By @SimonCocking

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Interview with Alex White @mralexwhite, cofounder of Next Big Sound @nextbigsound

Brief background about you?

I’ve been around music my whole life, my dad is a professional cellist. I grew up playing in bands and working at a recording studio before getting into the business side of things. I interned at Universal Music Group in NYC and Chicago for two summers during my time at Northwestern University and started Next Big Sound out of undergrad with my two co-founders, David Hoffman and Samir Rayani.


What led you into nextbigsound? 

I realized during my internship that CD sales was the way that the music industry was deciding who to sign and what was working with their marketing and what was not working. I knew from college that most of my peers were not buying CDs anymore. That’s why in 2009 we started tracking the online music activity of every artist in the world and have kept track by adding all the ways people are increasingly listening to music (like streaming/video etc).

How is it going?

It’s been an incredible five years so far, my favourite part is building an awesome team that is able to do things we couldn’t even dream about when we started.


Is your product just flagging that a band is going to be big slightly sooner than it used to happen? What other value does NBS bring?

The predictive side of our business is actually a small but exciting part of what we do. Primarily we are a marketing intelligence dashboard that helps creative professionals make sense of all their data and understand what is reacting in the marketplace and what actually drives awareness, engagement, and ultimately revenue.


Who is it being adopted by?

We are depended on by thousands of artists and managers on a weekly basis up to the biggest record labels and distributors in the world.


How was it, being in TechStars, what were the most useful aspects?

We were actually about to shut the company down if it wasn’t for TechStars so the most useful aspect on the first day was the investment to stay in business! Day 2 the most useful aspect was the incredible network it plugged us into – from Jason Mendelson and the Foundry Group to other investors and now partners of NBS.

Watch the episode of Techstars with Alex pitching on the link above.

What are you plans for it’s future over the next 3 – 5 years? Europe, Ireland?

Our mission is to take all this data that’s out there and make it actually useful to our creative customers. We think that the same forces that have hit the music industry and book publishing will also apply to other entertainment verticals. We think there is plenty of room for global expansion and we think that the mission of transforming industries through data is an exciting march that we will be on for many years.

How is next big book going?

Very well, I like to say that 2014 is the year of data in the book publishing world. We have signed agreements with two of the “Big 5” book publishers to help them make all this data that is now out there on their authors, titles and fanbases as useful as possible to their marketing and sales teams. The interest has been tremendous.

Philanthropy, some startups are keen to embed this into their development, what’s your philosophy on this?

I think any entrepreneur is very fortunate to be able to take a risk and work for him or herself. We don’t have anything explicit around philanthropy written in stone but many folks volunteer independently, we’ve done a service day where everyone shows up on a Saturday at a work site, and I joined the NY board of Little Kids Rock, an incredible organization dedicated to putting instruments and music lessons back in schools.


See their blog for more information too

What mistakes have you seen other startups make? / Any tips?

I often see people get so caught up in press and reading about other “successful” companies and entrepreneurs that it really warps focus and priority for their emerging companies. Staying humble as the business grows is also critical.

The secret to life is three things: running, reading and coffee (I stole the first two from Will Smith). Let me explain.

Running because the little voice in your head wants you to stop as soon as you begin really running and you need to overcome that to press on.

Reading because all of the problems and issues you are facing now have been faced before and people have written about them.

Coffee is first about staying awake and caffeinated but also about meeting folks who have been there before or can provide counsel and outside perspective to cross what you’ve read, with how you are thinking about applying it to your situation.

You play ‘soccer’, has it helped in your startup ventures?

I’m a big soccer player. We have a Next Big Sound United soccer team that we field many seasons.

What’s your definition of success?

People think that “success” is a place that you arrive at, like graduating college and you become a “graduate.” Success, I’ve realized is not a place but a never ending push to be the best you can be in the arena you feel like you were meant to be playing in.

Anything else you’d like to add? / or that we should have asked you?

I think that about covers it! Thanks for talking with me.

Thanks a lot and best of luck with your trip to London.


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