I knew it was @jonaswoost as soon as I entered re-run, the back theater of re-bar in D.U.M.B.O., the setting for the second N.Y. meeting of the Open Music Media. His sandy blonde (not ginger!) hair, height, cool pointy black shoes and demeanor gave him away as European. That and I had looked up photos of him on the net.
We would drink, discuss and arrange to meet for the first ever in-person recorded interview for the 5 Questions series. Jonas asked me after our interview if I had meant not to or had just forgotten to ask him about his previous position as Head of Music at LastFm.com for the past four years. It was intentional. You can read more of a bio about Jonas on his blog. (Disclosure: part of my role at Sony included being the global marketing account manager for LastFm.com.)
1. Could you explain why you co-founded Open Music Media?
Dave Haynes and I saw a gap about people in the music and technology how they get together and exchange thoughts. We were attending the well-known conferences over the last few years (MIDEM, SXSW, etc.) is there to represent companies. The agenda is often set by from the person or company that paid for them to be at that event.
We wanted to gather in a non-political way without any agendas to talk about digital music and media. We decided to get people together in London for a roundtable setting as opposed to a panel, for an hour, always after work in a pub so people can have a drink and it makes it social. We started doing that successfully and after a year people from other countries & cities approached us to adapt the idea, the name. It’s not a commercial enterprise, it’s really the name and the concept. We ask for it to be in a non-commercial setting. We don’t want to have sponsors involved. We don’t want people to charge entry fees you cannot charge for entry.
2. How do you explain the guest panelists who come to explain their service or product, which then gets dissected by the group? Is that to help the guest or spark the conversation? The first OMM I attended we very quickly got away from the guest’s product.
The guest is leading the conversation. We set one topic for the evening. The guest introduces the topic by talking about their idea for five to ten minutes. I feel the best sessions that we had quickly moved away from that specific example and discussed the overall issue.
The first one we had in London we had Anthony Volodkin . He was talking for 5 to 10 minutes about The Hype Machine and what it does, how it works, and what kind of relationship they have with artists and labels. From that, we were very quickly discussing music blogs in general and how they do or don’t help the music industry in general. He did a great job by moderating almost, what could be called a roundtable discussion. There were about 35 people. For me, personally, that is the ideal situation.
If the speaker has a lot to say, it might end up to be a conversation to be just about the product or the project. For example when we had Joi Ito the CEO of Creative Commons , there were so many questions in the audience which was 65 people. There were a lot of questions and answers. It was an interactive night as opposed to just Joi Ito explaining something.
3. Even though we live so much of our lives digitally, you still found the need to have this socialization gathering. Do you think digital interactions will ever replace the socialization process?
No. So we’re recording this talk here in New York. I’m here in New York for no specific reason. I’m not here to sell something or buy something. I’m here to socialize. I just moved to North America and I wanted to make sure that the people I like, that I respect that they are aware of the fact I’m in North America now. This is the whole purpose of my trip.
This is a fairly expense enterprise if you compare it to sending a bunch of emails. However the outcome and the results are not even in the same league. Email doesn’t mean that much these days because there are so many of them, then add all the tweets and the newsletters we read and texts we read on screens. There’s an inflation of that so it is easy to forget those things.
Human interaction is a lot more than words. It’s about body language and introduce yourself. Do you shake hands or hug? All these things add together to add to your relationship which email can over provide words which is a fraction of human interaction.
5. What is the angle of your former radio show and what does your blog name “heutepopmorgen” mean in English?
It was a new location station in Hamburg. They needed to build some time. They needed to fill air. They needed some content. I decided to produce one two-hour show. It sounded awful, I didn’t know what I was doing. It wasn’t live, I had to record it at home and I didn’t have the right equipment.
I produced one and someone must’ve liked it because they asked me to do it on a regular basis. The name means Today’s Pop Tomorrow. I wanted to make it sound interesting but I wanted to play pop music that should be more popular. It had some lyrics and a good melody that you could get as an outsider and was still niche music. I played a lot of electronica.
I did it for five years and then I decided to move to Vancouver. It forced me to listen to a lot of new music which you don’t do when you work in the music industry. I felt I reached a point I didn’t know what was next. The whole exercise was about setting new challenges, learning new things and meeting new people. That’s also why I stopped working for LastFm.com, not because I didn’t enjoy it anymore- I was obviously comfortable and needed a new challenge.
As part of that I stopped all the things that I did before and I wanted to have a new start. The blog is called heutepop. I don’t know what the evolution will be.
BONUS JONAS!!!! (Ok, JoBro fans don’t get upset Jonas is pronounced like Yo-nas, he is German.) Since the interview was in person I asked a few extra questions.
Let’s talk about your personal style. Today you’re wearing a Captain Neo t-shirt (which he quizzed me to make sure I knew it was a Michael Jackson show/character. Next time a harder question Jonas!)
When it comes to creative stuff – music, movies or fashion, I don’t like to go for the very left field or obscure just for the sack of it. Some people like to do that. They like to watch 1980’s Kung Fu movies, not because they enjoy them, but they want to be seen as someone who enjoys them. That’s not really my style.
I like to wear things that are accessible and are comfortable. At the same time I don’t want to be uniform.
You were traveling around quite a bit. What were some of the unexpected lessons you learned on the road? And what was the point of the journey?
The point of my journey before hand, was not the point at the end. It was a big surprise to me.
We (Jonas and his girlfriend) went to South America for five months, four months in North America. Before the trip the point was to take some time off, see some stuff, spend some time at the beach. While we were on the trip, I realized the trip wasn’t about any of that stuff but in a selfish way was about me. All the do-nothing changed me.
I realized after a few months, going outside of your daily routine. I’d had a routine living in London for eight years with it’s daily anxieties and your daily bullshit that you have to deal with and you are suddenly totally out of that. What did we have to do? We got up in the morning had breakfast, look at stuff and have dinner and then we went to bed.
It’s like a defrag of the brain. All the crap that built up goes away. It takes a while. It was about three months into the trip that it all went away. You start fresh. It kind of dumbs you down a bit. It was hard for me to get back into doing things like this interview. If we tried to do this right at the end of the trip I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I wasn’t really thinking about anything because we couldn’t even find any good books down there.
I came back and felt refreshed and really motivated. I seriously felt I could look at things differently and renew things that you always want to renew about your life like work life balance.
Thank you Jonas! I really enjoyed our chat.