Our Team


Legal Role: Managing Member.
Functional Roles: Mac® User Experience Designer, Mac® Multimedia Designer, & Streaming DJ.
Desktop Softphone: +1 (240) 396-1736

Gaithersburg Receptionist: +1 (240) 203-8805
(Live Person: 9am – 5pm. M-F.)
(Text/Email 24/7.)

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Michael Widener joined Phantom Records quite some time ago. Back then, Michael was still in school and was determined to find a company that would allow him to use what he learned in school so that he could apply it on the job. For Michael, learning is a reward of its own but in the the work world, learning is only valuable if it adds more value than it costs. Michael wanted to be sure that he understood which learning helped the bottom line and which learning was simply for personal enrichment. Over the years, between 2000 and 2004, Michael noticed there weren’t very many degrees that combined his type of business and creative application of technology skills. Most either focused on technical skills without leadership, or business skills without tech literacy.

At that time, Michael had already added value in a start-up during his time at Gamescape Interactive that changed a market. He knew it was the combination of both of those disciplines that let him see how to execute his ideas for improving the customer experience in buying video games online. This included the critical step of giving the customer information and streaming video about a video game so the customer could make an informed decision and mitigate buyer’s remorse.

Following his application of business and technical creativity at Gamescape Interactive, Michael joined Phantom Records while it was a small, agile start-up, and then 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.

Along the way, Michael Widener has completed a few hundred credit hours of higher education across several Universities before choosing American University to graduate from. American was the only University with the appreciation for the inter-disciplinary nature of the skill set Michael was trying to build. In coordination with his Academic Advisor, now a Director, Michael worked with Marla Boren to build the degree from the ground up. It took over a year to get it approved but it later proved that Michael had vision even beyond that of the University at the time, a compliment that his Academic Advisor had no reservations pointing out to her co-workers while Michael listened. According to Michael, “Marla senses unwarranted lacks of confidence a mile away. When that happens, she guides students toward their classes or teachers matching their strengths or learning style to give to give them the best chance to prove their doubt was exaggerated. It worked on me.”

Michael’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 Michael’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 degree, 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.

Michael Widener holds the only Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Design and Development ever created in American University’s history. The closest degree is a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia. Michael went to school with many of the Bachelor of Arts students but wanted to add more computer science to his degree than was offered in the Bachelor of Arts version.

Together, the Multimedia graduates are a very technology-savvy cohort that has spread out to contribute in Graphic Design, Multimedia Production, and independent film-making to name a few.

Michael has used his education, professional experience, and ingenuity to add value in both technical and business areas. He has designed and developed this site using Photoshop, Dreamweaver, HTML, and CSS. He later converted this site to a content management system using WordPress, HTML, CSS and PHP. Michael has worked on several contracts using up-to-date technologies and methodologies.

Michael has over twenty years experience in Web Design and Development supported by the following: five years in Tech Support – including building computers from the ground up for customers according to their planned use; Novell Netware 3.11 Network Administration experience – including taking care of a network of 50 workstations that had Windows booting up from the server and had to integrate the boot-up script with the workstation’s hardware while providing the user’s personalized desktop even when the user logged in from different workstations; and an Internship with George Lucas – during which Mr. Lucas wrote Michael a personal, handwritten thanks for his contributions.

Never one to stop or slow down, Michael is currently attending school online to add updated Web Design and Development, updated Graphic Design, project and team-based video editing, and fun projects in music production to his skill set because he never gets too far away from his DJ roots or too far away from the technology trends that drive his field.

Mary Lee

Legal Role: Angel Investor/ Financial Manager.
Functional Role: Retired.
Desktop Softphone: +1 (240) 475-1735

Gaithersburg Receptionist: +1 (240) 203-8805
(Live Person: 9am – 5pm. M-F.)
(Email 24/7.)

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Mary Lee ran Phantom Records’ budgeting activities before retiring and leveraged her previous business and senior management experience to lead the company through the very early stages. As the company grew, and faced very specific technical and copyright challenges, the task of solving these fell to her Team. One of Mary Lee’s greatest business abilities is knowing when to, and to whom to, delegate full authority to act on business objectives using creativity, ingenuity, intuition, and experience to solve a problem even when the proof of value will take months to measure.

An early pivotal challenge in building the company was identifying its lead technology professional. Mary Lee knew Michael Widener and also knew that he had experience solving business problems using technology because of what he achieved during his time at Gamescape Interactive, his previous position, where he drove an entire market to change.

Michael Widener, created the first online video game retailer with streaming videos of game-play in 1996, during the time of dial-up modems, so customers could see the games before they purchased. A little known fact is that Michael also configured the ability for his customers to PLAY the games online before purchasing. But Internet bandwidth was too low for this so Michael settled for a 24-hour “test drive” to allow his customer to “Try Before They Buy” a game. This was also a compatibility test to make sure the game would run on his customer’s machine. Using his expertise in Network Administration, Tech Support, Web Design, & Business Marketing, Michael created such a buzz in the video game market that all major video game retailers that had online presences added streaming videos to their web pages and that is still the case today, 18 years later.

What is also a little known fact, is that Michael interviewed with GameSpot for a Web Designer IV position in 1999 after meeting a person from their HR department at a hiring event. That person became impressed with Michael’s accomplishments in New Zealand and asked him to apply. However, despite his accomplishments, the Team at GameSpot felt Michael’s site was not enterprise grade like theirs and did not consider him further for the position. It is curious, however, that following that interview during which Michael provided the URL to his site, GameSpot changed their site’s layout and were quick to adopt Michael’s tabbed layout and information architecture which featured aggregated reviews, a “summary page,” streaming videos of game-play, and artwork from the game’s manufacturer. GameSpot also added a “television style” “show” that streamed online for a while before discontinuing that. Michael has been been a long time fan (and paying member) of GameSpot and was disappointed that the Team did not recognize Michael’s accomplishment as worthy of consideration for employment. It appears instead, that Michael’s accomplishment was worthy of duplicating. Ultimately, GameSpot added copious amounts of game information, streaming videos, cheat codes, staff and user reviews, an awesome UI for the user reviews section, an updated account management system with gamification and badging, and evolved the site into a world-class experience. Of course it was sour grapes for Michael but that didn’t stop him from pressing on in his promising career as a Web Business professional.

Michael’s market vision with respect to areas he knows has, and continues to be, ahead. Mary Lee recognizes this and repeatedly puts Michael in charge of business objectives and gives him the freedom to tackle them in any way he sees fit.

Michael led the Team in the push to overcome the challenges presented by a) peer-to-peer-based copyright infringement, b) the technical hurdle of creating a shopping cart experience that protected the music, and c) figuring out how to protect the customer from buying songs already bought through iTunes. Michael was and is interested in protecting both sides of the online music buying process.

Following the company’s growth, the company moved to the East Coast to be closer to NYC and increase face-to-face meetings with NYC-based industry contacts. As the demands for increasing technical projects steadily rose, and while working to strengthen the company’s influence in the music industry, Mary Lee approved a strategy Michael Widener proposed to broaden Phantom Records’ product offerings to include “loaning out” the Team Members on contracts that had similar technological requirements and scopes that included websites with multimedia, streaming audio, streaming video, or otherwise similar “media types.” This new strategy allowed the company to bridge the gap between the recession and shrinking music industry profits due to piracy. It also allowed her Team to stay up-to-date with changing web technologies, best practices, and evolving web development methodologies.

DJ Mixes since '86