Dress Yourself In A Dream – An Interview w/ Raymond Stone, CEO of RaveReady.com

*written by A’Damaged Pro for Electronica Life
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There is one element of the electronic music scene that easily stands out as a vehicle for self-expression and that’s the attire. A quick visual scan at any EDM-centric festival or gathering will, undoubtedly, yield a wide-ranging spectrum of readily identifiable articles of clothing. Some have become so prominent, achieving an almost-iconic status, that they are unofficial staples of the scene. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a festival that didn’t involve tutus, headdresses, and t-shirts of cats shooting laser beams out of their eyes. I caught up with Raymond Stone, the CEO of RaveReady.com and a member of the Electronic Music Alliance‘s (EMA) Board of Directors, to discuss the soundtrack of his life, how he established himself as a cornerstone in the “rave” apparel industry, and what impact the global dance community can have on the world.

A’Damaged Pro – Where did you grow up?

Raymond Stone – I grew up in a really small town, Durham, Connecticut.

A’Damaged Pro – What were your earliest musical influences?

Raymond Stone – I had this job that started like two hours after school and I had just turned 16. So I’d hang out at this little record store. It was run by this guy, Arun, we’d hang out and he’d teach me about music, break dancing and life in general. He eventually hired me to work at the record shop while he was away and I’d help him do odd jobs at events he was throwing. I was just 16 and he had me in clubs that were 18 and 21+. His head was in it though, he taught me about drugs and alcohol and all that stuff that I needed to stay away from and made sure that I was hanging out with good people. To his credit I never even had a drink until I was in my mid-20’s. I can’t say enough good things about him, without him I would be someone completely different. He definitely changed my life.

As for specific music of artists that influenced me – there are so many it’s tough but off the top of my head:

John B “Up All Night,” it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time, it’s what I learned to mix with.

At 16, I was big into coding and computer “networking.” I’d be talking with the CT2600 guys in an IRC channel while blaring ‘Vegas’ from The Crystal Method or some Hixxy and Darren Styles while working on projects all through the night while my parents thought I was sleeping. I loved Keoki, Icey, Reid Speed, Paul Oakenfold, The Prodigy, Moby…man the list goes on. It’s something that I don’t think about often now but these artists all influenced these little specific moments in my life, they are my soundtrack.

A’Damaged Pro – What’s your fondest musical memory from growing up?

Raymond Stone – Arun was throwing a small event with John B and the person who was supposed to pick up John bailed on the day of. I got to pick him up from the airport and we listened to some of his new music that he had literally just finished. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but to a 16 year old kid that was mind blowing.

A’Damaged Pro – What inspired you to get into the music/entertainment business?

Raymond Stone – It really was a culmination of my entire upbringing. There wasn’t a specific moment where I decided that this was going to be my life. I was sort of dragged into it because of my love of the music and the people. I started in the record shop and breakdancing, taking photos at events for RaversOnly.com, then I started helping staff events, then I started throwing events, then finally RaveReady.com…it’s the snowball effect.

A’Damaged Pro – How has the scene changed from when you were first introduced?

Raymond Stone – I think the scene that I started with is still there, and pretty much the same. The parties go on every weekend. You see the same people at every party and you learn their name. With no money in marketing you need to know someone to be invited, so it’s almost like the attendees are vetted in. It’s definitely more of a family vibe that exists, and PLUR is still alive and well here.

With the big festivals there is no secrecy, anyone with the money can show up, and there is a lot less PLUR. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’ll be the first to admit I love EDC, but it’s a different kind experience…and it’s new. There are too many people to have that same intimate family vibes, but that crowd also allows over production and really big lineups.

There is a lot of give and take for both kinds of experiences and I think instead of people trying to compare them, or break down their evolution, it’s best to look forward and try to make what we have better.

A’Damaged Pro – What is your position and what are your current responsibilities within your company?

Raymond Stone – Officially, I’m the owner of RaveReady.com. My responsibilities change on a day to day basis, I never get bored. It’s pretty rare for me to put in less than 12 hours a day doing different tasks like programming, photoshopping, ordering from our manufacturer’s, packing orders, and even cleaning.

When I was in the military I was expected to produce technologies that didn’t exist on a constant basis from people who didn’t understand or care about the technological limits of the time, it was really insane. I found it difficult to respect people that didn’t do anything other than blindly order others around. That experience really taught me that there is no job that I am too good to do.

A’Damaged Pro – What’s the story behind RaveReady being founded?

Raymond Stone – The one moment that directly brought RaveReady.com into existence was a conversation with my old boss, he became an unknowing mentor. I had left the military and was hired by the owner of large military/police supply website to handle their magazine advertisements, web design, and some other things. One day we were talking about how he started his company he explained that in life you either work for yourself and do what you want, or you work for someone else and you do what they tell you.  That was the day I decided I was going to find something I loved and build it, just like he had done. Raves and underground parties were already a part of my life so once I realized that there were no “rave” stores and there was a need it was easy.

A’Damaged Pro – What role do you think your military background has played in your prevailing attitude towards business? Are there any particular skills that you acquired in the military that you feel have been instrumental in your success?

Raymond Stone – I have to give all the credit to my parents. My mom worked three jobs and my dad worked and was always finding ways to do side jobs in construction. They taught me about hard work at a young age.

I can credit the military with my bluntness and my strong attitude.

A’Damaged Pro – What is the most rewarding part of your job? Most challenging part?

Raymond Stone – I think getting the right product in our warehouse is the hardest thing right now, and it relates to the maturity and growth of the mainstream markets.

There are so many companies starting up that they are just saturating the market with poorly made products. We spend a lot of time curating our products and it’s increasingly difficult to find the “good” stuff. We’re constantly searching for the brands who are rooted in the community and who are trying to do something a little different.

Also, merchandising is such a new concept with this type of music that very few artists (djs, producers) are interested in it beyond putting it on their own websites. It really is a way for artist to share themselves with the audience, who already loves them, in a new way.

The most rewarding parts are when we overcome those challenges and eventually see that stuff on the dance floor. There is more than one product or brand that we have helped grow so when we see it out there it’s really exciting to me.

A’Damaged Pro – How does it make you feel when you see people in your wares at an event/festival?

Raymond Stone – It’s really amazing! I really don’t have the words for it.

A’Damaged Pro – How did you become affiliated with the Electronic Music Alliance (EMA)? What potential did you originally see in the EMA?

Raymond Stone – I think it all came together because Janine and Ken saw my love for the music and people, and I saw theirs. I’m not sure why they chose to bring me on, but I am extremely honored.  Any time you get a group of passionate people together there is an opportunity to make positive change. EMA was started because although we can all see the positives in this thing we love, we can all see areas that can be improved upon.

A’Damaged Pro – As you’ve seen the organization grow, how has your view on the EMA’s potential to incite change evolved?

Raymond Stone – I was lucky enough to be introduced to all the founders before EMA was officially formed; each and every one of the people involved cares deeply about all aspects of their community. You can’t quantify the potential of good people doing good things.

A’Damaged Pro – Can you tell me about the EMA’s first event “Launch?”

Raymond Stone – Launch was this great event that we did at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles a few years ago. We only had about 10 days to pull it together so in that respect I’d have to say it went pretty well. Paul Watson, from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, came out which was pretty amazing.

A’Damaged Pro – The media has reported and, in some cases, sensationalized incidents that involved a breakdown in the compassion and attitudes of some festival goers for their friends and contemporaries. An example would be people sending their friends, that need medical attention, home from festivals instead of pursuing helping them. Besides for providing empirical evidence for the press to note that these behaviors are being addressed, what trends can you see emerging as more people adopt a code of conduct along the lines of the EMA’s “Party Pledge?”

Raymond Stone – I think there is an overall problem within the “news” segment of the media. These companies profit by getting readers, so boring headlines just don’t earn them anything.  As EDM/raves/festivals/whatever-you-want-to-call-it grows it’s become a catchy phrase for them to leech off of. I try not to focus on what they are saying and look towards what we can do. There are a few people out there battling the news media head-to-head, Kaskade and Tommie Sunshine have written some great stuff, but for everyone who doesn’t have that reach our collective actions mean something. Every time this community gives something back, whether it’s a Beach Cleanup Day like we had October 18th in Venice, or a $25,000 check to the Boys and Girls Club, it becomes harder to criticize us.

A’Damaged Pro – In the spirit of “Leave No Man Behind,” do you feel there is any merit to speculation that the EDM community could benefit from an organized hierarchy to help instill core values in the newer members?

Raymond Stone – I think the thought is unrealistic and counterproductive. Part of the experience is attending an event where you aren’t judged in any way. That alone means that no “hierarchy” can exist. Trying to install some sort of pseudo-government of education would be counter-productive. Education should be readily available for people at festivals, but not forced down their throats.

I don’t believe that new ravers are any less intelligent than older ones. In my experience many of the older ones use their age as an excuse to screw up just as much as younger ones. Core values are instilled by upbringing and education. Two massive problems the country is dealing with right now.

A’Damaged Pro – What is your take on the potential therapeutic and healing properties of music?

Raymond Stone – I think anything that keeps your brain and body active is healthy, music does that. I know that I am not the only one that can sit down on the couch, listen to a track, and just feel goose bumps.

A’Damaged Pro – I’ve heard you like to travel. What are some of the more exotic places you have visited? Have you been able to draw any corollaries between the attitudes present at music festivals in these areas and the respective quality of life in those communities?

Raymond Stone – I’m going to have to check my Facebook security permissions after this, haha. Yes, I travel quite a bit. I guess my list of most “exotic” would be Qatar, the Philippines, and India. Everywhere I have been in the world is the same; the music ends up being what matters. Everyone who is there is because they feel something in the music, and it doesn’t matter what class they come from in the real world. There are always some cultural differences, some interesting dancing…and a lot of smiles.

A’Damaged Pro – What are a few charities whose causes you hold in high regard?

Raymond Stone – Two local organizations that are close to my heart are the SPCALA (www.spcala.com) and NKLA (www.nkla.org).  And although it isn’t a charity I would tell people to take a look at Kiva.org.

But if you actually care and want to make things better.  When someone has a flat tire, pull over and help them. When you see a stray dog, bring it to the shelter.  If you see a hungry child, feed them. Just do one awesome thing today for someone you don’t know.

A’Damaged Pro – Please list three global issues that you believe deserve immediate attention and your potential solutions for addressing them.

Raymond Stone – The world is so filled with issues that picking three above all the others is kind of difficult. All of them are so heavily intertwined with one another that they need to be addressed collectively. There are no magic bullets to fix world issues and I’m not going to pretend to have solutions for any of them.

The Middle East. There is unfortunately no solution that I can think of. There is a segment of the population who are willing to do unthinkable things to innocent people all because of their interpretation of what is written in a book. It’s easy to blame it on one side or another but these issues have been happening, literally, since the beginning of recorded history.

Pollution. It’s such a huge topic in and of itself that I guess I’ll just tackle one small aspect. One of the most interesting things I’ve found while traveling is that even in third world countries soda, chips, and candy are served in plastic wrappers. These counties don’t even have the infrastructure to dispose of human waste, never mind synthetic non-biodegradable trash. These populations relied on fresh vegetables and meat. Waste was composted. Suddenly big companies popped up, giving them plastic that they have no way of disposing of properly. Countries (and shareholders) really need to be asking companies to have some sort of assistance plan before entering or growing in these markets, unfortunately it is too late at this stage for most places. We need to spend some money on developing more sustainable biodegradable packaging.

Family Planning. The worlds population is growing at an enormous rate, it’s completely unsustainable. Our planets resources are finite and our technology just isn’t advanced enough to properly take care of everyone right now. I’ve found people around the world that didn’t necessarily want a large family it “just happened” because of the lack of education and protection available to them. The US gives away billions of dollars in aid every year, and a condom costs just 2 cents to make. There is a real cost to growing a large family, both financial and environmental and I think that needs to be taught in schools across the world. A little education and a piece of rubber can go a long way.

A’Damaged Pro – What goals have you set for yourself for the next year? 5 years?

Raymond Stone – To keep doing our thing! We’ve got a pretty complicated inventory because we carry over 10,000 products so we’ve spent all of 2014 getting that in place. We still have a little bit more to go until it’s perfect, but we are definitely getting close. Once it is we’ll be able to guarantee shipping within one business day on everything in the store. It’s a huge goal but we’re setup to make that happen. You’ll also see a new RaveReady.com being released in late 2015 or early 2016.

A’Damaged Pro – Is there anything else you would like to share about your organization or yourself?

Raymond Stone – Don’t let any company tell you what you need to wear at a party.  Don’t let any DJ or promoter tell you what you can’t wear to a party. Dress comfortably, smile, and dance hard.

A’Damaged Pro’s final words…

Generally speaking, festival atmospheres provide a vital outlet for people to express who they are, what they love, and how they feel. The power of the music, that curates the gathering experience, resonates in the hearts of all those in attendance. Finding a way to address your personal needs for happiness is a tricky business, and it’s quite remarkable when your search is fulfilled by helping others maximize their own happiness. This connection is compounded further when the fruits of these pursuits are utilized to give back on an even larger scale. It’s sort of an “I would gladly help you so I can ultimately help them” scenario. Raymond Stone loves what he does because he appreciates what hard work and determination can accomplish and he would like to help make the world a more vibrant and hospitable place. That kind of forward-thinking positivity is electric. There’s no present timetable for us to be living in a utopian world with a killer soundtrack, but it’s comforting to know that people are striving to activate their peers for such pursuits.

Raymond Stone is a founding member of the Electronic Music Alliance
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