The Online Club

I recall reading a history of The Beatles and as it is told, they developed their performance skills playing in rock clubs in Hamburg Germany in the early 60s. They played night after night and developed a style and technique that formed the essence of the band for the next decade.

I thought of that today when I read a NY Times piece on our portfolio company YouNow.

My long time friend Steve Greenberg, a thirty year veteran of the music industry, is quoted in the piece talking about one of his young developing stars who performs on YouNow:

In the old days, an artist would have to find some club to get good about relating to an audience. With YouNow she can just go online and play, whether it’s for hundreds or thousands of people, and get real-time feedback.

What used to require moving to Hamburg and playing clubs every night can now be done in the comfort of a teenager’s bedroom, it seems.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Anne Libby

    A hilarious/curmudgeonly Freakonomics interview with Malcom Gladwell includes discussion about the Beatle’s development via Hamburg.

  2. BillMcNeely

    My girlfriend’s teen daughter is an inspiring trumpet/piano guitar player. I will pass this on

  3. LIAD

    that’s probably the internet in a nutshell.flattening the globe. disintermediating gatekeeperswhether it’s content or commerce or media or information or ideas or advice or… or…. or…..

    1. pointsnfigures

      still hard to scrape together the money to get launched though. music is probably easier than film.

  4. Valentin Riebesell

    Hamburg is always worth a visit though. Especially in the summer it is absolutely beautiful.

  5. Jess Bachman

    “In the old days, an artist would have to find some club to get good about relating to an audience. With YouNow she can just go online and play, whether it’s for hundreds or thousands of people”…or nobody. These platforms don’t guarantee audiences. I bet the power laws are still the same as the old days. Back then most people just played in their bedrooms, the good ones had audiences in clubs. Today, it’s the same, but the clubs have been replaced with youtube channels. So the gatekeepers are gone, which is good. But talent and hard work are no longer pre-requisites for success.Our current platforms have afforded the talentless huge audiences. I’m not sure this is progress to be honest.

    1. reggiedog

      Seems the “long tail” or democratization of everything from politics to art hasn’t panned out as prognosticated. Seems there are fewer winners andless meritocracy.I wonder what data makes this a different approach?

      1. Jess Bachman

        I think there is more winners and more losers. There is just more of everything. In the “old days” it took a lot of time/money/connections to be a world wide star. Now it doesn’t since we are all connected.What is unfortunate is that the cream hasn’t risen to the top like we had hoped, especially with video. PewDiePie is our standard bearer now.

        1. awaldstein

          You are saying that the percentage of winners is greater today?Certainly not true in startups.

          1. Jess Bachman

            I’m talking about youtube. If 10k subscribers makes you a winner, or even 100k. There is a whole lot of winners out there. Certainly a lot more than there were artists with 10k or 100k fans 20 years ago.But since anyone can hop on the platform and be an ‘artist’ and get zero to 50, fans.. aka, a loser, there are more of those as well.Im not sure about the percentages though.

          2. awaldstein

            Fans don’t make you a winner, making a living from that community do. They are not the same.

          3. Jess Bachman

            Arnold, kids today don’t want to be astronauts, they want to be youtubers, making a living off ads and sponsorship.

          4. Drew Meyers

            Which I find sad…

    2. Joe Cardillo

      I’m afraid you’re right on this one Jess. I’ve played music and watched a variety of friends play for a decade-plus. It was never my main gig, but it is for a lot of people I know, and they put countless hours in with little return.Two brief examples: Megafauna is an Austin-based band that crashes at my house whenever they come through town (…. They’re tremendously talented, have played hundreds of venues across the country, incl. festivals like SXSW, do a variety of media media incl. all of the major social platforms, and still the best part (and most lucrative, if you can call it that) is at actual shows. Another example comes from a great Denver-based crew who’ve hustled like crazy for years:

      1. Jess Bachman

        Well, at least with music, it’s hard to get attention if you really have no talent. Thankfully, I’m doubt that will ever change.But with video based entertainment… there are youtubers who are literally just talking about stuff they bought at the mall… and commanding audiences that prime time TV shows a decade ago would kill for.Megafauna isn’t going to be replaced by some Swedish livestreamer like most of Hollywood is.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Those youtubers might be asmr artists. It’s a niche, but a big one. Some of my favorites get 1+ million views of videos of them whispering descriptions of objects. To me, they are quite valuable, even though I wouldn’t compare them to Bowie. It’s a whole different thing entirely.

          1. Jess Bachman

            I am quite familiar with and appreciate asmr. And you are right, to each their own.

      2. PhilipSugar

        See my note to Charlie above. I’m afraid music is even a worse affliction than being an entrepreneur :-)Since so many people just love to play music and they’d play for free, that’s almost what happens.I’d say digital has only made it worse.

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Too true. Plus, at the moment I’m a full-time journalist. Really know how to pick ’em apparently. I do love tech/startups/entrepreneurship and I’m sure I’ll end up back in it again at some point, but right now music and journalism are tough fields to try to innovate in.In my experience there is a significant divide between tech plus the people who build content platforms, and artists / deeply creative types. Part of that is that creativity is not designed to be monetized from the start, there are parts of the experience that take time to develop well. In many ways we’re still reeling from the banner ads of the late 90s and early 00s, and questions about what value creative work plays in a large, distributed network.

      3. Drew Meyers

        @joecardillo:disqus “Megafauna is an Austin-based band that crashes at my house whenever they come through town”How many other artists do you host? Any chance you’d be willing to chat for a few minutes about the product we’ve been working on, (couchsurfing/airbnb with friends, friends of friends, and communities).

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Hey Drew, it’s semi-regular, I run an ex-hair salon turned gallery & venue w/about 3-4 shows a month. One or two of those usually stay with me but the DIY and music scenes tend to regularly pass word along via messaging and email so there are others, in addition to the occasional couch surfing guest. Drop me a line [email protected]

  6. Eric Satz

    Audience response is nice but not necessary to be great. The Beatles put in the practice time — their 10,000 hours if you will — which was the real benefit of that club in Hamburg, a recreation of which I think can be seen at the Beatles museum in Liverpool, where they played with little break. Drive is internal, not external.

  7. awaldstein

    Like this a lot.Online has reshaped audiences and community.But I still get on the plane often for customers and prospects to really make it happen and work.And as much as I love this community (which I do) my truest friendships are those where we pick up the phone or travel to drink together.The human touch is just that.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Online is great at building the big wide base of your community or fan group pyramid. It doesn’t little for the smaller and more valuable people at the top.Thats why artists tour so much. Got to get there in person to do a real two-way value exchange $$$.

  8. DJL

    (As noted) Malcolm Gladwell spends a lot of time on the Beatles in “Outliers”. But his main premise is that people who “seem” to just come out of nowhere with amazing craft – actually honed this craft over thousands of hours of practice. (“talent” is raw, but “craft” is talent refined over time to perfect delivery) So while online can get the instant exposure of raw talent, it cannot (yet) replace the long dedication required to perform at the highest levels. Still, the democratization of the talent market has been amazing.

  9. sigmaalgebra

    Music?(1) Julia Fisher, Vivaldi, “Winter”,…(2) Valentina Lisitsa, Bach Busoni, “Chaconne”,…(3) Elina Garancas, Camille Saint Saens, “Mon coeur s’ouvre Γ  ta voix”, Samson et Dalila,…(4) Jonathan Scott, organ, Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture,…(5) Heifetz, Sibelius, Violin Concerto,…There are several good music schools that can provide a good start on how to play such music.

  10. dovcohn

    Sheesh – sounds like we’ve devolved Artistry into a discussion about finding product market fit! Access to an audience via the internet sounds great, but I don’t believe it can recreate the rush you get as an artist when a live audience is there, in front of you, totally immersed in what you are doing and giving their energy back to you. From all the musicians I’ve known, that’s been a common thread they talk about – the rush of getting energy back from the audience. That’s what fuels them. I’m just not sure any online or virtual experience will provide that.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Live streaming, it’s kind of a big deal now.

  11. Joe Cardillo

    “When I’m live, I’m relevant” – probably another 5 years before we start to really see the medium term impact of this idea on the new generation of music stars launched online (though you could get a preview of sorts via Justin Bieber’s troubles).

  12. jason wright

    come now (my favourite two word retort at the moment). not everything is as “…it seems”.spending 10,000 hours in their bedroom is not the way forward in life.

  13. Allen Lau

    We see this not only in music but also in other parts of the entertainment industry as well. For instance, millions of storytellers hone their craft on Wattpad on a daily basis. Love the democratization.

  14. Semil Shah

    In a far less creative way, this is how I’ve used Twitter since I joined in ’07.

  15. Kirsten Lambertsen

    So much curmudgery in the comments today, ha! “In my day you had to sleep with the producer and the producer’s boyfriend to get even a shot at success… and we LIKED it that way.”Y’all are seriously underestimating the talent that is out there. Are you really going to tell me that Lordes or Casey Niestat are unworthy? That they haven’t worked hard and made sacrifices? Do you understand the enormous size of audience these people have to command to make it to ‘internet famous’ status?As a former actor, I can tell you that it’s a whole lot harder to perform a monologue to one person than it is to a theater of 500 (or 2000). Going live on a video stream is like giving that monologue to all 500 (or maybe 50,000) people in your audience individually! It has all the pressures of both. Do you know how much abuse these performers take from creeps and trolls??? Makes old school heckling look like child’s play.Entertainment has always had crap and cream. Online operates no differently except that it gives way more people a shot at it by getting rid of the gatekeeper.I thought we were a group of futurists here. Sheesh.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Thats a good perspective on giving a monologue, hadn’t thought of it that way..

    2. PhilipSugar

      Maybe you can tell me your secret. I am great with no nerves whatsoever talking to twenty people. I am great talking on a panel in front of as many people as you want (talking to the panel)Standing up and talking to more than 100 people is tough.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        That’s interesting! All my actor friends at the time felt the same as I did. Once the number gets big enough, it becomes kind of anonymous. It’s just this big murmuring sort of blanket, almost comforting. Also, when on stage, the lights usually make it very difficult to actually see anyone, so it’s easy to not be so terribly aware of them.I’d speak to 1000 people any day before speaking to, say, 15. Although at this point in my life, I’m comfortable with both.

        1. LE

          Re: “lights out” See my “facial expression” comment below seems to be what you are saying actually. If you can’t see them you can’t fear them. My ex wife couldn’t read faces like I can. She could talk to anyone anytime and never freeze up. She could cold call and it wouldn’t matter if the receptionist said “fuck you” (by her looks) she would not even see it in their face (like I would). I think this is at least (and you kind of confirm) the key to this.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Makes sense to me! Also, like sales, it’s a numbers game. With 1000 people, you’re bound to get a reasonable number who laugh, cry, sigh, gasp and clap in all the right places. And even if they don’t, it’s easy to just forget they’re there.

        2. PhilipSugar

          For me it’s the lack of interaction. And the fact I can’t see anyone. As you can tell from my comments I return serve better than serving it up like Fred does.I had to ten 20 minute sessions with a group of thirty people each. One was videotaped. The cameraman said I’ve never seen anybody answer so many questions so quickly or explain what you do so well. He said how many do you think you answered??? He said I started counting after 10 and it was over 40. Said he was doing it for 20 years and never seen that.Next day I had to give a talk to all 300 people for 10 minutes. Same camera man came up to me and said: “you were nervous…..what the hell???”

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Very interesting, indeed! Well, my armchair psychologist assessment is that you actually prefer human *interaction* to showboating πŸ™‚ My husband found acting dissatisfying because he couldn’t get enough feedback from the audience, but he loves teaching because he gets so much.I, on the other hand, find that much interaction exhausting. And I admittedly love showboating/performing. I’ll get up and adlib/improvise to 1000 people with zero hesitation. Because of that, I think most people would consider *me* the extrovert, when in fact it’s the opposite.

          2. PhilipSugar

            I agree with extrovert/introvert. Not so sure on the adlib.I had a boss that was great at giving talks to 1,000 people (ex McKinsey Senior exec)He was great. But he literally practiced for at least a day and I mean a solid twelve hours of practice before.He was amazed at my interaction with groups. I was at his delivery.He was a brutal introvert. Terrible. Couldn’t even talk to a hotel clerk. I sit there and talk to anybody. Everybody is interesting.My partner has a daughter that wants to be an actress. We agree that even if that doesn’t work out at least she will know how to publically speak.I can adlib like there is no tomorrow in front of a small group. In front of a big group, I can’t. Maybe psychological but I would say I don’t care if 30 people say Meh. 300 much more so

          3. panterosa,

            @PhillipSugar @Kirsten LambertsonI am enjoying being a fly on the wall for your discussion – quite interesting”

      2. LE

        My trick at a trade show booth years ago was to just keep on talking even if nobody was there. Then people would walk up and I would just keep talking (in circles) and the crowd grew. (Wasn’t your question but thought I’d mention for anyone reading).Largest crowd I ever spoke to was at my daughters bat mitzvah (maybe 350 people, all my ex wife’s friends).What I did was start the speech out by singling out a few people in the crowd right from the start for special funny mention. Those people then laughed at everything funny that I said after that [1] and that immediately relaxed me. The fucking videographer ran out of tape so he missed the huge applause that I got at the end.I think that this also relates to how well you read people. I read people really well so I am subject to facial expressions that show disappointment, boredom and lack of interest. So it’s hard for me to speak to a group because I am aware.[1] Not sure how I came up with that ploy but it worked really well. Kind of like a comedian picking on someone in the crowd.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I don’t mind somebody bored. I don’t mind a heckler. At least I can see how I’m doing.

      3. awaldstein

        One is talking, one is performing.One is knowing what you are about. The other is picking a way to present and putting it out there without feedback.Completely different animal.Neither is easy. The latter is so much more difficult. It can be learned though of course.

    3. Jess Bachman

      And what do the gatekeepers do besides keep the gate? They maintain some sort of quality filter. Now that there is no gatekeepers the hoopleheads can elevate whatever they want!I’m not suggesting we bring back the gatekeepers, but curation on these platforms is largely broken.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I dunno, the gatekeepers have given us some pretty crappy offerings during their time. Sure, they can also spot talent when they see it, but I say so can the public!But in the spirit of being not completely strident in my opinion, I would agree that the curation on current platforms needs to and will get better (opportunity!). On the whole, though, I think it’s a much better system.

    4. panterosa,

      I had super panic of speaking in public, having been fine to perform physically without talking in sports/dance. but I just turned the corner by performing a marriage, of my best friend, in a last minute ordination scramble. writing the whole ceremony with no clues was nerve racking. but in the day it was so easy I was surprised.It takes. lot to be versatile to many audiences, with material by you or others, or other things. it takes practice. each mistake gets you closer. ITS WORTH IT.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Brings back memories of giving my Maid of Honor speech at my cousin’s (we’re very close) wedding. Now THAT I was nervous about.I kinda like putting together slide deck talks now. Making the slides is half the fun.

  16. David Intrator

    Check Out The OccuLounge Online: live online sax improvisations to chill electronica and jazz with psychedelic imagery and more. Trippy:

    1. Rob Underwood

      I’ve checked out the occulounge. I like it a lot. It’s an interesting application of ustream, which is a bit older platform but similar to YouNow in this application (live performers doing live online shows). The shows are live online jazz shows and afterward Ustream automatically creates a version for replay.Interestingly as well, Phish is doing this on a massive scale with the “couch tour” phenomena — selling HD live video streams of shows. Like the Dead, they are creating new business models.

  17. Richard

    Cmon, anyone who equates live venues with live online music has a boring life.

  18. mogiil_lekan48

    You people remind me of the chance offered me to learn piano but ignorantly I chose fine art

  19. awaldstein

    Great share my friend.

  20. Girish Mehta

    Why did you hate Piano Man – Lyrics ? Tune ? Both ?

  21. JLM

    .Paid your dues! Respect.I have $20 with your name on it, Piano Man.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  22. awaldstein

    Funny–one of my best friends in the neighborhood is the cofounder of the most influential natural wine shop in the country (if not the world).He was a sax player with his own band with Muddy Waters, and we were chatting over wine about when I was starting grad school in Vancouver, basically living out of my van, his band was arrested by the RCMP for smoking pot before a show.We all have our road stories. Makes us who we are.

  23. PhilipSugar

    Yes playing for a band seems like a really hard gig and one where you have to do something else. As we expanded our office I talked to the drywall spackler guy. He has been in a well known band in Philly forever: Don’t call me Francis he is the big bass player.

  24. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I would have paid you $50 to NOT play ‘Piano Man.’ Solidarity, bro.

  25. LE

    Plus the pay really, really sucked, except for piano bars, where I’d also require $20 tip to play Piano Man. Hated that song, but every night someone would insist, and I’d say no a few times, then say I’d do it for $20. And every night, someone would whip out a $20 bill.I am not sure if that is a shitty attitude on your part, or that you were being opportunistic. I approve if being opportunistic, but disapprove if it was a shitty attitude.You were there to play for these people, right? Sure it’s annoying but “customers” are often annoying. But they are customers and if you have enough of them they can help you get to the promised land.A few years ago at my brother in law’s wedding there was a band that I thought was really good. At the end I walked up and told them that I really enjoyed it and that they did a great job. Their response made me think that they thought “man what am I doing here”. As if they deserved better and had to settle to make money this way. Life is so tough, eh?

  26. LE

    One of the guys from this band is a neighbor of ours. Afaik, all he does now is give guitar lessons out of his home:…At the elementary school he plays in the “dad band”. Does a great job I am guessing and unlike you he didn’t have anything but music to fall back on.

  27. Richard

    Whether it’s instacarte or younow, you don’t get your heart to pound feeling peaches online.

  28. panterosa,

    Charlie I love the story and the thread it created. I must tell you my Columbia Biz School prof played it for us when we took him and other profs out celebrating our accelerator. I would have paid him $20 to stop… even though he played well.

  29. Kirsten Lambertsen

    And now I have a “Piano Man” ear worm :

  30. Anne Libby

    Charlie, what a great story.

  31. Drew Meyers

    When you were on tour, did you often stay with other musicians, artists, fans etc?

  32. Jess Bachman

    How much to do it now?

  33. Girish Mehta

    ‘…And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jarAnd say, “Man what are you doing here?”‘

  34. JLM

    .I will match that, pardner.$200 to your non-profit and dinner with Freddie next time you’re in NYC?Dedicated to a better world and JLM.YouTube video.Do you take PayPal?Anybody at can get in for $1 each.Game on, Piano Man?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  35. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I can’t speak for Charlie, but I can’t go anywhere at the Jersey Shore without hearing that damned song (and Billy Joel in general). He’s not even from NJ. They play him on the radio more here than they do native son Springsteen! I never want to hear Piano Man again (and I really never liked it b/c as Charlie says, it’s just the same thing over and over).

  36. LE

    I am not a music guy but one thing about Billy Joel songs, at least the ones that I like, and with the exception of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, is that they start off strong but then kind of die toward the middle or end.

  37. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I like a lot of his stuff and listened to it hard as a kid. Some of it’s great, IMO πŸ™‚

  38. sigmaalgebra

    Muddy Waters?Good grief.There was also Guitar Slim, Fats Domino, The Five Blind Boys, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, Big Joe Turner, etc.Yup, heard them all. Heard them? Yes. Liked them? Not really.Jesus was a big theme; so it was gospel music; the Jesus theme was fine but didn’t much help the qualities as music.My hand was not the one on the radio dial. The rest — a long story.But one night going to sleep, by chance, from a station in Nashville, happened to hear some Beethoven and was hooked on classical music from then on.

  39. PhilipSugar

    I’d have matched it.

  40. PhilipSugar

    Stone Balloon is gone. You know funny story is that the owners ex wife is Jill Biden. He is the reason I have 10 fire exits in my office. The city of Newark passed a rule saying for every X number of people occupancy you needed a fire door. If you remember he put in an entire wall of fire exits. He is a nice guy. Owns a courier company.Bob Ashby bought the Deer Park and renovated it. They had a riot on the last day before he did. Get down here and the tab is on me.Have to go through Lancaster on my way to Pittsburgh tomorrow, but I can’t stop. They transferred one of our people to report to MN and then fired him over the phone with no notice. So shitty. I am driving with a partner to make amends.

  41. awaldstein

    And Charlie my only claim to fame in the music world was that I used to make Appalachian Dulcimers and sold one to Steve Miller. Sold a bunch of Mandolins to lesser folks in local bands in BC where I was living at the time.How about that as a legacy?!

  42. awaldstein

    I’ll share via email of what I looked like then with one of my instruments. Used to live in the N. Okanagan run bees and build instruments then spend a lot of time on the islands off the coast.Pretty cool in retrospect.

  43. PhilipSugar

    Give me warning. You know this is the big company stuff I hate. Not fire people that are doing nothing. Take months to go through “process” for people that have phoned it in.Say we have all sales report centrally. Transfer one of my guys. Call up President and say I don’t think he is working out when he is traveling, he says ok. Call me when I’m traveling I say ok. We both think we are going to discuss. Fire him one hour later over the phone in a sales update meeting, when he is the top performer because he is “my boy”Think anybody will accept a transfer anymore?? I extracted my pound of flesh for that, but damage has been done.

  44. Anne Libby

    OMG, firing people over the phone. I am so sorry.

  45. Lawrence Brass

    I love earworms, absolute offline audio experience and energy efficient too. πŸ™‚

  46. Kirsten Lambertsen


  47. PhilipSugar

    Understand as much as we worry about women getting abused in tech shitty stuff gets done by women as well.

  48. Anne Libby

    We’re just as human — and therefore as open to being jerks — as anyone else. Sh!$$y behavior is equal opportunity.

  49. Anne Libby

    In my last big company job, about 50 of us were in a room learning about the terms of an exit package. The group CIO was there, yay him. He couldn’t stop looking at his blackberry, though. When it rang during the Q&A section of the meeting, he couldn’t help sharing the provenance of his ringtone (Coldplay, seriously.)In hindsight, I see an erosion of collective experience and mentoring/coaching in large companies that very often leads to people doing the wrong things…

  50. PhilipSugar

    So true. I just couldn’t believe she did it that way

  51. LE

    Rastelli its in Marlton on Rt 73

  52. LE

    The suits know me there. I am always complaining and giving suggestions. As an example they serve breakfast in the morning (make eggs and all of that stuff omlettes). So I said “you need a guy to standout of Rt 73 there are thousands of cars that you could get to have a coffee and eggs that don’t know you do that”. With a sandwich sign in the AM. They said “great idea”. Of course they never did it. Also suggested they add oatmeal and told them how to price it and where I normally got it (that was always sold out). They said “great” and never did it. When they said great they weren’t just being nice I could tell they were all ears for ideas and that they liked them.That said the store is nice but is lacking in a few very important areas.a) The employees are supermarket grade, not wf grade. And that really makes a difference in the experience as a customer.b) The quality of the food they make there is mediocre at best. We don’t buy any fish there or any meats in non-prepared either. I get bagels and maybe a cookie in the am. A turkey burger on the grill also. Other stuff really isn’t good. Wouldn’t last a day in NYC.c) They haven’t implemented an online order system for takeout despite the suit telling me they had that in the plans to do. Lost business plus nobody can easily take even a phone order.Bottom line the management and organization is subpar but yes the store is nice.