Andrew Rasse and Sean O’Neal’s Little Helpers imprint has served its purpose beyond the basic output of most record labels, putting out tracks from Jamie Jones, Tim Xavier and Lee Walker, they found themselves on Mixmag’s top 50 labels of the past ten years.
2019 marks the labels 10th anniversary as well, for which the two founders have brought together some of the labels most essential talents for a massive various artists release. Among the impressive tracklist you’ll find sounds from Stefano Noferini, James Dexter and Alexi Delano.
In celebration of the ten-year milestone, Butane and Someone Else agreed to speak with us about the early days of Little Helpers, the journey so far, and what’s coming up. You can find the full discussion below.
Little Helpers first launched in 2009, what were the biggest struggles you faced while releasing the first records?
Sean: To be honest, we didn’t really have any struggles at all. We both already had years of experience running our own labels, Foundsound and Alphahouse. We were both already well-connected to the people that work for Beatport, and after we brainstormed the idea of Little Helpers in a living room in Berlin, the rest was smooth sailing.
We contacted all the artists that we thought would be a good start for the label, as well as releasing our own music of course, and then it all went from there. And the label took off pretty nicely.
You’re celebrating the 10th anniversary with a VA album that includes music from Alexi Delano, James Dexter and yourselves, how did you go about selecting the tracklist for this one?
Andrew: We were holding a few tracks already from some of our artists, and I knew I wanted to make a DJ mix from the catalogue for our 10-year anniversary. The rest was just going down the list of our core artists and inviting them to contribute.
We couldn’t include everyone we wanted or the comp would have gotten way too big, so we did our best to prioritize tracks that represent a cohesive vision of Little Helper’s over the past decade, with an eye toward our future.
And what is your typical day to day regarding the label, do you manage it yourself or is there a team behind it?
Sean: We run it completely all on our own. We handle all the A&R, backend label management, etc. It’s always really been a two-man job.
Andrew: I’ll just add that we’ve had a few great people help us over the years: graphic designers, publicists for special projects, distribution partners, etc. but for the day-to-day, it’s just us. Sean screens the demos that come into our inbox and then it’s a lot of back and forth between us with the artists to hone the releases. I’m doing all the mastering myself now, too.
And in your opinion, what is the hardest role in managing a label that people might not know about?
Andrew: For this kind of label, it’s that you’re basically working a full-time job and not getting paid for it.
You have of course put out some physical releases, how did you find the transition to digital initially?
Sean: By 2009, we realized that the digital side of DJing was about to pretty much take over the market. It was inevitable. For a very long time before, we were vinyl enthusiasts. We were playing only vinyl for years. For one, we were often carrying two or even three bags of records to each gig. We would travel a lot, and it became very stressful to bring so many heavy bags on airplanes, and airlines often want more money for so many heavy bags.
But another reason was because of the high rise in digital labels. There are so many tracks that we would want to play that were not available on vinyl. So launching a label with a strong digital presence in the digital market was a logical progression due to the downslide of vinyl at that time. However, we still respect vinyl as well, so we do vinyl releases on Little Helpers one or two times per year.
We live in a time when there are thousands of new tracks coming out every day, what has been the key to keeping Little Helpers above the noise?
Sean: We are very strict about what we release. We often go back and forth for weeks with a demo before we decide if we should release it, and we often have the artists make multiple edits on tracks before we finalize a release. We take pride in ourselves for being super-picky and careful about what we release.
And two heads are often better than one, which helps makes this label stronger, being that sometimes we have different perspectives on certain things, which we feel compliment each other in the end to help create a stronger result. It’s a very strict and tedious process at times, but also very invigorating and passionate for us.
What record on your label are you most proud to have put out?
Sean: Most of them.
Andrew: I’ll agree, it’s hard to choose just one. There is admittedly some professional validation that comes with high profile guys like Jamie Jones or Stefano Noferini trusting us to release their original music, but I’m not really in this business for validation. I like digging out the unsung, deep, timeless stuff most of all; and we have plenty of that in our catalogue.
Who can we expect music from on Little Helpers in the near future?
Our current upcoming schedule:
Little Helpers 351 – REME (out now – July 9, 2019)
Little Helpers 352 – Lucio Agustin (July 23, 2019)
Little Helpers 353 – Odd Man Out (Aug 6, 2019)
Little Helpers 354 – Alexandro G & Bastien Groove (Sept 3, 2019)
Little Helpers 355 – Behache (Sept 17, 2019)
Little Helpers 356 – Butane & Riko Forinson (Oct 1, 2019)
Lastly, where do you see the label in a few years time?
Sean: Basically doing the same thing we have always done. Just keeping the quality at a top-notch level.
Andrew: It’s really hard to say on a personal level with life’s ebbs and flows I’ve always just taken things as they come. We’ve been slowing down a bit, signing and releasing less music than the past few years, with the goal of keeping quality high. I’ve written about five albums worth of studio material this year, and I need to stay concentrated on that first and foremost.
The label just kind of hums along in the background for me right now, in a good way. Plus, if Trump cheats his way to another victory in next year’s election, I’m probably going to close Little Helpers, stockpile a bunch of guns, and move to a remote beach or mountain somewhere outside the US. Enjoy it while it lasts!
Ten Years Of Little Helpers is out now.