Friday, July 24, 2015

Farewell, Grooveshark.

There's not too many things Gainesville is internationally known for. University of Florida with its Gators is perhaps one. Grooveshark may have been another. I wondered if I should write about the sad news from the Swamp on here, but the truth is that for some reason it has touched me profoundly. On Sunday night I emailed Grooveshark founder, Josh Greenberg to recruit him for a project my non-profit kicks off in August. I thought he'd be a perfect fit. On Monday I've learnt of his passing. His girlfriend found him that morning. He was 28. He lived across the street for me and we've known each other socially. I've known many people around him, we've interacted in the same circles, and while we may have spoken before I think it's only last year that we started to talk directly and discuss some ideas I've had. It's odd. Facebook indicates we connected in 2011, and truthfully I don't quite remember. It was the year that I became an attorney and a lot of people were buying me shots. When I went to meet with him last year to discuss some investment ideas we've had he was happy to show me around and very proud of what he had built. I was the only person in Gainesville who didn't know where the Grooveshark offices were, I had to ask the woman in the one unit over, because I didn't see the sign. I guess you didn't really need a sign if you were part of the crowd. The funny thing is, I've spent time with these people, I went to their parties and their events, often joked with them as our paths crossed and yet, before last year I have never been up there. I remember going in with a couple of presentations. We wanted his advice and his guidance- which he was always willing to give. He listened, nodded and would say what he thought. We also wanted to pitch him a new direction, a new project to focus on and I guess many people did. When I came up there- it was clear to me that Grooveshark was done. The only mystery was how much  damages to the recording studios they'd pay and can they survive it. Yet he still felt focused and invested in it. He wasn't receptive to much else. I still remember how was talking about a back and forth he had with Spotify. And I can't really blame him. He was 19 when he started it. It was his baby. And he was a young kid, a freshman who made it big. And  I think he changed the landscape of Gainesville forever. Yes, the service that he created broke the law- and I don't think we should judge him to harshly given how young he was- and he paid for it, he lost his company. I don't think there was a way to make it work, given how far the things have gotten. Yes, Grooveshark was a streaming service facing severe, prolonged legal problems and nobody's disputing that. But I also don't get how some sources are unable to separate the man from his creation, and he either has to be creative or ruthless. While Grooveshark itself admitted their wrongdoing before disappearing into oblivion a few months ago it did so much more than any other internet music provider. It created a brand that became synonymous with Gainesville's freethinking, creative spirit. And it wasn't just a brand. It was a community. A movement. I don't think yiy'd be able to understand what it was unless you were here as it happened. People wanted to work for  them to be a part of it - whatever IT was. And I'm not sure it was such a great place to work at in terms of long term prospects, but it didn't seem to matter. I've seen the Grooveshark T-Shirts all over town, I believe long before I've learnt what Grooveshark was. And what it did to me at least felt secondary to the logo and the people who stood behind it. The branding and the community outgrew the product- it was synonymous with innovation and development and that was extraordinary. Over the last few years start ups started popping up everywhere. There are branding agencies, marketing services and digital agencies all over Gainesville. I don't think  that would have ever happened had Grooveshark not started here a few years later. Josh transformed us all in that sense and I will forever be in awe of his creativity. Who knew you can build something in Gainesville?  How many people never follow their vision, the idea, the dream and allow who they are, where they are to hold them back. I don't think they possibly could have been any bigger.

I'm wired to look at the great minds I meet always thinking how we can help one another and how it all factors into the bigger picture. Just recently I told one of my Directors that I was looking to get him involved with our non profit. I was just looking for the right moment, and the right moment never came. We were looking for a technology expert and who better to recruit than Josh Greenberg? But I never asked. And to that she said: Don't wait. And I think it's a great advice in life. We wait and wait and then life just happens. Who knows what the future holds? And then some people just DO while the rest of us WAITS. And that's what he accomplished at 28 just think what his future could have been. I found the news very saddening. A life cut short. I don't know - it could be my grandmother's funeral a few years ago and my father's cancer diagnosis but I've been feeling recently that I'm surrounded by illness and death. Josh's untimely passing is on the loop newscycle covered by BBC, the RollingStone and all the agencies. All I can say is his presence will be missed. It's an end of an era for us in Gainesville, as both Greenberg and Grooveshark are gone. All I can say is he swill be missed.

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