It should come as no surprise that Christopher Gonda is the co-founder of PureGrainAudio, Canada’s top music news and streaming site for rock, punk and metal. Music has been in his family for generations, and has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. While his mother served as general manager at both CBC Records and Supraphon Records, his grandfather is credited with founding SOCAN – an organization that safeguards the performing rights of millions of creators and publishers in Canada.
Chris founded PureGrainAudio in 2005 with his friend Aaron Willschick while the two were studying together at York University in Toronto. It remained a side project to his professional life, even as he moved towards a career in business development. It was a career which, oddly enough, led him back to a career in music – and at BlackBerry, no less.
“I was there for about four years working on various programs and applications,” Chris explains. “My last two-and-a-half years at the company, I essentially served as the global music manager. I was responsible for launching the BlackBerry Music Store on BlackBerry 10.”
Today, Chris focuses his energy on growing PureGrainAudio, which on March 28 celebrated its 11th anniversary. What was originally a small side project between two friends has grown exponentially, with a team of 30 employees based all over the world and a site that works with hundreds of artists each year. According to Chris, his PRIV helps him keep his team organized and his life in order – and he doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.
Nick: I’m interested in hearing a bit more about Pure Grain Audio. You were managing it even while working full time?
Chris: Yep. It’s always been a side project of mine. I’ve always been good at managing my time – though my BlackBerry [devices] definitely helped – and there was a point in my career when I was working 60+ hours a week, running PureGrainAudio, and getting a certificate in copyright law from Harvard on the Web.
It was a tough process, but I made it through.
Nick: How long have you been a BlackBerry user?
Chris: My first BlackBerry was the 8310, which I received back in 2007. It changed my world – I went from a guy who had a cellphone and thought the idea of them was kind of stupid, to thinking “oh my God, there’s so much I can do from just the palm of my hand.” It was essentially life-changing.
I guess I’m a special case, though. Because I was fortunate enough to work at the company, I was in beta groups and got to test a bunch of hardware and software. I think I’ve been through somewhere between 15 and 20 of their devices, and I still have all my old phones, including the Z30 and the Passport.
Nick: What was it that first drew you to PRIV?
Chris: Android has always been tempting to me, so when BlackBerry announced the PRIV I was intrigued right away by it. I felt like if anyone could secure Android, it was BlackBerry. Really, it was the whole package that drew me in: BlackBerry’s security, apps and services with the Android ecosystem.
Nick: How are you liking it compared to your old BlackBerry phones?
Chris: I absolutely love it, especially the onscreen keyboard. The predictive text and gesture commands are so fast that once you get used to them, they save just as much time as physical typing. Form factor aside, PRIV offers every single thing that I was missing on previous BlackBerry [smartphones].
The apps are great, but it’s the ability to connect deeply within apps where I think Android really shines. If I take a photo and open up Android’s photos app, I can share it with any other app on my device. It’s all just so smooth and intuitive, and I love that.
Nick: Speaking of Android, what apps do you find yourself using most often?
Chris: Standard apps for me on a daily basis are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Gmail, YouTube, Soundcloud, Google Music and Dropbox. I also use the TD Canada Trust app really frequently, as well as Uber, which works perfectly.
Nick: You mentioned your PRIV helps you run PureGrainAudio – what do you use it for?
Chris: I usually get more than 200 emails a day from various record labels and PR companies, and one of the biggest tasks I use PRIV for is managing those emails – deleting or marking some unread, marking some as important, and forwarding others.
I also manage a team of 30 people around the world, and BBM keeps us in touch. Imagine there’s some guy in a small town in the UK who shows up to a concert, his name’s not on the guest list and he’s supposed to have an interview with the band in half an hour. BBM lets him tell me there’s a problem.
Probably around 60% of PureGrainAudio’s social media is also done from my phone. It’s amazing how well-integrated all of it is, if we’re posting an important article or song premiere, it’ll be shared across our network and our main social sites. And with the camera, I can take a photo and share it to any of those sites almost instantly.
Everything’s efficient – I can do a good three to six social posts across all networks each day.
Nick: How have reactions been to PRIV among your friends and colleagues?
Chris: I think the best example I can give you would be my wife, a film entrepreneur. She’s been an iPhone user for at least half a decade, and was a huge Apple brand loyalist. She’s been having a ton of problems with her iPhone 6 lately.
She came home the other day, and said “this might shock you, but I think I’m gonna get the PRIV.”
Nick: How would you rate PRIV?
Chris: 9/10, simply because I don’t think anything ever gets a 10. Even Nirvana, my favorite band of all time, only gets a 9. Perfection is such an abstract thing.
Nick: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Chris: No matter what happens, I will stay a BlackBerry customer. They’re always trying to fix what they can, always dedicating themselves to privacy and committing themselves to security. Smartphones are about the customer at the end of the day, and BlackBerry’s one of the few businesses to still realize that.