Hit Play & Press RECHORD


By RECHORD.XYZ Founder Ray Mia

September 2019… somewhere in Silicon Valley.

I’d just met a really smart guy in the iconic Buck’s diner, he wasn’t just smart – and those of you who know me well enough, know I wouldn’t ever generalise with the word ‘smart,’ it’s not a word I use at all to describe anyone. Hank was not only smart, but he was also very, very (very) successful – the guy is a legend in the tech start-up world, a lawyer who had stood his ground and managed to exit the disruptor of disruptors – the can of worm openers to end them all – Napster, the music industry killer. It wasn’t just that Hank had exited the pirate industry poster boys for $450m+, it was that he managed to do it when it was a burning pile of shit that everyone was pouring gasoline over – and those people doing the pouring, were inviting their mates to use flame throwers on the cindered wreckage of the business… it was ablaze in litigation and no one in their right mind would want anything to do with them – save for Hank, and his eye for the deal and a proverbial bucket of water.

So there I was, in an Uber, heading back to San Francisco having met the icon for breakfast. Earlier that morning over waffles he told me something that no one had ever done before… and it troubled me.

I was so troubled that my mind went into a trance from the moment the words left his mouth, as though the clattering and bustle of the diner went into comic slow motion, the rest of the conversation melted into my memory, to be honest, I don’t really remember anything else that was said, what was the conclusion of the meeting? Why were we meeting in the first place? There must have been some agreement to do or say something about something, right?

Hank’s words were not really that profound, it’s not as though I had climbed a virtual mountain top to hear a wizened mantra whispered into my ears from an AI silicon guru…

…I’d travelled this stretch of US highway on several occasions before – and in many guises, pick any one of my nine media lives and somewhere nestled amongst the slurry of anecdotes would have been some story (or other) about me in San Francisco doing something thoroughly NoCal savvy: raising money, interviewing tech entrepreneurs, filming jazz or rock concerts, setting up B-roll shoots for documentaries or Bollywood dance sequences, or just trying to get a media sales deal across the line with some massive digital monolith… this time, it was different, very different – so many times previously I was working my time to earn a living, running around for other people, this time I was older – I had the scares and the scars… I wasn’t bothered or interested in Silicon Valley, or America or the ridiculous number of crack tramps living on the streets of San Francisco in the most Kafkan polarisation between extreme poverty and astronomical wealth. As the trees and sun-scorched shrubberies sped by on US280 back north, I was looking out of the car window as we hurtled away from Hank at speed, towards my next meeting with a billionaire to raise money for my record label back in Liverpool – but I was only focused on what Hank had told me, and why he had told me…

This is what he said…

…”Ray, you’re good, you’re real good…”

– now I already knew this (with all due respect to Hank, we had only just met and I knew he was sharp, but this was all a given…) it’s what he said next that got me thinking… he said:

“…you’re always gonna find work Ray, you got a gift to get work – and you can sell your time – minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month – year by year….you’ve got a set of experiences which you’ve developed into a specialised skill set, and someone would always want to pay you for these skills that you’ve got – some folks will copy you – and borrow from you – and steal your sweat equity, I’m happy for you…”

In an honest and non-condescending manner, he told me that I should be happy with this, it was way more than what most people had, and although he didn’t know it, to have this ability from where I came from in Liverpool back in the UK – was indeed a big deal… but then he went on…

“… But in this town Ray – in this beating heart of Venture Capital, the driving place of the Digital World Economy, the key to being a success Ray, was to virtualise your skillset… to scale it up – to make money in your sleep…. where’s your idea that makes you money when you’re not working?… an idea that would work – for you, not you – working for an idea… How can you make money by not selling your time by the minute or the hour… or the day, week, month and year…”

Not really a profound statement – I’m sure it’s covered in a module or two at MBAs the world over, but it deeply affected me… simply because I’d never considered it before, and certainly not in the context of raising money for my music business ecosystem. I’d had ideas for businesses, or processes, or media content, but what had me turning over was the ideas I had were always configured in one direction – I would work X and it would deliver 10X… it was never – I would work X and it would deliver 10X – and then each X of that 10 (delivered from the cycle) would then deliver 100X per X of the original 10 – in turn – and on, and on, and on… growing exponentially and incrementally, self-perpetuating where I was not working for X anymore, but X was now, working for me…

Let’s call this process – the X ripple.

Back to me sitting in the Uber which sped me along US280 towards my next meeting in Downtown San Francisco, I wasn’t thinking about the billionaire I was going to meet, or the next pitch, or the Record Label in Liverpool… I was thinking about the X ripple, and if I was good enough to come up with an idea that could deliver this effect. What idea could grow exponentially – I started to think about models, and I started to think about mavens, about connectors, about salespeople – about how an idea can go viral, I was thinking about Malcolm Gladwell and his ‘Tipping Point’…

I looked at what I was good at doing, what Hank had said was my area of expertise, what specialisation I had that I could deep dive into – to trigger an X ripple of my own.

The area I knew the most about was simple to identify. I had spent a career building media businesses based on content driven by technology. I know, too many words… what I mean is – I knew a lot about technology… I had always made it my place to know about how things worked, I had recently been employed as EVP of Advanced Media for The World’s Largest Music company, I had a hand in launching more than nine Satellite TV Channels, I had run my own ultra-low latency Live Streaming business based on an encoding framework I had co-invented – and I’m an Immersive Audio pioneer – technically and creatively… Call it my inherent skill set, I worked out how things worked very quickly – and I worked out how to build things, who could build things better, how much it cost to build things, why they were being built and for who. Crucially, I knew what to build and when… I had a sense of timing.

Through the years and all the changes, the places, the faces and cultures and media verticals – there were many brilliant, and bright and commercially very successful builds – the stand out lowest common denominator through it all: technology and how to use it. A relentless and dogged pursuit to build capabilities and to make content across the media spectrum, better, faster, cheaper, bolder, brighter and bigger…

So in that Uber journey after meeting Hank, I asked myself a really simple question – what would I now choose to build, knowing what I know, that would start an X ripple, what stone would I throw into the lake of opportunity? A splash or a skim?

I looked down at my phone, and there it was… my phone, and I immediately thought – a recording studio in your pocket.

BANG… an explosion of questions: it’s been done, why would you do that? What’s the point – Who cares? It’s not fixing anything broken, it was too many sectors and influences, there was bigger and better-funded alternatives and…and…and… AND?

And yet, I know my area of expertise… I know what works and what doesn’t work. I know because I use all the solutions out there, personally, they don’t just sit on a spreadsheet. Over 30YRS I’ve had to use all the solutions, the cameras, the mics, the lights, the OS’s the post-production tools, the outputs, the formats, the languages, the translations, the hardware, the software, the firmware – and all the people, young and old who have had to use all the entire multi-verse of kit and cabling to make it all work, from holding a boom mic for hours under the sun in Central Park to standing in the pissing rain on a red carpet in Cannes to filming the Twin Towers collapsing and to crawling on my hands and knees running endless cables to numerous desks and every computer rack you can imagine. I’ve had to build and integrate all the solutions over that entire 30YRS… I’ve had to understand design limitations, human errors and egos, I’ve had to work with all the tools that were available, technical and financial – on the shelf, off the shelf and on many occasions fallen behind the shelf.

I – knew – my – shit. And within a blink – all the questions had a simple answer.

A 4 track recorder in your hand… a stripped back, simple – clean UX/UI, a return to a creative logic was what people wanted but couldn’t articulate that they wanted – it was what I wanted but never got, something you could use by intuition and not through decades of study – and nothing like what I was thinking was readily accessible… everyone was trying to over complicate, over design, everything was trying to be the smartest thing in the room. The internet and mobile tech are big disruptors, no one had turned the power of mobility towards the tools of audio production without getting pulled under the riptides of complexity… the waves of updates and functions, the big surf was not the ideas, it was the process – which was all backwards right?

I couldn’t think about anything else for the rest of the trip in the US, and on the 11hr flight back from San Francisco – I named my X Ripple… and RECHORD.XYZ came to life – with a basic logo of a recording icon which would take over your phone screen with an unmistakable button that could not be confused with any other function or icon, it’s a frickin’ record button – with a name that was self-explanatory – and a process that was so stripped back from over-complication and process and additional functionality that it was more a process of “play” as in the verb “to play” than it was to feeding post-production Industry drivers. What if you could create a 4-Track recorder in your pocket, that was – dare I say it? Fun… not just a toy, but a joy. Because audio tools and studio production is boring as hell, I mean don’t get me wrong – you can geek out on speaker porn, wiring diagrams, and all those knobs and faders – hmmm faders…

I get it – but it’s not accessible, and it’s not built for mass use – it’s complex by design, there are barriers to entry…

What if you designed a tool to simply let people play – with audio, and let them play easily and cheaply, to create studio-grade content that could translate up and out to whatever system you wanted to move onto, or not – as a standalone method to make content. The machine is right there in your pocket. Something that would work in San Francisco – and The Sahara, from The Bengali Sundharaban – all the way to Sao Paulo…

I didn’t want a mobile phone app that was trying to be a Neve desk… that looked like a Neve desk and handled like one…to me all the audio production apps were trying to turn phones into mixing desks, as opposed to redesigning a mixing desk onto a phone. The language and ergonomics of a phone were not being mapped onto the processes of recording and making audio, a phone was all about your thumb and your ears… a mixing desk was all about – lots and lots and lots of mental attention on lots of functions and outputs…

In all my years working with digital media systems in high-end audio and broadcast production, the entire process of play had been ironed out by folks that put creases right down the centre of their jeans. Bean counters that could not understand that creativity could not be scaled on a spreadsheet.

Manfred Eigen – Nobel Chemist said ‘Man did not invent play, but it is play and only play that makes (a hu)man complete…’ – Play and imagination are inseparable.

RECHORD.XYZ would be all about the human at play versus automated machine learning… Over the digital decades, we have built up rules around creativity which renders play – obsolete. Within the system of structured learning to content creation… you don’t “play” a Trident mixing desk… you operate one. There is nothing inspirational and no imaginative play that feeds into studio-grade creativity on a DNA human level.

Is that scalable? Let’s sense check the numbers on that? Is it secure?

The disease of the narrow-minded, and the lack of understanding in how the creative mind functions, or why… The entire audio ecosystem is in a relentless pursuit of scalable studios and a sausage factory output designed by folks that read artistry in the bottom line, and not in the media being produced…

I’m the last generation to have gone to film school where you were taught analogue techniques of film production – as the peak of best practice, 35mm film stock and Nagra sound recording – as the industry-standard – how to synch sound and splice edit film and audio on a Kompeditor and horse – words that mean nothing to the modern generation of sound (or film) editors. And yet it is the analogue processes of thought before capture, of imagination and exploration through creative thinking before you physically cut tape, of playing with an idea and its structure and arrangement – that led (perhaps) to a more fulfilling and artful endeavour. You did not have unlimited undoing of what you did, which makes your thinking lazy…

‘…it’s only in play, and probably only in play, that we can be truly original, creatively .. and that’s because it’s in a play-state that the whole personality is expressed. Since our real desires lie below the tide line of consciousness, the person that appears through creative play is the core and authentic one. The real deal …’ Paul Pethick “The Power of Play…”

The RECHORD.XYZ Ripple – also spoke to the kid in Liverpool that cleaned up a stack of second-hand mono tape recorders… Restoring the playheads and testing the functions, the counter… The mic… The speakers… This was for the kid that wanted the tape machine to play with…Hit play… and press RECHORD.XYZ

You don’t play a Digital Audio Workstation… You operate it.
You play an instrument, you don’t operate it…
Ones a function. The other is invention.
Creativity can be a messy exuberance, not always the grounds for formulaic structure and order…

I wanted an X Ripple that functions as a creative tool that helps people play with audio in three easy steps. I wanted to reimagine audio tools on a mobile device, like how photography has been totally adopted and enhanced by your mobile – the sophistication of the capture and the edit and the sharing – and the platforms. No one really cares about shutter speed, aperture, ASA, ISO – even white balance… I wanted something as simple as record, mix, share…

You TRACK, by recording live onto your phone.
You then TUNE that track if you want.
You overdub onto as many as three other channels if you want
You then BOUNCE those channels into a single track – which you can then export and share… simple.

And so I built just that, with a specialised team, I made a small pinpoint raise, and armed with a logic and thought process based on simplicity of design and function, we built RECHORD.XYZ in 7mths, with a strong post MVP product road map that includes significant Dolby integrations.

Seems to be a standard of our species that when all goes to hell in a handcart… We double down in play and interacting with each other…Play lifts people’s emotions in a pandemic. COVID has only magnified the need to play more… And the need for uncomplicated tools to help people create, an accelerant… a creative catalyst that does not get in the way. My thinking is not about game theory and rule-based gamification or – gamifixation as I see it, this is not about learning how to use a tool to move to the next level of authenticity, we haven’t even noticed how the stranglehold on our expression has been creeping and growing around us… Until it’s totally engulfed us with the software and the hardware. Buy more to be more… we have more power in your pocket than in the tech that sent us to The Moon – but has that made any of us more creative? And yet look at the way we as a species have played with language – with poetry and song for 10,000yrs+ which you cannot simply turn off by the invention of the digital age….digital thinking and automated machine processed signposting with better, faster microchips… Does that all make for a better melody – which is invented in your mind, for free?

Keith Richards, he of Rolling Stone fame badly broke his finger as a kid, and he swears it’s this broken finger and it not healing in the right shape that makes him a better guitarist… The Riff man himself… Do you think that’s scalable? Or can he play scales the way he does as he’s played around his limitations?

When I got back to Liverpool I sat with an artist I was working with on my Label, he pulled out a guitar, hit play on something he had recorded that morning on his old phone – and he sang perfectly in tune and in synch with his crap recording… this was the stone in my hand that I knew I needed to cast into the lake and cause my X ripple…

If that spark from that kid could have been captured, and saved, and shared or exported into whatever, wherever – forever… Then that would be something not only the Industry did not have, in all my experience I knew it was not out there otherwise I would be using it already – but it was also something Silicon Valley hadn’t created yet, because they did not have the Industry expertise or know how – they weren’t looking, no one was looking because everyone thought it was not even a problem in the first place, there was already an answer right? Where was the market failing?

This is not about inventing the wheel, but it is about creating the steering wheel…
It’s not about creating fire, but it’s the sparks that fire from a box of matches in your pocket…
Built by a creative, for creatives.

You hit Play, and press Record…

I’d like to thank Hank, for asking me the right question at the right time… you held my attention and made me think… and I would also like to thank Zach (the billionaire guy I met after Hank) who did me the courtesy of meeting up – and sat through my lazy pitch because my thoughts were elsewhere….

March 2022 and the stone is cast out on a beautiful and cold early spring morning, and the lake shimmers as the ripples roll out…

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