Golden Rules for Starting Up in Music and Tech

Hailing from Colorado, Terry Gold moved to Australia in 2016, appointed to the role of Managing Director of Techstars Adelaide, an accelerator program that takes technology companies in their infancy through the necessary processes to deliver commercial growth. He’s far from an academic though, having walked his own enterprise software business through years of high growth and being named to a variety of Top 500 and Top 50 lists of fastest growing US companies. BIGSOUND 2018 listed him on the conference speakers agenda, evidently stimulating the curiosity of the several dozen conference delegates joining me at his 4.00pm Q+A hosted by former Rolling Stone Australia editor, Rod Yates.

So what exactly has Gold got to do with a music conference?

The parallels between the technology and music sectors might surprise you. Notwithstanding his own son’s (Christopher Gold) emerging musical prowess, named Wisconsin singer/songwriter of the year in 2015, Gold’s business wisdom applied from the technology sector to the music industry was poignant and direct. He offered four key insights;

1. “Decide on your core values at the start of the process. Stick to those values. Your project will self-select it’s team and ideas and you’ll also cull accordingly.”

Gold reflected on the tech startups that were most successful having established “values” at the outset, choosing partners and objectives that aligned with those values. He commented that key people that align with those values are naturally attracted to, and committed to growing, the project and an organic loyalty is formed. People who don’t “get it” soon leave the team or self-identify so management can act.

Phil Morgan, the CIO of music tech startup Jaxsta, whose app delivers a solution for the lover of liner notes naming musical contributors to our favourite albums in this new digital music world, laughed at the poignancy;

“This has been so true for me. Both for me in the Jaxsta business and the band I play in. I’d have saved money and time had I paid more attention to the truth of it when we set out.

2. “Compare down, not up. You are in the top 5%.”

Rod Yates turned to the topic of persistence and resilience, and the impact on mental health, asking Gold for his insights, resulting in this little nugget. Gold was circumspect, noting that most ideas in music and entrepreneurship stay in people’s heads and only 5% emerge worthy of energy. He related that to the perhaps more philosophical reality that most people he comes across in music or tech across Australia and the US are amongst the 5% most affluent in the world.

Tim Nixon, founder of Queensland-based tech music startup Paza, a company which promotes emerging African musicians to the world while creating practical payment pathways for the problematic economic environment, seemed genuinely moved by this insight as he explained how his business was seeking to generate social and economic good in the developing world.

“There are days when you’re not sure if you’re making a difference when you look at the tech success stories out there. But Paza makes a difference to African artists. That’s something worth comparing; before and after we help.”

3. “There’s more musicians in entrepreneurship than we think. Maybe music is a good place to recruit tech startup leaders”.

Gold held his tongue firmly in cheek as he joked about musicians toiling long hours for negligible money, simply for the love of their craft, performing their music to potential new “customers” every day.

“If some of our tech entrepreneurs had the wherewithal and resilience of some emerging musicians I’ve met, with a bit of the luck, and no doubt luck DOES come into it, they’d be closer to landing the investment offers they’re seeking. I’ve no doubt that’s probably true in reverse too”, Gold laughed.

4. “If you’ve been miserable for a while, maybe it’s time to quit. Take your learnings and move on to the next thing.”

Gold was serious when he said that the final chapters of his future memoirs would be about quitting, saying that knowing when to quit a project was an important skill to learn. But he was quick to clarify as well.

“I don’t mean to say quit at life. Not at all. But you’ve got limited resources and you need to apply them to a project you believe in, and one that doesn’t make you miserable. Life is too short to be miserable.”

Gold was generous with his time after the session, chatting with a number of delegates about their projects and companies, and his own interest in music. With the growth in digital music and consumption trends continuing to shift from paper and hardware to online subscription services, the tech streams at the BIGSOUND conference that feature speakers like Terry Gold will no doubt continue to support partners in the business of music, drawing wisdom to apply to the changing music industry.

IMAGE (c) Bobby Rein Photography

1 Comment

  • Reply September 20, 2018

    Terry Gold

    Thank you for writing this article about my talk at BIGSOUND! I had a great time and met lots of interesting musicians and entrepreneurs.

    I’d like to clarify what I was saying about musicians and entrepreneurs being in the top 5%. To be in the top ONE percent by income in the world, you have to be making $32,400 USD per year. I don’t know what the cut off is for top 5%, but it’s lower than most in Australia might think. There is so much poverty in the world, that if we have a roof over our heads, food to eat and some amount of education, we are doing very, very well! And to be able to play music and to even have the option of starting a company is fantastic! I still forget how good we have it, so that’s what I was talking about. Don’t look at people doing so much better than we are and feel bad, but rather appreciate how good we have it, and to have compassion for others, and ourselves.

    Thanks again for the kind article!


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