Thursday, October 20, 2011

Music Bands, Tech StartUps: Much In Common

Puma Store: Union Square
Events: Week Of October 17
US Royalty
Tweets: 1, 2, 3, 4.

This would be my favorite US Royalty song:

But I think they consider this to be their signature song:

I showed up 10 minutes early so I walked around at the Union Square Farmers' Market in the drizzle. I bought a little something to eat. I was not hungry. And then I walked in right on time. I crossed the street.

They were the first act of the day. I thought they were the only act. Once they were done I was about to leave, then a store clerk told there were two more bands playing, and it was raining outside, besides the next place I needed to be was in Chinatown at 6:30 PM, and, hey, it was going to be more live music. I stayed.

"These are 30% off!" the store clerk pointed at some shoes.

One photographer had me pose - "Keep reading" - and he took my picture. This was not a hobbyist. He looked like he did that for a living. I am a hobbyist. I do point and click.

A little later I realized one of the US Royalty band members was sitting to my left, fiddling with his phone as I read an article in a magazine, as I waited for the second band to play. The article was about the group Das Racist. I had never heard of them before.

Indians rapping end up having to do some explaining back home.

Not really. Bollywood is all over rap.

As soon as I realized I was sitting next to royalty I said hello. We had a nice chat. A little later the lead singer also showed up just like that. I greeted him. It was just awe-some, I said.

They get to do this full time. That's achievement. If you get to do full time what you love doing, in their case music, that is a major achievement. Another thing I learned about them that told me their best days are ahead of them is that they are constantly touring. Through digital you build your fan base, but the money is in the tours.

The first time I heard them play I am like, they deserve to go big.

Music bands and tech startups have a lot in common. With both it used to be like either you were nobody, or you hit it big. By now, thanks to digital media, there is a spectrum. You work your way up the spectrum.

How many tech startups can say they are bringing in enough revenue to be able to support the entire team? I am not talking about investment money. I am talking revenue. US Royalty seems to be in a great shape to keep working the art, the craft, to keep churning out great music, to keep hitting the road, to be able to maybe, maybe strike it big. The joy is in the journey.

The band member talked of the poor acoustics at many venues when they are out on the road. I drew a metaphor. Writing is not the same as speaking, although they both involve words. Making music in a studio is like writing, hitting the road is like speaking. Live performances are the real thing. He said even when the acoustics are bad a lot of team building takes place. There is this vibe you create for each other. It is like you play for each other.

With a tech startup it starts with an idea. But if all you have is an idea you have nothing. You have very little. You have to move from the idea to having a basic product to having a small user base. At that point, if you are lucky, you can attract investment. And you can build a small team. And you can work on the next version of your product. It is a trajectory.

US Royalty is way beyond the idea phase, way beyond the team building phase, way beyond the funding phase, way beyond the basic product phase. They already have some amazing numbers.

I don't know a ton about music, but I think this is a band to watch.

Fred Wilson: A DJ
Fred Wilson: DJ

When you are being able to do it full time but you have not hit the big leagues yet it must feel like you are just getting started. That you have ways to go. There was a time not so long ago when FourSquare had not raised a million dollars yet. Not long back. I witnessed it.

The first time I saw FourSquare was on the stage at the New York Tech MeetUp. I remember not being impressed. I was very impressed the first time I saw US Royalty.

Dennis Crowley: I Underestimated Him
Craig Newmark, Dennis Crowley, Jennifer 8 Lee: Koreatown
This Is Not Happening: King Dennis

Check them out.

About 10 minutes before the third band was done - I was standing by then - I felt a little nudge. There was this woman trying to get to the shoes behind me. Does she not know what is going on? It felt odd someone was looking at shoes while live music was being played. Then I realized I was in a shoe store after all.

One band member of US Royalty is John and another Paul. I did not make that up. I found that out after I had already published this blog post and googled them up. In the case of US Royalty the John and Paul are brothers.

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