Software is Eating the Recording Studio

Why we invested in RecordGram

One of my favorite GIFs is the “evolution of the desk” showing a surface full of physical artifacts morphing into icons on a desktop. If a new version of this video was created today, most of those icons would be on a mobile phone.

Evolution of a desk GIF.

That said, this mobile innovation has yet to hit the recording studio…until now. Goodbye Ableton Live. Hello RecordGram. RecordGram is a unique platform that pairs music producers with aspiring artists through a mobile recording studio where artists find beats, create songs, build a social following, and (hopefully) get signed.

The company participated in the Nashville-based music accelerator Project Music and was co-founded by Grammy-winning music producer Winston “DJ Blackout” Thomas; Erik Mendelson, a veteran music producer and artist manager; and hip-hop’s Shawn Mims, who produced “This is Why I’m Hot.

They later went on to win TechCrunch Disrupt’s 2017 Startup Battlefield.

We’re excited to announce our investment in Recordgram to bring a recording studio to everyone with a smartphone.

It’s happened already with photographers and Instagram. Now it’s time to give every person on the planet with a smartphone and a voice the opportunity to be discovered.

Check out one of my personal favorites recently: @JimmyLevyMusic on RecordGram:

Want to learn more about the RecordGram story? Watch the most recent episode of “Planet of the Apps” exclusively on Apple Music.

I recently asked Erik, CEO of Recordgram, about their journey:

Aaron: Where are you from? How did your hometown shape your idea?Erik: I’m from Piscataway, NJ, Winston is from Long Island, New York and Shawn is from Washington Heights, New York. Winston and I currently reside in Miami, Florida. All 3 of us are from the NYC area that is the mecca of the music industry. Thus our proximity to NYC is what made the allure of the music industry appealing. Just being around the music business environment is one of our competitive advantages because we’re now able to apply technology to solve problems from an industry that we have tenured experience and success in.

Aaron: What’s your background and how did it inform your idea for your app?
Erik: I have been in marketing and business development roles my entire career. Winston is a Grammy Award winning music producer and Shawn is a multi-platinum recording artist. None of us have much coding experience which we thought would hurt us in the technology industry. However, I was told early on by a prominent tech entrepreneur from Miami that the world is filled with plenty of talented developers but what it’s missing are ideas that are coupled with execution that can change problems and translate into real businesses. Collectively, my team isn’t short on ideas or execution so we took on the technology industry head on.

Aaron: How did you get the idea for this app?
Erik: Shawn hinted to me 6 years ago that we need to venture into the app space and came up with a prior idea to RecordGram. We built an MVP for his previous idea and won our first hackathon. That gave us the technology bug and the confidence we needed to innovate. From the initial idea, Shawn formulated the idea for RecordGram. I researched and validated the business behind the idea and Winston started put our development team together to build it.

Aaron: Do you have a personal story that this idea addressed?
Erik: Absolutely. All three of us are from the music industry and rely on certain royalty payments to pay the bills. What we realized six years ago was that the music industry wasn’t innovating anymore and relied on 3rd party technology companies to solve their problem. Fast forward six years later and the way music is being consumed has significantly impacted all of our monthly earnings. Hence, we built RecordGram to fill a need that all of us were facing daily. We make money for producers and save time and money while providing access to artists. This is a world we completely understand.

Aaron: Who are you targeting with your product?

Erik: For the last couple years we have been targeting the technology industry as well as music industry decision makers. We recently won the TechCrunch Disrupt Cup in NYC which provided the validation we needed in the tech industry and in 2016 we were one of six companies that were selected for the Project Music Accelerator in Nashville which validated us in the music industry. Now our focus is completely on growing users; both aspiring artists and music producers.

Aaron: In one sentence, who are you/what is your company?
Erik: RecordGram is the hottest music technology on the planet that’s going to disrupt and democratize music collaboration and discovery.

Aaron: What benefit do you provide that’s relevant to the customer and their pain?
Erik: For producers they are faced with diminishing royalty payments. We allow producers to make passive income on their back catalog of beats collecting dust. For aspiring artist, pursuing a career in music is expensive. Most don’t have the money or access to quality producers they need to succeed. RecordGram solves both of our customers problems thru our affordable, convenient and user friendly mobile application

Aaron: How do you differentiate from the competition?
Erik: Our competitors are either web based production marketplaces that don’t have a mobile component or their karaoke/lip syncing apps that rely on major record label licensing which is very expensive. RecordGram is a fully integrate mobile producer marketplace, recording studio and social network that focuses on original music content creation and collaboration. We have the resources to take our competitors users to the next level of pursuing a legitimate career in music.

Aaron: What was it like to work with your celebrity mentor?
Erik: Working with @iamwill was a lifetime experience. When we got accepted into Planet of the Apps, Winston and I, of course wanted Will because he’s from our industry and understands the problem we’re solving. I mean, he had a similar idea to RecordGram so we’re absolutely confident that he’s the right mentor for us. Furthermore, he’s extremely down to earth and really provide value and knowledge to our business.

Aaron: What does diversity mean to you?
Erik: All of us are from the world’s melting pot-NYC. I don’t think you can survive in life let alone business without understanding and utilizing the opinions of those who are different that you. A customer is a customer and if you want to scale than you need to create product that appeals to a wide range of people. RecordGram happens to be a minority owned business which is not something we typically mention. Although all of our founders are male, we purposely selected females to be half of our advisory board so we can have a wide ranging perpesctive on our business. All of us are very self reflective and we understand that you don’t know what you don’t know. We like to reduce our lack of knowledge by engaging with a diverse group of trusted and experienced advisors and mentors.

Aaron: What are the apps you can’t live without?
Erik: I would literally be lost without navigation apps, so WAZE is on the top of my list. I also use Uber, Instagram, Hopper and Expedia religiously. I have over 200 apps on my phone, Shawn has about 600 and Winston is somewhere in the middle of us.

Aaron: What founders do you admire?
Erik: Jimmy Iovine, Elon Musk, Steve Rifkind and every single entrepreneur who struggles every day to put food on the table. Some entrepreneurs come from money and that’s cool. But we admire the underdog story of an entrepreneur who wakes up every day trying to create the next Apple without knowing how they’re going to pay rent. That admirable regardless of their success or failure.

Aaron: What pop culture icons do you think would make excellent founders and why?
Erik: Now that’s a good question. Drake has the best potential for being an entrepreneur because of his fan base and personality. He’s not a douche bag in real life, but he’s yet to really position himself as an entrepreneur beyond music. Who knows maybe we can convince Drake to be part of the RecordGram family really soon :)

Aaron: What tech leader do you look up to or would most like to ask for advice? What would that advice be?
Erik: As much as I admire Elon Musk, I think Jimmy Iovine would be the best person to get advice from. I’m hoping his advice would be that Apple Music would like to partner with us and we would be idiots not to accept his offer.

Aaron: What was the last thing you snapped?
Erik: RecordGram’s TechCrunch Disrupt Cup victory walk and our award acceptance.

Aaron: What’s your ultimate goal for your company?
Erik: We’re a product differentiator for any company that’s competing with music content strategy or original content such as Apple, Spotify, Samsung, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft.

Aaron: How do you strive to manage?
Erik: This is not a job. This is my career and my career is a representative of my life. I love what I do. I love my career. I love being an entrepreneur. Easy to manage when you love what you do. I’m a strong believer that in life it’s important to under promise and over deliver. I also value trust as my most valuable personality characteristic. People don’t generally do business with people they don’t trust or deliver results.

Aaron: What kind of culture do you thrive in?
Erik: Organized chaos seems to be an innovative driver for us. All of us being from NY, we value brutal honesty and bluntness. If you’re a wishy washy individual that you’re not going to fit in with our company. We’re very results driven and it’s always about .the team but we encourage having fun and idea sharing.

Aaron: What brands do you admire?
Erik: Apple & Tesla are at the top. Oh and the New York Giants, the greatest sports team on the planet.

Aaron: What’s your motto?
Erik: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth! Just kidding, probably Frederick Douglass “Without struggle there’s no progress.”