SAE alumnus Wasim Khamlichi discusses creating the world’s first automated beat sales tool and helping producers get paid.
Now at the helm of Airbit, Wasim has helped producers all over the world earn over $20 million in profit.
What did you want to do when you finished your studies from SAE? Did you have a particular career aspiration or plan in mind?
I joined SAE with the career aspiration of being a music producer. When I graduated I sold all my equipment and followed a friend to the US for 3 months to do an unpaid internship at a recording studio in Boston. I was cleaning skirting boards on my knees, making coffee and collecting food orders, but it didn’t feel like the typical runner role because they treated the interns really well and gave us full use of the studios whenever they were available, it was great.
I loved it there but unfortunately I had to come back to the UK as they were never really willing to hire someone from the UK and deal with all the immigration headache that goes with it. When I got back I was broke, all I had was my music and my love for tech. I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my music, I saw getting placements or being signed to a record label as a million miles away, practically unachievable. I definitely don’t think I was alone in thinking that.
How did you achieve the role you have now as CEO of Airbit? Please tell us a little bit about your journey to get there.
One day in 2009 I got a message on MySpace from a producer trying to sell me an eBook on how to sell beats online. I’ve never heard of such a thing! I bought the eBook and wanted to learn everything about it. I soon realised that it was really possible to make money from beats online. Using my keen tech fingers, I quickly coded a Flash based player to start selling my music online. It was basic but it worked, and at that time most producers were selling their beats on Soundclick where customers had to write out each beat name into a text field and make payment. The producers then had to manually send out orders to customers, who had to wait 1-2 days to get their beats. Here I am with an instant delivery store...and it was all mine! Literally...other producers were asking me how they can get a store like this, and I was turning them down saying that it’s only for me!
I was starting to make money from selling my beats online, which was amazing given my vision of a bleak future as a music producer before. I was still getting a lot of producers asking me for my beat store, so I finally caved under the pressure. I made 3 producers their own custom Flash beat store before I started to have more demand than I could actually handle. Everyone wanted one of these stores, so I had to do something. That’s when I decided to create the service Airbit (then known as myFlashStore).
"You also have to put yourself in uncomfortable positions where you’ve got to be prepared to be embarrassed and rejected. Not every opportunity will work out but the worst thing to do is doubt yourself because that gives you an excuse to give up."
It took me about a month to develop the first version of the platform and in that month I literally never left my bedroom at my parents house. Wake up, code, eat, code, sleep (dream about code). I had a few producers waiting for the service so I was making a bit of money straight away. I thought this is awesome! I have my own little business, let’s see where this takes me!
Seven years on from that first ever website, Airbit has transformed the online beat selling industry. Our producers have earned over $21 million to date using the service and that number is growing rapidly. We created the first ever fully automated sales tool for producers to sell beats, and we’ve helped thousands of producers ignite their career selling beats online.
I never imagined in my wildest dreams Airbit would grow to be this big, but I created something that people didn’t even know they needed until it arrived. I solved my problem as producer and solved it for countless others too. I’m so proud to be a part of something that has helped so many other independent producers realise their true potential and make real money from their passion.
What does your current role as CEO involve and what do you enjoy about it?
I’m very much the CTO in addition to the CEO so I take care of a lot of the technical aspects of the business. We have other developers at the company but my passion for development has never left me so I still stay heavily involved. As the CEO I’m involved in building new partnerships, identifying new industry opportunities, marketing and managing the rest of the team.
If you could give your younger self (or other students nearing graduation) a piece of advice about ‘making it’ in the music industry, what would it be?
Start early and always keep growing. No matter what your level is, people rarely ever feel “ready”. This could be “ready” to send beats for placements, or “ready” to start selling beats online, or “ready” to record with artists. Then you have to make sure you’re always improving your music, make as many different genres of music as possible because that will multiply your musical abilities.
You also have to put yourself in uncomfortable positions where you’ve got to be prepared to be embarrassed and rejected. Not every opportunity will work out but the worst thing to do is doubt yourself because that gives you an excuse to give up.
What's next for you and your company?
Just as I was about to write the answer to this question, the song “Change The Game” started playing in the office...not even kidding. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do, change the game. Just how iTunes and then Spotify changed the way people consume music and forced the industry to adapt or die, we want to make independance in the music industry the go-to career choice.
Producers on our platform are responsible for platinum hits like Bryson Tiller - Don’t, Giggs - Whippin’ Excursion, Young M.A. - Ooouuu, Migos - T-Shirt, and many more. These are industry quality Platinum producers, accessible by any artist. Artists can now create quality music and with social media and distribution platforms, can launch careers without the need of record labels. Both producers and artists win. More people than ever can make a living from music, and that’s the way it should be.