When was the first time you heard your favorite song? Back in the day, if you were a snowboarder, skateboarder, skier or surfer, chances are the answer involved a video part.
Was it "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" in Noah Salasnek's "TB2" part that gave you that penchant for Primus? Or maybe Chris Dufficy and Mack Dawg nabbed you with Souls Of Mischief's "93 'Til Infinity" in "True Life"? And Shawn Farmer rapping over his own "Critical Condition" part (check it here, but mind the language) either got you stoked -- or scarred you for life.
Either way, music and action sports have always been inexorably intertwined. Like peanut butter and jelly. Punk rock and a middle finger. And now Joel Hilliard wants to push that relationship deeper into the 21st century.
The 30-year-old entrepreneur -- with backing from five investors located in Silicon Valley, Calif,; Chicago, ill.; Denver, Colo.; and Los Angeles -- is launching a new social music and video platform called Kakoona that puts action sports at its very core. Combining Spotify-like streaming and the paid-download model of iTunes, with social profile reminiscent of Facebook and SoundCloud-esque embeddable player, Kakoona aims to become a whole new way to discover, promote, listen to and buy music. The technology allows you to embed videos, playlists, albums or songs to either stream or buy via download right then and there, with no reason to go to a separate website. (Check the screencast video above for a demo.)
"We've built the whole platform on [the] backbone of our media player, which does it all in one embeddable player," says Hilliard. "As that goes viral it can live independently from the site and create revenue for the artist and label either through streaming royalties or downloads."
This alone differentiates it from the multitude of other digital-music options, but its other secret weapon? Sponsored riders. In these heady days when every pro and their brother's filmer lead increasingly Instagrammed lives, Kakoona hopes to use its unique offering to make the translation of the shred life to the digital realm even more seamless.
Hilliard's enlisted an impressive lineup of shreds -- snowboarders Danny Kass and Torstein Horgmo and skiers Tanner Hall and Sammy Carlson -- to not only act as the face of the company, but also to use Kakoona to reach and talk to their fans through music. "I think the landscape is wide open for a digital-media company to bridge music and action sports, given how stocked it is with trend leaders," says Hilliard. "It's an authentic and natural fit."
Kass is no stranger to the potent mix of music and his chosen profession. For the last eight years, he and the Grenerds host the annual Grenade Games, which have brought together some of the world's best snowboarders with artists like Metric, Fat Joe, Agent Orange and The Game. The legendary U.S. Open, X Games and Olympic champ plans to use Kakoona to post playlists and look for new music from his favorite bands.
"I think it's a good fit for snowboarding and action sports as a whole because action sports is more of a lifestyle than a sport," says Kass. "I love the idea of posting what you're doing, who you're with [and] what bands you're into and then creat[ing] playlists that others can share. Kakoona pretty much does it all, so I'm pumped to be part of something so sick that's pushing boundaries."
Still one of the world's most influential new-school skiers, Hall has also taken his passion for music to the next level. Three years ago, Hall started Inspired Media Concepts, which includes a music label. He says that while the choice and availability of music has never been greater than it is right now, it's also made following music a lot more complicated than in the days of CDs and vinyl.
"I've been involved with music for a while and music's been a big part of my life, so when an opportunity comes up that's all about sharing music and playlists, and just hopefully spreading the word on some artists that not many people had heard about, I thought it would be an awesome way to get my passion and love of reggae dancehall music out into the world," Hall says. "Getting together with Kakoona is an opportunity to get it out to the masses more, for kids and fans [who] come to see what I'm listening to and what I'm inspired by."
Hall says he'll be uploading at least a couple different playlists every month. "It'll be just the music I'm feeling in that time," he says. "You have your summer tunes, your training tunes, spring-skiing tunes, powder tunes -- there's music for every vibe in life. People can see the music associated with those times for me and see what I'm liking and listening to."
Horgmo has also been adding music to his résumé, producing his own beats and making his "BroStep" productions available for free on SoundCloud. The Norwegian is an impressive catch for Hilliard and Kakoona, not only for his hill-stomping abilities, but also because he's one of the most digitally engaged pros, actively using SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook and his own multimedia site, Torstein.net.
"I've been producing my own music and snowboarding videos for many years now, so [Kakoona] seemed like a perfect fit," says Horgmo. "I'll be creating playlists through the Kakoona music network as well as allowing people to listen [to] and download music I've produced. We're also working to showcase more video content on the site as well, and I'll be playing a lot of my videos that we are producing for Shredbots.com and Torstein.net."
The company is putting a strong focus on independent artists and labels, another reason Hilliard sees the action-sports connection as a key ingredient to the company's success.
"If platforms like Kakoona can simplify the process of accessing music, new videos and artists," says Kass, "then the sky is the limit."