Riders of the next wave in music: Topspin Media

A moderately powerful computer and some choice bits of software can effectively replace dozens of individuals formerly integral to the music recording and mastering process. Multi-million dollar studios have been replaced by laptops with an arsenal of software plug-ins. Likewise, a high-speed connection and a fistful of properly chosen Web site memberships can do the job of an entire troupe of PR agents.

Yet there hasn't been a single solution exploiting the Internet as a music marketing tool, perhaps until now.

There are some who understand how technology has changed the music landscape, and are using software to keep those dynamics flowing in the right direction. Topspin began working on its direct-to-fan music distribution platform last spring, and has officially opened it for business. CEO Ian Rogers said last week, "On a grand scale, we're looking to do for music marketing what Pro Tools and other digital recording software did for music production -- build a democratizing software application which changes how music is marketed."

Product Designer Chris Ward calls Topspin "rocker-specific software." The idea behind it is that there is a product which needs to be marketed, maybe it's a show that needs attendants, maybe it's an album that needs to be sold; Topspin helps the artist accomplish these goals by organizing his resources (i.e., fans and potential fans) and interacting with them in several ways. This can be done directly via e-mail lists, through targeted advertisements, or by viral marketing campaigns.

Ward, a musician himself, tested the platform on one of his own shows. Topspin allowed him to send out rich HTML e-mail advertisements, and create widgets that sold tickets and generated analytics for his advertisements and his pages on such prominent sites as MySpace, Last.FM, and Flickr.

Rather than just roll out the software for millions of inexpert amateur bands to fumble with, Topspin has been testing on a small number of artists, from those as recognizable as Paul McCartney, to less-than-household-names like Joe Purdy. An online course with the Berklee College of Music was debuted last week as well, teaching students not only how to use the software, but about the Post-Napster music business.

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