Meet João, our Head of Music at Musiversal 🎶
Hi everyone, my name is João and I’m the Head of Music here at Musiversal 🎶
I hail from Lisbon, Portugal, where I currently live with my wife. I joined this truly unique company in November 2020, as the Musiversal Studio gave its first steps. I couldn’t be happier and prouder to be here, writing and sharing this with you, now.
A bit about me
My passion for music was ignited by my dear older sister, Inês. The thing with Inês is that listening to music was like breathing, to her, so her radio was ALWAYS on. Since her room was pretty central in the house, no matter where I went, I’d always be listening to whatever she was playing: Queen, Sting and Guns n’Roses were three of the main first acts on her stage. Later came Pearl Jam and the Grunge folks. After getting my first radio, I discovered rap and the entire hip-hop culture: Wu-Tang, Gangstarr, Nas, The Roots, Pac, Biggie, The Fugees…
I was completely hooked. I’d do my little mix-tapes and imagine I was DJ Premier… Then the so called “nu-metal” scene broke and I couldn’t help but marvel at it: some dudes were playing rock music but kinda rapping at the same time? Incubus and the Deftones became my next best friends. As I grew older and more mature (as mature as a teenager can get) I discovered Radiohead and Nitin Sawhney. That was it. Now it was clear to me that there was nothing else I wanted to do but become a musician. I wanted to make songs like Thom, Jonny and Nitin did.
Thus started the battle with my parents. Cause what kind of “responsible” parents would let their kids become musicians? It’s a leap into the unknown, it’s a giant step towards precariousness and the promise of an unstable life. What kind of parents would want that for their children? It’s funny how this battle would have a profound influence in my decision to join Musiversal 20 years later.
After a very tough period, truces were reached with the promise that, if I wanted to become a musician, then I had to earn it: I had to go study music and give everything I had to become a great professional at it. So, at 19 years old, I started learning music from scratch. All of a sudden, I was discovering western classical music and jazz. I was playing the piano, writing preludes & fugues and picking up Oscar Peterson’s coolest licks. I was at music school literally all day, every day, practicing about 10 hours every single day. Yes, I wanted it badly. And once I stumbled upon Sviatoslav Richter, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev & Schostakovich, I knew what my next destination would have to be.
I met the great Elisso Virsaladze, who was a huge influence and encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and so it was: in 2009 I was moving to Moscow to start my degree in Piano Performance at the Gnessin Academy of Music. I could tell you a thousand stories about the unbelievable next 4 years of my life. But the conclusion was that I discovered film scoring, there: you can actually get paid to write music to films? Music and Cinema in one profession? Wow, that is the ultimate dream and I need to learn how to do this at the highest level! Which was how I ended up being offered a scholarship to study at the legendary Berklee College of Music. No words could ever depict the privilege this was, the results of which I keep benefiting up until this day.
As I left Berklee, I was offered a job at CineLab SoundMix which I dare say is your favorite audio post-production studio’s favorite audio post-production studio. They were just finishing to build their scoring stage and wanted someone to help run it. My journey into the world of professional music and audio production for film had just begun.
We were doing work for Sony, Columbia, BBC, DreamWorks, you name it!.. I was writing, arranging, orchestrating, playing, engineering, editing or mixing so many different works for and with so many different people, at that point. Having lived in Moscow for almost 9 years, though, I was ready for a change. And change was about to come, alright! I was invited to lead the Piano Department at a newly formed music school in… China!!! And yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking: the most insane experience of my life, hands down. Plus, guess where I was when the pandemic hit?
That was where I found out about Musiversal. Being 10,000 miles away from your home country, during such terrible times, you start thinking about what matters the most. I realized that I needed to be close to my family and friends.
I was wandering around LinkedIn, sitting in my Chinese apartment, when I stumbled upon Diogo, our brilliant Head of Customer Success. Remember my early days as a rapper wannabe? That’s how far back I know Diogo: we went to the same school and his brother Luís was in my class and a dear friend. So I see he’s working at this company, Musiversal, and I’m intrigued. I knew Diogo was a drummer but I didn’t know he “had a job”! I had to write to him and ask. As kind as always, Diogo immediately offered to hop on a call and talk about it. I’ll never forget that call. Nothing concrete came out of it but I knew, from that moment on, that this was just the start of something special.
So as soon as I came back to Lisbon, I called Diogo and asked if he’d like to get together. I wanted to know more about what he was doing and where Musiversal was at. The Musiversal Studio had just begun and what he described to me seemed like something out of a fairy tale: EVERYONE being a music creator? Musicians with JOBS and STABLE SALARIES??!! No way. This is it, I gotta get into it NOW! So I applied.
And that’s when I met Vinicius, who I dare say is your favorite producer’s favorite producer. He was the lonely Music Producer and Head of Music at Musiversal, at the time, and he was the one testing me out and evaluating me during the application process. I thought I was this awesome and cool producer, having done all this work and having all this experience. Vini slapped me in the face, kicked me in the butt and punched me right in the middle of the stomach: it was clear proof that Musiversal was exactly where I needed to be. Because I wanted to keep growing, as a professional.
All my life, I had always thrown myself into the wolves, cause I wanted to be among greats in order to push myself to the limit: that’s why I went to Gnessin, then Berklee, then CineLab SoundMix. And Vini had just shown me that Musiversal was the perfect next step in that growth journey: such a passionate company, trying to change the world with a small but so incredibly stellar team. In the end, I had my final interviews with the brilliant founders of the company, which was the confirmation I had found home. And home became home when they told me I got the job. Sheer happiness is a massive understatement. I just knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something that REALLY MEANS SOMETHING.
Life at Musiversal
From the moment I started, I felt like a kite in a hurricane. But it was the sweetest hurricane you’ll ever know. Such bright colleagues, such vibrant ideas flying all over the place! So much learning to do from day one. 24 hours really felt like way too little, each day. But it was very fulfilling. And everyone was super welcoming and ready to help, too, which made that initial adaptation period almost seamless.
Of course, having someone as close as Diogo and someone as dedicated as Vini “right next door” was an extra blessing. Why “right next door”? If you don’t know, yet, Musiversal is a 100% remote company. So while we’re not in each other’s vicinity, communication was tight from the beginning and, matter of fact, it keeps improving as we spend more time together as a team. It’s a massive privilege to work in such a nourishing workplace, that’s for sure. But more on that, later.
A typical day “in the office” is, well… atypical! It’s almost impossible to have a defined routine when we’re a core team of 12 trying to do the job of 120. But that challenge is also compelling: knowing we might be the seed to something greater than us gives us strength to keep flourishing and drives us to try to be better every day, in order to properly grow.
My role at Musiversal
That said, I’d say there are a few regular operations that define my day and those are, essentially, related to our marvellous musicians and to making sure they’re taken care of at all times. Whether that’s making changes to their schedules, advising them on how to deal with unusual sessions and requests or hearing their thoughts and concerns about what to improve on the platform, a day in my life at Musiversal is certainly always about keeping our very talented artists happy.
The purpose of the Music Department, though, is naturally vaster than this. My responsibilities start, first and foremost, with recruitment. The highly carefully curated roster of musicians and engineers we provide to the users of the Musiversal Studio is one of its biggest advantages and selling points when compared to any other companies out there. So I take great pride and dedication in making sure our recruitment process is not only very strict and thorough but also very transparent to everyone who applies and auditions. It’s then also my responsibility to ensure that the hiring process is quick and easy and that the onboarding of hired musicians goes smoothly and efficiently, so that they’re ready and motivated for their first work week. Once they get their routine in place, it’s fundamental not only to make them feel supported at all times but also to make them feel heard. The reason for this (apart from pure respect) is that Musiversal is the direct result of what our musicians tell us. This is an aspect of the company we’re very proud of and that is an integral part of the company culture. The Music Department holds the privilege of being the vessel for it.
Other key purposes of the department are tied to my other team leaders: I have to make sure our hiring strategies are deeply knit within the financial and business models we’re creating. I have to make sure our product fits the musicians needs perfectly, so that their entire artistic and professional experience can be constantly improved and their interaction with our clients is as efficient and fluent as possible. I have to make sure that all music related questions arriving to our company inboxes, particularly from clients and potential leads, are diligently taken care of. Last but not least, I have to provide insight to the sales department regarding our persona and collaborate with the marketing department in creating as compelling advertising campaigns as possible, whether by advising on the concepts at hand, creating original music and audio for them or even participating in their production in a broader sense. In other words, I think it’s fair to say that the Music Department is the heart of the company. Not in the sense that it’s more important than others (I’m an absolute believer that in a team everyone is equally important) but just in the sense that, because this is a music company, the Music Department ends up being the source for many of the team’s outcomes.
But if we talk about the particular goals of the department, I’d say there are a few clear ones: continue to drive the company to fight for musicians rights and create exceptional working conditions for all Musiversal session musicians, arrangers, orchestrators, producers and engineers; grow an attractive and diverse roster in very close relationship to demand and always within Musiversal’s high quality standards; help develop the technology and industrial property that will define Musiversal’s groundbreaking music production platform; educate all users and potential users to become the best versions of themselves as music creators.
My vision for the Music Department at Musiversal
If you ask me what my dream is: having thousands of music professionals working full time with us with great working conditions across the board. Just like what we would think of for a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. So that, one day, when another teenage João tells his parents he wants to become a musician, that’ll be the last worry on their minds.
To work in the Music Department one has to first and foremost be an educated, professional and experienced musician. There’s no way around it. This means you must be able to read music well, work proficiently with different music making software, have extensive knowledge of the entire music production cycle and deep understanding of the music industry. The more versatile you are, the better. Meaning that if, for instance, you feel equally comfortable arranging a song and mixing it, with thorough understanding of what it takes to do both at the highest level, but can also articulately talk about copyright, you must be on the right path. Technicalities aside, you must have great attention to detail, be able to multitask, work quickly when necessary, think outside the box and be proactive. Last but not least, you must be kind, patient and a true advocate for musicians’ rights.
In which case maybe you should be thinking about joining this awesome team! I had long dreamed about working in a place where schedules and work hours don’t really matter as long as you get the job done. I think mainly because that was kind of my instinctive way of life, for as long as I can remember, but I never thought I could do that and earn a salary. I always thought it would be something only destined for freelancer life. Not anymore. The stability it brings is a massive privilege. But if I need to take some time off in the middle of the day or the week, it’s no problem. I make my own hours and the sense of freedom that gives you is pretty powerful. I also never thought I’d be able to work exclusively from home, but hey, here we are, and it’s been great. I get to see my wife multiple times throughout the day and I can plan my work time around other life tasks I may have. Working in a startup? Check, now! This has been a huge learning experience and one I’m really enjoying: when I started, I had no idea what a Series A was or how equity worked and now I’m watching Shark Tank and shouting at the TV what Mark Cuban should or should not do. I also didn’t know Slack, Jira, Notion or Recruitee, among many other such platforms, and now I find myself writing them emails about how I think they can improve.
But the crème de la crème of this whole experience is the team. How fortunate am I? What really separates working in a music startup from everything else is that you have highly intelligent and creative people all around. I remember when we told Javi, our incredible CTO, that we needed a tool to manage our musicians schedules and he… well… just made it! Out of nothing! Custom made for our platform’s needs. Like, I’m literally using a scheduling tool that nobody else in the world uses cause these guys just came up with it! How cool is that?
I also remember when Vini, who you already know by now, just wrote and produced one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in years, to serve as a new advertisement for the company! Just Google “Língua Vinicius Castro” and tell me I’m wrong! I double dare you! This is one of those “deserted islands” songs… Speaking of Vini, do you know he’s our Product Manager now? That’s the kind of growth you get in this company! And I think that kind of sums up the feeling of endless possibilities I get from working here. It’s really overwhelming.
The only more overwhelming situation I can think of was when one of our musicians, who’s toured with many of the great acts of our time, told us he didn’t want to go on tour anymore cause he just wanted to work for Musiversal. Can’t say I didn’t shed a tear, there… and maybe you’ve already read about our own Chris Barber mentioning how working with us allowed him to get a house mortgage?.. Yep, it’s really tough for us musicians to do that because banks don’t like freelancers.
Musiversal and its impact on the music industry
So when I think about the possibility of having thousands of salaried musicians and other music professionals as part of our company, living stable lives… that will be completely game changing not only for the industry itself, but for how musicians are perceived all around the world. Why? Because now, all of a sudden, being a musician doesn’t mean being marginal to society. Being a musician doesn’t mean not knowing where your next pay-check is gonna come from or when. Being a musician doesn’t mean being taken advantage of and not being able to make choices. Being a musician will mean being a dignified, respected, contributing and wholesome element of society. Isn’t that something worth fighting for? Isn’t that something worth investing in? Isn’t it worthwhile to come together and create this highly democratic, highly equity-driven reality for everyone?
And guess what? It’s a win-win! That’s what true equity is all about, isn’t it? While musicians’ lives all over the world will change, everyone else’s will, too.
Now, if I’m someone who’s always wanted to try and make a song, I can. All I have to do is log in to the Musiversal Studio and see how this idea I once had for a song (but that I thought was probably gibberish cause I’m not a songwriter and who am I kidding?) can ACTUALLY TURN INTO A SONG. Because it can.
All people are born creative and all they have to do is try. Musiversal will allow anyone to try. And if you’re a professional or, at least, have been making music in any shape or form for a while, now… oh you’re in for a HUGE treat! Let me tell you: I consider myself a pretty damn good professional composer and I couldn’t believe the possibilities, once I tried it. It just revolutionized my music writing and production. Everything’s so easy now, so accessible. It used to be really cumbersome to produce a song. So much time wasted with logistics and money. Not. Any. More. Every time I have an idea, I can just log in to the Studio and get going! It’s just heaven on earth for us composers and producers.
So if we think about the fact that the music industry is a trillion-dollar reality and Musiversal will, very simply, revolutionize how that reality works for better, I think you’d be missing out on possibly the greatest opportunity of your life if you both do not try it for yourself and do not invest in it.
It’s not everyday that you can be part of something that is so powerful and good-natured as this is. I believe that, when it’s all said and done, we will be living in an incomparably fairer, more creative and more diverse world because of what we’re doing here.