Our weekly look at the latest gizmos, gadgets and trends in personal technology. Today’s story by Evely Rusli of The New York Times.
Soon after Apple started its music-centric social network Ping last year, Steve Jobs reached out to Lady Gaga and her business manager, Troy Carter, for feedback.
At the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Lady Gaga peppered Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, with questions about Ping’s design and how it would work with other social networks. The pop star and Carter voiced concerns over the lack of integration with Facebook, but they left respecting Jobs’ overall vision.
The meeting also gave Carter, a new technophile, an idea. He called his friend Matthew Michelsen, a well-connected technology investor and entrepreneur, to find a platform for entertainers that could help them manage their fan base across all major social networks.
“I said why try to find a platform, let’s try to build one,” said Michelsen.
Despite Lady Gaga’s demanding world tour schedule that fall, Carter and Michelsen quietly founded a startup, the Backplane, with a team of seven. The company, which has not yet been unveiled, is a platform meant to power online communities around specific interests, like musicians and sports teams, and to integrate feeds from Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
“Backplane will provide a platform and tools for communities to socialize and communicate on a more focused level,” said Carter, sounding less like a pop star’s manager and more like an entrepreneur delivering the typical elevator pitch. “We needed a more concentrated base.”
Backplane — a blend of music, celebrity and technology — was a natural evolution, says Carter, who has worked with Lady Gaga for more than four years. As traditional sales have dwindled, the Internet has become increasingly important in music management.
“There was a time when radio stations wouldn’t play Gaga’s music, because it was considered dance,” said Carter. “Outside of live performances, the Internet became our primary tool to help people discover her music.”
Carter represents an emerging group of Hollywood managers, actors, musicians and other industry players who are spending more time in Silicon Valley, as technology upends the way people consume content.
“Technology has long been the driver of growth in the music business from the invention of lacquers, eight-track players, vinyl, cassettes and CDs,” Carter said. “In order to continue the growth we have to go back to embracing technology and the way that people choose to consume music.”