I consider myself extremely lucky that my life’s work allows me to get to know some of the most amazing and driven people living on the edge of creativity in the startup corner of the business world. I thought it would be fun to share some of their stories by beginning a series of posts which I’m going to call “Faces.”
In this first installment, I want you to introduce you to my friend Bob Moczydlowsky (“Moz” to his friends). Bob’s the VP of Product and Marketing at Topspin Media, one of the many companies we’re lucky to be an investor in. The Topspin team is on a mission to tilt the economics in the music industry back to the artists by proving a direct-to-fan software platform which allows them to take control of how they interact with their fans and better monetize that relationship instead of having the bulk of the money fans spend wind up lining the pockets of industry corporations.
Hanging out with Bob is like spending time with a living music encyclopedia. At a recent dinner with the Topspin management team and its investors (a venerable feast of music discourse), conversation drifted towards “name the best band to ever evolve from the breakup of another band.” (Footnote – lots of rules were enforced such as “cannot be a solo act on either end of the breakup”). Consensus formed around CSNY which many people know evolved as a result of the breakup of Buffalo Springfield. It was then that the breadth of Bob’s musical knowledge shined. “Yeah but what band breakup allowed Buffalo Springfield to form?” Bob blew the table away (no easy feat considering the participants) and let us know it was the Mynah Birds with none other than Rick James as frontman! Of course, this got great props from everyone, but not before a Google confirmation!
Like so many members of the Topspin team, Bob’s life has been tethered by music. He’s managed bands and events and created artist web sites. In fact, before joining Topspin, Bob produced and directed an achingly beautiful film called 72 Musicians which brings to light the joys and pain of being in a band. You can download the film free here:
If you have a deep appreciation for rock and roll, then you need to see this film. I’ll warn you however that if the limits of your definition of rock and roll are defined by “Satisfaction”, “Where The Streets Have No Name” or other mainstream songs, this might not be for you. 72 musicians is devoted to the grittier and less glamorous side of rock – Indie Rock. It documents the folks in small bands that you’ve probably never heard driving around the country in a van playing like their lives depend upon it, because they do.
I watched the film again on a long plane flight this week and enjoyed it even more the second time around. I jotted down a few of the most moving quotes from some of the musicians in the film:
“The brutal truth is there’s too many fucking bands in the world. New band, new band, new band. It’s kinda overwhelming, you know? It’s a lot harder these days. Bands bands bands. Everyone’s in a band.”
I loved the “rules of the road” segment in which band members talk about how to get along in a van for months at a time: “Headphones – just a courtesy”. “Piss when everyone else pisses, there’s no honor in holding it in an extra 20 minutes.” And of course, “Don’t sleep with anyone else that’s on your tour – that’s just stupid.”
“Your van is your room. If you can’t find a place to stay, that’s where you’re sleeping. You can’t afford a hotel. You can’t afford food. You’re eating crackers with pickle relish at a truck stop.”
“You’re a traveling salesman of a different ilk. You can’t get heard without touring. Nobody really wants to hear you. You have to really want to go play. You have to really love human beings to do it and I think the older you get, the less you love human beings.”
“It’s fucking scary. The older I get the scarier it gets. When I was 16 years old, nothing could stop me. Kansas City to New York? Try to stop me. I’m gonna get there. Now? It’s scary dude. The Highway Patrol are scary. They’re weird outback Christian hillbillies and they’re scary.”
“Playing to an empty room is humbling. It makes you think about if you need to get a job as a telemarketer.”
“Signing a label deal means the beginning of a lot of work and the most competitive phase of your life, and god help you if you don’t have a good lawyer.”
“I decided a long time ago that I was going to live poor because I wanted to play music. If I’m gonna have to live poor than that’s the way I’m gonna have to do it. I gotta take shit jobs to pay rent. If you want to do what you want to do, and if THIS is what you want to do, well then you’re gonna be broke, and you’re gonna stink, and you’re gonna be hungry.”
This film is just spectacular. Bob does a masterful job of sharing the intimate stories of 72 indie rockers – folks much more like you and me than you might imagine. Do yourself a favor, download it and watch it with headphones and crank it loud. You’ll love it. Don’t forget to watch the credits, they rock! Lastly, following Bob on twitter is a great way to learn about some great new bands before they become commercial hits. Follow him at @bobmoz and let him know how much you enjoyed 72 musicians.