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VinylMint.com: A Real-Time Cloud and Mobile based Collaboration and Creation Platform for Musicians Anywhere in the World

http://www.vinylmint.com/

Vinylmint.com is a virtual recording studio for users to create sound recordings without the necessity of recording music in the same location, and enables this through the use of both cloud-and-mobile based applications.

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We had the utter pleasure of interviewing Mr. ‘Byron Morgan‘; CEO of the US (Norfolk, Virginia)-based start-up “VinylMint”.

“VinylMint” is a real-time collaboration platform for musicians anywhere in the world.

Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Morgan’ regarding his start-up company “VinylMint”;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “VinylMint” is all about?

Vinylmint is a virtual recording studio for users to create sound recordings without the necessity of recording music in the same location, and enables this through the use of both cloud-and-mobile based applications.

The inclusive collaborative environment enhances the creative experience ultimately providing our users efficiencies in speed, cost, and productivity (time).

2. When has “VinylMint” been founded? And what stage is “VinylMint” currently at?

Vinylmint was founded in May of 2011 after Byron Morgan left Universal Fontana/Kedar Entertainment Group, where he was an Associate Director of Marketing.

Vinylmint is currently in an early access period closed to a select community of musicians, engineers, and developers to begin building a sustainable ecosystem of music enthusiast.

3. What is “VinylMint”’s business model and how does it work?

Vinylmint charges a monthly subscription fee for each of its clients based on their productivity and storage space desired.

Enterprise subscriptions will be sold at a discount to educational and religious institutions based on the number of users, and sold at a bulk rate to music distribution companies.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

Our team met through various tech meetups, special projects for the City of Norfolk, and hackfest in Silicon Anchor.

Byron currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.

Zack Miller is Vinylmint’s President.

The technical teams consist of Mike Provance, an experienced technologist who serves as our technical advisor, Jeremy Johnson the Chief of Product Design, and Jeff Muller the Chief Technical Officer.

Ryan Mounaime, Chief Marketing Officer, executes the marketing strategy and public relations efforts.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

Vinylmint is built for individuals, music talent, enterprises, and academic institutions.

Vinylmint delivers a social recording utility for on-the-go users through both web- and mobile-based apps.

Vinylmint’s open application programing interface (or API) functions as the collaborative front-end for the users.

Web 2.0 functionalities create a real-time environment for users and encourage music fans to engage their favorite artist.

The site uses a searchable sound library and collaboration queue to match recording users together and music consumers with their music preference.


6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “VinylMint” achieved so far?

Management has developed relationships with leading music professionals in the industry sectors of music distribution, sound recording, film studios, television broadcasters, music social networks,, digital music distributors, and artist management firms.

Management has also procured key relationships with professors and administrators from Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, Eastman School of Music, the College of William and Mary, Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, and within the CUNY System in New York.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “VinylMint”’s competitive advantage over them?

Currently, there are no direct competitors active in the social recording marketplace.

However, Management has identified companies that provide partial solutions, but are not a single source solution.

These companies include the following privately and publicly owned companies: Gobbler, Indabamusic.com, Boomdizzle, and Garageband (an Apple, Inc. product). 

Vinylmint’s competitive advantage is strongly linked with the unique features of the site.

It is specifically designed for ease of use, third-party customization to personalize your experience, usage on all portable hardware devices, and a similar user interface for the core products features (collaboration, editing & sharing) regardless of the device that is being used (mobile devices, desktop, tablets, etc.). 

The Help Desk provides 24-hour support to assist the users with site functionalities using a 1-800 number, viral videos, tutorials, and virtual user forums. 

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

The main obstacle to overcome is the resource constraints that come with bootstrapping.

Everything works a lot slower and you must be able to manage a lot of moving parts. However, constraints make you creative.

Therefore, we overcame a lot of hardships through outsourcing certain technical needs, assembling a strong Board of Advisors to help with strategic decision making and fundraising, crowd-funding to fill small funding gaps, and entering an accelerator to subsidize professional services and workspace needs.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

Most people don’t understand the cost and the time that goes into creating a single audio recording.

One project cost over $175,000 on average per each band.

Artist development cost are being cut, but the industry still invest over $10.75 billion dollars in artist development and marketing.

A lot of these cost can be controlled with innovative technologies that make collaboration easier. This was the call to action for Vinylmint.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

Vinylmint’s ability to succeed lies in the following:

(1) the ability to scale quickly due to access to the media industries key tastemakers and decisions makers,

(2) a collaborative product that encourages sharing across boundaries in order to maximize the use of the tool,

(3) strong support from leading arts colleges and universities, and

(3) key relationships with social media communities that enable us to leverage their spheres of influence for growth.

11. If “VinylMint” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

When Vinylmint is in a position to scale, Management sees opportunities to grow into other media sectors including television, film, and gaming.

Each of these sectors provide us access to a similar target customer who is also seeking cost efficiencies and increased speed to deploy new content.

Vinylmint’s core product is perfect for their objectives.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “VinylMint” based on?

Vinylmint is the first company to create a cloud recording system that has opened it’s application programming interface to enable the content producers to use their own productivity tools or enhance the sites existing tools to fit their needs.

Our competitors are building file transfer systems and captive recording softwares that are web-based. We are creating a device and software agnostic technology.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

The key to launching a startup lies in three key things:

(1) a strong team of three people a) an idea guy who is also good at biz dev,

b) a graphic designer who loves UI, and

c) a programmer who is entrepreneurial and some what of a hippy;

(2) an operating agreement that says, “come hell or high water, we are going down with the ship”, to ensure everyone is committed;

(3) a strong understanding of the customers needs, so that when the product is released their is a happy medium of building community with the right customers and monetizing the early adopters who will leave the site in 3 months.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Six months from now our biggest problem will be managing the technical infrastructure as we provide access across multiple countries.

Each environment has difference bandwidth issues, so we will have to customize solutions to each market or create a standardized solution that users can customize.

Other issues that will arise include creating marketing messages for each locality and finding strategic partners in each region to grow our sphere of influence.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

Designed to accommodate a wide array of workflows for music professionals, individuals, and students, Vinylmint delivers a social recording utility for on-the-go users through both web- and mobile-based apps.

Vinylmint’s application programming interface (or API) functions as the collaborative front-end for the sites users to customize their experiences.

Vinylmint allows the different stakeholders in the recording process to access the tools they need to complete tasks with greater visibility to assets, team collaboration, and workflow agility.

16. How did customers/users find out about you?

Management is conducting small focus groups at academic institutions and recording studios in several major media markets including: New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Norfolk, Richmond, Raleigh, Norfolk, Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, and Austin. Additionally, Management is developing the Help Desk to manage the feedback, troubleshooting, and product innovation for the Beta release.

Each stage will has been released under a controlled environment until the product is officially launched.

17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?

Vinylmint’s customers are projected to be individuals, music talent, music distribution companies, public or private academic institutions with arts programs, religious organizations and professional agencies that support talent.

Ancillary uses of the product may come from freelance creative professionals, content production enterprises, and product design and engineering firms.

18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

We address the sound recording and digital distribution markets that will hover around $7B by 2013, and the educational services industry valued at $48B.

Attacking these marketplaces enable Vinylmint.com to rapidly grow a user base of musicians and music lovers, and provide enterprises technological efficiencies within their existing legacy systems. 

Vinylmint targets the 60 million members of the global professional music community that include: music engineers, professional musicians, religious organizations, and the professional agencies that support talent. Unfortunately, it is difficult for musicians in different locations to collaborate. 

There are also over 137 million creative professionals and or digital content consumers around the world who suffer from the same dilemma. Vinylmint has created the solution to this dilemma. 

The financially deficient academic environment is also a niche marketplace Vinylmint will exploit to build the user community, providing over 43.6 million potential subscribers from public, private and religious educational institutions.

19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?

Vinylmint meets the following customer needs:

(1) socially connects music talent around the world,

(2) is a rich, near-time collaboration environment,

(3) provides a simple recording environment for mobile,

(4) introduces the music production process to the amateur musician, and is a low cost solution for cash-strapped educational institutions.

20. How are you going to scale?

Vinylmint will scale by leveraging the following global sales channels

(1) major recording studios and production houses,

(2) educational services software plugins, (3) social media applications,

(4) tradeshows, conferences, festivals and industry associations, and

(5) allowing developers to build third-party applications into Vinylmint’s API.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

Interoperability within all of the major social networks allows users of the website to share promote and distribute one another’s content from a single location.

Developing apps for these platforms enables Vinylmint access to their users, and grants users the convenience of sharing their creations, foster new opportunities for collaboration, and promote the usage of the site in a non-intrusive manner.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

We are going to internationalize the product.

We already have users in over 8 different countries including France, Brazil, Germany, the US, Pakistan, Nigeria, Canada, and Israel. Our objective during this period will be find strategic partners that enable us to scale and manage our branding in those areas where our product is being used.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

We believe that Vinylmint has global potential.

Vinylmint taps into a persons natural ability to want to collaborate.

It further provides a person to express their creative energy in a way that allows them to produce something independently or with friends.

By empowering users to create things together we encourage a world of users to work together in unique ways that they might not have thought were possible.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We are looking for technical talent.

We are looking for a mix of entrepreneurial senior and junior talent.

These individuals include UI/UX developers, a database administrator, a security architect, a .NET guru, and a Chief Technical Officer. Collectively, they will become the foundation of our organization.

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

Vinylmint will raise a total of $4.65 million in funding from institutional investors and or a few angel investment groups.

Vinylmint seeks to raise $150,000 during the early access period to continue the products refinement, testing and build-out of the public API.

Vinylmint will raise another seed round of $500,000 for marketing and testing, development team expansion, and the deployment of a technical support team.

Thereafter, $4 Million will be raised in a Series A round to finance the global launch of Vinylmint.

Interested investors can email Byron Morgan directly at byron@vinylmint.com

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

Always remember, entrepreneurship is more about perseverance, creativity, and passion more than anything.

Because when all else fails and the world comes crumbling down around you, the only thing you have is the three things I named in the latter.

27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Vinylmint is providing a bridge for all of the music talents of the world to connect, collaborate, and create together. Collectively, the users and Vinylmint will create ground-breaking new sounds and ways to speak to the hearts of people of all cultures, any where in the world.

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