2019: A Year in Review

Last year, I took a look back at some of the things that I accomplished throughout 2018. It was a simple writing, but something which really provided some fantastic perspective.

Oftentimes, it can be all too easy to lose track of the little victories which we accumulate in pursuit of our broader goals. But for me, acknowledging these smaller steps has led to an ever-growing appreciation for the bigger picture.

And so with that, here are a few of the highlights from my 2019 year.

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January & February

I kicked the year off by sharpening my meme-making skills. 😂

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As with the last couple years, January brought me what’s become an annual picture with my friend Arlan Hamilton — the work she’s doing with her team at Backstage Capital is something I love supporting here in Atlanta. Her talk this year was no less compelling.

Adam & Arlan 2019

March

I was super excited to have my friend Emily Best here in Atlanta to discuss the work she’s doing at her company Seed&Spark, and the opportunities for the Atlanta film scene.

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“Three sibs” picture with our brother before he went abroad to Germany for six months!

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Two of my best friends in the world formally asked me to be their best man. I could not be more thrilled and am so excited to be there to support Luke and Danielle when they get married. It seems I’ll have to go rent a tux! 🤵

Best man pic

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I had an awesome time recording my first podcast as a guest on Tyler Wagner’s show, “The Business Blast Podcast”. We talked about music, startups & tech, my time as a music journalist, and how learning to build relationships has been key to all of it. 🎙️

👉 Listen to the episode here! 👈

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I did an interview with Omni Calculator for their #HuntedHunters series discussing music-tech, startups, and the importance of cultivating relationships.

👉 Read the full interview here! 👈

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Sometimes the most interesting opportunities come to you from the most serendipitous of sources. 🙃

April & May

I got retweeted by Dee Snider, the legendary lead singer of Twisted Sister! 😱

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And getting retweeted by Atlanta Magazine was kinda cool too.

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I was floored (and truly humbled!) to be name-dropped by Jessi Hempel during her interview with Recode. Formerly of BackChannel, Business Insider, Fortune, and Wired, and now the editor-at-large at LinkedIn, I’ve followed Jessi’s writing for a few years now, and it was some of the first material I gravitated towards upon my entrance into startups & tech. Sometimes in this business (as with everything in life, I suppose), you wonder if you’re making any sort of impact or impression. It’s moments like this that underscore the answer: yes. 😱

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Go out and bring the very best value you can to people; all the rest takes care of itself.

Here’s the full transcript of the interview and here’s the podcast itself. I highly suggest listening to the whole thing (I’d also recommend listening around minute 23:01 😉).

I didn’t make it to the #PitchAtlanta event at the Atlanta Tech Village, but I did make it to the afterparty where I was introduced to the incomparable David Lightburn.

Here’s a snap of the great panel I hope to hear live next year!

pitch atlanta

The excitement continued as I became more politically active, meeting a number of rising stars. Some I took pictures with and some are people I’m quietly continuing to meet with. 🗳️

Get out there and get active!

Here I am with Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff.

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And here I am with Gwinett County Board of Ed Representative Everton Blair, Jr.

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June & July

Went to a great 90s punk tribute show downtown with the bestie Abby (before her move to Ohio). This picture accurately captures our friendship. 🙌

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I could not have been prouder of my parents — their win at the 11th Circuit (in a gender discrimination case) was cited at this year’s NELA Conference in New Orleans. Huge deal with far-reaching results. ⚖️

NELA

I met Kwam Amissah around the holiday time last year through Ruben Harris. It’s been awesome to see his growth in the tech world and exciting to hear about his current projects — here we are at Flatiron Atlanta!

(Picture taken by the incomparable Tammy Carson, whom I also met this year!) 📸

Kwam flatiron

I always love it when Career Karma CEO Ruben Harris is in town and I’m able to come out to support him. He’s doing awesome things in tech and I’m super humbled to count him as a friend & ally. 🚀

I’m also continuously thrilled by the serendipity of tech — it was at this event, heading out to support Ruben, that I had the immense pleasure of meeting Charles Pridgen, a huge asset to the Atlanta tech scene. 👍

Ruben Harris. gathering spot

Then it was time for a break for a little while. Wheels up for a couple weeks in Europe traveling with my mom — one of my best friends in the world. ✈️

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And here’s the post-flight exhaustion in the Frankfurt airport.

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First stop (same day!) — historic Mainz, Germany. The medieval history nerd in me was all kinds of happy. 🇩🇪

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August 

Next day — first full day in Germany, we went to Heidelberg. 😎

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We took in some amazing Jewish history in Worms. Here’s Mom going into a synagogue that is hundreds of years old.

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Hopping over to France, we experienced Colmar, a town in Alsace known as “Little Venice.” 🇫🇷

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We saw the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg in France. The medieval history nerd in me continued to geek out. 🏰

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I saw a hedgehog at our Airbnb and my life was complete.

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We stopped in Basel, Switzerland to see the synagogue. It was closed, but the architecture is amazing. 🇨🇭

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Stopped by the Jewish Museum of Switzerland in Basel before leaving the city.

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Next day brought Lauterbrunnen — it’s cold in the Alps even in the summer.

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We climbed the Schilthorn (ok, it was a cable car, but it was still 9744 feet up!). 🚠

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Jungfrau is known as the “Top of Europe” (11,333 feet). It also means snow in the summertime. 🗻

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Driving back north to Germany, we decided on a couple side-stops…

Like Vaduz, Liechtenstein! I feel like Fulton County in Atlanta is bigger than this whole country. (But it’s an awesome country!). 🇱🇮

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And dinner in Bregenz, Austria. 🇦🇹

This is my Mom, the badass master scuba-diver, Columbia-trained attorney licensed in three states, mature as can be…

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I wasn’t leaving Germany this time without seeing Augsburg. The historian in me demanded it.

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We went to see the synagogue here. Truly one of the most gorgeous synagogue interiors I’ve ever seen. They didn’t allow pictures in the sanctuary, but I will be going back sometime in my life.

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Ulm, Germany was beautiful. We took time to see some of the most popular sights.

And some of the most nondescript — here is the Holocaust Memorial behind the newly rebuilt Ulm synagogue. ✡️

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Before we did dinner in the town, we had to climb the Rothenburg city walls. Here’s Mom trying to distract me from taking a good picture because she thinks she’s funny. 😂

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While Josh finished his final exams, we took in the beautiful town of Bamberg.

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And here’s the camera capturing my face just after she tells me a ridiculous joke. 🤦‍♂️

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Last day before our flight home with Josh in the morning. Some wine in Frankfurt to celebrate a wonderful trip.

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September

Back from Europe, a week of rest, and then I so enjoyed finally having the chance to meet the phenomenal Lolita Taub in person. Gorgeous view of Baltimore in the background!

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Then over to Washington, D.C. to visit Shaina for her birthday. She makes funny faces.

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She also made me a special keychain — “one tiny fuck” as she called it.

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We hit up the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. to take a peek at work from David Best (who’s most well-known for his ephemeral wooden Temples at Burning Man). 🔥

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And yes, we are very mature…

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I did an awesome interview with entrepreneur Rich Cardona which I’m excited to post in the new year! And had the immense pleasure of meeting Allen Gannett before heading back to Atlanta.

I published this piece on three things you should be doing on LinkedIn (or you’re missing out!).

And then dropped my second podcast recording as Mario Porecca’s guest on his fantastic show the “Ten Minute Mindset.” We talked about humor, humility, creating value, how to define a mission, and how to build relationships with people who might otherwise seem unreachable. 🎙️

👉 Listen to Part One of the episode here! 👈

10min mindset

👉Listen to Part Two of the episode here! 👈

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Made it out to Atlanta Blockchain Week to hear about some of the great blockchain and crypto stuff happening in Atlanta tech. ⛓️

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I met Jon Ossoff again at his official Senate campaign kickoff event.

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And I met the legendary civil rights icon and hero Congressman John Lewis as well!

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October

You know it’s gonna be a good month when it starts with old college friends coming to visit — thanks Esther!

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October was an absolute marathon of Atlanta tech! I started the month off by landing access to the first-ever OTT Fest! The sheer number of talented film, tech, and media speakers over the multi-day event was incredible. 📽️

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I finally met OTT Fest founder (and newly-minted Thea CEO!) Kate Atwood in person.

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I won a Roku…from tweeting about the amazing panels… 😱🤣

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Over the same day during lunch, I raced up to Google Atlanta in Midtown and was able to see my friend Antoine Woods speak at their Founders RoadMap event.

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So I was able to add to my “Google guest” pass collection (I’ve now crossed off Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco ha).

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I was super excited to serendipitously hear Stefanie Jewett speak too, and finally meet her in person as well. 😃

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I was able to attend the TechStars Atlanta demo day and hear some awesome new companies pitch! 🚀

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I kept up the pace by heading out to Atlanta’s Startup Battlefield.

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I was excited to record my third podcast episode as a guest with Luke Williams on his show, the “Grab a Cloud” podcast. The episode drops early in 2020! 🎙️

And my fourth show as a guest, on Emily Velilla’s show, also releasing in the new year. 🎙️

Then I capped off October’s tech marathon by going down to my first Atlanta Startup Village event (thanks to Aly Merritt for the invite!).

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Actually that’s a lie; October’s tech marathon was really capped off with an awesome care-package from my friends over at Shrug Capital (thanks Nick and Niv!). 📦

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November

Could November begin any better than another amazing care-package from the incomparable Nikki DeMeré, who has become one of my closest friends and allies?

I don’t think so. 🤗

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I was super excited to represent my alma mater Brandeis University at the college fair this year. Once a Bradeisian, always a Brandeisian. 😎

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Back up to D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with Shaina. Can’t believe I’ve now known her for ten years. But she works for a tour company and told me some of the cool things about D.C. as we walked around. 🇺🇸

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And I introduced her to her first Philz Coffee! ☕️

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A day in Fredrick, Maryland with Shaina and Kate, two of my closest friends in the whole world. It was cold haha. And Kate’s son is adorable, even if he’s not interested in the picture. ❤️

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Met up in D.C. with my other college friend Victoria — and I was rocking my Liechtenstein shirt.

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And I started planning a short webinar with my friend Elaine Jacques — we’ll see about getting it out the door in the new year. 😉

December 

With multiple birthdays and anniversaries, December is family time.

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Met this wonderful girl a couple months back — here we are at Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Chelsea made funny faces in some pictures… 😂

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And we saw Hanson! The 90s kid in me was happy. 🎸

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December is also friends and siblings time.

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Mom couldn’t resist taking one last funny picture of me for the year. ✡️

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And of course I had to finish the year by posting my new list of “100 Independent Albums and EP’s” that people probably missed in 2019. Gotta keep the ties to the music world strong. 😉🎸

Reflecting on 2019

This was a marathon year for me. I feel as if the seeds that I sometimes serendipitously planted years ago in tech and music really began to yield amazing relationships and opportunities in 2019. And I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. I can see myself continuing to write about music, tech, relationships, mental health, business, and diversity, and so much of my inspiration is drawn from dialogues I had this year.

No plan ever survives the battlefield, and 2019 was certainly no exception to that rule. But I’ve grown as a person and as an entrepreneur, and intend to keep that trajectory moving at full force as we move into the next decade.

Bring on 2020! 🚀

(And remember to look for the orange sunglasses. 😎 😉)

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100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed in 2019

Welcome to the FIFTH annual list of independent albums and EP’s that probably slipped under your radar this year. I’ve been in the music industry for over a decade at this point (I know right?!) and it continues to floor me just how much talent is out there.

Yet here we are again, with even more incredible music for you to sink your teeth into. One of the truest things that keeps me creating these lists year after year is the excitement I derive from the serendipitous discovery of these wide swaths of creativity. Sometimes the best artistry emerges from the best-kept secrets.  🤘🎸

Since 2015, I’ve given you lists of 100 independent albums and EP’s you probably missed during the year. Here they are:

And so, here is the 2019 list in all its glory. I’m equally excited for the new crop of artists here as well as for those returning again. A healthy helping of the content on this year’s list is from artists I’ve known for years and who continue to crank out new material. It’s all balanced by an influx of new content from new artists whom I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on into the new year.

As with all previous lists, these 100 albums and EP’s come from artists all over the world. This year’s list includes artists from: Canada, Greece, Germany, Spain, Austria, Hungary, France, almost ALL of Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland!), Australia, Estonia, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, New Zeland, Indonesia, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Bulgaria, the U.K., Poland, and 21 different U.S. states. The independent world is massive.

It’s always interesting to see what each year brings in terms of style and genre, and this year’s list seems to heavily feature classic garage punk, pop-punk, shoegaze, alternative, metal, folk rock, and hard rock material.

With all that out of the way, here are 100 of the independent albums and EP’s that you probably missed in 2019. All were released during the 2019 calendar year.

As always, albums are in no particular order.

Remember, if you dig this and want to see more, follow me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and startups!

Come take a peek under the radar at the material you probably missed this year—live in my music world for a little while. 😎👍

 

1. What Happened To Us? (Vol. 1)The Head — Atlanta, Georgia, USA

What Happened to Us

2. Breathe In ColoursForever Still — Copenhagen, Denmark

Breathe in Colours

3. GhostBloody Diamonds — Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ghost

4. I’m The ReaperThe Beautiful Monument — Melbourne, Australia

I'm The Reaper

5. Gone Off the EarthFelic — Helsinki, Finland

Gone Off the Earth

6. Far CanalFox Ache — Brisbane, Australia

Far Canal

7. EphemeralWe Are The Catalyst — Gothenburg, Sweden

Ephemeral

8. Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones on Audiotree LiveHannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones — Los Angeles, California, USA

Hannah Wicklund Live

9.  Retrospective | ReactiveHave No Clue — Esztergom, Hungary

Retrospective, Reactive

10. Mourning Vibes IIDownStater — Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Mourning Vibes II

11. When Daughters & Sons RevoltPast Tense Of Never — Graham, North Carolina, USA

When Daughters

12. Show Me Your TeethBeth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters — Cardiff, Wales, UK

Show Me Yourth Teeth

13. The Extinction of UnicornsThe Dead Love — Sydney, Australia

The Extinction of Unicorns

14. The Wood Room SessionsJust Like Honey — New York, New York, USA

The Wood Room Sessions

15. Useless HandsRival Town — St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Useless Hands

16. Not So BoldDance Contraption — Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Not So Bold

17. Main Street RevivalMain Street Revival — Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Main Street Revival

18. Crowned In FrostFrozen Crown — Milan, Italy

Crowned In Frost

19. Come What MayOh See Demons — Bergen, Norway

Come What May

20. How Your Life’s Played OutMontgomery — Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Howw Your Life's

21. Alone in the DarkIn Good Nature — Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Alone in the Dark

22. Brand New WorldDesert Queen — Tartu, Estonia

Brand New World

23. Asleep in the Deep EndAndross — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Asleep In The Deep End

24. It Was BeautifulFawner — Bristol, England, UK

It Was Beautiful

25. TrayaSet Fire — Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Traya

26. Notti di FolliaOut For Summer — Moderna, Italy

Notti di Follia

27. SliceSpo — Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Slice

28. Feeding The VoidHysteria — Dresden, Germany

Feeding the Void

29. Here & Now (EP)Dangerfield — Brisbane, Australia

Here and Now EP

30. CelebrationCityState — Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA

Celebration

31. Dream LivingLost Mind — Torrelodones, Spain

Dream Living

32. So It BeganSilvernite — Greece

So It Began

33. Bridges We Build | Bridges We BurnTeresa Banks — Helsinki, Finland

Bridges We Build, Bridges We Burn

34. SerenitySaint Raven — Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Serenity

35. Two SidesDirty Rugs — Seattle, Washington, USA

Two Sides

36. ATERAZea Mays — Bilbao, Spain

Atera

37. LP1Clouds & Satellites — Savannah, Georgia, USA

LP1

38. Three on Three EPJack Droppers & the Best Intentions — Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Three on Three EP

39. CRAFTING EPCRAFTING — Wilmington, Delaware, USA

Crafting EP

40. The World ConspiresBirdeatsbaby — Brighton, England, UK

The World Conspires

41. TranscendHello, Mountain — Denver, Colorado, USA

Transcend

42. Spiral DownBlue Velvet Drapes — Los Angeles, California, USA

Spiral Down

43. RedeemerRed Handed Denial — Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Redeemer

44. MaladjustedMy Secret Haven — Warsaw, Poland

Maladjusted

45. Glitter TrailsGlitter Trails — Los Angeles, California, USA

Glitter Trails

46. MemoriasCarla Monterrubio — Mexico City, Mexico

Memorias

47. The TollDUSK — Vienna, Austria

The Toll

48. Manic EPLie to Life — Detroit, Michigan, USA

Manic EP

49. Genetic NobodiesGenetic Nobodies — Los Angeles, California, USA

Genetic Nobodies

50. Skull FlowerJohn Tessier — Paris, France

Skull Flower

51. UnbreakableKeep Flying — New Jersey, USA

Unbreakable

52. Scream In My DreamStrangers In The Attic — Zurich, Switzerland

Scream in My Dream

53. Stories in TimeTime Jugglers — Sofia, Bulgaria

Stories in Time

54. A New DawnAltHero — Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Spain

A New Dawn

55. On A FlowBreitenbach — Frankfurt, Germany

On a Flow

56. L’hameçonATHECIO — Lyon, France

L'hamecon

57. Dusky WingDusky Wing — Los Angeles, California, USA

Dusky Wing

58. PALIMONY EPPALIMONY — Gainesville, Florida, USA

Palimony EP

59. On FencesBetween Bodies — Berlin, Germany

On Fences

60. DormancyPlaying Pretend — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Dormancy

61. Woodland RitesGreen Lung — London, England, UK

Woodland Rites

62. Peachy Keen EPGolden Cinema — Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Peachy Keen EP

63. ThunderjoyWest Valley Shakers — Sheridan, Oregon, USA

Thunderjoy

64. Queen of the PillThe Jackets — Bern, Switzerland

Queen of the Pill

65. After DarkPale Lips — Montreal, Quebec, Canada

After Dark

66. ErebusReturned To The Earth — Nuneaton, England, UK

Erebus

67. SchizophreniaAltersight — Saint Petersburg, Russia

Schizophrenia

68. IVOMAHA — Toronto, Ontario, Canada

IV

69. EgressTopLady  — Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

Egress

70. Blind by MidnightDino Bravo — Burlington, Vermont, USA

Blind by Midnight

71. Cool EvilGlued — St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Cool Evil

72. StressorWine Lips — Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Stressor

73. Here It IsFragile Canyons — Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Here It Is

74. Feels Like ForeverPretty Bird — Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Feels Like Forever

75. Larmes ConfettisCosmophone — Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada

Larmes confettis

76. UNOBlack Betty — Villa Maria, Argentina

UNO

77. The GhostwriterThe Ghostwriter — Detroit, Michigan, USA

The Ghostwriter

78. Pen NamePen Name — Canterbury, England, UK

Pen Name

79. Hoping, Not HopefulLow Vault — Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Hoping, Not Hopeful

80. Planet HunterPlanet Hunter — Wellington, New Zealand

Planet Hunter

81. Butterfly DistortionDive to Blue — Buenos Aires, Argentina

Butterfly Distortion

82. Take Her My LifeCastle Black — Brooklyn, New York, USA

Take Her My Life

83. Starburst – EPTruett & The Traitors — Springfield, Missouri, USA

Starburts EP

84. GoMoND — Bandung, Indonesia

Go

85. A War WithinEnmy — Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

A War Within

86. The Devil You KnowThe Coathangers — Atlanta, Georgia, USA

The Devil You Know

87. Manic MoodEasy Jane — Beirut, Lebanon

Manic Mood

88. DemonstrationFloral Canyon — Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Demonstration

89. ExhaleThe Sleep Department — Brooklyn, New York, USA

Exhale

90. epSoft Topics — Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

ep

91. SPLASH – EPService Delay — Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Splash EP

92. Welcome to the BlockStonewall BLVD — Denver, Colorado, USA

Welcome to the Block

93. The New Joys E.P.The New Joys — Brooklyn, New York, USA

The New Joys EP

94. SuperfuzzSuperfuzz — A Coruña, Spain

Superfuzz

95. OvernightInsomnia — Milan, Italy

Overnight

96. EP 2019Dischord — Aix En Provence, France

EP 2019

97. Young & DumbAll In Due Time — New York, New York, USA

Young and Dumb

98. Indeed EPIndeed — Budapest, Hungary

Indeed ep

99. MuralMural — Cebu, The Philippines

Mural

100. No Missed Calls, No New MessagesThe Ragetones — Pueblo, Colorado, USA

No Missed Calls

***

If you enjoyed this list please share and give these artists some love!

2018: A Year in Review

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Back in January, I set a list of goals for myself this year.

It may have been a bit lofty, but I am nonetheless proud of what I got done this year. I achieved some of them, and some of them I’m reinstating for next year. But life is about more than just work goals — here are some of the highlights of my 2018. 👍

January

I opened January with a slew of great projects. I continued writing for Crunchbase News, writing more on Spotify as they approached this April direct listing. My dad then proceeded to make a joke about the direct listing — I’m still laughing. 😂

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A week later, I followed that with some interesting editing work on Andy Sparks’ new Holloway project.

January capped with a great talk from Arlan Hamilton here in Atlanta, which of course I enjoyed attending. It was great to see Arlan again and hear her backstory — “inspiring” barely begins to appropriately describe it. 🙌

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Though I didn’t publish too many Minimum Viable Network pieces this year, one of the ones I’m most proud of drew heavily on my experience during Arlan’s talk. I begin to think a lot more about the power of ubiquity.

I finally said goodbye to my iPhone 4S. 📱

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Remember that time at the Product Hunt party last year that Eric Willis was poking fun at me for still being the only person in tech with one? 😂😱

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I snagged an invite to the Atlanta Jewish Film festival — they made me wear a tie. 😱 👔

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February & March

February was slow, but in March, I took a break from Atlanta for a few days to fly up to D.C. for the gun reform march — the March for Our Lives speakers were amazing to hear in person.

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My college friend and I caught some culture at the Smithsonian.

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A week later, March ended on a high note when I had the pleasure of meeting Randi Zuckerberg following her talk at Georgia State. 👏

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April

In April, I started becoming much more vocal about harassment, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. I’ve been a huge supporter of Backstage Capital since I learned about their mission, and I believe equally as much in the work being done by Aileen Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, and others at AllRaise.org. I’m happy to be an ally in whatever way I can and will continue to be loud about changes which need to be made. I’m similarly inspired by and have become an ardent supporter of the work that Melinda Epler & Wayne Sutton are doing with Change Catalysts (plus their partnership with Backstage is fantastic!). 🤔

I saw some of my closest college friends in New Jersey and considered leaving tech for a future in modeling. Then reality set in. 😂

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I published my last piece on time & money before taking a long, well-deserved break from writing.

I made a meme.

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May

Right around mid-May, I hit a wall. I was having a hard time fighting past some anxiety and depression. I was having constant conversations with some of my closest friends and supporters, to whom I will always be grateful. But I realized that conversations may not be enough, and perhaps some fresh air was in order. So I took a break from Atlanta and worked on changing my perspective.

June

I flew out to the Bay Area and got to see Kiki Schirr again (she also hosted me, which means she’s a special kind of saint lol). Day 1, I had lunch with my super-patient editor Alex Wilhelm and he gave me a tour of the Crunchbase offices! 👍

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I finally got to meet Ken Yeung in person after many months of snarky Twitter comments. He’s just as snarky in person. 😱

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I drank a lot of Philz Coffee. A lot. ☕

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Coffee with Barrett Daniels, who’s become a close friend and confidant, and with Rei Wang, someone whom I think is doing fantastic work with new founders. Then got to drop by and finally meet Ruben Harris in person! 🚀

Lunch again with Adam Singer, and got to hit up his album release party! It ended up making my list of new albums this year (see below). There was a lot of snark and even more discussion about music than we normally touch on.

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I meandered down to San Jose and had lunch with Poornima Vijayashanker, who’s been both a pivotal influence on my understanding of accessibility in tech, and an amazing friend. 🤗

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I hit up Sacramento for some awesome hiking with college friends.

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July

Then came some time in Chicago, where I had some awesome pizza with fellow Crunchbse News writer Jason Rowley. He’s got great taste in pizza places. 🍕

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I hung out with a college friend I hadn’t seen in years.

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I met Cory Warfield, who’s become a close friend and mentor, and has completely turned me on to using LinkedIn in a new way. 🙌

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Got back to Atlanta just in time to go meet Emily Best— her company Seed&Spark was putting on a great event here in Atlanta. 📽

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I finally met Andrea Hernandez in person at an event here in Atlanta to promote more women in tech and business. 👏

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I saw the March for Our Lives speakers at their town hall here in Atlanta.

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I snagged tickets to *the FINAL* Warped Tour here in Atlanta. Got to see Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Simple Plan, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Mayday Parade, August Burns Red, and The Interrupters. 🤘🎸

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August & September

In September, I had the super pleasure of meeting Jim Augustine— COO of Zuckerberg Media— when Sue’s Tech Kitchen came to do their event in Atlanta. 👍

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I spent a lot of time thinking about anxiety & depression, and talking about how to address these issues in a much more pointed and accepting way. I am more thankful than I could really even articulate to those of my friends— especially those in the startup/tech world— who have supported me through these challenges in my own life. To Kiki Schirr, Alex Wilhelm, Jason Rowley, Christina Warren, Nikki DeMere, Poornima Vijyashanker, Adam Singer, Espree Devora, Nick Abouzeid, Bryan Landers, Cory Warfield, and numerous others who have helped me find a more positive mindset this year, I am eternally grateful. 🤔🤗🙌

October

I voted early—  there are big things coming in the near future for Georgia. 🗳

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Halloween encouraged me to wear a tie more often ha. 😉 👔

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November

Hit up New Jersey for Thanksgiving break and Kerry Flynn took me to an awesome bar! We talked tech, music, and going to school in Boston. 🤘

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Some family time at Ellis Island. This has inspired my sister to start researching our family history and in the last few weeks, we’ve all learned things we never knew!

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Then the siblings and I pretty much froze at the Statue of Liberty. 🗽

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I returned from my six-month break from writing, and damn it felt good.

I’ve been exploring new projects with some awesome people— we’ll see what picks up in the new year.

December

I doubled down on Atlanta.

And I capped off this year with my new list of “100 Independent Albums & EP’s” that you all probably missed at some point.  😎🎸

Reflecting on 2018

The second half of 2017 was extremely hard for me for a number of reasons and I tried to enter 2018 with a new mindset. Nothing ever goes 100% according to plan, and I had a couple stumbles this year. But I’ve grown my network, cultivated deeper relationships, tried to create as much value as I could, created new things, and became determined to live my life in a more positive way. None of these things happen overnight, but it’s all about the journey.

Be well all, keep moving forward!

Bring on 2019! 😎🎉

 

 

 

 

 

100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed in 2018

Another December just about passed, and another 100 independent albums and EP’s you probably missed this year. In any artistic industry, so much of the exciting content flies quietly under the radar, except for when you know where to look for it. 🤘🎸

Since 2015, I’ve given you lists of 100 independent albums and EP’s you probably missed during the year. Here they are:

Now here comes 2018’s. I’m so stoked for the new crop of artists here, as well as for those returning again. A lot of the content on this year’s list comes from artists I’ve known for years, producing music for new projects they’ve put together recently. This is a different kind of excitement; I love seeing the evolution of these creatives.

As with all previous lists, these 100 albums and EP’s come from artists all over the world. This year’s list includes artists from: Canada, Greece, Germany, South Korea, Belarus, Austria, Singapore, France, South Africa, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Spain, Estonia, Ukraine, Italy, the U.K., Switzerland, Russia, and 22 different U.S. states. The independent world is massive.

It’s always interesting to see what each year brings in terms of style and genre, and 2018 seems to have been heavy on punk, pop-punk, alternative, instrumental, metal, and jazz-influenced material, both in terms of my personal taste and overall releases.

With all that said, here are 100 of the independent albums and EP’s that you probably missed in 2018. All were released during the 2018 calendar year. Music is multidimensional, and all these artists should be treated as such.

As always, albums are in no particular order.

Come expand your universe and live in my world for a little while. 😎👍

1. Satellites — Chelsea Shag — Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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2. Painting with Scissors — Andy Gruhin — Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

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3. Feels — Fair Panic — Wayne, New Jersey, USA

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4. Overseas — White Coven — Zaragoza, Spain

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5. Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones — Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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6. Dreamland — Just Like Honey — New York, New York, USA

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7. Personal Issues — Oh See Demons — Bergen, Norway

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8. My Only Hope — Adam Singer — San Francisco, California, USA

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9.  Mind Tricks — Brownstone Inc. — Graz, Austria

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10. Thriving, Given The Consequences — Soviet Ohio — Syracuse, New York, USA

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11. In Moon We TrustHālley — Paris, France

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12. What The Wreck? — Stan Stewart — Ithaca, New York, USA

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13. Poor You, Part Two — Jinxbox — Middlebury, Vermont, USA

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14. Centipede – EP — Blooming Fire — Los Angeles, California, USA

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15. The Candleman and the Curtain — The Earth and I — Warwick, New York, USA

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16. Everyone I’ve Ever LovedValleyheart — Salem, Massachusetts, USA

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17. Kingdoms — Coopertheband — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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18. Self Titled — Alias May — Melbourne, Australia

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19. Make My Millennium — Resident One — Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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20. FunnySexyCoolHollywood Horses — Birmingham, Alabama, USA

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21. .ghostworld – EP — .ghostworld — Singapore, Singapore

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22. Heaven and Her Demons — BlackBeak — Johannesburg, South Africa

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23. Wherever That IsPanhandler — Stockholm, Sweden

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24. White Roses EP — Dream Chambers — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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25. Soul Transfer — Emphasis — Tallin, Estonia

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26. Westline Drive EP — Westline Drive — San Francisco, California, USA

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27. EP — Lampion — Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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28. Salvation — The Penske File — Burlington, Ontario, Canada

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29. Hypnotizing Euphoria — The Who Was Phone — Zurich, Switzerland

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30. Bridges – EP — For The Fire — Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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31. Disposition — Young Animals — St. Louis, Missouri, USA

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32. Glow In The Dark — Rachel Rose Mitchell — Melbourne, Australia

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33. Dear Beer — The Bombpops — Los Angeles, California, USA

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34. Aftermind — HighView — Canberra, Australia

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35. It’s History, It’s Poetry — Detour North — Chicago, Illinois, USA

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36. Voices in My Head — Failing Up — Los Angeles, California, USA

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37. Omega — Shades of Dissonance — Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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38. From the Wild Sky — Halie Loren — Eugene, Oregon, USA

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39. Up in Roses — Fever — Portland, Oregon, USA

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40. Passing Years — Looking For Alaska — Regensburg, Germany

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41. Desire Paths — Turnspit — Chicago, Illinois, USA

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42. Absolution EP — Keating — Columbus, Ohio, USA

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43. The Fallen King — Frozen Crown — Milan, Italy

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44. Heartwoken EP — The Revies — Los Angeles, California, USA

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45. Amnesiatic — ODD ROBOT — Fullerton, California, USA

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46. Everything Is Temporary — Between You & Me — Melbourne, Australia

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47. Duoyu — Duoyu — Athens, Greece

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48. Six People in a Dream — Baronaqua — Melbourne, Australia

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49. Hometown Static — Second Street — Kansas City, Missouri, USA

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50. Happy Thoughts — Midfield — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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51. Becoming a Ghost — Becoming a Ghost — Troy, New York, USA

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52. BedtimePawn Pawn — Toledo, Ohio, USA

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53. Alliance — We Call The Shots — Phoenix, Arizona, USA

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54. Mother’s Keeper — Mother’s Keeper — Birmingham, Alabama, USA

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55. Is an EP — THIS — Buffalo, New York, USA

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56. Distraction EP — Paper Citizen — Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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57. Nostalgia — deerfield. — Syracuse, New York, USA

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58. Street Talk — Big White — Sydney, Australia

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59. For Me This Time — Analog Heart — Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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60. While We DreamLights & Motion — Gothenburg, Sweden

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61. Raw SugarL’Absence — Zaragoza, Spain

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62. TamelessBuffalo Rampage — Moscow, Russia

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63. Never Asked for It EPSorry, Scout — St. Louis, Missouri, USA

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64. Old SoulSharp Sleeves — Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

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65. Aspire — VENUES — Stuttgart, Germany

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66. From Blue to BoneMama Doom — Poughkeepsie, New York, USA

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67. Heart Whispers (EP) — Grace & the Midnight Angel — Clovis, California, USA

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68. Cirque Du SkankSkunk Funk — American Canyon, California, USA

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69. Spring Silver EP — Spring Silver — Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

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70. The View From HereStealing Home — Concord, California, USA

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71. Weird’N’ConfusedAppocaloosers — Madrid, Spain

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72. InceptionWallbangers — Nantes, France

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73. Wanderlust EPGrowling Rabbit — Minsk, Belarus

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74. Paper SaintsPaper Saints — Dallas, Texas, USA

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75. Spinneret EPJEM — Singapore, Singapore

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76. Cashmore DemosCashmore — Brisbane, Australia

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77. DakotaGo Murphy — Fargo, North Dakota, USA

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78. Categories of ColourEither/Or — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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79. FacadeBoxford — Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

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80. Casual CornerBlesst Chest — Portland, Oregon, USA

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81. Paper HeartsThe Brothers Union — Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA

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82. New RuinsCandace — Portland, Oregon, USA

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83. Growing PainEnvious View — Springfield, Missouri, USA

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84. Hangin’ On!The Glycereens — Brisbane, Australia

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85. Digital EPAnemoria — Fullerton, California, USA

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86. AgonizeSever The Ear — Gwangju, South Korea

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87. Laugh It Off!Domino & the Derelicts — San Jose, California, USA

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88. Glass BonesWolvesMouth — Voorhees, New Jersey, USA

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89. AshesLed By Lanterns — Birmingham, England, UK

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90. A Quiet Riot Vol. 1We Are Riot — Bremen, Germany

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91. Membership DuesSad Girlz Club — San Francisco, California, USA

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92. Broken CodesIn Parallel — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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93. The Deep Sleep — Unveil — Sherebrooke, Quebec, Canada

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94. The NexstoneThe Nexstone — Kramatorsk, Ukraine

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95. Comfort Zone — Superhaunted — Miami, Florida, USA

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96. Fault Lines EPAeve Ribbons — Manchester, England, UK

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97. Visions EP — Noise Maze — Udine, Italy

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98.The Outer Space (EP)Fallcie — Saint Petersburg, Russia

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99. JarenJenn’s Apartment — Lansing, Michigan, USA

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100. Nothing LeftMy Favorite Fault — Moscow, Russia

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***

If you enjoyed this please share, and feel free to Tweet me. Let’s talk music and tech!

Atlanta: Signs of the Next Major Tech Hub

Atlanta, Georgia, USA downtown skyline.

The Question

Almost two full years ago, in January of 2017, Ryan Hoover asked me what the tech scene in Atlanta was like. I was in San Francisco, and had flown across the country (on a very cheap ticket!) to attend Product Hunt’s celebration party following its AngelList acquisition. We were hanging out on the upper floor of the venue, me, trying to look like I belonged there, and he, casually leaning against a wall, gratefully shaking hands with everyone who wanted a picture with him.

I was actually caught off guard a bit because, frankly, I didn’t know too much about the Atlanta tech scene at the time. I’d grown up here, but left for college in Boston, and if I’m being honest, I only meandered back here after school because of family & the post-college reality of starting a company with essentially no money. As much as I enjoyed my childhood, I’ve never been much of an “Atlanta guy” — I’m a Mets & Red Sox fan (for the rare times I watch sports), I like the cold, and I yearn for the deadpan, brash humor of the Northeast. But I recognized financial reality and made the best of my situation.

The truth was that I hadn’t really invested much time or effort into exploring the Atlanta tech scene. I was head-down working on my music startup, so I was spending more time wiring myself up in the music industry than the startup world. Additionally, everything in 2014-2017 was (or seemed to be) San Francisco, New York, L.A., or Seattle, and that’s where my head was too. I figured it was only a matter of time until I left Atlanta.

From Bust to Boom

Part of the frustration I felt personally during this period was how the tech scene here felt & the tech press seemed to view Atlanta after Yik Yak’s failure: “well we tried, but Atlanta’s not ready for real tech investment yet,” despite our having TechStars, MailChimp, and Calendly, among others. This coupled with “go to California, that’s where all the money is” mentality.

But things change. Calendly has grown. MailChimp is a bona fide unicorn. Salesforce is building Salesforce Tower downtown. And now, Walker & Company Brands is moving here, following their sale to Procter & Gamble. And these are just the names many people are familiar with; there are others, blooming down at the Tech Village, scattered around Buckhead and Midtown, popping up around Tech Square, and nesting outside the Perimeter (OTP) in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.

On the Cusp

Atlanta is fast becoming a tech hub for crypto, SaaS, and media startups. Yet it’s still not mentioned in the same breath as Austin or Denver. Why this is could be a topic for debate, but what ultimately matters is that 2019 will bring a new sense of tech startup intrigue to Atlanta. Warm weather, affordable housing, and ready pools of talent from at least 5 major universities in town (Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Spelman, & Morehouse) — not to mentioned UGA just over an hour away — are some of the unavoidable perks of the city.  And, we’ll begin the year on the tail of a major acquisition coup.

What’s missing — at the moment — is the same sort of starry-eyed, dare-to-dream-it dynamic which pervades tech in SF and NYC. Yes, we have SaaS meetups, startup chowdowns, and interesting groups which meet in the rooms of the Tech Village.

But what we really need to invest in are the more abstract, informal meetups, dinners, and coffee-shop interactions which don’t require reserving a room or having a planned discussion for each get-together. It’s these more abstract, informal dynamics which will generate some of the most exciting ideas, build reputations & relationships, and draw investment to the city in a way that’s more representative of the “dare to dream, go for broke” feel of Silicon Valley.

The Next Crop

As with everything, there will rise a set of core voices and personalities who help shape this new era of tech in Atlanta. They will be the people who just “seem to be everywhere,” seem to know everyone, and have a vision for how to transform the city in the next 5-10 years. It will be interesting to see who’s included on this short list.

I expect that we will soon be seeing more tech conferences here as this new mentality sets in. And while I may not start rooting for the Braves anytime soon, I will nonetheless have my eyes peeled for this group of individuals with the vision to make Atlanta the next great tech hub.

I’m a Writer—Here’s Why I’ve Taken a Six-Month Break From Writing

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The Writer’s Rub

It’s been about half a year since my last real essay or post. I took almost the entire summer and autumn off from writing full-length essays, response posts, and even shorter thought pieces. It feels—and maybe seems—that the only things I’ve been writing this summer have been tweets and LinkedIn posts.

This might seem odd for a writer—after all, writers are supposed to write consistently and be able to produce high-level content with each topic they cover. But here’s the rub; writers are also human. We hit walls, experience burnout, and need breaks like everyone else—especially those who are motivated to produce content at break-neck speed.

And damn was I burned out.

Where Startups and Writing Diverge

In startups and tech development, there’s the notion of “ship early and often.” It doesn’t matter if the first version has bugs (it will always have bugs) or if it’s a little unfocused; there’s time to fix all that junk later. The important thing is shipping, and your perfectionism is holding you back.

The same cannot (and in my opinion, should not) be said of writing. Yes, if you’re a writer or content producer you should employ every tool at your disposal to produce content at a consistent pace. But the “bugs” that exist in writing are a different breed than those of the “ship early, ship often” startup world; pieces aren’t supposed to go out sloppily written, half-focused, and “all over the place” as my mom would say. They’re supposed to be tight and bullet-proof, however you define that. In some ways, Alexis Ohanian addressed this issue in tech recently with his statements on “hustle porn.

Don’t Be Forgettable; Be Magnetic

To maintain this self-defined standard, sometimes the answer is that you simply can’t consistently produce at break-neck speed; sometimes you need a break to recharge and find new ideas and motivation. This is the frustrating, unsexy aspect of writing. It’s what happens behind your closed mental doors, and perhaps the thing that has the potential to make you feel like you’re “not a real writer.”

Stave off this thought and instead focus your energy on recharging. Come back to the writing when you have something real to say. People can always tell when you’re writing just for the sake of filling a quota.

Spoiler alert: that kind of writing is boring and ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable; be magnetic.

All of this is to say that it feels damn good to be back. 😎👍

Three Questions Concerning Spotify’s Direct Listing Decision

Originally published on Crunchbase News on January 3, 2018.


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As everyone was in holiday mode a few weeks ago in December, Spotify confidentially filed documents with the SEC to go public, likely in Q1 of 2018.

Previously, I discussed Spotify’s numbers and examined how those figures looked before an IPO filing. Now we can see how those numbers look in context.

This filing bolsters prior reports that Spotify would forego a traditional IPO in favor of a direct listing, a method of going public that has left many scratching their heads. For those unfamiliar with it, a direct listing is a way allow a firm’s shares to begin regular trading while avoiding the normal IPO roadshow process.

When asked about the direct listing strategy, IPO expert Barrett Daniels of Nextstep Advisory Services told Crunchbase News that there are a few reasons companies might choose to pursue the strategy. It typically boils down to the fact that the company may not be “strong enough” to transact a traditional IPO due to these reasons:

  1. The company’s growth (or lack thereof).
  2. The company’s size (in terms of revenue).
  3. The general climate of the industry.

So do these reasons provide Spotify grounds to go direct, especially considering how much money could be left on the table? Let’s find out.

1. Company Growth

Spotify has the kind of crazy growth that companies dream of. As its subscriber numbers have gone from 50 to over 100 million users, Spotify’s valuation has similarly been adjusted. It’s worth remembering, though, that while the total subscriber number sits somewhere north of 130 million users, approximately 60 million are paying listeners.

So Spotify is big enough to attract attention and generate a lot of excitement. In fact, because Spotify is such a well-known company to go public, an IPO roadshow seems to be precisely what it would want. More attention and more hype might mean more money on gameday.

2. The Company’s Size

This kind of fast-paced growth also contextualizes the music company’s size in terms of its revenue. According to Daniels, the size of a company’s revenue will dictate how larger institutions view it; if the revenue looks too small, larger institutions could deem the company too early or too risky, and therefore might be uninterested. But given Spotify’s outsized growth, though, perhaps this is a reaction to its continued unprofitability (as of yet).

3. General Industry Climate

Daniels also noted that in some direct listing cases, the decision to forego a traditional IPO could be something as simple as a timing issue. Industries go through hot and cold periods, and a cold period could convince a private entity to forgo the public process.

However, this doesn’t typically apply to the music industry. Because of business with mainstream acts, music companies tend to be more well-known among public investors than, say, a company which perhaps works on tooling or shipping. Therefore, Spotify has no reason to think that the climate would change at all between now and an expected 2018 IPO date.

Going through Barrett’s list of reasons, we can see that Spotify’s direct listing doesn’t pass muster on these grounds. But there are two outside arguments that augment the viability of direct listing: saving money on the IPO process and stopping the clock on Spotify’s convertible debt raise.

Saving Money

Outside of Barrett’s outline for going direct, Spotify could limit costs by foregoing a normal, pre-IPO roadshow. However, experts have pointed out that this doesn’t make much sense. The money which Spotify would save on an IPO roadshow is negligible compared to the amount it would ultimately raise in a normal IPO.

But there are other ways Spotify can save money.

Stopping the Clock

Last year, Spotify took on convertible debt from Dragoneer and TPG, totaling $1 billion. According to David Golden of Revolution Ventures, by listing directly, Spotify could essentially “stop the clock” on these debt-conversions, and presumably, save itself tens of millions of dollars.

As a refresher, under the terms of these notes signed in 2016, Spotify was required to pay 5 percent annual interest, a figure that grows by 1 percent every six months for a total of 10 percent. Investors could then convert the debt into equity at a 20 percent discount of Spotify’s IPO price. If there were no IPO within a year, the discount at which investors could eventually buy back stock would increase 2.5 percent every extra six months.

The Questions Left Lingering

All of this leaves a lingering question: if neither of the two most-cited arguments hold water, does the decision to direct list have anything to do with Spotify’s $20 billion valuation? There have been, as of late, multiple sources which have raised concerns, expressing reticence and opining what a public Spotify will look like. Spotify did not respond to a request for comment.

The streaming market also faces stiff competition. Apple can subsidize its music service until the end of time through its phone and computer sales. Facebook just signed a major deal with Universal, and YouTube is gearing up for its own music service launch. Pandora has just created a Spotify clone, and its post-IPO performance doesn’t bode overwhelming optimism. All of this is now against the backdrop of a $1.6 billion lawsuit filed by Wixen Music Publishing against the streaming music company.

Additionally, here are a few numbers we don’t know which will impact Spotify’s business model long-term:

  1. What Spotify royalty rates are. It has been reported the company pays anywhere from 58 percent to 83 percent.
  2. How often Spotify needs to renegotiate royalty deals with the major labels.
  3. What the percentage stakes each major label owns of Spotify.

We’ll see how things roll out by the end of Q1.

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

2018: A New Year with New Goals

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Perhaps the last picture I’ll post with my trusty iPhone 4S

2017 is over and 2018 is now here. That’s a good thing; last year was a tough one. A few very close relationships ended, and after a few years, I closed my first company. But I also learned that there is life after failure.

So here we are now in the new year, and I’m excited to start working on a bunch of new things. Here are some of the things you’ll see from me in 2018: 

  • 😎 🎸 I’m working on a new music project (company? 😎 ). That’s right — after a badly needed six-month hiatus (maybe longer?) from actually running a music-startup, I’m gathering feedback on a new idea which is incredibly exciting. So far, feedback has been very positive. Discussions with a select number of artists as well as a few journalists, founders, and confidants have yielded an ever-clearer perspective on how this can grow. I’m excited to read more people into this as the year progresses.
  • 📝 I’m working on editing a very special document that I’m extremely excited to finish. I’m a word-nerd, and in editing this piece, I can honestly say it’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done in my professional writing career.
  • 📝 🤘 I have an avalanche of new music articles written and in the works which I can’t wait to see published. Some of these will shake things up (I hope), but hey, what’s the point of being a music journalist if you’re not a little punk about it? 
  • 📝 📽️ I’m working on writing a rough draft of a screenplay (no, really!). Last year, I was kicking around an idea which I thought could be fun to work on, and over the last week, I’ve started mapping out characters and basic scene dialogue. I’ve never done a screenplay, so I am more than happy to have collaborators!
  • 🙋 🙋‍♂️ 🙌 🤝 I will start driving harder towards being more central to the discussions on sexual harassment and how to fix the issues we have before us. This is less of a “me” thing, and more something I am incredibly passionate about; I am open to collaborating with anyone on projects which will help with the goals of creating a paradigm with more meritocracy, equality, and egalitarianism. 
  • 😎 🎙️ I’m incredibly excited (and flattered) to have an invitation to be on a few podcasts starting this year — because I don’t talk enough as it is ha!
  • 🤔 📝 I’m working on plans for a new guide which will (hopefully) excite word-smiths everywhere; more on this project in the coming months. 
  • 📝 📖 I’m writing a pseudo-review of a book I’ve been reading which has changed my perspective on so many things, and has similarly confirmed a lot of the mantras which I try to live my life by. This will be out by the end of January.
  • 📝 🤝 I will be releasing many new articles in my Minimum Viable Network series.
  • 🎸 😉 I’ll be doing more work with artists (some have asked me to manage ha!) — maybe there’s a producer-credit in my future.  
  • 🤔 📖  There are a few of my past articles which I have been toying with revising into a rough pitch for a book. Let’s see what the year brings. 
  • 😄 I will be exploring more speaking opportunities.
  • 😎 🤘With the 2017 list out, I’m ready to start working on the new “100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed” list for 2018.
  • 😄 🙌 I’m excited to start having * Many * More * Conversations * — I’m all about creating new things, and I look forward to picking up new projects throughout the new year, both with current partners in crime and new draftees.

Thank you to everyone who helped me pull through 2017. Your support means more than you know. Now, on to 2018!

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

The Spotify-SoundCloud Supergroup Is Dead

Originally published on Mattermark on December 29, 2017. 


tl;dr: The SoundCloud and Spotify deal is dead. For Spotify, no deal avoids unnecessary headaches. For SoundCloud, the road ahead looks lonely as the platform heads into 2017.

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Cream. Bad Company. Temple of the Dog. These were some of the greatest supergroups that ever existed. The Spotify-SoundCloud union could have been next, but like many supergroup concepts, it only lasted a short time.

The real question is why. Ultimately, in my view, the deal died because SoundCloud tried to become something that it wasn’t, alienating its core fan base in the process.

It was easy to argue that a Spotify-SoundCloud combination could benefit each party: SoundCloud’s independent-heavy catalog and Spotify’s major label material are natural complements.

But the prospect is no longer on the table. It recently became known that Spotify passed on acquiring the little orange cloud.

Let’s talk about why that happened.

Supergroup Not

2016 was not kind to SoundCloud.

Despite signing deals with major labels, securing its largest to-date funding round, and launching its own subscription service, key questions remain concerning its current operational results, where it fits into the M&A landscape, and what an independent SoundCloud looks like in 2017.

Fiscal Expense

Mattermark recently examined, broadly, who could afford to buy SoundCloud, now that Spotify has left the table.

To understand why Spotify might have passed—neither Spotify nor SoundCloud responded to requests for comments regarding this piece—on SoundCloud, it’s worth remembering the smaller firm’s P&L.

SoundCloud’s revenue quickly expanded from $1.8 million in 2010 to $9.6 million in 2012, to $19.6 million in 2014. Its losses tracked upwards, however, from $2.01 million in 2010 to $14.9 million in 2012, to $44.2 million in 2014.

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Much like Spotify and other streaming services, some SoundCloud revenue quickly passes through its books. In SoundCloud’s case, around 80 percent of its revenue from a portion of its aggregate top line goes right to labels. Spotify’s results are similar.

The context for those numbers is simple: SoundCloud has raised around $193 million to-date over a series of five rounds. Just comparing the company’s through-2014 losses, SoundCloud has spent around half its raise so far. And since we’re not including more recent operational results, that figure is very conservative.

The Sophomore Slump

If 2010 to 2013 was SoundCloud’s breakthrough album, then 2014 to 2016 was its disappointing follow-up.

Beginning in 2015, SoundCloud started to move away from its initial user base of independent artists and began courting major labels. The company inked a deal with Warner in later 2015 and Universal Music in early 2016.

Warner and Universal were joined by the last remaining holdout in March of 2016 when Sony signed on. That effectively marked the end of SoundCloud’s days as the independents’ playground.

Following the three major label deals, SoundCloud released SoundCloud Go, its entry into the music subscription wars. The company has yet to report major gains from the subscription product. I’d posit that it may be difficult for SoundCloud to entice music fans to the service. If potential subscribers are interested in mainstream music, they can already go to other music services.

Money Talks

While Spotify sports extensive independent material, its focus is major label artists. That fact did not escape those who made the argument in favor of the combination. SoundCloud’s huge base of independent EDM, acoustic, rock, and other artists could help balance the scales and provide a funnel into the Spotify nest.

If the argument for Spotify buying SoundCloud was that the latter could help the former pull in independent music, do SoundCloud’s operational results matter?

The answer is yes, as Spotify doesn’t want anything to threaten its impending IPO.

Earlier this year, I took a deep dive into Spotify’s own financials, examining the numbers and reasons that they already might have a tricky path to IPO. New cost centers could make that already difficult-looking trek nigh impossible.

Even with SoundCloud’s legal issues seemingly taken care of by major label deals, SoundCloud’s subscription service arrived to lackluster reviews, and its sizable debt may present too much of a headache for Spotify just before their looming IPO.

This is all especially stark considering SoundCloud’s desired price-tag of $1 billion. Even with Twitter’s most recent $70 million investment into the service, valuing it in the neighborhood of $700 million, Spotify would still need to pay an additional $300 million to close the difference.

2017

What does this all mean for SoundCloud’s future?

As with Spotify, the major labels now have a vested interest in SoundCloud’s existence. But that doesn’t mean that they have a long-term interest in its health. As I noted in my previous Spotify piece, the labels may not want to kill SoundCloud, but they also don’t have to go out of their way to help it. So long as it sends in revenue, who cares?

Some people will care. The danger could be that independent artists may care enough to go somewhere else more focused on them. (Since they operate independently, SoundCloud’s major label deals have no sway over their prospective decisions.)

SoundCloud’s challenge is that the faster it rushes to catch up with Spotify and Apple in the mainstream arena, the faster it may alienate its key demographic of independent artists; in working to compete with the larger, mainstream players, I wonder if SoundCloud has become what its initial user base—its core point of differentiation—was trying to avoid

We’ll see in 2017.


Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

How to Write Like an Editor

How thinking like an editor can bullet-proof your writing.

Originally published on my Medium on December 2, 2016.

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I come from a family of writers. My parents are both attorneys, and I spent my formative years in school learning how to write bullet-proof essays. It wasn’t until long after college, though, that I really began to see writing in more lights than simply as “a writer.” In fact, it was only recently that I’ve been able to think and write like an editor.

If you look around the blogosphere, and on Medium in particular, you see a lot of the same stuff. Not the same topics per se, but the same issues with the writing. A lot of it’s choppy, half-baked, passionate but not convincing, and many times riddled with grammatical mistakes. A lot of this can be avoided though.

A lot of time people see writing as a number of things — none of them good. They see it as tedious, superfluous, nonchalant, boring, or easy.

Writing is not easy, and writing on a higher level than “just writing” is a skill which takes constant practice and dedication. But for time-sake, here’s a crash-course to make your writing tighter, stronger, and all around better.

(Note: This won’t cover non-writing aesthetic choices, like pictures, gifs, videos, etc. This is focused solely on the art of writing and editing.)

Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Grammar
  2. Spelling
  3. Tenses
  4. Formatting
  5. Thesis
  6. Argument
  7. Length
  8. Style

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Grammar

Let’s get this one out of the way early. Poor spelling and grammar will kill any piece you write. Every time. Without fail. Don’t think you’re fooling anyone — we can all tell when you’re too lazy to proofread your article for mistakes. Learn to love multiple drafts.

So Rule #1 in writing like an editor: edit your damn article.

Caveat: I’ll cover this more in Style, but keep in mind that sometimes the most readable pieces aren’t necessarily the ones that follow 100% of grammar rules. This took me a long time to learn and become comfortable with. Be at ease using contractions, beginning sentences with “and” and “but,” and using slang terms like “gonna,” “bullshit,” and “fuck.” This gives your writing personality and makes it much less stilted. Just remember not to go overboard with things. If it doesn’t serve your argument, don’t fuck around with it.

Rule #1: Edit your damn article.

Spelling

We live in the era of spell-check. There’s literally no reason for spelling mistakes. If you don’t care enough to use spell-check, I don’t care enough to read it, end of story.

Tenses

This usually falls under grammar, but it’s important to break it out here. A lot of people seem to have problems with tensing, even some of the smartest, most insightful writers I enjoy reading (including hyper-successful founders, investors, marketers, etc.). It’s something people stumble over when it doesn’t make sense, and a lot of times it’s hard to pinpoint.

The best advice for keeping proper tensing is to read the wonky sentence out loud and see if it flows. If you’re having trouble with it, your readers will too. It should flow easily off the tongue, and if not, reexamine your tenses.

Formatting

Like grammar and tenses, formatting is one of those things you’ll need to take a step back on and read through an editor’s eyes. It’s one of the most tedious parts of editing, but one of the things that sets good pieces apart from complete crap.

Look and Feel: First, does it look good? If it’s blocky and hard to read, chances are people will never read it (unless you’re maybe already famous). Break things up — the “new paragraph” is your friend.

Italics, bold, and underline are essential to making something interesting to the eye, but don’t overdo it. Too much bold and you’re shouting at me; too many italics and you’re making me read a French pastry recipe.

ALL CAPS: Like bold, all caps is akin to yelling at me. Try to stay away from this. However, if you’re going to yell at me, make it count. Do it only if you really need to.

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Bullet-points: Learn to love bullet-points, but don’t go overboard. Unless it’s an article that’s meant to be mostly in list-form, don’t overdo it. Not everything has to be bulleted — I’m reading your article, not your grocery list.

Punctuation: Vary your punctuation (more on this in Style). Learn the difference between a hyphen (-) and a dash ( — ), and when to use them to break up your text.

Rule: Hyphens are for combining words (like punk-rock) while dashes are used to break sentences (see 3rd paragraph of introduction).

Quotes: Ok, say it with me now: Double quotes (“ ”) are for the beginning/end of any quotation, while single quotes (‘ ’) are for a quotation within a quotation. That means if you’re quoting an article in which the article is quoting something or someone else, you need both. Also learn when to use block-quoting as opposed to singular, smaller quotes (Medium has thankfully made this much easier for people to understand and use).

Colons and Semi-colons: For fuck-sake, do not use colons or semi-colons if you’re not 100% clear on how to do it. Your writing won’t suffer much — if at all — if you leave them out. It will suffer A LOT if you put them in and don’t know how to use them. Stick to what you know and don’t try to over-impress your reader.

For the record though: Colons usually break a sentence right before you list something, or move to a clause or phrase which is meant to clarify the previous clause or phrase.

Semi-colons break a sentence and separate two independent clauses which tackle the same thought.

[Brackets]: Last thing, but very important. Brackets are used to tell your reader that you’re changing something from the original quote, but more for formatting, aesthetic, or clarification reasons. For example, if you’re simply changing the tenses of a word from singular to multiple, just put the “s” in brackets so I know you’re making a minor edit.

Like this: “Kurt Cobain drew influence[s] from his favorite album[s] when writing the follow-up to Nirvana’s second album.”

Remember: [Brackets] are not the same as (parentheses)!!

Thesis

This is the “idea” we all learned about in 3rd grade that “goes at the end of your first paragraph.” Except that’s bullshit, and much too simple.

Your thesis is your main concept, but isn’t necessarily your “argument” (see next point) and doesn’t necessarily need to come at the end of your first paragraph. It goes wherever it fits best, though this is usually towards the top of your article.

The thing to remember about your thesis is that it’s your broad topical concept, which means it’s flexible. Flexibility is good. Don’t feel shackled to a boring, hyper-specific point. If broad works better for the sake of your piece, then go broad, and get more specific in your argument.

This is how you write like an editor: accept that flexibility is a good thing, and that there is no 1, 2, 3-step process for plugging in pieces to make a good essay. Experiment, beginning with your thesis.

Argument

I see this a lot as an editor. People confuse their thesis with their argument. They are not the same thing. Your thesis is the concept or topic you’re going to tackle; you’re argument is how you hammer your points home.

Do not, for the love of God, use the 5-paragraph essay format unless it fits your topic and article. This is meant to be a learning tool, not something you do when you actually start writing complex pieces. It’s too constraining, and makes people put in (or leave out) points depending on how many spots they have left between their intro and conclusion. Again, writing is about flexibility, not rigidity.

Here’s the big secret: make your argument fucking bullet-proof. Take a side, and pound your theory home. You don’t need to be a jerk about it, but hedging your bets and sitting on the fence is a very tough thing to do right, and takes a ton of practice. And even then, it’s really only good in certain situations.

If I can drive a truck through holes in your argument, reexamine it. Leave some flexibility for yourself so you don’t back yourself into a corner, but make your argument solid. (Hint: this is where you use all those wonderful quotes, links, and examples we’re all so fond of).

Length

This is something that’s become somewhat taboo in our bite-sized, bloggish culture. The concept of writing anything long is considered “old” and “ramble-y.” Posts that appear “too long” are labeled “tl;dr” and relegated to the bottom of the pile.

But the reality is that some pieces should be longer. Or not. It all depends on the article and what you’re writing about.

If you’re just giving me a list of things (ideas, tips, etc.), then let me know at the beginning that it’s a listicle. If it’s just a fleeting thought to consider, don’t gear me up at the beginning for a long thought-piece, otherwise when you end abruptly, it feels like the bottom has just dropped out.

But if it’s a topic and argument that demands a long-form length, then be damn sure you give the piece what it requires. Trying to squeeze too much into a bite-sized article is a sure-fire way to tell your readers you have no idea how to articulate what you want to say. There’s a reason that publications like The New Yorker specialize in long-form content: they know how to flesh out an argument, and how to do it well.

Cut, Cut, Cut

Be willing to cut. Sometimes less is more. Be honest with yourself: if those extra two paragraphs don’t serve your argument or style, kick ’em to the curb. Learn to love deleting extra junk. There’s nothing as paralyzing as “blank-page” syndrome, but there’s nothing more unsightly than flabby content that serves no purpose. If you write 3 pages and delete everything except for the 1 paragraph that’s exceptional, it’s a good day.

Understanding length and how to use it to your advantage is equally as important as understanding how to format to your advantage.

Style

Now we’ve finally come to the most important thing no one tells you about and everyone forgets about: your style is everything. It took working as an editor for me to understand that everyone has a unique style, and that’s what makes someone’s writing compelling — or boring.

Writing like an editor means understanding what style works for you, and really flexing your creative muscles with it. It means exploring the types of slang that make your writing your own, what types of structure you totally own, and what topics are in your wheelhouse. If you’re an expert in something, write like you are. If you know you’re not, then proceed more gingerly and don’t try to pretend you’re something that you’re not.

Use punctuation that you’re a master at; there’s no “learning on the job” when it comes to punctuation. Poorly chosen punctuation can absolutely kill a piece with potential.

The reader can always tell.

The irony is, the more you write about something, the more you know about it, and the more you begin to develop original thoughts on it.

Your voice is your own, and is the one thing you have complete control over. Understand that voices change and evolve over time — your early writing will look a lot different from your more mature pieces. This is a good thing. Learn to isolate what makes your writing voice special without getting bogged down in the past. Once you have it, run with it.

And that’s about it, for the moment.

And that’s about it, for the moment. I could tackle tons of other topics like introductions, conclusions, transitions, titles, citations, or writing a series of pieces, but I think I’ll save those for another day. The important thing to remember is that writing is a process. One and done isn’t how to play the game.

If you’re going to write something, get in the trenches and get dirty. Don’t make me read some half-hearted piece of crap if you don’t have anything real to say. The hard part is knowing what’s real enough to write about, so I’ll leave that up to you.

Find me on Twitter and let’s talk tech, writing, and music!