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RecordGram Aims to Transform iPhone into Mobile Recording Studio

The music collaboration app won $50,000 in TechCrunch's Startup Battlefield competition.

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The phone is the new recording studio—or it will be if the minds behind RecordGram have their way.

At TechCrunch Disrupt Wednesday, RecordGram nudged out other innovative startups to win $50,000 in the Battlefield competition—joining the company of past winners like Dropbox, Mint, and Zenefits. The winning startup is a marketplace that connects music producers with aspiring artists, doubling as a digital studio for those musicians and producers to write, record, and sell songs together. 

Co-Founders MIMS, DJ Blackout and CEO of RecordGram Erik Mendelson speak onstage during Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 – Day 3 at Pier 36 on May 17, 2017 in New York City. (Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

RecordGram was co-founded by Grammy-winning music producer Winston “DJ Blackout” Thomas, hip-hop artist Mims (known for his song “This is Why I’m Hot”), and artist manager Erik Mendelson, the music industry veteran who signed Jason DeRulo. The company is a 2016 graduate of the Nashville-based Project Music, the only music tech incubator in the world.

For many aspiring musicians, the cost of studio time and a quality producer can make their dream a fiscal fantasy, but RecordGram is trying to change that. Artists search through hundreds of original beats, sorted by categories like genre or mood, before choosing one to upload into a private “studio” where they can write lyrics on a digital notepad as their track plays in the background. 

The artist can then complete a song by recording vocals right on their iPhone or iPad (it’s only available on iOS at the moment). Users can choose up to six different beats and layer them to create a high-quality track, as if they hired a professional producer to do the same. There’s also an option to record and share music videos in the app too.

RecordGram lets producers and recording artists create and collaborate on tracks just using their mobile devices.(RecordGram)

To generate revenue, RecordGram plans to charge producers a subscription of $90 per year or $9.99 a month. Aspiring artists lease the original beats from the producers for $4.99, of which producers get 50 percent royalties.

Mendelson says that RecordGram is enticing to high-demand producers like MetroBoom, who charge up to $20,000 per track for exclusive usage rights, because they retain the copyright to their music while connecting with new musicians they might not have otherwise met. To prevent fraudsters from selling copyrighted tracks, RecordGram uses ISRC technology, a proprietary ID that companies like YouTube use for similar purposes.

“It’s a leasing platform,” Mendelson explains. “So, the user can’t download off the platform and share it.” If the song is a hit, then artists can come back and renegotiate for the full rights to the track. 

RecordGram lets producers and recording artists create and collaborate on tracks just using their mobile devices.(RecordGram)

“The music industry, about 15 years ago, pretty much controlled the ecosystem of distribution,” Mendelson explained. He feels RecordGram is positioning itself to entice record labels at a time when companies are taking a more scattershot approach to finding new talent.

The rise of digital stores like Apple’s iTunes and streaming services like Spotify means the labels no longer have strict control over distribution channels. The co-founder hopes RecordGram will become one of those channels by “curating talent from an independent level.”

There’s no proprietary software in the app, so RecordGram’s biggest selling point is arguably its co-founders. Through their industry connections, the company has already teamed up with Supa Dups, who’s produced Drake and Bruno Mars songs, and StreetRunner, a Grammy-nominated producer that’s worked with some of the biggest names in hip-hop like Eminem, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, and Rick Ross. They’ve also tapped Flo Rida, Pitbull, Jason DeRulo to promote the app to their fans.

The company’s path to winning Battlefield was an unlikely one. After starting its journey in a pitch made at a TechCrunch meet-up in Florida, RecordGram joined other finalists by getting enough audience votes to become the “wild card”—beating out nearly 200 other startups. 

Apparently, it was music to tech enthusiasts’ ears.