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Just signed a track, I’m going to be a superstar

[written in september 2008]

You’ve just signed your latest trance track, it’s now time to leave your dayjob and enjoy the life of the rich and the famous.. ..or not.

I always knew that today music (especially trance) sells very little, but I didn’t think the situation was this bad. I know that a big progressive house / electro house / minimal hit track, that hits the beatport top10 will sell a nice amount, but everything else on every other store will sell practically nothing.

About a year two ago I had a track on audiojelly top 10, in 8th place. It wasn’t a big hit, but it did alright. I found out that it sold 60 copies on the first half, so it took less than 60 downloads to be the 8th downloaded track in audiojelly. Well that certainly isn’t much, but I kinda knew that might be the case. I though that maybe if i would get into top5 it would sell atleast 100 copies.
Well couple of days ago I received statements of a track that was #2 on audiojelly for a while and hanged in the top10 chart couple of weeks. So I thought it had to sell atleast 100 copies, cause the other track sold 60 copies. but what do i know, it sold 55 copies. 55 copies? The second best selling track in audiojelly at that time only sold 55 copies and audiojelly is said to be the second best selling trance store after beatport, you don’t even want to know how less trance sells on other stores.
Think about it, 55 copies, with a track price of 1,25€, that does 69€, from which audiojelly will take their standard 50%, the label gets 34€ and pays the artist his 50% share. the artist gets 17€ from the track.

Ok so that’s audiojelly, beatport does sell more, but even then only the top10 of trance chart sells more than 200 copies. If your track is #20 or something, the chances are it will sell less than 100 copies.

The question is, what’s the point of signing tracks to labels when only 100 people will get your track. If you would share your tracks for free and promoted them yourself, they would be downloaded atleast 2000 times.
So let me think, do I take 55 downloads + 17€ or 2000 downloads + 0€? I think I’ll go with the latter.

Labels, those slimy..

[written in june 2008]

What is it with this scene that puts labels on pedestals, every artist seem to be considered as good as his/her current label is. And all this label praising seems to lead many to this crazy label collecting spree. Somehow people seem to worship labels more than the actual artists. Outside the edm scene I don’t see people putting EMI or Sony Music stickers on their computers.

In the end it’s all those artists that make the labels good, and it’s unfortunetly something that most of the artists themselves have forgetten, while sucking up to the labels to get a release. Labels need artists, and not the other way around. So what is it with all this constant bullshitting we artist have to take from them. I don’t think the big name artists have to suffer from this, but all the midrange and lowrange artists are treated like they are completely unnecessary for the label, and the label is doing them a favor by signing their tracks.

With all the crap I’ve gone through and heard from my fellow artists, made me wanna write down few things about this. And before i start bashing, I need to say that there are still good labels out there, who truly respect and treat all their artists equally well.

There are three types of artists in this scene:

Group 1.
The big established artists (usually veterans)

Group 2.
The somewhat experienced guys who’ve been around for 3-6 years, but haven’t yet broken through.

Group 3.
The new (and usually young) artists

1. Money.
With what I’ve heard the group 1 hasn’t got much worries, labels feel like they are essential for their success, so they’ll make sure the artists get everything they want. I just recently heard that one big trance duo charges 2000 euros for a remix. To give that amount some perspective, I would say an average trance record makes about 50-200 euros profit, and average artist gets payed in those figures and below. But then again, a big name remix will always sell a lot more than a remix from somewhat unknown artist, regardless of the quality. And not only are you paying for the remix, you are also paying for the promotional value. Having big popular artists in your roster will definitely increase your label status.

But the actual numbers aren’t really the issue. Everyone knows there isn’t much money involved in this business to begin with. The problem is that most of the time you don’t even get the couple of bucks you’ve earned. Maybe I’ve been unlucky but with my experience about 50% of the labels won’t even send you statements. And even if you get them and send an invoice, that doesn’t mean you’ll get payed. So what can you do, sue someone from another country because of 100 euros?

Then there’s group 3, the new young artists. Artists who only care about getting signed, and just wait labels to completely screw them over. Which they don’t even realize cause they don’t even know that they should be getting statements, or that they can suggest changes to the contract. Maybe they don’t even care, and are just happy to be signed. At that point, getting signed seems like the most important thing and you actually think it means something to be signed, which it ofcourse doesn’t, these days anyone can get signed. Only thing that really matters is how good songs you can write, regardless are they signed or not, or what label they are signed to.So why would labels pay group 2 for songs and remixes, when there is always the young new stars to do it free. Which ofcourse forces the group 2 artists do it for free aswell, otherwise they wouldn’t get their songs out there at all.

One thing that lot of sneaky labels do is that when they ask you for a remix, they never mention a  fee or a contract at all. They just quickly pass you the remix pack and hope you don’t mention money in any point. After you have completed and sent the remix you wait for the remix contract, which never comes, and you soon realize you just did the remix for free. Or just before you sent the remix, you ask for a remix contract and they’ll say “we thought you were doing this for free?”, at which point you can either trash your track or just give it to them for free.
I’ve done some remixes for free, cause I wanted to, but if you want to get atleast your share in royalties, remember to mention that or get a contract, before you start working on the remix.

2. Statements.
What pisses me off even more than getting the actual money, is not getting the statements at all. You would atleast want to know how much your track sold even if you don’t get the profit yourself. Also one thing that has happened to me few times is getting payed without statements. The label manager just says that your track made this much and never shows you the actual statements, so you never know if it really made that amount, or did it make more.
A friend of mine had his track on 5 compilations, one of them being the famous trancemaster compilation, and his label manager just said that the track made like 100 euros here you go. He never saw any statements. I’m not saying he would nessaserly deserved more, but getting into compilations is usually the only real way to make profit with your songs. So not seeing the statements though you are in 5 compilations is crazy.

3. Communication
We all know most label A&Rs and bosses are really busy, they’ve got many artists to deal with, plus a possible day job and a life. So naturally they can’t always respond to you right away. Usually it takes couple of weeks to get a response, but a lot of times they don’t respond you at all. Especially after you have sent the masters.
I’m sure many of you have experienced the same thing, when are signing your latest track the label is responding to every question you have almost right away, but the moment you sent them the masters, you’ll never hear from them again.

You might wanna know the release date, when will the promotion start, which deejays have played it and such. And I really believe this is something that the label should tell the artist even with him/her having to ask that. Luckily there are couple of labels who send you all this information and even forward deejay comments back to you, but hardly any of the biggers labels do this.
it can’t be that hard to email “hey, we started the promotion today, so far *these deejays* has supported your track. the release date is..” takes like a minute and a half. And not to mention how hard is it to get an answer when you are asking for the statements for instance.

4. Getting your own track / remixes
This is actually very common with labels. I know some labels that do send you even all the physical material, sometimes even couple of copies, but most of the labels don’t even send you the mastered mp3 of your own release or the remix someone else did for you. I’ve heard so many stories where people have had to buy their own track or download it from warez sites, just to hear how the mastered version sounds, since the label didn’t send you anything no matter how many times you asked for it.

So overally like I mentioned in my previous blogs aswell, it’s not that imporant how big your label is, but what is imporant is that you can trust them and they don’t screw you over. I really hope more artists would realize what they deserve and how they should be treated, and not give in to labels’ ridiculous demands. Just because one label or a distribution chain says their standard is 17% royalties, doesn’t mean it’s right and that you should accept it. As long as there are artists who accept these joke contracts and are afraid to demand what is rightfully theirs, things ain’t gonna change for better.

DJ mix CDs, is there a point?

[written in september 2007]

A good percent of all well known deejays have released atleast one mix cd, and some of the biggest deejays are still releasing them yearly. Armin van Buuren for instance seems to release atleast one mix cd every year. Here’s his latest mix cd, Universal Religion part 3:

1. Sunlounger – Another Day at the Terrace
2. Dash Berlin – Till the Sky Falls Down (dub)
3. Jose Amnesia feat. Jennifer Rene – Invincible (Sied van Riel Remix)
4. Dubfire – Roadkill (EDX’s Acapulco At Night Remix)
5. David West – Welsh Morphology
6. Markus Schulz vs Andy Moor – Daydream
7. Terk Dawn – Barent Blue (Marninx pres. Monogato remix)
8. Aly & Fila vs FKN feat. Jahala – How Long?
9. Mungo – Summer Blush
10.Forerunners – Life Cycle (Deep Blue)
11.The Doppler Effect – Beauty Hides in the deep (John O Callaghan Remix)
12.John O Callaghan feat. Audrey Gallagher – Big Sky (Agnelli & Nelson Remix)
13.Thomas Bronzwaer – Resound
14.Armin van Buuren feat. Susana – If you Should Go

Looking at the tracklist I can’t help myself thinking that this looks just like another episode of his ‘A State of Trance’ radio show. First I listen it for free, and now I wanna pay for the same experience.

In times before the internet or when the connections were still pretty slow, dj mixtapes and mix-compilations were a big thing. Ministry of Sound cds sold like hell and everyone was waiting for the next mix-cd from their favourite deejay. Back then there wasn’t online radio shows, no dj sets shared anywhere, buying mix cds was the best way to hear the latest tracks and experience the sets from your favourite deejays at home.

But what about now? Every deejay has their own radioshow, even amateur deejays. And the internet is filled with dj mixes to download, from lesser known deejays to big names. So why would anyone wanna buy a mix cd when they can download more or less the exact set (or record an online radio broadcast) from that same deejay and burn it to cd?

People are obviously buying those compliations, because if the compliations didn’t sell enough, deejays like Armin wouldn’t keep releasing them. Well maybe they just feel like supporting the deejay they love, or that they aren’t able to listen his radioshows and other sets. No matter what it is I can’t see myself buying such a mix cd, even if the cover art would be magnificent and the case was handmade from wood.

So what would I buy then? Well the first thing that comes into my mind is Solarstone’s “Destinations v1” compliation I bought last year. I wasn’t even that big of a fan of uplifting trance anymore, but this mix was something I really enjoyed. It’s a musical experience and not just one track after another. It also had lots of tracks and edits that are only available on that album. Another one would be Tiesto’s “In Search ofSunrise 5” and other ISOS compliations. The style of music in them is perfect for my taste, but the fact that there are always lots of unknown gems, unheard and unreleased tracks included, is what makes it worth all the money.

So all in all, here are few things that I think make a good mix cd:
1. The tracklist, naturally the music has to be good
2. Offer something you can’t get anywhere else (edits of the tracks, unreleased tracks and if possible tracks that won’t be available anywhere else. for example “Christian Rusch – Numb” a great track that’s only available on Coldharbour Sessions 2004.)
3. A theme, something to make the cd special, like an album for the beach (chillout) or darker scary tracks. Something that ties the tracks together somehow, so when someone for instance asks you good dark trance, you can suggest to check out that mix cd.
4. Some like mixes raw and realistic (perhaps done with turntables) and I think that’s sometimes great too, but using software like ableton gives so much more creativity. So if you mix with ableton, don’t just mix it like you would on turntables/CDJs, do stuff that are impossible to do with just two turntables. Mashups, long transitions, play 2, 3 or even 4 tracks at the same time, or parts from them here and there, vocals, beat loops anything.

Try create a musical experience, something that’s almost like one long and versatile track. It’s that moment when people start calling it a good mix cd, instead of a mix cd with good tracks on it.

Anyone with a computer can produce, a good or a bad thing?

[written in august 2007]

Here’s something I bet most of us have been thinking a lot. Unlike 10-20 years ago when you had to have a lot of expensive hardware to be able to compose electronic music, nowadays anyone with just a computer and some software can produce. And what I’ve noticed is that this is the biggest reason people blame the current bad state of electronic music, especially in trance.

First of all I gotta say I totally disagree that the current state of trance is bad. If pure oldschool trance is all you care for, well then yes the best days are gone, but if you’re all for fresh ideas and originality then you couldn’t be happier. The amount of different styles of trance we have nowadays is just huge, and we don’t even know which ones should we call trance anymore. There are fusions with techno, house, breaks, electro and even rock. The tempo is no longer a standard 138 or 140, that we have to use. we can produce an uplifting track with tempo of 125 if we want to, and now that there isn’t a big tempo gap anymore deejays can finally mix up house and techno records with trance.

So going back to the topic, what is the problem then? Now that everyone who wants to produce can produce, it means there will be a lot more music out there. And since you can’t expect everyone to be a superstar right away, there will also be a lot more bad music. And on the flipside a lot more good stuff aswell. Now I’m sure many are thinking that the percent of what is good has always been the same, let’s say 5% of everything, but I’m not so sure about that. I think back in the day everyone who produced were truly committed to it, and it was one of the most important things in their life. Nowadays even those guys who think “yeah well I guess I wanna produce, would be cool to make your own records and get some babes” are also producing.

At this point most of you are probably thinking, “if it bothers you so much, then quit producing that shit yourself”. If there weren’t accessible software available, but only really really expensive hardware, would I be producing? No, I don’t think I would be. Ofcourse if all the software we have now would magically disappear, naturally then I would get all that hardware. But back when I started, without all this software I probably would never have gotten into producing and gotten the spark for it. So I personally think it’s a great thing that everyone can produce if they want to. Everyone has a pen, but that doesn’t mean we are all great at drawing.

So does it matter that people are practising producing and maybe now and then post their bit average, still developing musical pieces to forums for feedback? it doesn’t. It’s when labels start to release these unfinished – average – not-that-well- produced tracks that is the problem. And since anyone can start a digital label nowadays (that’s a whooole another topic btw!) you can bet your ass there are labels releasing tracks from people who have only been producing just a year or so.

The problem isn’t the fact that now everyone can make music, but the labels releasing all of it. It seems that as the quality level of electronic music gets higher and higher, labels drop their quality standards lower and lower. Fortunately there are still some labels who really pay attention to the quality of their releases. and maybe release 5-12 singles / year. But then there are hundreds of these new digital only labels that put out like 4-6 singles / month, with no quality control at all. If all of a sudden all the standards would rise and I couldn’t get any of my tracks signed,  I would be fine by that, cause it would only make me try to get better even harder.

But here’s some advice for all these new labels, just my opinnion, you can take advice or not, but here’s what we artists want from a label:

1. Honesty and keeping their word
2. Flexibility, us artists can be a pain in the ass with all our last minute tweaks and fixes to the tracks. So it’s always great when you can move your schedule and things like that when needed.
3. We love and need to be on the spotlight. If we didn’t want attention to our tracks, we would keep them just for ourselves. For most of us it’s not about the money, so the label with good promotion (and reputation, we dont’ wanna be part of spamfests) is usually what we choose.
4. We want the attention to last. I just hate those labels whose hype for a release starts a week before the release and ends a week after. Release and forget. Nothing annoys an artist more than a short lifetime of his track. He may spend months and months on producing the track and people forget the track in a week because the label didn’t promote it or they have already a load of new releases out.
5. We want criticism and high quality standards, if you just accept the first version of the track right away with nothing else than “I like it” to say, the release won’t be as good as it could be. but if you point out everything that isn’t 100% perfect and push and push us to make it even better, we’ll produce in our highest level.

So the conclusion? I think instead of not letting everyone try producing, we should make starting labels more difficult. There should be a lot more expensis for the label and if their new release doesn’t sell enough they should also have to pay for that, not be able to release anything in a while and wear a donkey hat for six months.

DJ Mag Top100, my thoughts

[written in august 2007]

Ahh it’s this time of year again and we found our mail boxes full of ‘vote me on dj mag 2007’ spam. And then we pick the guy who spammed first and vote for him, or most likely ignore all the spam and vote for someone completely different.

The DJ mag poll is quite controversial, and mostly thought as a joke in the edm scene, so I would like share some of my thoughts on it.

I’ve actually voted for every year if i remember right. I think the problem is that most people think that the list should somehow represent skillwise who is actually the best deejay, and not the most popular one. But that’s not the point of it, after all, it is a poll. The whole description of polls is that they are surveys of public opinion. In other words show which choice is the most popular one. So what this djmag list shows is that which deejays are the most popular, and that’s what it should be taken as, not as a chart to show who is the best technical deejay in the world.

If we would really want to make a chart showing who is the best technical deejay in the world, we would have to have a contest where few judges would see every deejay in the world play a same length set with the same records. After all we don’t want taste in music to affect on the decision.The judges would also have to be someone who know everything about deejaying, and even then it still would be quite objective.

So no, the dj mag top100 list doesn’t show who is the best deejay, but it does show who is the most popular deejay in the world. For me that’s also quite interesting to know. Now that trance and other styles of edm are growing more and more into mainstream, it will be very interesting to see which deejays get a piece of that cake. And though most people think that this poll doesn’t matter at all, it infact matters a lot for the deejays, because nowadays bookers pay and book deejays based on their position in the list. The higher you are the more gigs you will get and the more you’ll get payed.

With that said this is what I voted this year:

1 Orkidea
2 Matt Darey
3 Andy Moor
4 David West
5 Miika Kuisma