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!

Dear Medium Publishers, Do Not Request My Story If…

Dear Medium publishers, do not request my story if you’re not going to respond to my follow-up emails. I work very hard on every piece that I write, and I take my writing seriously.
You should take it seriously too.

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What I Want to Know

Any time someone requests to put one of my stories in a publication, there are some things I want to know. These are:

1. When will you want me to submit it?

Some publications want to wait a certain amount of time before publishing and some do not. I don’t want my piece just floating out there in the ether. If you want to wait and push it out later, let me know so I can plan for that.

2. Will you want to change anything, and how will we agree upon that?

I’m very particular about what I write and how it’s written. I have no issue with altering it a little to fit the publication’s desires, but I want to know how the process goes. Is it casual and easy, or are you going to act like my boss? (Hint: this is not the right way to persuade me.)

3. What kinds of things will you want to change?

Every publication is different and has certain things they want to project. I respect that. But I need to know what sorts of things in my piece you might want to change. Are they stylistic things, title or header changes, or will you want to change something that now affects the overall message of the piece?

Some style things I can do to part with, others I will not—it just depends on the piece and the message. And it depends on how accepting and respectful you are of my style as a writer. If the article in question just cannot be morphed to fit the publication, perhaps we can collaborate together on an idea for a new piece that is exactly what you’re looking for. But never try to force anything.

4. How’s your grammar?

Grammar is extremely important to me. I am obsessive about the need for grammatical correctness, so make sure your publication seeks to make sure every piece is grammatically well-written—I want to be in the company of other competent writers.

It nonetheless is a tricky play because phrasing and writing can sometimes be grammatically incorrect even if it is colloquially correct (for example, if I’m writing an informal piece and use the phrase “I wanna”). As an editor of a publication, I expect you to be able to identify the difference between colloquially correct phrasing and straight grammatically incorrect sentence structure.

5. Who has the final say?

It’s your publication and you decide what’s good enough to go in; I respect that. But this is such an important question because of how Medium is set up. Once a piece is submitted and accepted into a publication, it’s open to the editor to edit as they see fit. This is one reason I’m extremely picky about who I work with.

Based on the questions above, I want to know who will have the final say. If you want my piece to say one thing and I want it to say another, I want to know if you’re just going to go over my head and edit my post without my knowledge or consent. I’m much more likely to continue to submit to your publication regularly if you respect my ability to say, “I’m not sure I want to edit this piece like that, but perhaps we could do another piece together.”

 

What a Request for My Story Should Look Like

This is a conversation I had with an interested editor during July. Notice how the person was extremely accommodating to my questions and patient when providing the answers. This is how a request for my story or collaboration should go:

My email, after the initial request for my story:

Their response:

My further response, and the beginning of a working relationship:

That’s how your requests should pan out if I have questions.

A Response Email Takes Five Minutes

In writing and publishing, as well as in every other part of life, it’s about the relationship that’s cultivated.

This is especially important if you’re asking me for material with an understanding that there will be no monetary compensation. 

There have been a lot of great pieces recently on freelance writers and not writing for free or for “simple exposure.” Personally, I think think this is an individual choice for each writer. At this point in my career, I’m ok with it, as long as what I get out of it in the end is a solid relationship with real opportunities for networking and exposure. If you tell me you’re going to give me exposure, then do it: tweet about my article, and tag me so that I can continue to build my writing reputation.

Not Answering My Follow-up Email

Because these are some of the basic things I consider when I’m writing a piece, requesting my piece and not emailing me back about my questions tells me:

  • a. You’re not serious about really wanting my piece
  • b. You don’t care how I feel about my piece as a writer
  • And/or c. My piece isn’t important enough to you to send me a simple response email

Time is valuable, and I don’t expect you to answer all of the above (and any further questions I might have) in one sitting. You don’t need to write me a book of a response, but really, a response email acknowledging my questions takes five minutes. My time is valuable too. If you want to work with me, then work with me, and treat my time as a writer as equally important as I treat yours as an editor/publisher.


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

Takeaways from AngelList Radio’s Podcast with Tyler Willis and Jason Calacanis

Yesterday I listened to Tyler Willis have Jason Calacanis on the AngelList Radio podcast. Despite the fact that the episode was recorded a couple of months ago, I couldn’t stop listening to it. In fact, I was about halfway through it the second time when it occurred to me that I should take a few notes on it to summarize the incredible amount of information that Tyler and Jason discussed (it is an hour and a half long, after all).

Jason Calacanis; image courtesy of the AngelList Radio podcast

Jason Calacanis; image courtesy of the AngelList Radio podcast

The sheer amount of important information covered makes summarizing all of it challenging, but I’ll give it a try. I should note, though, before delving in, that some of the most poignant things covered were in the form of life stories and philosophies from Jason, a summarized transcription of which does not do them justice. To really soak up the underlying meaning of what’s listed below, you really need to listen to it for yourself. Possibly multiple times.

Moving along though. The points which Tyler and Jason hit can most aptly be placed within a number of areas of thought and consideration.  

These are:

  • People
  • Mentalities
  • Entrepreneurs and Founders
  • (Angel) Investing
  • Democratization

I’ll do my best to tackle each one of these, but keep in mind that these are just a few of the points which struck me as the most powerful. I will discuss some in more depth than others, as a number of them are self-explanatory.

People

Jason’s view of people in my mind basically splits into three main veins: human calculation, relationships, and arguably the most important one, empathy.

Human Calculation

This goes to “Jason’s Law of Angel Investing,” which according to Jason is: “I don’t need to know if the idea’s going to win, I [just] need to know if the person’s a winner.”

Jason looks for and reads the things that other people might miss: body language, personality, and interactive cues. As he mentions, he will talk about the [founder’s] idea through the lens of trying to figure out if [s/he’s] a winner or not. This sort of human calculation sets Jason up for the long game, something which he discusses as being a part of his overall strategy.

Relationships

Jason is extremely bullish on his relationships, wanting to be the first call a founder makes when things are going wrong, when the situation looks dire, or just when founders are having a hard time. He discusses understanding that being a founder is lonely, and sometimes all one needs is an ear to vent to; someone to “shoot the shit” with. Perhaps this goes back to Jason’s major in psychology; certainly his ability to read people and situations benefits from such a thought process. 

Life is relationships, pure and simple. Everything else is secondary, and Jason aspires to (almost obsessively) cultivate his relationships. (That’s a good thing, by the way).

This however, leads into what I consider to be one of the central theses of the discussion: empathy.

Empathy

Startups are hard. Actually, that’s a lie; startups are fucking hard. And sometimes the best thing is when someone will just sit and listen while you vent and fume for a little while. Loneliness kills, and having a friendly ear can make all the difference on those tough nights.

One quote seems to capture what Jason’s mentality would be during those nights on the phone with a founder having a hard time: “When I invested in you, I knew the odds were against you, and I still believed in you.” That pretty much sums up all that needs to be said.

Jason’s philosophy of accomplishing close relationships simply by being a nice human being—“buying [the founder] a cup of coffee, buying them dinner, or just saying ‘I believe in you’”—is exactly how I see the world as well. Cultivating relationships means doing what you can for other people because you can do it, not because you see some reward at the end of the tunnel. In the long run, good relationships do tend to reward people in often unexpected ways, but that should never be the crux of the relationships. Relationships are empathy and positivity. It’s about being magnetic.

Mentalities

Within the context of mentalities, Jason hits on a number of notions, though the one that sticks out to me the most is his focus on the “journalistic mentality.” Clearly a holdover from his time as a journalist, Jason discusses how he looks for people who exhibit great journalistic skills: an inquisitive mind, good communication skills, and being able to read situations well. In many ways, this connects with a lot of his poker metaphors. (There are lots of poker metaphors).

As he points out: “What happens when you interview [people] for a long time is you start to understand when they’re full of shit and you start to tell…who’s full of greatness…” Bluntly put, this is very true. I experienced it a lot during my time as a music journalist, speaking with artists and other industry professionals. Being a journalist is one of the best ways you can get to know the industry you want to be in.

“[A journalist] equals an inquisitive person who can communicate well.”

Entrepreneurs and Founders

Jason spends a lot of time talking about how he identifies great founders and what anyone should be doing and/or thinking about if they want to be an entrepreneur.

Know “Why”

First and foremost, know “why.” Why are you doing this, what is the underlying reason?

For Jason, answers like “the market seems open” or “I wanted to try being a founder” don’t cut it. It speaks to the authenticity if a founder is doing it for a larger reason than just trying to take advantage of a particular market situation. There needs to be a certain inevitability to what they’re doing, and how they see the world (something which Chris Sacca has also touched on).

As Jason sees it, there needs to be a real sense of purpose in the founder(s), a mission: “The world needs to evolve in this way, and we have the solution, and we NEED to implement our solution to change the way the world works.”

Jason: “Really talented people tell you where the world is going, and then you get to be part of it. And then you get to help them launch the rocket.”

Don’t Screw Your Supporters

They need to have the integrity not to screw the people who supported them early on. This is exactly in line with a well-known adage in the music industry which I always quote: “For those who forget us on the way up, we’ll see you on the way down.” Don’t forget the people who made your rise possible.

Be a Punk

Founders need to be punks.

Ok so Jason didn’t actually use this word, but as I explained in my post here, that’s really the type of mentality he is describing when he articulates what he looks for in people.

Additionally founders need:

  • To have an armor; a relentless drive, and be relentlessly resourceful
  • Have maniacal execution skills
  • Unstoppable determination

(Angel) Investing

Jason relayed a lot of information about investing and investment strategy. He discussed a lot of his personal strategy as well as how new investors can get in the game and start to learn the ropes.

For the sake of time (and because a lot of this is fairly self-explanatory), here’s a rundown of what he discussed:

  • Tips (for Angel Investing)
    • Spread your bets
    • Start by making investments slowly over a year
    • Even if you lose money, you’ll learn something
    • Always try to learn before diving in head first
    • Join syndicates
    • Get in the game and start
    • Double and triple down on your best bets
    • Meet with founders as much as you possibly can
    • Play the cars of the best investor at the table if you’re new to investing
    • Do the work, be proactive
    • Play the long game
    • Be patient and learn
    • Financial performance will come; focus on a portfolio strategy
    • Investing is a fight/struggle
    • Don’t ever discount anybody
    • Make a 5-year plan
    • Pro-rata rights
    • You want the “difficult” people; these people “mix it up”
    • Focus on being the most valuable and helpful person to the founder
  • Need to Have
    • A comfort losing a lot of your money (which you invested)
    • A comfort with the “shitshow” realities of investing
  • Don’t Be an Investor If
    • You’re annoying
    • You’re a control freak/obsessive person
    • You can’t remain cool and calm
    • You can’t remain classy in the face of defeat
    • You can’t deal with bad news
    • You can’t be a mensch

As Jason articulated: “I have to be the most valuable [person] to the founders. [I ask myself,] ‘Am I doing the most for that person?’”

How did Jason get to this thought process? When he started investing he made a list of all the things he could do for founders to provide value to them. Then he did them.

Democratization

The last major point which Jason discusses is democratization. In this case, he’s referring to the democratization of knowledge and power, and how dynamics have totally shifted in the last 10 years, allowing for entrance into entrepreneurship for tons of people who previously had very little recourse.

Interestingly enough, as he’s discussing the democratization of knowledge which can be used for growth, development of new skills sets, and other such things, I’m just reminded of an article I wrote a few months ago on the democratization of music. True, Jason is describing a different type of democratization process, but the parallel works. In the same way that scarcity has become an obsolete mentality for music, so too has scarcity of startup and entrepreneurial knowledge become obsolete in the worlds of business and tech.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: scarcity is obsolete; democratization wins.

“[Entrepreneurship is] stumbling around in the dark room, fumbling around, until your hand hits the wall, and flicks on the light switch.” – Jason 

Jason also briefly touched on the differences he sees between his LAUNCH incubator and Y Combinator, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time.

All in all, the podcast was intriguing enough for me to listen to it twice all the way through, and then take notes on it for a post. I give it up to Tyler Willis for conducting a great interview, and look forward to a hopeful follow-up with Jason again.


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