Tom Music at Ignite (Randy Stewart photo)

It is with great sadness that I report that Tom Music has died at the age of 31 after a long bout with cancer. Music had a booming voice and the rare ability to entertain a crowd, whether pitching a new idea at Startup Weekend or talking in a lighthearted way about his battle with cancer at Ignite Seattle.

A former employee who later worked for the family business, Advanced Management Systems, Music was diagnosed with lymphoma in May 2009.

I met Tom a on a few occasions at Seattle tech events, and I vividly remember his hilarious pitch for the startup project Obey The Decider at the Seattle Startup Weekend. Taking a humorous slant on restaurant review sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, Music’s Obey The Decider simply chose where people should meet for coffee, beers or dinner. Nathan Kaiser, an attendee of that event, said people still talk about the pitch to this day.

Most of the startup projects Music worked on had a humorous angle to them, including, a site where people could collaborate on Haiku poetry.

Music was best known for his dry sense of humor, a skill that was cultivated as an active member of the public speaking group Toastmasters. He was also a skilled programmer.

“He had an incredible sense of humor and humility that made him one of the most approachable people around the Seattle tech scene,” said friend Anthony Stevens. “A staggering loss.”

There was also a drive and passion to learn, something that friend Marina Martin recalled even while Music battled cancer.

“He had his laptop out in the hospital, working on new projects and improving his programming skills for as long as he could,” Martin recalled. “Tom’s Twitter bio‘I get antsy when I realize I’m consuming more than I create’ — is probably the single-best way I could ever describe him. He was focused on creating even while cancer consumed him.”

Music worked as a financial analyst and product manager at after graduating with a degree in economics from the University of Washington in 2003. Eric Peters, who helped recruit Music to Amazon, described him as “the most normal eclectic guy I’ve ever known.”

An Irish-style wake for music will be held this Friday at the Rat and Raven in the University District of Seattle. More remembrances and thoughts here.

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • Roy Leban

    Damn it! This is not the sort of news I want to read on GeekWire! Or anywhere.

    Tom was a great guy and will be missed. Thank you for a nice profile.

  • Justin Martenstein

    We’re trying to find footage of Tom’s “Obey the Decider” pitch from Seattle Startup Weekend 2. If anyone has any thoughts on where it might be, post a note in this comment thread.

    • dacort

      I remember *somebody* filming the presentations on Sunday night, but can’t recall who. Maybe Josh Maher?

      • johnhcook

        I actually thought I had the video or at least audio of the pitch, and I was looking for it in my archive, but couldn’t locate it. If anyone has it, let me know, and we’ll post it.

        • Danielle Morrill

          I thought maybe I caught it on my livestream (it was the first event we ever did that for Seattle 2.0), but having a hard time tracking it down.

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    Tom will be missed. Tom talked about lymphoma at Ignite in the most heartfelt, awesome and upbeat talk at Ignite ever.

    More from Tom’s family on his blog and

  • Tom Ryan

    I’m involved in Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and forwarded Tom’s excellent Ignite talk to our group of around 60 people. We’ll be dedicating our 50 mile ride this coming Saturday to Tom.

  • A r i z J a c i n to

    I immediately knew where to find the video since I was at the Seattle Startup Weekend event back in 2009. Below is the video on YouTube, you’ll spot “Obey The Decider” & Tom Music @ 0:29

    • johnhcook

      Thanks for sharing that clip. Very motivational, especially hearing Tom Music speaking about the power of startup ideas.

  • Josie, friend of Tom

    As a friend of Tom I really appreciate this wonderful article. I know he would have appreciated all the love from the Tech community. Also, if someone does ever find that Obey the Decider pitch….I got to hear the at-home draft, but I’d love to see it official. For any and all who loved Tom, I would encourage you to donate blood or platelets, as these were key in his fight(s) with cancer. I would also encourage everyone to get registered for bone marrow donation, which would have been Tom’s next step. Being registered is a simple process that can be done through the mail, and does not commit you to actually donate…a choice that can be made if and when you are matched:
    Thanks again.

Job Listings on GeekWork