Music and tech startups may not immediately seem to go hand-in-hand, but for Roger McNamee—founder of Elevation Partners, a venture capital firm, former head of T. Rowe Price Science and Technology Fund, and guitarist for the '60s inspired jam band Moonalice—the two go together better than peanut butter and chocolate.
Traditionally young up-and-coming artists have been the ones to embrace emerging technologies and new marketing strategies to share and spread their music. But Moonalice, a group of seasoned musicians who have collectively played with the likes of Hot Tuna, Rod Stewart, Jefferson Starship, Phil Lesh, John Fogerty and countless others in their compiled careers, have found a way to incorporate stylistic elements of traditional jammy flowerchild folk in the style of so many heritage artists while simultaneously embracing the technology wave.
"Thank God for Facebook and Twitter," says the 58-year-old McNamee during his interview with the Source.
Beyond social media, the place the band has excelled is in broadcasts of their live shows. The band was the first to operate a satellite-based broadcast system, enabling live high-definition video to stream to smartphones and iPads and has broadcast almost all of its concerts since 2010. The band's elaborate Pink Floyd-inspired light shows, along with the availability to watch shows as they happen, have become staples of the band's stoney style. The group was even contracted this year to host the live stream of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival—started by fellow venture capitalist/musician Warren Hellman—in Golden Gate Park.
"That festival is not only alive and well, but it's flourishing," says McNamee. "For the last three years we've produced the video stream. We, by accident, figured out how to do live video. In the old days we had a very small crew that traveled with us and our drum tech (who also happened to be the original drummer from Twisted Sister) asked if he could set up a tripod and record us. Fans started asking him if they could buy shows. Then he got a second camera and started mixing the shows, then a third and they looked even better. Then our sound guys said we could do this live. Here we are 400 shows later, and now we broadcast all of our friends. We pay a fixed cost for the month so more shows have very little incremental cost. Our total cost of broadcasting four stages of Hardly Strictly for three days was about 2.5 percent the cost of Coachella's live broadcast for the same amount of stages and time."
Talking business and music is as natural as a meandering, improvised guitar solo or the reciting the catchy lyrics of the band's hit song, "It's 4:20 Somewhere," for McNamee.
"Moore's law applies to all this stuff," he casually slips into the conversation. When I ask what's next for music and technology's overlap, his voice raises with excitement. "That's a great question! To me U2's new album is tremendously important and I can't tell you exactly why, yet it feels to me like they have more or less finished off recorded music as a big market. They've thrown in the towel. Making a deal with Apple solves two problems, it pays the bills more than selling music and they got 30 million people to listen to the album in two weeks."
But despite his understanding of the crossover of the two industries, tech and music, McNamee says that Moonalice isn't a band in it for the money.
"Ours is not a band that has a profit motive," he insists. "Symphonies and Operas don't have a profit motive. The Grateful Dead never had one. Our ultimate objective is somewhere between a Symphony Orchestra and the Merry Pranksters. It's about the experience."
9 pm. Fri., Oct 24
Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave.
$12. Tickets available at bendticket.com