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POSTED ON – 05.02.15

SSR London - Pioneer Demo and Record Label Event - Student Review
Pioneer Demo and Record Label Event - Student Review
We recently welcomed Pioneer UKDefected RecordsJuno RecordsBorn Electric Records & Juno Distribution to SSR London for a special event, taking a look at new Pioneer DJ equipment with their product specialist Rob Anderson which was followed by a record label discussion with representatives from Defected, Juno and Born Electric Records answering questions from the audience both in person and via social media.

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James Cee, a second year student on our BA (Hons) Electronic Music and DJ Practice course, was in attendance and was kind enough to submit a review of the event for us which you can read below:

James Cee - Pioneer/Record Label Event Review

"As soon as you stepped foot into SSR London’s studio complex you could feel the buzz in the air; the sound of techno and house pumping from the stunning Funktion-One rig (provided by PSL) ran through the veins of everyone in the room.

Pioneer’s Rob Anderson kicked the night off with a great introduction to the new XDJ-1000 and PLX-1000 products, speaking also about integrating the new Rekordbox 3 update into your Pioneer set up. His knowledge and expertise was evident and the audience were enthralled by his interesting demonstration of this new equipment that is set to be the future of DJing. He also briefly explained the new Kuvo system that could revolutionise underground music.

The night soon advanced and after learning all about the possible techniques and new features that the Pioneer consoles brought with them, it was time for the second part of the evening which was a discussion and Q & A with Defected Records, Juno Records & Juno Distribution and Born Electric Records.

The speakers started by giving an explanation of how they first got into the Dance Music Industry and what they were currently working on.

Taking the hot seat first, was Adam Moujahid aka Mouj, a DJ and true lover of underground house. He started his career in music by using the passion he had for going to parties and night clubs and wanted to make a living out of this. Adam did a couple of internships with management companies in the era when digital labels were really starting up. He then moved on to become a record label assistant at Last Night on Earth (Sasha's label) and then went on to start Born Electric Records alongside James Zabiela.

Joining Adam was Matt Brawn, head of all things digital at Defected Records, looking after everything from online marketing to videos and other content and beyond. Matt started by doing an internship at a music magazine at Streatham University (Knowledge Magazine), which lead to him being offered a part time roll at the Good Looking Record label in editorial, comms and social media. He then went on to work in advertising for 4 and half years before getting his job at Defected.

Last but by no means least to tell his story was Juno’s James Thompson, he told the story of how he first moved to London 20 years ago to study fashion but soon realised this wasn't for him and music was his true passion. He has worked with Juno Records for over 15 years, starting as an intern and working his way up, where he is now in charge of vinyl distribution. He also runs his own record label called Ornate Music and a DJ booking agency called Intro Bookings which are both extremely respected outputs within the underground dance music scene.

Key insights from the discussion and Q&A are below:"

Getting your tracks signed:
  • Keep an email to a label short and sweet with music downloadable but private on Soundcloud and other online streaming sites. You need to make it as easy as possible for the person you’re sending your email to, to be able to read and listen to your music.
  • Try and create at least a small following before approaching a label.
  • Tailor your communication and make it personal to the person you are sending it to. Make it known that you know something about their label and that your tracks style fits.
  • Also personalise the way you upload music when approaching certain labels.
  • Never send generic bulk e-mails CC’ing or BCC’ing people – these will get deleted straight away
  • The digital era is a blessing and a curse, it means it’s easier than ever to start a label and make music but also means the market is over saturated; it’s harder to get noticed and there’s a lot of bad stuff out there as well as good. This makes it harder for labels to choose the best people and for new artists to get spotted. It also means they are inundated with demos and promos so you need to go the extra mile to stand out.
  • Support the labels you want to get on – go to their events; put their tracks in your mixes and charts, why should they support you if you don’t support them?
  • It is important for the DJ / Producer / Artist to make relationships with artists and label managers. It's easier to get gigs by going out and meeting the right people than sitting at home in your PJ’s messaging people on the internet! This could also help with getting signed too as labels will be more likely to listen to your demo if they recognise your name.
  • Aim to get on some smaller labels that represent your style before aiming at bigger ones. It’s great to aim high, but big labels are less likely to pay attention to you if you haven’t already had some releases out. Bigger labels also sometimes licence tracks that have had a big interest when released on smaller labels first. Aiming lower could get things started quicker!
  • Producer who makes music of varying genres? When starting out this can potentially confuse labels so it might be a good idea to have different identities for each genre. Once you already have a fan base and a following then you can experiment a bit more with different genres under the same name.
Running a label:
  • It’s important when starting a label to know what you want it to be and have a plan and focus.
  • Also, make sure you plan how you will be getting the music out there. It’s great to have amazing music but how are you going to get it out there? There are lots of ways you can do this so make sure you put time into planning promoting the music as well as finding the artists and signing the tracks.
  • A lot of medium to larger labels also manage the artist and do events and have a booking agency and publishing and licensing. So this is something to consider too.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the artists to change their tracks if you think they need to be changed. That just shows you care and putting an input into the sound of the label is key to making it stand out. Some artists may not be used to this, so do it tactfully.
  • Someone asked if music theory was important for the people making the music and the people signing it; the answer was yes and no. Some amazing music has been made by people with music theory knowledge and some amazing music has been made by people without it too. It’s all about the sound of the music anyway, how it is made it irrelevant, as long as it sounds good! 
  • The Digital vs Vinyl debate – It is a lot easier and cheaper to run a digital label than a vinyl label but because of this, people often perceive labels that release vinyl as being of a higher quality than digital ones (even though in reality this isn’t always the case). Even if you are digital only you should still put as much thought into, and have as much belief in your music as if you were releasing on vinyl. If you are releasing on vinyl be careful about where you are selling it and look into P and D (Press and Distribution) deals too.
Other Considerations:
  • Adam said he is really excited with new artists, helping them get big and helping them release tracks which will potentially be being pushed by bigger labels; this can be very rewarding for both the artists and the label.
  • It’s also a really exciting time for the music industry and if you’re open and responsive to the constantly adapting changes because of advancements in technology then you will thrive.
  • Do it for the love and do something you’re passionate about and it will shine through and give you an edge over people doing it for the wrong reasons
  • Today it’s much harder to make it as just a DJ, than a DJ / Producer and vice versa. Now the norm is for people to be both. However, that’s not to say it’s impossible to make it as just one. To do this you have to really stand out from the crowd; carve out a signature sound that you’re recognised for that’s really original. As a DJ, make sure you concentrate on digging to find rare and exclusive records and also carving out a signature style too.
  • There are no rules and rules are made to be broken. What works for one person might not work for another. So make a plan but if you feel like to need to change it slightly as you go along then that’s fine.
Conclusion:

"Overall, it was a very interesting and inspiring event and a lot of knowledge was shared. The above is only some of the few key points I managed to make a note of during the session, there were many more things discussed on the night that were also very informative. As an SSR student myself, it was great to attend and be able to ask people who have been in the industry a lot longer than me questions and hear them impart their knowledge.

We have had a lot of guest lectures at SSR already but never more than 2 people at a time so it was great to have 3 / 4 people to ask things to at once and see how their opinions differed slightly on things." 

We would like to thank James for the above review and once again thank all our speakers and guests who came along for the event and helped make it such a success.

Keep an eye on the website for future events here at SSR!