Our Team

team-michael-picture-1-768x521

“Mike”

As “DJ eXperience®:East Coast | West Coast.
As LLC Managing Member: 2016 – Present.
As GP Managing General Partner: 2000 – Present.

[Don’t laugh! I hate all these hats! LoL.]

Legal Role:

Sole Founder (Gamescape, UX Design & Phantom Records).

Functional Roles:

Mac® User Experience Designer,
Mac® Multimedia Scientist,
Streaming Mac® DJ Mix Maker,
eSports “Video Game” Innovator,
& 3D-Virtual Producer.

(It’s all related, but it’ll
take you a minute to see that.)

1. As LLC Lead: m.member@phantomrecords.com
2. As GP Lead: m.gen.partner@p.net
3. As “Gamescape NZ:” m@gamescape.co.nz
4. As Himself: m@michaelwidener.com
5. As UX Design™ LLC: m@uxdesign-llc.com
6. Buy Mike & GoDaddy-backed, eProducts™.

Direct VoiP Workstation: +1 (240) 396-1733
(Available after scheduling a call on Calendly.)

Live Receptionist: +1 (240) 203-8805
(Live Person: 9am – 5pm. M-F., U.S. Eastern Time.)

Read My Back Story…

Mike Widener joined Phantom Records in 2000. Back then, Mike just arrive from New Zealand where he had run an online retailer named Gamescape Interactive NZ Ltd. His retail store there became popular and broke even as a startup on a mere $2,500 investment, gaining 1.2 million unique hits in its first year. At the time, in 1997, his site was the only one streaming video of video games so his buyer could view them before playing them.

This innovative approach to sales wasn’t common back then. In fact, unknown to him at the time, Amazon.com was researching Amazon Prime and when they saw his site, they included it in their Patent Document for Amazon Prime as is customary when an innovator finds a similar technology and wants to list it as a potential co-occurring innovation in case there is ever a challenge. If you want to see this document, click here, to download it at the U.S. Patent Office. It’s a public record and it’s stored there, not on this server. You’ll have to search for Mike’s website at the time: gamescape.co.nz.

In 1999, the dot com revolution was in full swing in the United States. As Mike grew his small but profitable online retailer, there was a growing competition to do what he was going in New Zealand. He lowered prices, re-set standards for allowing returned games that weren’t compatible. Brought attention to the fact that U.S.-made games there were eligible for returns because the cost of calling Tech Support from New Zealand was as much (or more) than buying a game itself.

His innovative approach, and commitment to the needs and interests of his end-users (gamers and warehouse alike), earned him the front page of the country’s largest newspaper and television coverage.

Given that he had completed his research to accomplish his goal of taking an idea from a Master’s Thesis to real-life profitable start-up, Mike decided it was time to move to a larger market. He returned home.

Still in school, as he has intended for some years at this point, Mike always works while studying. Even while in New Zealand he enrolled at Canterbury University and studied Economics before returning home to continue studying here.

When he returned and sought investment at a higher scale, he reached out to his partner for help, using his accounting records, his proof of achievement, and his coverage as solid evidence that he broke even with his startup (when other Startups at that time were operating while carrying up to six million dollars in capital investment), Mike convinced his Investors he could grow his idea here so long as he had the time to study the laws and do the necessary research.

His investor was more interested in the research side of Mike’s idea than sales at that time, and only short years later, after the Napster incident, which made Mike and his Investor’s idea exponentially more complicated, became even more interesting. Mike and his Investor take on large campaigns to make large differences. Sales as the ultimate goal, those sales must be based on something socially conscious or industry conscious. It has to be one or the other.

Mike was determined to find a way that to allow him to use what he learned in school (many schools) so that he could apply it to this new job (if you can call it a job when you found your own company).

For Mike, learning is a reward of its own but in the work world, learning is only valuable if it adds more value than it costs. Mike wanted to be sure that he understood which learning helped the bottom line and which learning was simply for personal enrichment. Over the years to come, between 2000 and 2004, Mike noticed there weren’t very many degrees that combined his type of business and creative application of technical skills. He knew he needed this to fuel his research and combine that to produce products that were positioned to compete in the cut-throat U.S. entertainment market; especially after Napster.

Most of the degrees he considered either focused on technical skills without leadership, or business skills without tech literacy. Mike needed both. He couldn’t find it where he lived in California so he learned of the Washington Consortium of Schools on the East Coast and moved there so he could no longer lose credits bouncing from school to school in Northern California because there was no alignment matriculation plan there.

Because Mike had already added value to a start-up during his time at Gamescape Interactive, which changed that market (to the betterment of gamers thereby lowering costs and relaxing return policies), Mike knew it was his combination of technical and creative disciplines that let him see how to execute his ideas for improving the customer experiences specifically, customer experiences online that are supported by or lead to real-world policies which improve buyer experience. This included the critical step of giving the customer information and streaming video about a video game so the customer could make an informed being decision and mitigate buyer’s remorse. Which was the largest problem for an island market buying products from overseas and having no recourse if it didn’t work on their machine or if it broke down sometime during play.

While some in Mike’s circle of advisors wanted him to continue what he had in New Zealand, Mike understood that the gaming field in the United States was saturated. Instead of creating another game-related, online retailer, Mike founded Phantom Records™ General Partnership to move into another area that was in its infancy when he left the United States and was still that way when he returned: DJ Mixed music that paid everyone – including the DJ every time it’s played. That’s something he knew about because Mr. Widener is also a DJ.

While Phantom Records™ was a small, agile start-up, that negotiated “details” to temporarily move on to larger projects while he helped Phantom Records create, plan, and follow a long-term strategy for bringing legal music mixtapes to market, Mike completed over one hundred and fifty credit hours of higher education across several Universities before choosing The American University in Washington, D.C. to be his alma mater.

American was the only University with the opportunity for the inter-disciplinary nature of Mike’s skillset and allowed him to create the only Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Design and Development in the University’s history. He was recruited into that program by the Director and invited to take his Senior Thesis class, as a sophomore, not a senior. (He did again as a senior just for the challenge.)

In coordination with his Academic Advisor, now a Director, Mike worked with Marla Boren to build his degree from the ground up. There were hits, there were misses, but in the end, he graduated with Latin honors with all of the reinforced technical, general education, creative, graphic design, historical, and even physical context to understand not just entertainment, but the world around him in greater appreciation. When you add that to someone who traveled to 13 countries before taking those courses, a person like that will naturally identify with references to the evolution of places visited.

It took over a year to get it approved but his degree is historic. It also proved that Mike has a vision. His Academic Advisor told him because she didn’t think he understood the magnitude of what he was doing and where it fits in with the large scheme of where art and technology were converging. After all, he was a major in the School of Arts and Sciences. Does anyone ever wonder why those two schools are always together when their disciplines use two opposite sides of the brain?

It was a compliment his Academic Advisor had no reservations pointing out to Mike and the Advisor’s co-workers while Mike listened to prove to him she meant what she said. According to Mike, “Marla senses unwarranted lacks of confidence a mile away. When that happens, she guides students towards their classes or teachers matching their strengths or learning style to give them the best chance to prove their doubt was exaggerated. It worked on me.”

Mike’s degree mix was on the cutting edge and has since influenced other degrees at American that combine Graphic Design and Computer Science. It was Mike’s repeated top performance on the technical requirements for courses at American that shed light on the fact that his choice of technical coursework early in his life and career, supported courses later on because he had already learned or mastered the technologies used in those courses so that that part was not a distraction for him.

Mike Widener holds Multimedia Design and Development in high regard because the word itself “Multimedia” encompasses so much of what we know of as digital experience that he believes it’s the only true way to describe what we are today. We are multimedia-rich consumers. (In the United States, at least, he would say.)

The closest degree to his is a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Design and Development. Mike knows those students as well and respects their focus on heavier art courses but also knows that, as an AU grad, he can audit the coursework that added up to that degree and effectively have a double-major in Bachelor of Science and Art in Multimedia Design and Development. We don’t doubt that that’s what he’ll do or is doing as he progresses through creative and technical challenges because he tends to “learn” his way past obstacles instead of pay for solutions. After learning, he then gets solutions that are easier and less expensive to leverage because he has a better understanding of what those solutions are trying to solve.

Together, the Multimedia graduates are a very technology-savvy cohort that has spread out to contribute to Graphic Design, Multimedia Production, and independent film-making to name a few. Mike’s contributions are web-based and music-based and his entertainment business, Phantom Records™ won two awards as of December 2020 for excellence in Hospitality. Phantom Records™ is recognized worldwide for its applications to Hospitality enhancement because Mike’s DJ Mixes are more akin to a “music story” than a nightclub mix. (Although as a DJ in high school the nightclub mix was exactly what kept the party going.)

Mike has used his education, professional experience, and ingenuity to add value in both technical and business ways. He has designed and developed this site using Photoshop, Dreamweaver, HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP. He converted several versions from one technology platform to another depending on what was dominant during one year or another. He’s added security as popularity grew to prevent any attempts to locate stream sources and allay concerns of Napster like “ripping” of his mixes from this site.

Although no one can stop every cyber-attack known and unknown, the truth is, which Mike has learned as of 2020, there such a thing as a person intelligent enough to damage like a hacker who chooses not to. There are such certified workers in our own Federal Government known (and certified) as Ethical Hackers. The same thing exists for that kind of person that simply doesn’t have the certification or is from another country. Mike isn’t concerned with them because they’re allies. They shy, or simply secretive. But they’re not doing any damage because for whatever reason they don’t want to. They’ve done things Mike can see and they weren’t at all bad. They were messages of solidarity and Mike let them stay right where he found them. It’s a language. One between technology adopters. Tech is their life. How it’s used is their character. There are good ones and bad ones and it’s better to know as many good ones as possible.

Mike has more than twenty years of experience in Web Design and Development supported by five years in Tech Support – including building computers from the ground up for customers according to their planned use; in Network Administration for a 50-user Novell NetWare 3.12 network (way back in 1995). The Network Administration job was a trial by fire. The network was configured as a Server-Workstation ecosystem with the workstations having no hard drives. This means the Server had to store all of the data a user needed to do their work.

What made it a trial by fire is the fact that Mike’s boss wanted each user to be free to log in from any computer and have their customized, personal desktop, complete with background and mouse configuration, appear on any computer on the network. That’s very complicated. Any Network Administrator or Engineer will tell you.

Windows booting up from the Server on a machine with no hard drive meant it had to integrate the boot-up script from a Floppy Disk in the Workstation, which contained less than ten small system files, that, together, told the Server to launch from a user’s particular folder on it that had a subfolder will an entire copy of Windows in there with all of the user’s settings. But it wasn’t that simple. Each workstation had a different mouse, or perhaps, a different monitor. So how do you account for that?

The answer there is to make sure that the Workstation always used the same Floppy Disk. Those two things were certainly married. Because the Floppy Disk set up the machine to load the machine’s drivers, while the other files on the disk loaded the user’s Windows settings. In combination, the Workstation was always personalized and the end-user never noticed anything.

Mr. Widener’s ability to grasp networking and art led him to seek out a coveted Internship after his time at the University of San Fransico, where he was Freshman Class President – as a write-in, with his favorite filmmaker, Mr. Lucas – creator of the Star Wars saga. Although it has come to an end for the characters Mike knew and loved growing up, being an Intern at somewhere called “Skywalker Ranch” and going there and back to an office over-looking “Ewok Lake,” is simply something he’ll never stop cherishing. Mr. Widener asked for one thing when his Director asked him what he wanted when his Internship was up.
Mr. Widener hadn’t truly gone around Skywalker Ranch asking questions and interfering with workers there. He played on the softball team and used one of the lunch buildings. But that was about it. So at the end of his Internship, the Director wanted to know if there was something she could do for him since he was such a fan but didn’t seem to have anything tangible, besides “bagging rights” to take away from the experience.

To her question, Mike took out the one thing he found that he wanted. It was a book. 20 Years of Lucasfilm. It was Mike’s anthology about the saga that enrolled his imagination for decades. His Director asked Mike if he wanted George Lucas to sign it. We know what Mr. Widener said. Check his webpage at this url and see a link to where George Lucas signed saying: “Thanks, Mike. May the Force be with You.” Mr. Widener uses humor in business situations because that’s the way of entertainment. And he’ll need “the Force” to navigate the complicated waters of a post-Napster, worldwide, peer-to-peer sharing epidemic. But he’s still going. His winning awards. His profile is growing.

Never one to stop or slow down, Mike is currently attending another school online (probably while taking audit courses at his alma mater) to add updated IT Support Skills, Typography, Color Theory, Visual Communication, and all of the parts of his Bachelor of Science that was left out because he didn’t have the funding to complete a dual major at the time he enrolled in “AU” to complete his degree.

Never one to stray too far from his DJ roots, Mike uses all of uses skills, digital, artistic, streaming, and Sales, to become the first remote DJ under this current pandemic to produce DJ Mies intended to work specifically for the listener even as customized as being made form the Playlist.


“Mary Lee”

Legal Role:

Former Partner and Financial Monitor.

New Relationship:

Now released from responsibilities to focus on the healthcare impact of Covid on family members (both immediate and extended), Mary Lee no longer participates in the day-to-day growth of the venture and instead covers ground “closer to home.” “Mike” forges ahead and reassesses prospects after learning the impact of Covid on the economics of the target markets. Many businesses and customers alike are seeking more “creative” ways of obtaining services once paid for and that includes non-payment at a higher rate, and failure to perform by merchants at a higher rate as well. Phantom Records LLC and GP continue to encounter merchants, service providers, and clients who obtain services without intention to compensate and so are increasingly using software development strategies, courtesy of “Mike” (a recent 2nd-Undergraduate enrollee in Computer Science) is using to create special Apps that will accompany any kind of service or product request and establish an “escrow-style” Pre-Payment system for verifying a means to pay, literally by seeing funds ‘waiting” before expending resources preparing to or doing project work. At “Mike’s” level of expertise, inexperienced craftsmen in his field can learn from him simply by pretending interest to see his pre-sales workflow and then go and copy that to present themselves as more established. This sort of “dirty competition” seems more active now that we are pseudo-Post-Covid and the free money is winning. In “Mike’s” words: “So we’re back to this now.” Stay tuned to see what he does about that. In the meantime, Mary Lee will worry with less business-focused matters as she takes a long-term outlook on Covid-impact than presented by mainstream media.


(Managed by IT) GP Email: finance.monitor@phantomrecords.com
(Managed by IT) Mobile Workstation: +1 (240) 396-1735

(Still Operational) Live Receptionist: +1 (240) 203-8805
(Live Person: 9am – 5pm. M-F. US Eastern Time.)

Read Mike’s Back Story from Mary Lee’s Perspective…

This section has been retired. Hopefully, those of you who were interested grabbed a copy. When a new “Bonnie” to Michael’s “Clyde” becomes interested, and vetted, we’re certain “Mike” will write about it. We’re sure it will appear right here where you’d expect.

I suppose you can stay tuned for a new Dynamic Duo when and if God is Willing. (He’s really not that religious [“I’m Spiritual” – Says Mike] but some of us are on his behalf.)

To all of you: Go & find a party and dance all night!







DJ Mixes since '86