For producers of any calibre, getting your music heard and ultimately signed by the right label is one of the most challenging aspects of an artists career. In an industry completely saturated by new content, where Soundcloud has in the region of 10m creators being heard on a monthly basis and barriers to entry for new producers at an all-time low, this panel hosted by Brighton native and long-time producer Timo Garcia was always set to attract huge interest.
Label Manager for Kerri Chandlers’ Madhouse and Madtech imprint, Simon Birkumshaw, was the first to take the mic to explain how the main label’s strategy is to largely seek out established artists for their release schedules, while the Madtech label forms part of Kerri’s personal mission to help support new and emerging artists coming through the scene. House music veteran and label manager for Classic Music Company, Luke Solomon tells the audience, “I’ve never been a demo listening person, I find that the music generally gravitates towards you” and that “surrounding yourself by likeminded people, networking with people, but in a good way, not pushy, not sending a demo 15 times, not doing a copy-all to 300 people on your demo email” is a good way forward.
Inbox congestion is a huge problem for artists all trying to get signed and all trying to get signed the same way – sending emails to the A&R guy. With A&R teams are overloaded with new music, what are some of the alternative approaches artists can take to get signed? Luke Solomon suggests that potentially self-releasing through Bandcamp, or pressing up vinyl is a factor which suggests some level of quality control in an artists work, as well as a path to success that very few artists perhaps consider: “I buy a lot of records, a lot of vinyl, I feel its an untapped pool of music, because people have put a lot of resources into it, so people like me will accidentally stumble upon it, it is a far better approach than just annoying the shit out of me. I pay little attention to stuff that gets fired at me on email. I spend most of my life buying music. I literally go on every single store to find music”. With 5 team members at Defected sitting on the A&R panel, they host regular A&R sessions to go through all the latest demos that have come in to the label, Solomon adds to simply, “be as outstanding as you can be with the music you make, don’t be sending me music you spent 3 hours making”. Through his work at Defected, Solomon was part of the team that turned Camelphat & Elderbrook’s ‘Cola’ into the Grammy nominated biggest selling dance hit of 2017, which came into the label via their managing director, but could have been a very different story for that record, “we all knew immediately this (Cola) was gonna be a big record, but I heard six months later about a well-known DJ who was sent their original demo for signing. He never bothered to open the email and only checked it six months after we had signed it” – highlighting the fact that potentially there are gold nuggets to be found even in places some A&R people may have given up on. From an artist perspective, Crosstown Rebels’ Just Her created her own pathway to success, by booking a label head for a DJ set in her hometown which helped develop a direct relationship with the label and get her demos into the hands of all the right people.
On the subject of just how many releases should artists be releasing each year, Tracey Fox from EDM behemoth Ultra says ”one a month is kind of what you have to do these days, but for some artists it’s 2-3 tracks per year. Do what’s best for you. There’s no point in releasing something if it’s not right”. Luke Solomon suggests that it all boils down to whether you are making records purely to get gigs and go on the road, or you want to build a career as an artist, using the example of the legendary Pepe Braddock who has been in the game for 25 years now and still in huge demand for gigs, yet only releases one or two records a year, but every record he does release is outstanding.
There was some debate around whether social numbers for artists are as important, if not more important than the music itself these days, with Luke adding that in some areas “you could probably put a kick drum out and get booked these days”, but ultimately everything goes back to the music.