Keeping It Real In 2015

Originally appeared on Epic productions page HERE

So it’s 2015. Looking around it looks a lot like 2014. It sounds a little different but if you squint and peek down the horizon you can see a changes coming, especially in the music. Speaking of change let’s talk about vinyl. I started out on vinyl and over the past 30 years I’ve transitioned to control vinyl, controllers and lately I’ve found myself gravitating back to real vinyl again. There’s something about the permanence of the medium that has me coming back. I’ve been doing sets of classic house recently and I find myself enjoying both the nostalgic aspect and the experience.

The past decade has been a nonstop barrage of changes in the musical landscape. Gear has gotten smaller to the point you can put a full fledged DJ system in your pocket. But I’m also seeing vinyl making a comeback. It’s like in Ghostbusters and the streams have crossed. EDM producers making house, house producers making techno, it’s a full on invasion of the genre snatchers.

While there’s no doubt that the steps to become a DJ in 2015 are a lot different then they were in 1987, one thing remains the same and that is a DJs ability to drop the right track at the right time is to me still the most important factor. You can have every Beatport top 10 track, a set of your own productions or a crate of vinyl you spent days digging through but if you can’t read a crowd then you’re missing the point. Reading the chatter across the , there seems to be a plague of uninspiring lackluster sets by a lot of top tier DJs playing festivals and headlining gigs. Is it in part due to the staleness in music of late, or laziness on the part of the DJ? If a DJ plays in internal mode and no one sees and does a good job of pretending to play the CDJs, did he just DJ or give a performance? If the people attending the event don’t care, should we?

One thing I miss is the days when DJs got test pressings and would drop them to the crowds delight, and that DJ or the select few that had that track would be the only ones playing it until it was released, sometimes 6 months later. I remember when the Cedric Gervais track “Molly” first showed up in sets people were dying for the track and Cedric was super secretive about the release. My crowd was requesting it constantly and with no release date in site I took to my Mac and had it speak the same lines in his track, and created a soundalike tracks (it wasn’t that complex) and played it out in my sets. The ends justified the means.

If the past few years have proven anything it’s that you can’t tease people for too long or by the time a track drops the hype is gone, and you risk copycat tracks popping up before the original is released. That’s a thing in 2015. If Martin Garrix had a dollar for everyone that made an “Animals” sounding track in the past year he would have enough to buy all the unlicensed software he uses legitimately and a new laptop to put it on. (Go watch his In The Studio video and look for the “TeamAir” licenses. They’re a huge music software cracking company). Back when I began this musical journey it was all hardware.

Since you obviously couldn’t bootleg hardware it was definitely an investment compared to today. With no Internet to download apps and samples paired with rudimentary software of the time there was a steeper learning curve and there were no YouTube tutorials. The cost incurred with production was out of the price range of most teenagers and anyone not serious about the undertaking. There has always been this dichotomy between the days when it was harder to make music but the level of investment kept it out of the reach of anyone without deep pockets, versus today where anyone with a laptop can be a producer and release music. On one hand there was a more solidified level of respect for the word “producer” back int he day. It usually was given to someone who had the gear, had the records out through a label and had put in the time and paid the dues. On the other hand, we wouldn’t have discovered half the producers and music we have now if the music world was still in the bubble it was before the Internet and affordable and free tools changed the game. The words “DJ” and “Producer” have lost some of their value in the process.

And what about once you had an actual product finished and ready to shop? The process of getting your music out there in 2015 has changed in the past 30 years. Beyond the process of pushing content through social media, when you want to take it to the next level, what is that?

What exactly is being signed to a label in 2015? In the 80s and 90s if a label wanted your record they would send you a contract for the master and publishing, and sign you to either a single deal, multiple singles (or EPs) or even an album. There were lawyers and teams and lots of paperwork just to even agree to release the project. You were literally “signed” to that label, either exclusively or non­-exclusively.

In 2015, unless you’re at the level of major or a bigger indie, there’s hardly more then a few email exchanges and links to download the master. I have taught some classes on the music business discussing things like writing and publishing and copyright. The vast majority of young producers in the electronic music arena jump in the deep end without a single swimming lesson. Records are released, sold and licensed without the artist and even the label sometimes knowing where residuals and royalties are going because they haven’t learned the business side of the musical landscape. So many people have their own labels, and release their own as well as friends music without ever discussing the stakes at play. You’re literally handing over a master to be distributed around the globe with no thought as to who owns what in the bigger picture.

In the end, if you’re not signing contracts, you’re not technically “signed” to anything. Releasing a record on a friends label is not the same as inking a deal with a label. Once again, it’s the semantics over how things were done until the Information Age and how things ARE done by countless young label entrepreneurs now. While there’s nothing wrong with doing it either way, take the time to learn the fundamentals of the music business and if you’re a label, educate your artists.

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