Harmony Festival and the Future of Music

Last weekend I went to the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, CA, and it was a blast. Fun in the sun, soaking in cool tunes, great food, colorful friendly people, and lots of fooling around and laughter. Thanks so much to Claire and Darin for making it happen for us. I wish we had the chance to hang out on Sunday, but we will make up for it. I was impressed by how well the festival was run given how many people and vendors in attendance. It was a high quality production so I wasn’t surprised when I learned it was their 30th anniversary.

They’ve had some practice in making it a well oiled machine. Makes me happy to think about how far Topspin can go one day as we’re now approaching our one-year anniversary celebration in Venice, CA.

I was largely at the Harmony Festival because Giveback is powering an album download to raise money for the World Family, an Ethiopian health services center, to construct an irrigation tunnel to better sustain one of the more remote villages. More info on the Water of Life campaign is here.

I must say I love FreQ Nasty‘s new Super Mario Remix with Heavy Weight Dub Champion’s Snared on the Water of Life album. I’m listening to it on our office sound system, and if I turned up the bass it would disintegrate the cinder-block walls. If we needed music to serve as an interstellar weapon, I nominate this track turned up to 11.

Damian Marley and David Starfire‘s tracks rocked me out as well. They will be on my iPhone soon. I would post a link to the music but don’t want to defeat the purpose of the artists who gave their music for this great cause. You can get the tunes here.

One thing that really resonated with me was FreQ Nasty’s reason why this campaign is exciting from a macro perspective. I excerpted it from the Water of Life campaign site:

The idea that artists can use their music and art to help create positive change in the world is one that I feel really strongly about right now. At this point in time music is selling less than it ever has, yet remains a powerful cultural force and reaches a wider and more diverse spectrum of people than it ever has. As the means of digital distribution are essentially free, and the monetary worth of any given track moves toward zero, the idea of bringing music’s powerful cultural force to bear on the lives of real peoples to help them in a tangible way is little short of a miracle. To help the people of Gara Dima in Ethiopia by creating music in a studio in California brings down barriers for the artist, the fans, and the community itself, benefiting us all.

FreQ’s point is particularly salient in my pursuit of Topspin‘s mission to help artists build their businesses. Particularly, in a world of free music with P2P, what other ways are there to manifest value in art? I think the point is that we shouldn’t take the current devaluation of music as a given and work to find new methods to move people into action and towards their checkbook or credit card.

Although I’m advising Giveback‘s organizational efforts, as a regular citizen I was motivated to give more than I normally would for the Water of Life album because it was for a good cause, and I wanted the music specifically from some of these artists. My after the fact ROI for giving is large since I’m really digging the music. So much so that I had to blog about it.

As a warrior for the advancement of music and especially in trying to figure out how to generate meaningful revenue for artists, I feel even more inspired and excited to know that the future of how we are all exposed to new music and causes has yet to truly unfold.


I’m advising a committed group of activists hell bent on changing the world. Our project is called Giveback, and it’s a community news driven site where you can become informed on issues and causes that you might not otherwise find on mainstream media.

More importantly, with Giveback you can take immediate action on the causes that motivate you at the very moment you feel most inspired. Most of us read news, blogs, and articles that move and touch us every day. Unfortunately, the feelings that rise up within us dissipate, and we go on about our busy lives. Giveback is a forum designed to show people how they can take immediate action, right when they most feel it, by linking news directly to related organizations. Check it out at www.giveback.net. This is just the beginning.

The story of Giveback originated in February 2007 at the Sweetspot Studios warehouse where Darin McFadyen (aka Freq Nasty) insisted we gather an eclectic group of musicians, producers, technologist, activists, and concerned citizens together to discuss how we can all work together to make the world a better place. To start things off, a group of about 50 people watched “the US vs. John Lennon“. The movie showed Lennon in action using his media attention to push a social and political agenda. He was relentless in his pursuit of world peace. It dawned on all of us that this is the kind of attitude and energy we need to be putting out there in the world: if it’s broken, pick up a tool and try to fix it. Don’t just stand there bitching about it or turn your back on the problem. That may have sufficed for the first four years of this presidential travesty, but for most of us, especially me, it won’t suffice any more. So we decided to do something — anything — to make a positive change. Out of that first meeting came the idea for Giveback.

Giveback’s next release will involve action campaigns in which musicians and producers donate their copyrights to raise awareness and monetary donations for the causes that matter most to them. Imagine artists using their music to shine light on important issues by offering their art to fans in return for mind-share and donations for their chosen causes. This is the concept of Giveback. Our long-term goal is to enable people to immediately take action at the point of awareness by creating an action marketplace that can surface relevant ways in which citizens can tangibly make an impact in the world. Hit me up if you have any questions or are interested in participating or investing.


World Peace.

Update: check out the first application of musicians donating their art to raise awareness for their favorite causes here http://giveback.net/FreQNectar