I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

A Look Back At The Evolution of Network Awesome

by Jason Forrest
Dec. 31, 2013
Many people know that I'm the Creative Director of Network Awesome, but most people don't realize that I've been a musician for the past 12 years.   I had a weird thing happen at a club in the Netherlands a few years ago. It's a story that I'm sure many musicians have had before me, but the experience began a series of events that ultimately brought about the Network Awesome you know and love.

It was a cool show in a well-funded and professional venue in a smaller Dutch town. I was headlining, the show was crowded, and people danced like mad. After my set everyone was feeling great and it was the end of the party - time to get paid and go to the hotel.  Most of the staff was assembled to have a last beer. I just had to sign some paperwork and I'd be off - and then it hit me - I was older than all the staff, and in fact, I was the oldest person at the show.  It was one of those odd moments where you are instantly transported away from the moment, looking at a future self DJing to an even younger crowd at 50. What about at 60? It was sobering.  I went back to my hotel and didn't sleep so well.

I knew I wanted to "get involved with TV" but I had no idea what "TV" was anymore. I began to research the early days of cable broadcasting and found that I was loosely connected with one of the most interesting people to define what TV could be - Fred Seibert.  He was the first Creative Director for MTV and worked on almost every cool channel and show since the 80s.  I scoured his amazing blog and I found the original positioning statements that he and his collaborator Alan Goodman wrote for MTV back in 1987. That was my other eureka moment.

I realized the current concept of mainstream entertainment held very little interest for me since the early 90s.  In fact so much of the media that my generation grew up on had no current home. Youtube was the new public database and most of the video on demand channels were clogged, suggested lame content or was just not available in Berlin where I currently live.

I reached out to Fred Seibert and presented him with an ultra-early version of what would become Network Awesome. He suggested we build it for cheap and if we had enough people visit then find the money to make it into a bigger business.  Seemed like a good idea and I reached out to a fan of my label, Cock Rock Disco, to help program it. That was Greg Sadetsky, who not only became my co-founder in Network Awesome but provided amazing advice and for the past 2 years has helped me run the place.

But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit, this is supposed to be a look back - and I brought pictures. Here's the mock-up of the site that I pitched Fred Seibert:

It was called "thenetwork.com" at the time and there's a number of similar aspects to the site that we went on to make, namely the video player front and center.  At the time I was only interested in presenting a few shows a day (no archive) and on a fixed schedule tied to a world-clock.  But then Greg got involved and he added a bunch of features that we incorporated into the site. We launched on Jan 1st, 2011 and this screen grab is from 2 months later:

You can see how similar it was to the original pitch and how basic too. 

We were building features as we went. The Archive was first, but then we met Ben Gray and started Network Awesome Magazine (you can see the little "new"  badge in pink above) who took over as the editor of Network Awesome magazine shortly after.  His goal has been to give a larger understanding for the shows we present each day and he's done a fantastic job pulling in over 100 writers of the past 2 years to pitch in.  Our goal is to share these articles beyond Network Awesome and we currently re-post them to Huffington Post, WFMU's Beware Of the Blog, and a handful of other sites. We remain excited by the magazine and can't wait to keep expanding that aspect of the site.

Along the way we began adding volunteers of all stripes, like Isaac Hicks who manages our Tumblr to the 25+ video curators who are constantly adding more curated videos to our library to choose from. But I'd like to say a few words about each of the other 3 head video curators (I'm the 4th).

Whitney Weiss, Cory Vielma, and Markus Fiedler are responsible for much of what you see day in and out on Network Awesome and are central to our story.  I've known Markus Fiedler for 13 years now and he was the first person to release my music on an mp3 comp back in Y2K. He's proven to be a sort of spiritual advisor to our crew, pushing for more Buckminster Fuller, Alan Watts, and Sun Ra (he was behind our 100th birthday celebration of John Cage including he 33 HOUR long collection of ALL of his music). Whitney Weiss, like almost our whole team, sent an email to us suggesting a few shows. It was obvious that she knew her stuff, and we welcomed her to the head video crew about a month later. She routinely surprises us with her collections (we featured a few of them in our best of the 2012) including "Dynasty Cat Fights", "Disco... from India" and "The Best Of Mr. Leather".  Cory Vielma sent a very excited email to us back in April of 2011 suggesting a killer Live Music Show that we had to put on ASAP.  Within a few weeks it was obvious that he was a fountain of media knowledge and is still one of our most prolific curators under the moniker "The Saddnesses" which I'm sure you're seen around the site.

But Cory has done a lot more than curate. In Oct of last year Cory and I formed a Production company here in Berlin called Radosaur Productions to begin making our own original content for Network Awesome. He's helped with every aspect of the site from design to handling most of our social media, to accounting, to, well… everything else. He's been a great partner for the past year and a half and I just want to take this moment to single him out with my gratitude.

As Network Awesome grew in size and traffic, we knew we had to do a major redesign and we were lucky enough to pull in an old friend of mine, Chris Sattinger to help us with the huge job. It took us a few months to pull it off, but Chris helped us re-launch the site in March of 2012 with a new HTML5 layout, an updated video player, archive, magazine, and everything else.  Here's what that looked like:

Since then everything's been a blur really. We started a killer T-shirt store, began presenting Network Awesome screenings at a few film and music festivals (1.) and every 2 weeks we're doing all the video stuff for Boiler Room Berlin, which is always a thrill.  We also collaborated with Germany's best rock band/circus Bonaparte on a fantastic in-concert video which we hope to continue with them in the new year. 

Recently we've worked with 2 additional developers, Mike Dillion - who helped us clean up the rough edges and refine  our video player - and Benjamin Gleitzman who is currently helping us expand and solve our mobile video challenges as well as make some crucial introductions for us.  Here's what the site looks like now with their generous help:

So that gets us to the present.
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how far we've come in the past 2 years fueled almost entirely on the drive and enthusiasm of our volunteers. 

Today we launch The Network Awesome Show - it's our first original series, shot in 5 sweaty days back in July of 2012 and edited in fits an starts for the rest of the year by myself and another long-time friend Martin Sulzer (Cory certainly chipped in too!).  Martin's the reason why the show looks so good, and is really too pro to work with us, but he does it anyway, haha.  If it's ok with you, I'll write a bit more about it next week.

But today, Network Awesome finds itself at a unique moment in our history as we are currently building a Seed Round investment team to help us expand into the media platform we know we can be. In the next day or two I'll publish another article to tell you more about our goals and how its possible to be included if you want to - but for now I'll finish this off by saying a special heartfelt thank you to our audience who visit the site each day, who spread the shows on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr and who help us continue to grow by word of mouth every single day.

Thank you all so very much!!!

1. Gogbot Festival (NL), Berlin Music Week (DE), Supersonic Festival (UK), a 120 Megabytes party at Feed Soundspace in Berlin, and upcoming events at Nitehawk Cinema (Brooklyn USA) and CTm Festival (Berlin)

Jason Forrest is CEO and Creative Director of Network Awesome. He's been an electronic musician for over 11 years and has traveled almost everywhere in the world.  He invented and developed the iOS app Star6 and aided in the development of both Buddha Machine apps. In addition to that he runs 2 record labels, Nightshifters and Cock Rock Disco - so he's a busy guy.  His new album "The Everything" was released in April 2010 on Staatsakt. Grab it here and Follow him on Facebook here and contact him via the Network Awesome About page!