Meet the team | David Ronan
Aug 23, 2023
Welcome back to our "Meet the Team" series, where we introduce you to the brilliant minds behind RoEx, the innovators transforming the world of music creation. In today's spotlight, we have a special treat: a sit-down with our very own CEO!
From the early days at Queen Mary University of London to launching AI-powered products like Automix and Mix Check Studio, our CEO has been at the forefront of RoEx's evolution. With a rich background in AI, audio signal processing and entrepreneurship, the journey has been nothing short of inspiring.
In this exclusive chat, we'll delve into the challenges and triumphs, the drive behind revolutionising how music is created, and the ongoing quest to make RoEx a name synonymous with innovation, quality and music creation.
Whether you're a seasoned music producer, a curious creator, or simply a fan of RoEx, you won't want to miss this insightful conversation. Join us as we uncover the story, the vision, and the leadership that keeps RoEx on the cutting edge.
Can you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to found RoEx?
I'm from Limerick city, Ireland, where my musical journey began with playing in bands and producing IDM/Jungle/Techno from a young age. My education started with mathematics, but my passion for music led me to a master's degree in Music Technology from the University of Limerick. This is where I learned how to produce music and started thinking about automating some of the process.
In search of broader opportunities, I moved to the UK in 2010, leading to a PhD at the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London beginning in 2013. Under the guidance of Prof. Josh Reiss, one of the founders of Landr, I explored intelligent audio production tools with a focus on AI mixing.
I briefly joined Native Instruments during my PhD, sharpening my skills in the music tech industry. Later, I worked at AI Music as Head of Research for 4.5 years, focusing on AI systems for adaptive music. This work attracted Apple's attention, leading to an acquisition.
Despite these experiences, I still felt a strong entrepreneurial desire. I wanted to make my PhD research accessible to more people. This love for music, interest in technology, and desire to create led to the founding of RoEx, a venture that represents my journey and goals.
Where did the company name RoEx come from?
You might be surprised to learn that RoEx has a technical origin! It's named after a type of audio filter that models the human auditory system, known as the roex filter, where 'roex' stands for 'rounded exponential.' Contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with my family name. A fitting name for a company revolutionising the world of music creation, don't you think?
What was the most significant challenge you faced in the early stages of establishing RoEx, a pioneer in AI mixing?
I recognised the genuine difficulty people faced with mixing and saw a genuine problem that needed a solution. However, I knew that creating an answer was going to be an extraordinary endeavour. My primary challenge was to transform our early prototype, functional but extremely slow under lab conditions, into a practical, user-friendly product. The shift from results that took most of a day to those generated within mere minutes was not just a technical leap; it was a complete paradigm shift. This development phase felt like forging a path through an uncharted wilderness, where every step forward required innovation, courage, and resilience. Looking back now, it's easy to forget how daunting it was, but at the time, there were moments when we felt as though we were in a labyrinth with no way out. Yet, we persisted, guided by the belief that the seemingly unattainable could become reality with enough determination and hard work.
How do you envision the future of RoEx and AI mixing in the next 5-10 years?
I see RoEx redefining music production and AI mixing in the same way that Instagram photo filters transformed photography. The landscape of music production is evolving, and many musicians today want to achieve professional-quality sound without delving into the technical complexities of compressors or EQ. They're looking for efficient and accessible solutions.
This is where RoEx comes into play, aiming to be a game-changer in the industry. Our flagship product, Automix, is designed to enable musicians to create professional-sounding mixes in minutes without the need for expensive studios or complex plugins. Looking ahead, I envision our technology being integrated into digital audio workstations (DAWs), whether they're traditional desktop systems or innovative cloud-based platforms. The exact path may still be unfolding, but our direction is clear: to make professional music creation accessible and intuitive for all.
What's the overarching mission of RoEx, and how do you see it evolving?
RoEx is at the forefront of the music industry, utilising AI-driven technology to enable creators of all levels to produce top-quality sound. We're committed to fostering creativity, supporting the community, and paving the way for innovation in media creation.
While our initial focus is on music production, our ambitions extend to fields like film, podcasting, live broadcasting, and video games. Our vision is to evolve into a versatile tool that serves and inspires a wide range of creative endeavours.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would describe my leadership style as hands-off yet supportive. My focus is on the end results rather than the specific paths taken to achieve them. I encourage my team to work autonomously, trusting them to make decisions and step up when needed. By keeping the overall mission of the company clear and ensuring that everyone understands their individual contributions to that mission, I believe it fosters a collaborative and self-driven environment. This approach not only aligns with our collective goals but also empowers team members to innovate and excel, which I find essential in leading a business in the dynamic field of music technology.
In your opinion, what makes the culture at RoEx unique, and how do you nurture it?
What sets RoEx's culture apart is our collective passion for music and technology, forming the heart and soul of everything we do. This shared love for our craft establishes a common understanding and creates a cohesive and inspired team.
Transparency is another cornerstone of our culture. We believe that clear and open communication is vital, especially when working with talented and driven individuals. By fostering an environment where everyone is encouraged to be up-front and honest, we prevent misunderstandings and resentment, allowing for a healthy and collaborative workspace.
We nurture this culture by actively promoting these values and maintaining an open-door policy where everyone's voice is heard. Whether it's a new idea or concern, we create space for genuine dialogues that lead to growth, creativity, and trust.
How do you see the landscape of AI mixing and mastering changing in the coming years?
The future of AI in mixing and mastering is undoubtedly exciting and holds great potential for enhancing the creative process. While AI technology will continue to evolve and automate many of the tedious and time-consuming aspects of music production, I firmly believe that the role of professional mix and mastering engineers will remain indispensable.
Music is a deeply emotional and human art form, and there are nuances and subtleties in conveying emotion that machines may find challenging to replicate. By freeing up creators from some of the more mundane tasks, AI can allow them to focus more on the artistic side of their craft, leaving the soul and emotion to the human touch.
In the coming years, I envision a collaborative landscape where AI serves as a tool that complements human creativity rather than replacing it. It's a symbiosis that can lead to new heights in music creation, enabling artists to explore, innovate, and express themselves in ways previously unattainable.
What sets RoEx apart from competitors in the AI mixing industry?
RoEx's unique position as a university spin-out from Queen Mary University of London has endowed us with an exceptional foundation in scientific and patented research. This solid grounding ensures that the technology we've developed is not only innovative but also rigorously tested and proven to work.
Our team's cumulative years of focused study on this specific problem have given us an unparalleled understanding of the pain points and limitations of intelligent audio production tools. With two of us holding PhDs in this field and one of the founders, Josh Reiss, pioneering the realm of automatic mixing (and also being a founder of Landr), we're bringing a wealth of expertise and insight that truly distinguishes RoEx in the industry.
Our blend of academic excellence, practical experience, and dedication to solving real-world challenges in music production is what sets us apart from our competitors. We're not just following trends; we're leveraging our deep knowledge to create lasting innovations that will redefine the way music is created.
What has been your proudest moment as the CEO of RoEx?
Without a doubt, my proudest moment has been witnessing the exceptional teamwork that led to the creation of Mix Check Studio. Launched in mid-April 2023, this free tool leverages the power of AI to allow users to upload a mix or master and receive actionable feedback on how to enhance it. In a short span of time, we have diagnosed and improved over 100,000 tracks, making a tangible impact on musicians' creative processes.
What makes this achievement even more significant is that Mix Check Studio was named one of the most innovative products of 2023 by Music Radar. To be recognised by an influential industry voice and to see our team's dedication translate into such a successful product has filled me with immense pride. It's a testament to RoEx's innovative spirit and our commitment to revolutionising how music is created.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your journey with RoEx so far?
The biggest lesson I've learned in my journey with RoEx so far has to do with adaptability and reliance on a strong support system. Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey proved to be challenging, perhaps even more than I anticipated. But I learned that having a solid foundation—our technology, in this case—can provide a unique advantage and a head start in the business world.
The journey also pushed me to rapidly acquire new skills and see the world from different perspectives. It taught me the vital importance of leaning on family and friends for support. Their unwavering encouragement and belief in me and my vision for RoEx were essential. I don't think I could have done it without them.
This lesson is a continuous reminder that faith in the product, adaptability, and a strong support system are crucial components of success. They not only sustain us through challenges but also fuel our drive to innovate and excel
Who has been your biggest inspiration or mentor throughout your career?
It's challenging to pinpoint a single individual as my biggest inspiration or mentor throughout my career, as many remarkable people have shaped who I am today. My inspirations come from various fields and walks of life, reflecting a rich tapestry of ideas, creativity, intelligence, and determination. Here's a list of some of them, that is by no means extensive and is in no particular order:
Nassim Nichola Taleb: For his thoughts on uncertainty and risk.
Stanley Kubrick: For his artistic vision and groundbreaking filmmaking.
Arthur C. Clarke: For his innovative science fiction writing.
Jim Simons: For his mathematical approach to investment and philanthropy.
Richard D. James: For his unique contributions to electronic music.
Flann O’Brien: For his wit and literary innovation.
Michael Collins: For his leadership in the Irish struggle for independence.
George Harrison: For his musical talent and spiritual pursuit.
Brian Greene: For his ability to translate complex physics into understandable terms.
Philip K. Dick: For his thought-provoking science fiction.
Nikola Tesla: For his pioneering work in electrical engineering.
Gráinne Mhaol: For her leadership and defiance.
Michael Cronin: For giving me the gift of mathematics.
Each of these individuals, in their own way, has taught me something valuable about creativity, leadership, innovation, perseverance, and seeing the world through different lenses. They have collectively contributed to my growth, both professionally and personally.
Are there any upcoming projects or expansions at RoEx on AI mixing that you're particularly excited about?
At RoEx, we are constantly innovating AI mixing and pushing the boundaries of what our technology can achieve, and I must say that the upcoming projects and expansions have me particularly thrilled. While I don't want to spoil the element of surprise, I can provide a hint of what's on the horizon.
DAW Integration Sooner Than Expected: We're making strides towards integrating our technology into a digital audio workstation (DAW) much sooner than anticipated. This advancement is set to redefine how music creators work and interact with our tools, offering a seamless and intuitive experience.
Enhanced Focus on Audio Processing: We're turning our attention to refining the audio sent to Automix, concentrating on aspects like vocal and instrument clean-up. The goal is to provide even more precision and clarity, allowing musicians to create professional-quality mixes effortlessly.
Experimentation with Live Recordings: Our team has been dabbling with live recordings, exploring new ways to elevate this aspect of audio production. These ongoing experiments hold great promise, and we're optimistic that these improvements will soon be integrated into our software.
Our mission to revolutionise music creation continues to guide us, and these upcoming projects symbolize our unwavering commitment to innovation, excellence, and serving the needs of our community of creators. Stay tuned for exciting announcements, and watch this space, as we have many more surprises in store!
What are your 3 favourite songs/albums of all time?
What song/album do you have on repeat right now?
What item would you take with you to a desert island?
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs looking to start their own venture?
Always be moving forward with conviction and don’t forget that marketing is just as important as your product. In fact, if you can nail these two things together, you’re off to a hell of a start.