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Industry Insider

Breaking down barriers: a year with Corona and our mental health

By Industry Insider

Within a year we’ve seen the world we know and love come to a complete standstill. It’s hard to pinpoint anywhere across the world that hasn’t been affected in some way by the Corona shit show over the past 12 months. With many of us now out of work and an industry that has come to a complete standstill the effects on all of us have been unprecedented. It’s no wonder that Mind spoke to 16,000 people during the last national lockdown and found that nearly two thirds (60%) of people said that their mental health got worse.

In our industry mental health is already so prevalent, it’s something that needs to be addressed and talked about more often. From erratic touring schedules to late nights and the excess that goes with it as well the pressures that artists and others involved experience in bringing amazing parties together for us. It’s no wonder that many across our industry can suffer.

In times of struggle, it’s fair to say that sharing each other’s experiences can be a real help. It’s important to talk and be there for each other. With this in mind, we’ve caught up with some of our favourite selectors and promoters to ask them to share their experiences, the ups and downs of the pandemic as well as turning our attention to mental health awareness and wellbeing.

DJs //

VOIGTMANN

The UK at the moment is rock bottom with its nightlife industry. What repercussions can you see for our culture and the industry moving forward if nothing is done?

Lots of people will be struggling to keep their businesses open and keep their staff as for most of them there is 0 income and very little to no government support. Esp. the nightlife industry has been left behind by the government and many freelancers/self-employed artists fell through the net of support and are struggling to stay afloat. There’s is a huge dent in the ongoing rich development of UK music/club culture.

 

Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

I feel I am in a fairly good position compared to others –  I carved out a solid position in the music business over the year and know it will return to it to some sort of degree after all is back to normal. Yet, I felt onsets of mild depression creep up as people like us are always busy and thrive off that. Suddenly, we had weeks of no business and simply sitting around waiting for ‘better times’. These are quite existential worries as I had left a solid job in architecture to be a self-employed musician. Scary to have all outlook taken away after years of fighting to establish yourself and earn a good income from it.

How do you think people reading this article can help stand against what is happening to our industry at the moment?

Generally, stay POSITIVE! I can only urge people to support their local scene, pubs, DJs, clubs etc…These are creative people are trying to keep the scene alive and can do with any support. Go see your fav DJ play even if it’s a sitdown gig when you can. Fight back – together we are strong!

 

SILVERLINING

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles in this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

Lockdown was / is, without doubt, a challenge. We’re social animals and the extended time away from friends and family members felt alien and definitely caused different forms of anxiety. Firstly, there was the cabin fever of being at home for so long; then so many of us were unable to do what we love and enjoy music communally; and there was also all the professional uncertainty for creatives such as myself. We had Zoom calls and mix streams, but we found ourselves on them every day in some way or another, whether for work, kids’ schools, family, and friends. You end up existing as a miniaturised, pixelated, avatar of your real self. I recall a moment during one live stream over the summer when I looked up from the DJ booth only to see a single red light of the camera ogling at me eerily, like Hal 9000, and had into a moment of pure existential funk, wondering how we got to this. It is all completely unprecedented, and we are not equipped for these circumstances.

Overcoming this kind of negative headspace requires some work so you really have to fight lest it takes over. I’ve found that cardio exercise, yoga, meditation, eating well, reading books, being creative, all help to keep those happy hormones flowing. You don’t even need to do a lot to make a difference to your wellbeing, but it can take some effort to get over the mental barriers to do them in the first place. It’s also important to talk to friends and share feelings as everyone is going through this together.

What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

The uncertainty has definitely been a huge challenge for so many people I know. This has also opened up a host of questions as to what one’s purpose is in life, especially when being met with the apathy — and even hostility — in government policy this year. Those events that have been able to take place did so under surreal conditions. The scene is not even a shadow of what it was a year ago. All this has come as a shot out of the blue at time when music was really thriving, so it’s definitely taken its toll on many people.

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you? How have you been spending your time?

I’m glad you asked this, as I think there are a lot of positives that we should embrace. Spending much more time with family has been really rewarding. I’ve also enjoyed taking things more slowly production-wise, and not feeling rushed to get things done. You always get there in the end. With two album projects and tons of remixes coming next year, I’ve had plenty to keep me on my toes. I’ve cut back massively on social media use, and recently deactivated Facebook. I have to say that not being on that newsfeed has been a real godsend. This has freed a lot of spare time for more productive and rewarding things like reading, cooking, and organising records.

Any other comments you would like to make…

Linked to what I just said about social media, I have read several studies and articles* that establish links between social media usage and mental health deterioration. During the pandemic, social media use has skyrocketed as a coping mechanism as it’s natural that people want to connect with others online while in isolation. However, due to the addictive design of sites like Facebook and Twitter, increased social media use is likely to exacerbate depression, anxiety, FOMO and feelings of inadequacy. Much like a slot machine, the dopamine craving sends us back to these sites in pursuit of a feeling that may never come. On top of this, we have trolls, bots, misinformation, and targeted advertising to further lighten our moods! I shudder to think of the amount of time I’ve freely volunteered to Facebook, feeding their AI for this company’s benefit and not my own.

So I would make a few gentle suggestions if these harms resonate with you: you can limit your time by deleting smartphone apps, and setting timers on your computer using apps like Hey Focus. If you can, deactivate your personal Facebook and keep your page active via a second account. This way, you still keep your connections and artist/business page, if needed. Instead, give your friends a call or text, and use the rest of your time more creatively.

*For example:

http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7338858/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200929152149.htm

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm

 

REVIVIS

 

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

Covid has certainly had an impact on my own mental health. Having restrictions placed on how you live your life has meant I’ve found myself with more time on my hands which has generally meant more time on my own and with my thoughts. I’m mostly a positive person and I’m extremely lucky that generally, I don’t suffer a huge deal with mental health, but with more time to think, and being overwhelmed with negative media and covid stats/deaths via social media, etc, it’s not always easy to stay positive and motivated. I could find myself overthinking things and being overly sensitive.

 

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you? How have you been spending your time?

Covid has given me more time to work on my own productions and to experiment with the different styles of my sound, I feel my sound has evolved a lot in this period. I’ve also taken the time to learn my equipment in more depth – lots of time on YouTube!

I’ve been listening to more music of various genres and I’ve tried to educate myself more on the origins of house and techno and the sub-genres in particular. Away from music, I’ve been cooking more and studying German. I’ve also realised that I can live a much simpler life and figured out what and who is important to me

 

How do you think people reading this article can help support what is happening to our industry at the moment?

I think supporting music firstly is the most important thing. If you’re able to buy music directly from the artists, that’s great, if not sharing music online and via social media helps.

If you can, donate to any of the clubs, labels, parties, etc. that are struggling. If not, share and spread the word.

Finally, educate yourself and try to understand the different types of mental health problems, and be kind.

 

MILLER – REAL GANG

Mental health is something you guys have really pushed to raise awareness off over the past 12 months. Why is that?

Life as a modern day adult has its struggles as it is, when you mix that with restrictions and repeated lockdowns, we feel we are at a time that we are unaware of the effects this is having in the long run. Being solely involved in an industry of events, most of my network has been suffering with the crippling obvious loss of work, cancellations and also moments of connecting. We feel like the dance floor has gave us an extended family, for these people it is a huge part of their lives and celebrating at shows is their freedom. We wanted to step out of comfort zone and push a message that we as Real Gang want to send a genuine and message, rather than always positive when in reality life is not built on these times alone. Our intentions of bringing people together with a message to “save our people” has been our push to do our part, to highlight the matter of normalising mental health within our industry and our people.

 

Tell us more about your ‘Save Our People’ campaign?

The Real Gang “Save Our People” campaign was our input to mental health in which we have partnered up with the Samaritans charity. A clothing line with bold statements in support of the cause. The clothing can be found directly from our website www.realgang.co.uk with 100% of proceeds going to Samaritans charity.


How have you kept yourself active and positive during these times?

Music is my life so as long as I have my studio, my machines, my ears, I can always have my safe place. It has been tough without the usual inspirations around but it has been a time that has challenged me with a nightmare scenario and I have kept myself going, growing and I chose to spend the time on myself. My learning will keep me going as I smile at the thought of brighter days

 

DAN CURTIN

Can you share your own experiences and struggles in this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

It has been a rough time with the loss of gigs and income for sure.  That has been my main trouble, we can all imagine what it means to a family to lose a good portion of income.  So I’ve had to work in different ways to try to make up for it all and I’ve had to stay mentally strong and optimistic in order to be able to handle the extra stress.  This means more work than before and the need for extra determination, more discipline, and more passion.  It’s hustle time!  Hustle harder than last time for sure.

How have you been spending your time?

I’m naturally an optimistic person, always looking to find the silver lining so it hasn’t been that tough on me apart from the added stress as a result of loss of income and future income.  With no traveling I’ve been able to work more in other areas and develop my music career with a tighter focus on production work.  So I’ve actually been busier than ever in that regard.   I’ve been laser focused on my health and fitness (although during the first lock down I drank waaaaaay too much!) so that helps tremendously.

Not making that mistake again during this current lockdown! Bodybuilding is a serious hobby of mine and that has really been an asset to me during this time.  Even with gyms closed never skipping training, never falling off the nutrition plan – never, not once – that really helps.  Healthy and strong body is the foundation for a healthy everything else.  Additionally when schools were closed we had to home school our daughter which was incredibly time consuming but very rewarding, again this was a big help to maintain the focus and have purpose.  Even now, the schools are open but in a limited fashion so there is always school work to occupy our time.

 

Any other comments you would like to make…

Stay strong, stay positive, stay determined, try to get outside, and try to move, seek out help if you need it, don’t stay alone. There is always somebody around who is willing to help.

 

PROMOTERS //

OLLI RYDER

ANIMAL CROSSING

You guys have been one of the very few promoters who have managed to pull off events during this period to really high standards! What was your vision for these when you planned them?

Firstly, thank you for the kind words! It was something we were super proud to have worked on and delivered to a standard that created similar energy and atmosphere to what you would expect at any AC party. Music is all about connecting likeminded souls and I feel as if we successfully achieved that from the feedback we received. It was just amazing to hear music blaring from a function one system and see people dancing again after such a long hiatus.

A lot of energy and resources always goes into ensuring the experience is unique and remembered. The regulations didn’t interfere in that sense, your eyes and ears were engaged at all times. It’s by no means what we’re all used to but in these times we can happily say we were able to adapt, innovate and grow.

This whole period has allowed us to reflect further and grow an even deeper appreciation for what we do. We just love throwing parties for the people and getting the opportunity to showcase our favourite artists in the City we love, we will always find new ways to dance no matter the circumstance and we can assure anyone reading we will be coming back bigger, bolder and better than ever before.

 

You recently did a live stream from your new venue The Loft and worked closely with MIND to help raise awareness of mental health. Tell us about this?

 Giving back is something we have always wanted to put at the forefront of the brand, as we grow we want to help as many people around the world as we possibly can. There are wider projects and concepts we’re working on behind the scenes that we’re super excited to share when the moment is right.

This period of self reflection has again been so helpful for us, if you sit back and really analyse what you have, a wave of gratitude hits and it opens your eyes to a much bigger picture. Mental health is a topic that affects so many in our industry and is more relevant now than ever before; to be able to utilise the Loft and collaborate with MIND to get people dancing and donating was something we’re proud of.

Sending another massive thanks to Michael James and Josh Baker for performing and to everyone who tuned in, we couldn’t have asked for a more meaningful response.

We just love our community, people share the same caring ethos that encourages you to keep progressing.

 

One thing we love about you guys is how positive you have kept over this year. It’s refreshing to see. Any tips to keep spirits up during this time?

A smile a day keeps everything okay my man haha!

We have always been a firm believer of radiating the positive and fun energy with everything we do. It’s easy for a negative thought process to take over your day, so if we can do anything at all to bring a smile to someone’s face then we’re utilising our platforms in the right way.

Positives can be taken in any scenario, the more you focus on them the more you can be at peace, be happy and continue to grow internally. Don’t worry about what you can’t control, work on the internal self and the rest will come.

 

EOIN SMYTH + DAVE BROWNING
FOUNDERS at GAME OVER (One Night Stand, Wildchild)

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles in this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

ESWe’ve gone through the ups and downs of COVID from both a personal and business standpoint like everyone else. 2020 would have been our biggest year to date at Game Over with over 120 shows planned across our event brands and client operations. I think personally the uncertainty of the future has been the hardest pill to swallow. We spent months working out ways we could pivot to work within the rules but alas every step forward was met with two steps back as the rules kept changing. The continuous speculation definitely takes its toll. There’s been plenty of times where we’ve sat there thinking. “WTF is the point, should we just throw in the towel now and move forward”. Those dark moments are usually fixed by digging a little bit deeper, playing a few bouncy records remembering that we absolutely love what we do and this should all be temporary ☺

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you?

ES: For the first time in a long time. I’ve allowed myself to have a break. Re-focus my attentions on myself, my relationships, family, friends etc. We’re usually in a strange bubble where we are 24/7 on the go. Time has flown by over the past years working in Ibiza and it’s rare I’ve taken a moment to press pause and reflect. It’s nice to be able to explore new ideas and opportunities while having some physical downtime. I’m definitely back in the game fitness wise so can finally see that Mens Health front cover on the horizon. You heard it here first hahaha!

Workwise we’ve found ourselves in so many exciting projects over the past 6 months. We look after the marketing and digital side of things for Carl Cox and a host of other clients and the shift to online overnight was incredible. With Carl we’ve helped put together an amazing weekly live stream series called Cabin Fever where Carl gets a chance to dig deep into his 150k Vinyl’s and really showcase his taste in music from funk and soul to 90’s rave and every in between. The response has been outstanding and it’s been real pleasure to work on. We’ve also raised thousands of pounds for varying charities over the course of lockdown with the many live streams and projects taken on. So that’s been a plus and something our industry is magic at.

 

How do you think people reading this article can help stand against what is happening to our industry at the moment?

DB: People who have been around as long as I have remembered we were faced with an assault on the scene in the 80’s . At that time concerted and collective action was the way sense was restored. As human beings we have a right to congregate, to dance and to socialize. All of those rights have been taken away and with that a whole sector of the economy has been destroyed, if swift and concise action is not taken now it may never recover. This is not a time for apathy , this is not a time to blindly obey this is a time to question , understand and then act. At the moment we are being very skillfully divided and confused , a leader need to step forward with the ability to galvanize people into collective action before its to late and we will be the generation who stood by and watched as our world imploded

 

KERRY WALLACE

S.A.S.H

Mental health for many has declined over the past few months. Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time as a result of COVID and the current restrictions?

Personally I’ve been fine, I think I was well overdue a rest after almost 10 straight years of S.A.S.H every Sunday, so when COVID kicked off & everyone was locked down, initially I was happy to take the break. Of course, like everyone else, I had no idea that it would be almost a full year my business would be shut down & if someone had told me that from the beginning I’d say my mental health may not have been as good as it has the whole way through.

What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

I think the uncertainty, financial worries & lack thereof from different countries governments support really would be the main factors. When will my venue open? When will my gigs/bookings start again? Is the third wave about to begin & put us back to square one? How the hell am I going to pay rent? Obviously everyone’s situation is different, but I think the above points have all come into play for most of us.

My personal situation here in Sydney is that I’ve been lucky enough to have had some savings to keep myself & my staff afloat. We’ve kept active with the brand all the way through & just recently started back with COVID safe events under the brand S.A.S.H Social. The government too here has been helpful with a wage subsidy called “Jobkeeper” which of course helps, although doesn’t touch the sides in way of monthly costs we’ve had to keep up. But things for us are on the way back & I feel lucky that we are in Australia right now.

 

 

How do you think people reading this article can help support what is happening to our industry at the moment?

If you know someone within our arts & music scene check in with them, make sure they’re not secretly suffering & if you have an inkling they are, do something about it. I’m sure the smallest gesture would go a long way for anyone in a bad headspace.

Otherwise, if you can’t do anything right now, once the venues are back open & your friends are out playing gigs – GO OUT & SUPPORT THEM. Pay double if you can for door entry, re-post your friend’s gigs, do anything you can to support those once they are back open/working!

Any other comments you would like to make…

A little msg to my friends around the globe in the industry that have had it tough hang in there…. It’s been a complete shit show for everyone. But there is light at the end of the COVIDE tunnel & we’ll get there at some point together. Just keep in the back of your mind how fucking EPIC the parties/gigs will be once we are all open/working again…. That’s what’s kept a smile on my face – Stay strong peeps xxx

 

WILLIAM POWER

TRMNL

The UK at the moment is rock bottom with its nightlife industry. What repercussions can you see for our culture and the industry moving forward if nothing is done?

Many people who have committed their lives to the industry are questioning what the future holds. The government appear to have turned their back on us and we are already at a stage where some irreversible damage has been done. Whether you’re a creative, artist, venue owner/promoter, security guard, production team etc – next time around would you make that same commitment to your trade? If you have a family or people that rely on you – are you even able to make that same commitment knowing that there would be no support for you? I think we will have lost some great contributors to local & international scenes. The longer this goes on, the more we will lose.


What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

Media. Social and mainstream. We are living in the age of misinformation. How do we distinguish what is true and what is false? Everywhere you look there is a mainstream media outlet pushing a fear campaign. They are closer to a government or corporate PR company than an impartial voice for the many.

Socially everyone has a viewpoint (which by right they are entitled to) – but how has that been construed by a 4thhand article with a click bait headline. Or a conspiracy theory posted by an “influencer”. What about the stories based on actual first hand experiences – then slammed by a mob of keyboard trolls. The confusion alone is dividing people more than uniting them.

 

What positives if any have come out of this period for you?

Spending time with my family and 18 month old daughter. Spending some time doing other things that I enjoy and catching up with friends that you don’t get to see when you work every weekend.

I love that feeling of working under pressure and being part of things that come together in the 11th hour. When you’re in that zone, you can achieve a whole different level of productivity. But, you can also make the wrong decisions at times. This period has made me take a step back and look at things differently. What is important, who is important. How can we do things better, more efficiently, work better as a team.

 

INDUSTRY HEADS //

ANDREW LEESE –
SOCIALLY SOUND

Any tips for people who may be struggling with their mental health at the moment?

Cleanse your social media feeds. I did this with my Twitter account during the lockdown and honestly, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. So many people are going onto social media and coming off it angry with what they are reading and who they are engaging with. Social media timelines are a toxic place if you let them.. Take control of them and use them with a purpose and you will be amazed what inspiration you find.

Two other things I need to do a lot more of is exercise and drink more water. That’s the negative side of lockdown and being inside so much, our bodies can survive on a lot less.

 

What do you think are the main factors contributing to a decline in mental health in the industry currently?

I think a lot of people who are involved in our industry whether professionally or as a clubber use music events as an escape from reality. Now, the dance floor has been taken away from people. We are constantly facing what is a very grim reality.

Obviously, what some people consume on those nights out can affect mental health in so many ways, but it’s those memories and stories that we live for and right now, we’ve got nothing else to look forward to. Something so trivial as having nothing to look forward to can also negatively impact your mental health, especially so during a global pandemic.

Money is another factor, probably now more than ever. We’re either saving money by not going to gigs and festivals every weekend or we don’t know where our next penny is coming from.

 

Can you share your own experiences and struggles at this time? 

Furlough and lockdown in a weird way have been a blessing for me personally. Last year, I’d definitely gone way past the burn-out phase. The start of 2020 was a rocky one,  I was working outside of the music industry for the first time in over six and a half years.

In late February, I started a new role back in the music industry – three days before the furlough cut-off point. If I started a week later, I’d have been in a really bad way financially and even more so mentally.

What lockdown and furlough gave me, was time to think, reflect and be honest with myself. I was made redundant from my role in August but those four months of free time gave me the chance to build a business plan for a new company, be financially stable and move out of London because right now, I don’t need to be there.

LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH //

 

If you’re struggling yourself at the moment what can you do? We caught up with Stephen Buckley from MIND charity to see what advice he can offer. Mind, the mental health charity provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problems.

What advice would you give to anyone struggling at the moment?

“It’s important to remember that there is no normal response to the pandemic and your feelings may change day to day. Because of this, it’s important to maintain your wellbeing during this time and connecting with other people is a vital part of this. Talking to someone you trust can help you manage your feelings, as many people find that sharing their experiences can help them feel better. If you’ve noticed changes in your thoughts, feelings and behaviour that are having an impact on your daily life, last two weeks or longer or keep returning, speak to a GP if you can.”

Are there any tips on how to look after your mental health?

“Our physical and mental health are closely linked so it’s important to eat well, stay hydrated and to try and take part in some physical activity, if possible, outside, as being in nature can really benefit our mental health. You might also find that it helps to express how you are feeling about the pandemic creatively. This could be writing, drawing, painting or any other creative way that feels helpful to you. Journaling can also be helpful, as keeping track of what you’ve been doing and how you’ve been feeling can be helpful in identifying what helps improve your mood.”

 

What do you think have been the main causes of a decline in mental health during this time?

“People are really struggling with isolation, stress, grief and fears about the future, and for those of us who were already experiencing mental health problems, things may feel especially difficult. We also know that there is a strong link between issues like financial difficulties, poor housing and poor mental health. So, factors like job insecurity, unemployment, low paid work and redundancy could have a knock-on impact on mental health.”

 

What services does Mind offer and how can Mind help?

“Mind has lots of information and advice on how to look after your mental health during this time available on our website at mind.org.uk and our Infoline is open 9am-6pm, Monday-Friday (except Bank Holidays). Side by Side, Mind’s online peer support community, can also be helpful in getting support from others who have their own experiences of mental health problems. Side by Side is available to all, 24/7, and is moderated daily from 8:30am to midnight.”

One thing that is clear from all this is the importance of being there for each other, showing compassion and care for others and standing united. It’s ok to not feel ok. What’s important is you reach out and share your struggles.

Sending love to everyone from us all here at Meoko. Please don’t be afraid to reach out and stay safe X

Words by Jordan Diston

MEOKO Industry Insiders: Getting Signed Part #1

By Industry Insider

 

 

In this series, we will be taking you behind the scenes in areas right across the industry. From A&R to agents, to door pickers, to lighting and sound plus the rest. Let’s take a look behind the music and see what’s popping.

This month we will be offering some insight into the beautiful minds of label owners to discover what they’re looking for when picking music for their imprints…

You’ve done the hard work; you’ve spent years perfecting your sound and you’ve finally got some ammo to show the world. But where do you start and what’s good practice when approaching labels?

Let’s find out >>

Burnski / Instinct  – Constant Sound / Aesthetic / Instinct

What do you look for when signing artists?

It all just boils down to the music for me. I just listen for anything that really grabs my ear.

It’s a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

Don’t treat it like a competition. I would focus on improving your craft and making your music as good as possible over trying to stand out. Compare your progress to your own, you’ll see it coming on each year and that should give you all the motivation you need.

One way to stand out is to trickle into the gaps of what’s out there at the moment. Usually, people start out emulating what’s hot at the moment. You play that game for a bit but then if you start going the other way to that, dig deeper into the archives of music out there, you probably start making stuff that isn’t a flavour of the month at the moment.

I feel you’re more likely to stand out doing that as you’re going off on your own away from the crowd. You might then find yourself doing something other people aren’t and people start playing that and all of a sudden you might be at the forefront of it.

I wouldn’t consciously try and do that to stand out though, do it just people you dig the music. You won’t suck all the magic out of it then and get caught in the game of making music to get somewhere.

A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

I once asked a pretty known guy for a demo. He sent me 4 tracks and it wasn’t right for the label. I let him know politely and he kicked right off and blocked me. It really took me back and I thought about it a lot after. I didn’t think any less of him, but I found it quite fascinating. There’s no point signing music that doesn’t really resonate with you.

https://www.facebook.com/180183132001497/videos/2663385410410086

On the opposite, I have worked with other guys and finalized an ep after back and forth for 6 months because they go away and want to get their head down and really crack it. Sometimes it takes a while to get the ep over the line. It’s got to feel right, and you know when it does.

I don’t want to tell anyone how they should do things but you have a choice which mentality you want to have. Just ask yourself, does it serve you well? Will it get me the best results? Will this make me get better at my craft?

Cinthie – WE_R HOUSE

What do you look for when signing artists?

 Sound-wise I’m mostly looking for house music but it can be disco house, 90ies house, deep house, UKG, some raw stuff. But when I’m signing music, it has to work on the dance floor and I’m always telling people to get out of their comfort zone and don’t just send me the generic house track I’ve already heard 5 million times.

But the tracks can be the best in the world if the artist is an asshole, I don’t sign it. The vibe between us also needs to be right. Also, I love to have fresh artists first and don’t really like to release people who already had 20 releases in 4 months, it’s nothing special then for me.

How do you like to be approached when someone submits a demo to you?

 I like a friendly little mail with a private Soundcloud link with up to 6 tracks. If I want more, I will ask for more. But more than 5,6 tracks is too much in my humble opinion. Add a few facts about you, maybe name, where you are coming from and if you had any previous releases. That’s how I like it.

What I don’t recommend is to send out mass emails, send me a mail with “hello Frank etc etc “ ( that’s not my name ), also I don’t really like to see 2000 plays already for the tracks on Soundcloud.

Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

Always be friendly and send your best tracks and try to keep them a bit diverse. There seems to be a formula at the moment, that always works but it will get boring after a while, so please always get out of your comfort zone and try not to sound like everyone else. Do a bit of research about the label. Sending a banging Techno EP to a nice house label does not look very professional.

A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

I usually always test tracks on the dancefloor, then I know if I wanna sight it or not. I also believe that after 24 years in the business I have some kind of experience of what works and what I want.

So far every artist I signed has only released with me once. I just wanted to support as many friends as possible but I will start now to also have a second release by some artist, just to help them grow and maybe tie them a bit more to me. But I have to see, especially for the more unknown artists, releasing with me is sometimes a good door opener. And as I said in the question above, I don’t really like an artist that does labels – hopping. Because then it’s not so special for me anymore and I rather release someone else.

Yaya – Tamango

What do you look for when signing artists?

I immediately know if a track can fit for Tamango or not. I’ve listened to so many records in my life that I kind of recognize in a few seconds if a track fits with the style of the label, both regarding the overall sound used and the mixdown part. I do basically the same thing that I do when I go digging in the record shop: picking 3 diff parts of the tracks and listen to them for a few seconds. If I like the track, I listen to it more carefully to know exactly if it can be signed on the label.  The main element that I’m the most interested in is the groove.

Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

First of all, I really like it when they send their email to the correct one hahaha!!! (promo@yayamusic.net). I also like some little introduction about them and their previous releases. Please do not send me music through Facebook/Instagram. Also, make sure that it’s a specific email and not forwarded to 100 contacts.

Make you sure that your music features a lot of grooves, a good dose of energy and an infectious bassline. I’m a real house music lover in all the different facets so on the label, despite the inevitable direction that I’m trying to do, I’m open to diff sounds and approaches.

It’s a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

Nowadays, an artist needs first to do EXCELLENT music. There are a lot of you talents around and the competition is stiff. He should try to create a kind of cool-character, image and needs to work out on the social stuff. This doesn’t mean to take 142343 photos in the studio or doing too much content but simply give a kind, nice and cool image out with some sick videos, meme or anything music and not music-related.

DJ W!LD – Dailycid

What do you look for when signing artists?

Good music that fits with the line of one of my labels, nothing more. If it’s for an EP, I am trying to look for a few tracks with a different flavour but fits together in some way. If it is an album, something more personal with a few dancefloor bombs. I also look for artists where I see the good potential and who can fit with the spirit of my labels to make them grow with labels and create a solid crew around it.

How do you like artists to approach you when submitting demos? 

The best is by email but at the end, I receive them everywhere, Facebook, Instagram Messenger, WhatsApp…The easiest is maybe with SoundCloud private link.

Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

-Try to send the right number of tracks (I did the mistake a few times to send too much then is really difficult to focus well on each one)

– Don’t be pushy (at the end the people who want to sign you will get back to you)

-Try to make sure the people you send the tracks received them

-Try to send tracks which fit with the line of the label (otherwise labels will refuse the tracks and have the wrong image of your sound)

– Even if the label says no and gives you some tips. Use them and come back later with more tracks.

A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

Most of the time I choose artists and tracks that fit already perfectly to my label, but also when needed I explain what I think could be done to fit better on my label. Using my experience in production and working the dancefloor for many years to give the tips and advice I can, to help the artist grow when I see this ability in them.

SY – EWax

What do you look for when signing artists?

As a label, we look for individuality and fresh creativity to the way they make their music, I feel that is key for finding the right artists to work with and not an artist who feels they have to imitate other more successful artists’ sounds.

How do you like artists to approach you when submitting demos?

This very simple, information is everything, It doesn’t take a lot just to tell me a bit about yourself and which artists may have influenced you and your sound, add some basic details on the music you’re presenting to us, so we have a small idea if it is fitting to us or not. This is missed so much these days and really puts me off listening to the music. It’s not rocket science.

It’s a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

It is a very competitive, yes, there are so many young artists coming through right now, the standards are very high, the highest I’ve seen since I made this a full-time career some 10 years ago, so I would say first and foremost the music, If it’s good enough that will do the talking for you, secondly, in these times social media presence is everything, so make sure this is all kept up to date and you’re using your socials effectively to present and project you and your music.

This very simple, information is everything, It doesn’t take a lot just to tell me a bit about yourself and which artists may have influenced you and your sound, add some basic details on the music you’re presenting to us, so we have a small idea if it is fitting to us or not. This is missed so much these days and really puts me off listening to the music. It’s not rocket science.

Dudley Strangeways – Leftback

What do you look for when signing artists?

The main thing for Leftback is that the music is good and fits with the labels sound but also the artists is someone we want to work with for a long time, this is usually down to if we think the person has something unique sounding to their productions. Most of the artists, but not all have a relationship with the label already mainly through being involved in events or through partying over the years.

Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

Read the labels demo submission guidelines as it can differ for each label. Do some research on the label, hopefully, it’s a label you’re into and you already have some of their releases so it can’t hurt to mention a track you’ve been playing or listening to. It can show the label you’re interested in them and you’ve not sent another CC all email. If you create a playlist it can’t harm to create a specific playlist per label with their logo so it’s a little more personal as it may grab their attention, it just leads to shitloads of playlists!

 

A&R is a really refined process. How do you work with artists to get their best work from them?

 It’s good to have a selection of tracks to choose from to make an EP up. It’s always hard when you get sent a few bangers and nothing else that fits, not a massive fan having a load of remixes done on one track for a release. This is especially the case for wax as the DJ playing the record is mainly going to play one track from the release and sometimes space can be tight in a record bag.

Those are the records I will leave rather than a 12” that’s got 4 really wicked tracks on, but maybe that’s just me. Sometimes we may ask the artists to change something in the track but this is generally “a would you mind trying this and see if it sounds better”, but the artists will always have the final say if we didn’t like the track there would be no point in sighing it in the first place! We do mix the tracks on occasion if we feel that the music is really interesting but the mix is not 100% up to scratch and the tracks are all mastered in house giving us creative control over those elements, but again with the artist having the final say. Ideally, anything that needs doing to ensure that the release sounds and works as good as possible for what we’re putting out.

Do you offer feedback to demos submitted?

Not all the time if the person who’s submitted the demo has taken the time to send a detailed and personal email with the music something close to what we release I will always try and give feedback. I think this is important as it’s not an easy thing sending demos to labels and can be a fairly daunting process. You’ve put something you’ve created out into the world and don’t get anything back. It can really mess up some people’s confidence, and this is the sole reason Leftback was started as none of the larger labels would respond to demos sent from myself and Michael.

TC80 – Sequalog

What do you look for when signing artists?

Usually, it’s music from friends or people I meet. But I’m interested in artists who have their own signature, even if it sounds classic. I don’t really care about the trend, I prefer timeless music.

Any tips for artists when trying to get signed?

I would say don’t focus on the trends but develop your own musical identity. With time and practice, the quality will rise and it will sound outstanding compared to the mass. Even if it’s very special, better to stay true to the sound you like and resonate with. It’s also cool to receive tracks with playful arrangements, which captivate the audience, telling a story and keeping the intensity climax around the end, before the outro.

It’s a competitive industry. How do you think artists can stand out?

I think it can be cool to work on some decent marketing to accompany a release’s artists. Nice artwork, story, music video, etc… But regarding the creative music process, I would recommend to not think about the result. More important to focus on the practice and a natural expression, being present, crafting the skills step by step and being bold to sound different. With time all of this leads to quality. Then it’s about getting in touch with people/DJ/label owners resonating with artist’s music. If you can try your tracks in a real club situation, it can be helpful to identify things you might want to tweak or change.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Being aware of what you feel and going with the flow. Sometimes it can be chill downtempo, sometimes punchy club orientated, most important is to stay true.

To produce club tracks, I would recommend taking the time to listen to other types of music than exclusively dance music or trends.

For example listening to your favourite music from your childhood, adolescence, world-traditional music, etc… If you are deeply resonating with those different sounds/inspirations, it can naturally constitute your sonic palette that you can use to produce outstanding dance music. Ultimately practising to be in a creative state let things happen by themselves, witnessing presence and life itself. In this state, it’s not the self/ego trying to exist through expression anymore but pure flow.

 

Words: Jordan Distan

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Industry Insiders… with Nikos Nikolaidis (Art of the Muse)

By Festival, Hot Off The Press, Industry Insider, Interviews, MEOKO Exclusive

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As always, MEOKO likes to keep its finger firmly on the pulse, and that means featuring not only the artists that create the music we love, but the industry people who mould the party environments, in their varying degrees of perfection, in which to experience these artists. Anyone who has spent any time clubbing will know that there is a whole lot more to the party than booking the right DJ. Nikos Nikolaidis has a huge amount of experience, having effectively broken techno to Greece through the festival he ran there, held residencies in many venues, thrown the much loved Krush parties in various London warehouse locations and now putting on the visually rich Art of the Muse parties at Oval Space, heavily featuring the most sought after artists in the game right now, Tale of Us. All whilst DJing himself, of course! It hasn’t been without its difficulties – in this detailed interview Nikos goes over the many obstacles, periods of disillusionment, and eventually what keeps him in the music game despite it all. 

Thanks so much for your time Nikos, you used to work on Reworks Festival in Greece  is that right?

Yes, but I started out like anyone else – a small party promoter/DJ and that evolved into bigger parties. I had regular residencies in the two major cities in Greece and one day I decided to start a festival with the business partner I had at the time  – at this point we are interrupted by Nikos’ rambunctious dog Coco, anxious to reclaim rightful ownership of some couch space Nikos was invading…

Sorry about that! So yeah that evolved into a festival where we invited different styles of music, a diverse and broad spectrum of the whole electronic culture, run by myself and two others. I used to promote/DJ the whole time simply because I could never see myself evolving into producing music – which is the necessity if you want to have a career nowadays, you have to have at least a couple of hit records. I think of myself more predominantly as a DJ, but then the promoter side took over, because that’s the only way you can control the quality of your events. If you are really needy and weird like myself you’re going to have to do it otherwise you wont be satisfied.

In what ways are you needy and weird?

I like the opposite to what most people like. I don’t like my DJ booth too cramped up with people and ice buckets and bottles of champagne and all that… I just want a good glass of whisky and some space, that’s all. It’s like Danny Tenaglia said, “I play music for the people in front of me, not the people behind.”

What was your experience like doing festivals?

It’s a very, very tough job. The problem with doing it in Greece was that there was never really an established scene, we had to build everything ourselves. The most popular music was always Greek music, and the only kind of electronic music Greek people were listening to was either very commercial American house or of course trance music. I never had anything to do with these styles of music, I come from techno, which was a bit of a forbidden word back then and we had to figure out a way to make it more appealing. Having had some experience with club promotion helped a lot because it made me more resilient and prepared for difficulties. I remember for the very first festival the suppliers were not on time, not a single one of them – I’m talking about everything! I had this engineer guy who built us a custom DJ booth for the main stage which was a 470 kilo monster that wouldn’t even feel the slightest vibration no matter how loud the sound system was. It was made of steel and marble and sand and gravel and the needles were rock solid – a 9 Richter earthquake wouldn’t have caused those needles to jump… but none of them were on time. When you put all your money on that, when you’re risking you’re entire game on something, having experience just makes you act a little cooler. But most importantly, it was the destination that was more important with that particular event, rather than what the stakes were for me.

Why was that?

Well it was a completely new thing for Greece at that time, there’s still no competition in that area. The music we were selling was completely different to the ordinary. I remember first line-up we had Luciano – when he was still a medium sized cool underground name – Agoria, Apparat, Archive was also there one year and M.A.N.D.Y. headlined the second year.

Luciano

So that’s when things were at their best, but why did you leave Greece and the festival game?

Well like I said I’m needy and weird. The problem with doing stuff in Greece… and it would be my prognosis for America as well… is that EDM is a very popular term right now and more people every day turn to that entertainment. But they don’t quite understand why they’re doing it; they just follow it because it’s the latest trend. So what we created in Greece was essentially what built a trend. We didn’t intend to make it a trend but I guess we were inexperienced so we didn’t quite know how to control it. To me, it just turned a little closer to the commercial side and making money from events was never why I wanted to do something. It just felt like a job after a while.

Business was doing great – better than anybody else. There was a time when I was also running an agency where I was representing very popular international names in the Greek market exclusively. People like Miss Kitten, Tiefschwarz and Tiga… But it just came to a point where creatively it wasn’t really going anywhere. The problem with Greece is it’s a small country, and the opportunities you have there are very limited. So if you really want to break through you have to leave Greece. I felt bored – massively bored after a while, that’s why I took a long break. When I first moved [to London] I said that’s it – I don’t want to get involved with this music or these kind of events. 

But we know that didn’t stick…what did you do once you eventually decided to get back into the game?

First I had a residency at T Bar and then I ran into Bruno and Remi. We ran over a couple of ideas and one thing led to another and we came up with Krush. Krush was a casual house party in a warehouse yet with an elaborate deco and a distinct musical theme.

What sort of areas were you casual about it?

The environment, really, how we decorated the place. It started out as a very theatrical party; the idea was to convert a warehouse to look like a house party and every corner would be like a different room of the house. It was very special, but difficult to set up, and if you haven’t got the money in London, you can’t keep it up. These things costs tons of money if you want to do them properly and the venues are absolutely horrible, so you have to reconstruct many things. There are many difficulties in London: the councils, the owners, everyone is pushing in the opposite direction. It feels like you have one hand pulling one way and 100 hands pulling in the opposite direction, so eventually it’s going to split you.

art muse 3

Was it exhausting moving venues and havinto deal with the council issues every time?

I think dealing with the authorities was the most draining part of my life so far. The brains that I’ve wasted thinking of how we should deal with these people is just phenomenal. You can quote me on that, I don’t care, but I think these people lack the ability to think straight, either that or they’re so clever they treat me like I’m stupid.

What’s an example of an instance where you felt like you were hitting your head against a brick wall?

We got a license for a warehouse party in Hackney Wick, everything looks fine, then four days before the party the license is revoked. They were supp

osed to send the firebrigade to inspect the premises something like four weeks before the party, but they never came. Then we get this notice that says the fire brigade has now inspected your premises and you cannot run the party because there are not enough fire escapes bla bla bla. So I’m just thinking like a rational human being… and there are restaurants in Soho, or China Town in particular, which are the size of a shoebox. They have staircases which are about 70cm wide, all crooked, if you come down too fast you’re going to slip and break your hip. That venue is ok for fire escapes, but not a warehouse which has two main exits? In a year and a half we lost our license at the last minute four times! But the problem is way deeper than just these people; the corporate market in London controls everything. Those who have money have the power. They’ve been pushing up the prices of the warehouses deliberately so all the people who run such warehouses think it’s a quick game, let’s make money out of it.

Warehouse parties are so popular at the moment, do you think the scene is sustainable taking into account the difficulties from greedy owners and authorities?

It definitely won’t last. The strongest brands will survive because they’ve got the power, but even they are struggling. First of all there are not enough venues for the amount of parties happening in London. Secondly, the premises you get for such parties 

are crap anyways; I’m talking about buildings that are made from plaster and decorative bricks and they give you all these bullshit lectures about fire protection! I mean this place is a house of cards – it can collapse any minute with a puff of wind. At the same time because of the EDM craze the prices of the DJs are going up. And it’s only normal, they see the opportunity so they’ll grab it, everybody wants to make a living. But that doesn’t make it easier for anyone. Even big promoters are struggling. They have to do bigger parties, and fewer, to cope with the expenses involved.

Do you think these smaller promoters will disappear, or is there a solution to help them survive?

Only time will show that up. What I can say is that if you want to survive you have to be extremely careful, no matter what you do in life. You have to make very specific choices, always weigh all your options and never decide in the blind. The rules of corporate market go like this: the smallest have to be eliminated, the strongest must become even stronger, and so the m

argin between the two broadens. London is a corporate market and everybody plays the game that way. I don’t think in the current financial environm

ent smaller promoters are standing a good chance of surviving, but I hope they will survive – because that’s the only thing that keeps the scene going – that’s what makes it so diverse. If London becomes more monochrome it wont be any different than Greece. The fact that many big names play music in London doesn’t mean anything. The party is not just about who DJs, it’s about the whole package.

nikos1

So now you’re working with Oval Space?

I love Oval better than anywhere else. It’s the only place in London that can offer you the whole package. It looks like a warehouse which makes it feel like an independent party, but at the same time it has the amenities and the luxuries of a proper club. It’s clean, it’s well organized and has a decent sound system which is improving by the day. The people who run it are spectacular, you have with them a plug and play situation so no moving things around. I do my bits here and there but it’s not like setting up an entire warehouse like we used to do with Krush.

At oval I’m doing Art of the Muse, which is an irregular tempo party, there’s not going to be a certain frequency of them. The whole concept with Oval is that I don’t do more than three or four parties a year. When I was doing Krush, because it’s a monthly or bi-monthly thing, it just became a routine after a while. When there are large breaks between the parties it’s a lot more exciting for me to be involved and get creative about it. You know that thing when your heart is beating fast and you have to get out of your house because it’s your party? That you don’t get when it’s a job.

Tell me a bit more about Art of the Muse and what that’s all about…

First of all it’s an ancient Greek term which refers to the arts and specifically music. The reason I chose that name is a) I’m Greek, so it had to be part of my heritage and b) because it also incapsulates the message that it’s not just about music alone, it’s about the arts in general. Art of the Muse is an optical and acoustical experience – there’s a visual aspect to it. I really love the German visual team, Pfadfinderei, with whom I worked with at the festival in Greece some years ago. They really influenced me with their work in the early Berlin boom, they were behind the whole artwork of Bpitch control, then they evolved into doing the world tours with Modeselektor, Moderat and Paul Kalkbrenner….amazing work. I remember I went this party in Berlin where they created this cold splash impact all across the room where you felt like you were in this carnival where people throw colour bombs or something – the only difference is it wasn’t staining your clothes or your face. It was spectacular, very beautiful work. We got great feedback last time for Pfadfinderei’s work on last party’s visuals which means people were impressed. It’s something new, something that hasn’t been shown in London. We will tweak in the process, for the things that don’t work but I think it worked perfectly the first time so might as well keep working with these excellent people. For example also Tale of us, who I think are the people who are going to define the current generation of music.

Their rise as been so fast…

In only three years they came from total obscurity to what they are today. Having worked closely with them, they do have many things to say and they’re very intelligent people. It makes my work easier when I work with people who have a certain goal in their heads and they know where they’re headed with their art. It’s been a very long time since I’ve heard a good techno set – when I say that I mean the old Dave Clark or Richie Hawtin when he used play 130 bpm.

There’s n
t a lot of that hard and fast stuff now at all…

No, but Tale of Us,
when I heard them a fe
summers ago in Barcelona, they were literally killing it, they were playing techno like I hadn’t heard techno in a very long time, which got my attention really. It’s nothing to do with their productions, I mean their productions are excellent, but it’s their DJ sets which got my attention.

art muse 1

That’s interesting because most people have discovered them from their productions, which is not completely representative of the way they play…

Yeah I think that’s why Tale of Us are exciting, because I find it hard to describe them with words. You have to see them to understand. Nowadays if you don’t know a product or a DJ or something just google it and suddenly you have all the information. There isn’t very much on Tale of Us except the odd random comment they put on their social media. You wont find many recordings of their sets either, you wont find many interviews on their personal life. It’s like Kevin Spacey says – he doesn’t like to be part of stardom because “the less you know about me, the more easily I can convince you of the character I am playing in my movies.” That’s kind of what Tale of Us are doing now  – and that’s how it should be. I don’t care what champagne or vodka or sake “x” DJ drinks… but that’s what it’s come to now, that’s part of the deal. We can’t change it, we might as well play along, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be part of the same celebrity based booking system …

People are intelligent enough to have their own opinions, they shouldn’t be following trends, they should be following their gut. People say “this is how you play this game” and they do lectures about it, but that’s not true.  When you buy a motorbike, for example, you read the manual to understand how the individual functions of the engine work, so you don’t damage your engine. But then you drive it in your own way; you build your own style. That’s how parties should be. London has great potential but it’s way too controlled at the moment. 

Ticket to the next Art of the Muse event featuring Tale of Us and Joy Orbison are unfortunately sold out, but MEOKO is offering our readers the chance to win two free tickets! Email hello_competitions@devmeoko.co.uk with the subject ‘Art of the Muse’ and tell us why you love Tale of Us or Joy Orbison. 

facebook.com/artofthemuse

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