however, can be actionable for an individual artist to keep a baseline and heartbeat of their direct-to-fan business. They can measure improvements in their baseline values and tie them back to their promotional activities. It should give a sense of what worked and what didn’t. Across Topspin over 5 years and millions of transactions, the general average AVF $3.78, so if you’re looking for a good arbitrary general average to compare to your own AVF, that’s a good a number as any. That value at least supports giving your media in return for a monetizable email would be a good exchange, since earning $3.78 on average is far higher than the price of a song download.

This AVF figure in the Topspin Platform will grow into a future LTV metric as we learn how to model fan value in a meaningful way for artists. This LTV will be eventually be measured against a CPA metric for a fan derived from Topspin’s ArtistLink product, which just released a free cross-marketing network called the Promo Exchange along with a paid advertising program.

The new ArtistLink release is a significant evolution of Topspin’s efforts in helping artists with a self-serve advertising product. It’s Peter Gotcher’s original vision of Topspin, and our recent feature releases represent Topspin going back to our roots as a data driven, artist-focused company aimed at solving the hardest problem in fan acquisition: turning the unaware into the aware at the top of the marketing funnel.

There’s so much more to come on both the Topspin Platform and ArtistLink, and I can’t wait to share all the exciting developments ahead.



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