TAD Founding Story – (How Did You Come Up With That?)

 

The idea for TAD was pretty simple.

In fact, it only came to me because I was searching for an app that did these few simple things – import a photo, add text, be in a square!

I’ve been a musician for about 18 years – most of my adult life.

lee jones howdi glastonbury

Backstage at Glasto after coming off stage in electropop duo, Howdi

In that time I’ve learnt to play guitar, piano, drums, bass and sing. Along the way I also mastered how to record properly and have been producing bands professionally for the last year or so. I’ve had records released on major labels, indie labels, and I’ve released a lot myself. I have toured the world in bands in loads of different genres; Electropop, New Wave, Rock.

I love it all.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is I know A LOT about music People in this industry tend to, as when you’re a musician, it consumes you.

Unfortunately the flipside to having total devotion to one craft is that I know NOTHING about anything else!

Great Sleeve Design for Every Musician

One of the most frustrating things there is for a musician is needing to do something ‘un-musical’ to further your musical career and not being able to achieve it.

Graphic design can be one of those things for many of us. It’s a bit of a dark-art for a lot of musos – it certainly always has been for me. And what’s worse is that I am sure it would be simple IF I could use Photoshop!

I’ve tried in the past to get my head around it but I don’t think there’s any space left in my cranium to learn something new that is so complicated. I can use Pro-Tools and Logic, I can write songs, I can play instruments. They are my things, I have to accept that.

In the years I’ve been in bands of course we’ve had artwork outsourced and that’s been fine, though a lot of times the quality has had to suffer due to financial or time constraints. Maybe it’s just been bad luck, but I’ve worked with some awesome designers who were really slow, some expensive designers that weren’t that good (but I couldn’t afford more changes), some free designers who you couldn’t push because it was a favour.

At these times there has always been an internal dialogue “Why can’t I just do the artwork myself!”

A Moment of Clarity

I’m a regular user of streaming platforms and digital distribution companies for my music. The day that I had the ‘Aha’ moment about making an artwork app I was uploading a track to SoundCloud. It was a cover version of Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’ that my new-wave band, The Solicitors, had put together for a Japanese label who were releasing a compilation CD of Christmas cover songs by rock bands from around the world.

Are you still with me?

Anyway, so here I was in my home studio in Melbourne, Australia (I’d lived in Oz for 4 years on a working visa). I’d recorded the track and mastered it in one day (we were only given 3 days notice to provide the track, but in this industry you kind of get used to that!) and then I had to upload it to SoundCloud and send the label a downloadable link.

All good so far.

Then, of course, once the track was done you have to ‘add artwork’ Of course you do! You have to do it every time.

So WHY does this bit always surprise and enrage me?

It’s like my head spins and I’m going through my options:

Shall I just use a picture of the band?

Shall I try and do something on my word processor and screenshot it?

Shall I try and ask one of my mates to do it, though it might be shit

Shall I ask another of my mates to do it, though it might take forever

Shall I hire someone to do it, though I cant afford it and it’s only a bloody SoundCloud link, and it might be shit, and it might take forever!

There was a slight difference this time because I had a new thought – “Shall I search for an app that does it?”

EUREKA!

So I did – I searched and searched.

There were some things that nearly did what I wanted, but they all missed the mark in one way or another, be it export options, fonts, or they just looked plain nasty.

Mainly, the problem was that none of these apps were in a square.

It’s . just . a . square!

lee Jones founder of TAD

I knew I could do better than this!

That was in itself another frustration and I eventually settled on an app that allowed you to place Santa hats on people. So I got a shot of the group and did that. The band were pretty non-plussed. But, y’know, sometimes you just need something NOW! (actually these days you usually need everything now, or preferably before).

As soon as I realised there wasn’t an app for musicians to create artwork, I immediately called my old friend and colleague back in England, Ian Clifford.

Cliffy and I had worked together in the mid 2000’s when I was living in London. I was in an electropop duo and he was our manager. We put out a few records and had some pretty serious interest that never quite materialised.

During my twenties I had a pretty nasty anxiety disorder that meant I was one of two things; freaking out, or drunk, neither of which is a particularly good look for prospective employers.

Cliffy soldiered on with me but for that and a myriad of reasons the band never broke through. There was always a feeling that Cliffy and I would work together again in the future on something, and he was always my first port of call when I had an entrepreneurial idea – but this cover art app was the first one with any gravitas.

While I was living in Australia, giving the band thing another shot, he was in London and had kept his foot in the UK music industry running labels, managing acts and via the circuitous route of creating a much valued DIY musician resource, became a go-to digital marketing consultant for artists and labels.

 

An App That Every Musician Needs

The two of us thought we’d make a pretty good team making an app for indie musicians, given that basically our entire lives were dedicated to either being one or looking after one.

Of course there was a slight problem – neither of us really knew anything about apps!

Cliffy said he would give a friend of his a call. They used to share an office space in London in the 90’s. Paul Coleman at that time was working for legendary dance act Leftfield and running their label, as well as making records of his own. Fast forward twenty years and he’s now living in Sydney, Australia, and has a pretty successful app development company.

“We need an app developer! I live in Australia! The planets have aligned!” – I shouted some words to that effect.

The three of us had our first of many, many Skype meetings and got on like a house on fire.

Paul loved the idea and, obviously being from a musical background, saw it’s problem-solving potential for musicians.

He liked it so much in fact that he said he wanted to be a part of it. Cliffy and I didn’t think twice, and that’s how the company began.

One year and a million more Skype conferences later (certainly more than necessary, but being on opposite sides of the world, the time difference often means that one of us is half-cut!), the app is done and ready to roll.

It’s been quite a journey from wanting a simple app that allows you to put text and a photo on a square (I have since learned that the technical name for this is a ‘Thumbnail’) to now playing around with this amazing design tool.

I came up with the app because I’m a musician and that’s all I know, and I thought there must be so many other muso’s around the world who are as inept as me at all the other stuff, so I set out to make something really simple, something idiots like me could use and still get good results.

I made something for creators rather than designers.

I made TAD.

And, just in case you’re wondering about that Wham! cover…..

 

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Lee Jones

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