4 years ago today, I sent a tweet that would become the defining point of my career.
But before I get to that story, I need to give you some context. It was early 2011, and I was an unemployed 24 year old living in my mom's house in Santa Clara, California. This was the house I had lived in throughout most of my high school years, and the room hadn't changed one bit since then -- the walls were still painted a splotchy shade of turquoise, decorated with set lists peeled off of the stages of San Francisco's concert venues and signed by obscure indie bands.
I had just moved back after spending a year and a half in London, where I did an MA degree in International Broadcast Journalism at Westminster University. After the initial excitement of catching up with family, friends, and getting thoroughly reacquainted with proper Mexican food, the dreaded quarter-life crisis came in like a wrecking ball. My student loan money was nearly all spent, and I had no job prospects.
At this point, a typical day was something like:
10am: Eat a bowl of cereal while transfixed by games of Plinko on "The Price Is Right."
Afternoon: Halfheartedly scour job sites, anticipating rejection before even writing a cover letter because the job market was so grim.
Evening: Crap, dinner time already? Guess it's time to get out of pajamas and take a shower...
Late night: Distract myself from thoughts of, "what's wrong with you? Why haven't you found a job yet? You had a stable job before, why did you have to give it up for London? Look at you now, you unemployed slacker!" by reading books, watching TV shows/movies, and browsing the internet until passing out.
So yeah...it wasn't one of the happiest periods in my life. Luckily, the power of Craigslist and my mom's instinct joined forces to get me out of this funk. She was also unemployed at the time and, while on her own search for work, came across a Craigslist posting that she thought I should take a look at. It was at a small startup in Mountain View, and they were looking for a summer music writing intern. Because I had been doing music journalism since I was 18, she thought it would be right up my alley.
Initially, I dismissed the posting because I thought that with a Master's degree, I deserved a job way beyond internship level. Besides, it wasn't supposed to start until summer and it was only early February. What would I do until then, even if I applied and managed to get the internship? But after taking the time to thoroughly read through the posting, everything that was written in it resonated with me. I remember feeling physically tingly with excitement while reading the tasks this internship would require. At this point, I decided it was worth it to dig a little deeper and to find out everything I could about this company, 955 Dreams. Mostly to make sure it wasn't really a phone sex hotline ("for a good time, dial 955-DREAMS").
In actuality, they had just built this cool iPad app called The History of Jazz, which was an interactive timeline of jazz history.
In my research, I found the company's Twitter handle and saw that they only had a couple hundred followers. At this point in my job hunt, I was so jaded that I just had a "meh...I kinda don't give a shit about anything right now" attitude. So instead of just sending a cover letter and resume like any sane person would do, I impulsively decided to tweet at them, "You can take down your internship posting now. www.linkedin.com/in/amandavanwest." To my surprise, just a couple of minutes later I received the following DM:
The next thing I knew, I was invited to their History of Jazz launch party, where I had to meet all of the founders and their closest friends, family members, and professional acquaintances before going through the formal interview process. Luckily my decision to stick to a two drink maximum (while encouraging other party-goers to imbibe more...) meant that I made it through the party without embarrassing myself, and I was invited in the following Monday for the interview. I was given an assignment to pick an up-and-coming band and write a short review on their music, so I wrote this review of The Vaccines self-titled EP.
Shortly after, I was given an official offer and I became the company's first hire.
Four years later, I'm now the most senior woman in the company, singlehandedly running our music discovery app Band of the Day. I'd like to think that my geeky inner 17 year-old Strokes/indie band fangirl would be proud if she could see me now.
It's been an incredible learning experience, peppered with a heavy hand of surreal moments like judging a Battle of the Bands competition in the Bahamas, speaking on a music tech panel in Spain, and putting on a showcase during SXSW that resulted in tens of thousands of people wanting to get in.
Needless to say, I'm excited to see what this next year at Applauze (a necessary name change!) will have in store. Like any other tech startup, we've gone through our fair share of ups and downs, but I think our strength lies in how we've used the downs as learning experiences, and so that's how we've managed to prevail.
I'm not sure if anyone besides my mom and the spambots reads this blog, but if you've somehow stumbled over here, feel free to leave a comment. Or, y'know, just tweet me.
(Originally published in Band of the Day app on 9/11/14) Three years. One thousand and ninety-seven bands. Back in late summer of 2011, in the heart of Silicon Valley, we — a tiny group of designers, developers, and music writers — weren’t sure if we’d ever hit this milestone. In an industry that’s increasingly automated, how would an app that runs 100% on human curation even survive? What would happen if people didn’t like our taste in music? Luckily for us, there has yet to be a music discovery service that can entirely replace the human touch, and from all the feedback we’ve received, you’ve appreciated our taste in music thus far. Today, as your virtual music geek friend (Amanda Van West - hi!) behind Band of the Day app’s sleekly-designed facade, I’m proud to have chosen Sydney, Australia’s The Vines as the band to celebrate our third birthday.
Many of you might already be well-familiar with The Vines. After all, their debut album Highly Evolved (2002) sold over 1.5 million albums worldwide, with singles like “Get Free” and “Outtathaway!” topping the charts and getting significant airplay. This was followed by 2004’s Winning Days, and had the band touring all over the world. One of those stops was in April 2004 at The Warfield in San Francisco, California. It was part of what was dubbed ‘The Aussie Invasion Tour,’ with The Living End and Jet rounding off the lineup. I was a senior in high school at the time and — after reading all the praise about The Vines in music magazines like NME, Rolling Stone, and Spin — my friends and I made the trek from the suburbs to the big city to finally see what all the hype was about.
As soon as they hit the stage and struck the first few notes, I was in awe of the wild and raw punk rock energy sparking through the air. Frontman Craig Nicholls’ face would distort as he’d snarl out self-loathing lyrics like, “She never loved me/why should anyone?” (‘Get Free’), with beads of sweat flying off of his shaggy ‘do. To put it briefly, it was a ferocious, electrifying performance. Anyone who was there that night wouldn’t have been surprised to see The Vines blow up even further.
But like many bands who experience a meteoric rise to fame, it’s not without consequence. After 2006’s Vision Valley, which didn’t achieve as much commercial success as the previous releases, the band was dropped from their record label. Still, they persisted and two years later released Melodia, the first album for their then-label Ivy League Records. This was followed by 2011’s Future Primitives, which was self-funded by the band. Both were solid releases, but still didn’t achieve the accolades of their first two albums.
Now in September 2014, The Vines are back with a two-disc album, Wicked Nature — arguably their finest album since 2002’s Highly Evolved. It’s been released completely independently, funded through a crowdsourced PledgeMusic campaign (http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/thevines). This album sees a new band lineup, with the rhythm section now made up of Tim John on bass and Lachy West on drums. Nicholls is still at the helm as lead vocalist and guitarist, but for the first time ever he’s also taken on the role of producer (with Paul Mckercher as co-producer for disc one). The result is a 22-song journey through everything from explosive punk rock (“Out The Loop”), to sludgy grunge (“Metal Zone”), to free-spirited psychedelia (“Truth”). It’s The Vines being true to their very core, a band that knows what they do best and have done it with fearless gusto. This is the type of album that we’ll be shamelessly blasting over and over again here at Band of the Day HQ, and we hope that no matter where you are in the world, you’ll take the time to crank it up and join the virtual party on our third birthday today.
And to all of the bands we’ve featured over the past three years, the labels we’ve worked with, the music publicists, the friends/family members/app users who have all said, “hey, have you heard about this band?”, I’d like to extend a huge THANK YOU on behalf of the Band of the Day family. Our app would be nothing without all of this incredible music, and we feel lucky every single day we get to share new tunes with the world. Here’s to making it three years, and for many more years to come! - Amanda Van West (@amandabomb)