Topspin Layoffs Signal Strategy Shift

Topspin Media on Thursday confirmed it has laid off 14 employees, or about 44% of its staff.

The layoff signals a strategic shift at the 7-year-old Santa Monica, Calif., company towards being a technology platform and away from hands-on artist services.

Topspin's spokesman declined to provide further comment.

Signs of Topspin's change in direction came late last year, when the company launched ArtistLink, a self-serve platform that allows artists to promote merchandise and concert tickets. Among the companies using ArtistLink are MTV Network's online properties and Spotify.

In some ways, the shift brings Topspin back to its original mandate of building easy-to-use online tools that artists can use to build their audience and sell merchandise directly to fans, said Gary Brotman, a former Topspin executive.

"They're focusing on their platform, their technology and their data," Brotman said. "That was the idea from the beginning, and going back to that makes sense because it's Topspin's strong suit."

Founded in 2007 by Shamal Ranasinghe and Peter Gotcher, Topspin over the years has found itself in the increasingly crowded field for direct-to-fan marketing and commerce. Bandcamp, ReverbNation, Bandpage and even PledgeMusic are just a few of its competitors. Each tackle the task of helping artists connect to fans from slightly different angles.

"No one doubts that the potential for direct-to-fan business is there," Brotman said. "But what's the right recipe? Everyone's tinkering with the formula in their own way. Topspin is doing this by refocusing on their core mission."