My name is Austin Staubus. I’m the Managing Director of a company called ItsNoRequests based here in Los Angeles. ItsNoRequests provides artists, managers, and labels with solutions to achieve real impact online. We work with clients big and small, helping them navigate the ever-changing musical landscape. There’s an incredible amount of confusion and uncertainty permeating the music industry at the moment. In fact, many of the biggest labels and artists are struggling to adapt their business model to streaming culture.
That’s why ItsNoRequests is delivering a monthly “Industry Insider” column courtesy of EDM.com aimed at demystifying an industry notorious for its lack of transparency. This week, we’ll tackle releases on dance labels, why you’re not a priority for the label, and what you can do about it as an up-and-coming producer and DJ.
Here’s a hard reality you need to understand and accept: you’re not a priority for the dance music label you just signed your official remix or original to.
You haven’t made it. I get it. Everyone from your hometown is impressed. That ex-girlfriend (or ex-boyfriend) of yours is liking your pictures on Instagram again. However, signing your remix or original is step one in a crowded and highly competitive space. Let me break it down. Right now, you’re playing Triple A ball for a farm team in the midwest. You just got a call from big leagues. The manager of the team saw you pitch last week and wanted to give you the opportunity to throw a few innings in a relatively unimportant game against an underfunded team that’s currently 15 and 43.
That’s how dance labels view your release.
If you mess up? They’ll throw you back down to Triple A ball. If you succeed? They’ll give you an opportunity to pitch in another game against a team that actually matters. Every notable dance music label employs this model. Releases that perform well receive an actual budget. Releases that perform “OK” won’t receive one. They’re split testing their own releases.
Can you blame them?
They (I won’t name names but it’s not hard to guess) sign hundreds of tracks every year hoping that one will hit. One hit song can comprise the majority of a label’s profits for the entire year. Traditionally, publishing in the dance space have been incredibly low. It only takes a few thousand single sales to top the Beatport charts. The average “EDM” consumer knows how to find their new favorite release via a file-sharing site versus a pop or country music fan that only knows how to listen and purchase through iTunes. This is largely in part because consumers of dance music correlate with higher computer literacy rates, but I digress. Labels are businesses. They want to see a return on investment.
How can ensure your release receives a fair shake?
Know who’s responsible for pushing your single.
Make a point to stop by the label and meet the individuals responsible for pushing your release before release day. Most labels have an in-house “PR” team that handles all the press. Get to know them. Ask them tough questions. Get them in your corner. Labels are comprised of people. If you can win them over they’ll work that much harder on your release. Most dance labels will do little more than upload your single or remix to their Youtube and Soundcloud channels and hope for the best. They’ll send an impersonal “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” e-mail blast (yes, labels still do this) to all your favorite dance blogs hoping a writer covers it. Taking the time to speak directly to the team pushing your single will increase your understand of how the label works and pay dividends for your release.
Finally, tap curators and tastemakers like The EDM Network.
It’s not enough to rely on your label to make or break your release. Most labels are low tech and behind the times. Many notable dance labels still operate under the assumption that blogs move the needle. They don’t. Music blogs are currently on life support. Pageviews are down across the board and programmatic advertising revenue (which is primarily how blogs keep the lights on) is in slow decline. Blogs no longer deliver the same impact they once did. Services like The EDM Network are the new blogs. Making a small investment in a service like the EDM Network is a smart hedge.
I’ll be back next month with a new “Industry Insider” column.
Austin Staubus is the Managing Director of ItsNoRequests which provides digital strategies for artists, labels, and management teams looking to reach large audiences online. Austin regularly advises Grammy award-winning artists and labels like Sony / RCA, Clinton Sparks, Atlantic Records, Play-N-Skillz, Universal Music Group, Latium Entertainment, and Slip-N-Slide Records.