Working with your close friends can go a number of different ways. For some, adding a colleague label to an established friendship can lead to complications. For the Aaptiv audio team, it led to a more cohesive work flow. “The majority of our department is based on referral,” says Aaptiv production coordinator Jake Ludwig. “Everyone was brought on by some level of personal interaction, so we work together really well.”
That unofficial audio team referral program is actually how Ludwig landed his position at Aaptiv. “I was introduced to the company by Matt,” he explains, referring to his bandmate and Aaptiv’s lead audio engineer, Matt Lau. The friends, who live just ten minutes from one another, worked together to polish Ludwig’s audio recording experience on weekends. “I had experience in the audio recording space and, specifically, with the same equipment used at Aaptiv, but Matt trained me more and got my skills up to speed.”
After an introduction to Aaptiv’s head of audio, Assaf Gidron, Ludwig was eventually hired. Now, Lau and Ludwig work together, play music together, and regularly spend Sundays together brunching at Brooklyn-based Neptune Diner II. Here, they discuss the class creation process, the components of a great Aaptiv class, and the difference between audio and sound.
What are your main roles at Aaptiv?
Jake: “When I started they just needed someone to do data administration. I was doing that, as well as managing the trainers’ recording schedules. That led to doing some audio uploading, which gradually started to include miscellaneous tasks for most departments. My title, though, is production coordinator. So, I coordinate production.”
Matt: “He makes sure all of us in audio and engineering are mixing the the right classes and are on track.”
J: “Exactly. I essentially manage the flow of class production.
M: “I’m the lead audio engineer. I originally started doing recordings, but the team has really grown, so now I supervise the mixing. I get all the equipment we need, make sure the recordings sound good…”
J: “He makes sure we’re not messing up. He’s like a calendar alarm I don’t have to set.”
M: “Yeah, I remind everyone of things. But mainly I just mix and, if I’m not mixing, I’m assigning mixes to other people and making sure everything’s running smoothly.”
What’s the easiest way to explain how classes get created here?
J: “Basically, we look at data and see what type of classes are popular engagement-wise and consider what kinds of classes our community wants. We also brainstorm new styles of classes all the time. Then, we give our trainers assignments based on that. They record it, the class is edited and mixed, it gets named, and it’s up on the app the following week.”
M: “It’s usually around a three week process.”
In three words, what are the components of a great Aaptiv class?
M: “I’d say groovy.”
J: “Groovy! That’s a great word.”
M: “Groovy and fun. Polished.”
J: “Polished, informative, groovy.”
Have you learned a lot about fitness and different workouts creating and listening to the classes?
M: “I know what a FARTLEK run is now.”
J: “I still don’t know what a FARTLEK run is. I just think it’s a really funny word.”
What kinds of things do you listen for when you’re mixing?
M: “We have to take out a lot of weird sounds.”
J: “Mouth sounds. There’s always a lot of those to cut. Just because they’re recording and close to the mic. It happens.”
M: “We edit out weird mumbles, the awkward things we say back to them as they’re recording, accidental swear words. Things like that.”
The entire audio team has a really great vibe. What’s that working relationship like?
M: “It’s pretty sick.”
J: “It’s pretty tight. I think it all stems from Assaf’s philosophy. He brings on people that he trusts and wants to work with. So, most of our department is based on referrals from one another. Everyone was really brought on by personal interaction so we work well together. I was brought on by Matt and meshed really well with everyone that was here already.”
M: “Yeah, Assaf has a great management philosophy. He doesn’t micromanage and trusts you to run with things. If you do a good job on whatever it is, you have an opportunity to run it eventually.”
J: “You get responsibility by showing you can handle it.”
M: “We definitely joke a lot, though.”
J: “Yeah, like when we set up Slackbot to change the word sound to audio.”
Can you explain the Slack correction?
J: “It’s a total joke. We’re officially the audio team, but sometimes we’re referred to as the ‘sound team’ or ‘the sound guys.’”
M: “It’s like calling the creative team the ‘art team.’”
J: “So, we set up Slackbot to correct the word ‘sound’ with ‘audio.’ Anytime someone writes ‘sound,’ it sends a message that says ‘audio.’ Which was really funny at first…”
M: “We might have to turn it off.”
J: “For some reason people are using the word sound more. Someone will ask ‘how does that sound?’ and Slackbot will be like ‘audio!’”
M: “It’s funny because we’re doing audio work so we are loud just by default, but we also need quiet.”
J: “It’s the irony of our team making noise but also having the grace to ask people to be quiet when we’re recording. So, actually, I guess we are in charge of sound.”
What’s it like working closely with the trainers?
M: “It’s really nice getting to work with them and hang out with them in the office. I don’t record much anymore so I don’t get to work directly with them as much, but when I first started that was the best thing about the job.”
J: “Yeah, the trainers are awesome. Everyone on the audio team is pretty close with them.”
What’s are your favorite things about working at Aaptiv?
M: “The audio team.”
J: “The audio team. But also, everyone. When I first started, everyone made me feel comfortable right away. I like coming out of my shell, but it can take some time. It took me no time here. Everyone’s ridiculously nice.”
M: “Yeah, everyone works really great together. And, even as we scale, everyone continues to just handle their stuff.”