Career Spotlight: Adam Wright, Design Lead at Melodics
Conducted By: Austin Godwin, Contributor, EDMJobs
Who are you and what is your background?
My name’s Adam Wright, I’m the design lead here at Melodics. I came out of university in 2001, right when the first .com bubble was blowing up. I was always kind of a nerd, into computers, so I got into web design & development. I used to work pretty much exclusively with Flash, which was a technology used to build animated & interactive interfaces back in the day before Apple killed it.
I worked in NZ for a while, then for a small agency in London (and moonlighted as cable boy in a recording studio in Clapham – made Amy Winehouse a cup of tea once), returned to NZ and worked for an agency here for 5 years. I started my own agency in 2009 and loved it so much I swore I’d never work for anyone else again – then Melodics came along 🙂
How did you get to where you are today?
Mostly by falling into sweet gigs at the right time! I got lucky enough to make a living out of what I enjoyed, so the traditional answer to that question – “hard work!” – never really seemed that hard. I like to think I got where I am by being super talented and onto it, but it’s probably way more just being open to the opportunities I got, and hooking up with awesome people who made it easy.
When did you realize you wanted a career in the music industry?
I’d always been musical, playing in bands and getting into production back in the Fasttracker days, so there was always that dream of being a musician professionally. Life happened, and I fell into design which allowed me to be creative (and earn a cheque) so the music took a backseat, but I kept writing tunes as a bedroom producer. In 2005 I was lucky enough to attend the Red Bull Music Academy in Seattle, which brought it all front & center again. I stayed on the lookout for ways to merge what I was doing as a designer with the music industry, and in 2011 (ish) got to do a little work with Serato, who are based here in Auckland. NZ’s a tiny place really, I had a couple of friends who worked for Serato, and that was when I first met Sam Gribben (Melodics CEO, ex-CEO at Serato).
You’re a designer for Melodics – what does your job entail?
Everything! We’re still a small team, so we don’t have the luxury of being able to super-specialise just yet. I’m design lead, which means I’m primarily responsible for the UI / UX of the app, but a lot of my time is spent thinking about marketing, support, content, working with our hardware partners in the industry, and engaging with our user base to make sure we’re delivering what they want. It’s a balancing act – on the one hand, thinking and designing medium, and long term about the direction of the product so it continues to grow and evolve, and on the other being able to react quickly to what needs to be done day-to-day.
Luckily the team here is incredible, no-one’s precious about ‘staying in your lane’, and everybody’s involved in almost every aspect of the business. Being small, and working so closely together, we can design, implement, and iterate super fast. There’s none of the hierarchy and bureaucracy you often find in a larger organisation, which I love – we just ship it. I know it won’t be that way forever, growth will inevitably need some of those things, but at the moment I’m really enjoying working this way.
What are your favorite aspects about working at Melodics?
Weirdly, one of my absolute favourite things is not ever being satisfied with Melodics. I loved doing agency & client work, but with every project there always came a time where you had to let it go and move on to the next one. Sure, the variety was great, but I think it’s pretty universally human to look back at something you did 6 months ago and think to yourself “Man, if only I could have another crack at that part of it, I could make it so much better!” That’s what I love so much about working on a product: you can constantly refine, keep making it better, not have to settle.
You feel a sort of ownership with a product that you don’t get with project work – I was dedicated to my clients, and I worked hard for them, but I didn’t often find myself not able to fall asleep because I was thinking about the project like I do with Melodics.
The other thing – and this is gonna sound cheesy as hell, but it’s true – is that I get to work on a product that helps people get into music. Yeah, we’re trying to build a successful business in the music industry, but at the core of it is a love for making music. Who knows, maybe there’s a 12 year old out there who gets into finger drumming through Melodics, gets into writing beats, and turns out to be the next Dilla. Like I say – cheesy as hell – but that’s an awesome thing to think about right?
I just played around with Melodics for a few minutes on my controller and I’m addicted. It’s feels like Guitar Hero for DJing. Where did the inspiration for this app come from?
My man Sam. Working to grow Serato into the industry leader it is, obviously he was hugely involved in the development of the tech that goes into modern music production & DJing. He’s always been a huge gear nerd too (we had his OG MPC set up as an automated testing unit for Melodics when we were developing), and it always kind of bugged him that pretty much the ONLY way to learn just what the hell those awesome producers & DJs were doing with their pad controllers was to watch YouTube videos over and over.
After he finished up with Serato, he decided to do something about it. He had a really basic prototype set up – god it looked awful – but you only had to play it for a few seconds and it was like “Yep, this is fun as hell, and a great idea”. Games like Guitar Hero, Rocksmith, etc were obviously an inspiration too, but we wanted to straddle the line between a true “game”, and serious audio software. There are gamified elements to it, but it’s an educational tool too – we didn’t want to go too far down the path the music games had established and potentially come off as a gimmick.
Can I upload my own music or some of my favorite tunes to play in the Melodics app?
Not at the moment, sorry, but you know – watch this space. We’ve got about a billion ideas of where we can take Melodics next, and our users have come up with a billion more (a lot of them better than ours!), but development takes time.
Where do you see the future of finger drumming going?
We see it becoming a big deal in 3 main areas: production, DJing, and live performance. Obviously it’s been around in production since the 80’s, but with the exposure it’s getting we think it’ll inspire a lot of people to go to their controller first to get out their ideas, rather than straight to the step grid, and that can open up a lot of room for creativity & musicality. In DJing, it’s definitely arrived – every winner of the Red Bull Thre3style DJ competition the last couple years have used pad drumming in their winning sets. You can add a lot to a DJ set with finger drumming, whether it’s a full-on part of the performance, or more subtly as a transition, and we think it’s going to become even more of an essential tool for DJs to have in their kit. Finally, the possibilities finger drumming brings to live performance are huuuuuge. With high end controllers like Push, Launchpad, and Maschine you’re not limited just to “playing the drums” either – they’re fully fledged performance instruments in their own right. I mean, I’m a bedroom producer, and back in the day when I (very rarely) played out, my ‘performance’ pretty much consisted of hitting spacebar & drinking my beer; finger drumming opens up a whole new world of getting your music to people in a way that’s engaging.
Controllerism has become the music industry’s newest fad. You guys have listed DJ Jazzy Jeff, Thugli and Gaslamp Killer as Melodics artists, and there are so many other artists utilizing finger drumming for DJing and live performance. Do you have any other major artists or even YouTube star finger drummers you would want to work with next?
Owwwwch bruh, “fad”? 😀 I see what you’re getting at, but I gotta disagree – using technology (in the ‘controller’ sense of the word) to express musical ideas has been around for 40 years. I guess it’s just way more visible now, which is an entirely good thing.
Who would we want to work with next, hmmm. You got Kanye‘s number? That’d probably be some good exposure 🙂 We’re working with heaps of artists, labels, scenes – it’s really starting to snowball. Some big names in there, but don’t wanna brag. We’re also finding artists in our user base too, young producers & performers on the come up who are keen to work with us. We’d been admiring this dude Beats By J Black on YouTube from afar, he’s incredible – then he hit us up like “Melodics is great, let’s do something together”. He shot some awesome videos for us, and we’ve just released his first lesson as a Melodics artist last week.
My favourite thing in the works at the moment – we’ve got a lesson coming out in the next couple weeks from Bunji Garlin, produced by Jillionaire of Major Lazer – Television. Not only is it a monster of a tune, but they’ve been rad enough to let us ship it with the vocal line over the top as well, the first time we’ve done that. You learn to play the track step by step, then on the final step you get to rock the whole track with Bunji spitting over the top, it’s so much fun.
Where do you see Melodics going in the next five years?
Maaaaaan, we got plans. I don’t really know what I can disclose because industry, but there’s a lot of scope for growth. The official line is “We will continue to make great software to help producers, DJs, and performers get better at their craft”.
Will there ever be a controller made specifically for Melodics?
Who knows? That would be awesome though, an actual piece of hardware with the Melodics logo on it! We’re in the software game, not hardware, and we have great relationships with all the major hardware manufacturers, so we are in no way interested in stepping on their lawn. That said though, a controller doesn’t have to be physical right? Phones these days can run some pretty sophisticated stuff right? Just sayin’.
Do you have any advice for people trying to work their way into the music industry?
Two things I guess. One, stay open to the opportunities you get, even if they don’t seem directly related to where you want to be in the end, everything leads somewhere. Two, the key words in the question are “work” and “industry” – just because it’s music, doesn’t mean it’s not work, or not a business environment. It can be informal, there’s creativity involved, but in my (admittedly limited) experience the people who are most successful are those who can roll with that side of things while conducting themselves professionally and making sure whatever they’re in charge of getting done gets done.
Anything else you’d like to add? Tips, thoughts, feelings, songs, etc.
Tip: “Always remember where one is” – Bernard Purdie
Thought: Properly made Ramen is the pinnacle of human cuisine.
Feeling: let’s go with “reflective”.
Songs: The new Kaytranada album is fire.
Etc: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about myself and Melodics 🙂
A big thank you to Adam Wright for taking the time to share his EDMJob with us in this Career Spotlight. If you are interested in a job in the industry, check out EDMJobs.com and follow us on Facebook!