L014: Ian Rogers: The Unsung Hero of Digital Music


In addition to covering notable product launches, we thought we would also start covering the exceptional folks that actually produce stuff.  

We're starting with Topspin Media's Ian Rogers -- the unsung hero of digital music.

all the best, Jason + LAUNCH Team


Ian Rogers: The Unsung Hero of Digital Music

: @iancr, facebook.com/iancr, fistfulayen.com/blog/, linkedin.com/in/iancrogers. On This Week in Startups.

TAGGED: music, mp3, digital, beastieboys, yahoo, oldskool, skateboarding, santamonica, indiana

WHY HE'S IMPORTANT: Ian has been working in digital music longer than any single person in the Internet industry: 20 years without a break.

CURRENT GIG: CEO of L.A. and S.F.-based Topspin Media, a tech platform for musicians, filmmakers and authors to build connections with fans via the web, social media and email, then monetize them with merchandise, digital assets, tickets and fan club memberships.

-- Topspin launched in 2008 but only opened its front door to all artists at SXSW last month.
-- Big-name (and big-revenue) clients include Linkin Park, Paul McCartney and Eminem
-- Two-tiered pricing system: $10 a month/$100 a year OR $50 a month/$500 a year.
-- Artist case study on The Civil Wars.

HIS MISSION STATEMENT (according to LAUNCH): To help artists sustain their creative efforts and deepen the connection with their fans through the Internet.

DEMEANOR: Happy-go-lucky, enthusiastic and humble.

ORIGINALLY FROM: Goshen, Indiana. "I've only been to Goshen a couple times since I left Indiana. I don't miss it. Haven't looked back."

PARENTS: They divorced when Ian was young. Ian's mother worked in a factory but went to community college for a nursing degree: "She was the first person in my family to go, and it's what inspired me to give it a go." His father was a fireman.

CHILDREN: Zoe was born when Ian was only 17. She got press for her DJ skills as a teen and is now 20 and a biology major at MIT. A paper she contributed to is getting published in a genetics journal (yes, her dad is super proud). Little sister Lucinda is just 4.

START: Music library work-study job at Indiana University in Bloomington yielded the second-ever music-related website.

BIG BREAK: In 1994, when Beastie Boys manager John Silva called him based on work he did for an early Beastie Boys website. Toured with the band in 1995; loved life.


  • First hire at Nullsoft, which was sold to AOL in 1999 (win).
  • Teamed up with Beastie Boys again (win) to form Grand Royal, which they bankrupted in a year flat (loss).
  • Sold Mediacode to Yahoo! in 2003 (win).
  • Built Yahoo! Music's subscription service (win).

WHAT HIS CUSTOMERS SAY: Aaron Ray, a partner at The Collective and head of digital media for Linkin Park, says Topspin pulled long nights to custom-build tools that help Linkin Park maintain its rabid, international fan base. Plus Topspin's ecommerce solutions go far beyond what Warner Brothers, the band's label, could have done. Linkin Park has been a Topspin Media client for about a year.

"We're always going to have fans. As long as we know how to reach them, the technology can change. That's the headline for what we do and what Topspin does."

WHAT ONE OF HIS COMPETITORS SAYS: Bob Cramer, CEO of Massachusetts-based Nimbit, which only works with musicians, has 20,000 artists and offers a free plan:

"The good news is that no matter who comes out on top, Nimbit, Topspin, or a new contender, artists will really be the winners in this space. Ian and the Topspin team are great people, and we're happy to have the friendly competition to challenge us to do even better for artists."


"Although he can look like a skateboarding kid, Ian is one of the most talented people in the music business. He has tremendous musical knowledge, great technical and product chops, strong business instincts and a soft but forceful leadership style. He is the personification of Music Leader 2.0 who will help resurrect the business from its gloom.

"I met Ian in '99 when he was working with the Beastie Boys and we bought his company five years later to get him to Yahoo to help us build a music subscription business. When Bob Roback and I left, Ian was the clear choice to take over running the business. Now at Topspin, Ian is trying to build a new way for artists to connect directly with fans- a new company and role but the same mission he has always been on."


LAUNCH Media covers and celebrates new products, services and technology in two ways: an email newsletter and an in-person conference. LAUNCH was founded by a serial entrepreneur, former journalist and now angel investor we're tired of promoting.


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