Yesterday, Hypebot wrote a post about Topspin in an attempt to offer a balanced view on what people think of the direct-to-fan platform. Many readers and music industry thinkers took the time to weigh in too and share their thoughts on Topspin.
The main theme expressed runs along the lines of just because you have a TypePad account doesn't mean that you're a blogger. It takes months of practice and the advice of a few experts to get in and use the platform to its full potential.
Here's an overview of thoughts on Topspin:
Andrea Kremer said...
From what I've seen of [Topspin], it's a very robust shopping cart that can bundle physical, digital, merch and tickets in any number of ways – and then track, on the back-end, who buys what and how much they spend, allowing for finely tuned marketing. It can also deliver and fulfill social media campaigns (tweet/like for track, etc.) and track key influencers as those campaigns spread. I'd be hard pressed to find another "shopping cart" that can do all that.
[Editor's note: Someone called Topspin just a shopping cart.]
I do think the learning-curve remarks are probably accurate, but I look forward to seeing what the DIY version can do once it's opened to the masses.
Dave Kusek of Berklee said...
Just because you buy a hammer, does not mean you are a carpenter.
Topspin is like a Ferrari for marketing. You better really learn how to drive before you take it out and spin it at 190 MPH.
These days as always, artists need someone to take them to market. It is impossible to do it alone. The marketing skills you need today are much more aligned with the direct to fan principals that the Topspin architects employed than the mass marketing techniques of days gone by. Topspin is a power tool that in the hands of a creative direct marketer can help build the next generation of successful bands.
Daysha Taylor said...
I've used Topspin for the last 2 years and it is a dominant resource among a large arsenal of tools. After researching the competitive products, it is also the most affordable and scalable for long-term growth. But it is just a tool and there is a full team of people behind the success of the artist.
Genius tools + amazing content + devoted team is a huge win. Topspin has delivered on the first part of that equation with sincere dedication to supporting both the artist and team's careers. They listen, learn, and deliver.
However, if you put all your eggs in the genius tools basket and fail to also invest in amazing content, a thoughtful content strategy, and a devoted team, success will be limited.
Jason Feinberg of On Target Media said...
I've been working with Topspin since 2008, so I've seen the platform from early stages through significant growth. When they first came out of stealth mode, they offered a core toolset that was far ahead of their competitors. It wasn't exactly easy to use, but if you had the tech chops and some creative savvy, you could assemble a marketing and sales platform unlike anything else out there.
As should happen in any marketplace where there is an actual demand, competitive products begin appearing (or expanding) that catered to different tiers of users.
Different packages suit different needs, and although Topspin needs to be clear in who their ideal users are (and they have been) a certain level of research, diligence, and reality checks are placed squarely on the artists or teams evaluating the platform.
There is a reason Topspin started bringing on companies as marketing partners - they knew well in advance that their platform was going to take a serious pilot to get it to really work. This is a standard practice in enterprise-level software - expert consultancies form and become qualified to install/administer the platform.
Salesforce is a great example - it's quite difficult to derive significant value without an expert or three to guide you and customize the experience. If all you need is simple data storage you can use Bento from Filemaker without any help, but the feature set is a fraction of what Salesforce gives you. This is analogous to Topspin and its competitors.
Something for everyone, but not all something's apply to everyone.
In full disclosure, my previous company was a Topspin marketing partner, I taught the Berklee Topspin course, and I run the direct-to-consumer department for a record label where Topspin is our platform of choice. Some might say I am biased from these affiliations, but it's really the opposite - I chose those affiliations because I've seen so many successes from using the platform. However, the big successes have come because I've been able to allocate an experienced team to the projects. This includes a case-by-case combination of expert application users, customer service staff, web developers, merch people, fulfillment shops - team members performing the roles of the entire distribution and marketing ecosystem. Topspin provides a toolset that powers this chain, but does not re-create it for you. And it certainly doesn't tell you how to cater to your unique fan base - let's not forget that's the artist/management/label/etc's job.
I will say that physical fulfillment is Topspin's Achilles' heel. As the platform was originally intended for digital products, I understand how this has been a pain point in growth. I've had the blessing and curse of needing scalable, high-end fulfillment services, but having the resources to build parts of it myself. Many bands are going to quickly realize that once you have made a sale, the hard part may just be starting. But this is true of most services, and an issue that the music business faces as a whole.
Jean Renard said...
Topspin is a tool; many of their most important features come from third parties.
You pay a lot for not a lot in the end. Thinking any of these tools will really make things happen is akin to thinking that purchasing Photoshop will make you a great photographer. Marketing campaigns have been around for a long time, people make those campaigns not their tools, ask anyone in advertising, and PR.
Tools help but only so much.