Raine Maida, lead singer and front man for Canadian post-grunge alt-rock band Our Lady Peace, has a new gig, a tech startup called RecordMob.

RecordMob is a made-in-Canada video sharing space. Think YouTube meets Reddit meets Facebook, and then add a splash of grit, and all of it delivered in black and white. The aim of the space, says Maida, is to provide an alternative narrative, one that’s uncut, unfiltered, uncurated. The RecordMob app, now available on iTunes, is due to officially launch March 20. Posted videos can be no longer than one minute in length.

Maida, RecordMob’s CEO and co-founder, spent today in Waterloo Region along with his COO, John Lenac. Their aim was to familiarize themselves with the local tech ecosystem and absorb ideas for their company. They additionally took part in Pizza with the Prez, a town hall-type question-and-answer session at Communitech during the lunch hour. Maida later sat down with Communitech News and answered questions about the app, and about blending a music and a tech career.

Q – What is the genesis of the app? Why now? Why go down this particular route?

A – It really started with the paradigm shift in the music space. Obviously I was part of [the shift] and saw it happen first hand. [With] the Spotifys and Apple Music and some of the other streaming platforms three or four years ago when we started this, there just wasn’t a platform for independent artists. So I felt like that was an avenue and lane that needed support.

[Our Lady Peace] had just finished our contract with Sony of seven records. We were free and clear and had ownership [of our time] again.

We started to build out the product and find the market-product fit, [but] things evolved to where we realized, OK, Spotify is getting a lot [of attention]. It seemed like it was going to be a tough slog for us to find some revenue, especially with independent artists, and building in our charity [work]. It just wasn’t clicking. The synergy wasn’t as good as we expected.

What I still really loved about it, and about the idea of the mob, was just an independent voice. So we pivoted to where it is today. We always wanted it to have this zine-like feel, which was black and white, very low-fi. And that’s really what it is today.

It seems, on a social side, that it’s vital. It’s what the world is craving right now, with all the fake news happening. Instagram and Snapchat, they’ve become so kitschy, and everyone’s social media feed is – illusion sounds harsh — is filtered. It is manipulated. It’s manufactured.

Where is that raw, independent voice? I think [that voice] exists with Vice, in a way, but Vice is more of a traditional media company.

Q – The timing, with U.S. president Donald Trump’s election, seems tailor made for that kind of voice.

A – Yeah, it’s phenomenal. I think we’re lucky. We’re trying to take advantage of the timing. Feels like we’re pretty much on-point. I never thought I would say, ‘Thank God for Trump,’ but we might say that six months from now.

Q – What will distinguish you? What makes you not YouTube?

A – Aesthetically, and the content you’re going to see up there, it’s going have this mob mentality. A bunch of like-minded people kind of saying, ‘F-you to the man.’ Saying that this is the place we want to gather on and push our message. We’re the fringe.

Q – How much does revenue matter? Is this a project you want to do no matter what?

A – It’s really about the idea. I’ve always held to the belief that the idea should be first and foremost and the revenue will find its way, will work its way into the product. I know VCs don’t want to hear that but I really believe if the idea is powerful enough, it will make a cultural impact. And when something like that happens, money comes. And then you find the right way to build revenue rather than trying to build this model that might not be best for the company.

Q – How big is your team right now?

A – We are based both in Toronto and Los Angeles. We have about 25 creators on the platform. The management team is pretty lean, about four people. John and I are both in L.A., our marketing person is in Toronto, and [co-founder] Jay Sparrow, who is the head of content, he’s roaming.

Q – Tech appears to be a pivot away from music. If it goes well, how much time would you devote to RecordMob? Is this an easing out of music?

A – I guess I’m pretty fortunate in that my music isn’t a startup. We’re established. We don’t tour the way we used to. It’s a different business for us, now. Everyone has kids.

RecordMob has been taking up 90 per cent of my time for the last few years, anyway. And I’ve been still able to manage Our Lady Peace and put out new songs and tour [while working on the app]. To be in that [music] community is important; I think we’ll find a lot of like-minded people in terms of onboarding people at RecordMob. I think it’s that crowd, anyway. To be in the trenches with it, as well, rather than just sitting in an office, is I think important. It’s an asset to do [both].

Q – Have you always had an interest in tech? Were you always drawn to it or is this new?

A – I’ve had an Apple Macintosh my whole life. I was a very early adopter of [music suite] ProTools and recording digitally. Even though I’m a bit of an audiophile and love analogue, I loved the freedom and liberty that digital gave me.

Q – What brings you to Communitech, specifically?

A – I’m from Toronto originally, so obviously I know the whole BlackBerry story. I’ve always been really interested in [the tech community in Waterloo Region], and just hadn’t had the right conduit. [Communitech Vice-President] Saj [Jamal] became the conduit. He reached out when [U.S. author, computer scientist and futurist] Ray Kurzweil came through [Waterloo Region in May, 2016].

Back in 2002 I did a concept record based on Ray’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. I said, ‘Wow, if Kurzweil is there, there’s something [going on at Communitech]. Because that’s the smartest man I’ve ever sat in a room with.’ To put it bluntly, it piqued my interest.

Q – Are you thinking of a formal arrangement with Communitech?

A – I’m very optimistic about this [place]. I’ve been here for five hours so far, but, yeah, this feels like the kind of place you want to be as a startup. So we’re going to try to find some way to make this work. I love the people here. I love the energy. It’s open source. We’ve already gleaned so much information in the short time we’ve been here.

Head over to Facebook for more photos from the visit.

About The Author

Craig Daniels
Senior Journalist

Craig Daniels is a veteran reporter, columnist and editor who has joined Communitech’s editorial team as senior journalist. He worked most recently at Postmedia in Hamilton, where he led the team that produced the National Post, and before that at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, Financial Post, the Montreal Daily News and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B. He has an abiding interest in the transformational power and promise of tech and startup ecosystems, is a commercially licensed pilot, and has a debilitating wrist-watch fetish.