Codex Podcast 012 with Steve Mulder + Interview [Be.Cool, Salerno, Italy]
Spartaque: So, yeah, bro, I want to talk more about the business because right now most interviews artists give are about their music, production, and other art-relates things. But I believe, and I am seeing right now, that marketing is getting more and more important in our industry. So I wanted to talk more about labels, business stuff, you know. I hope that y questions and your answers to them could be interesting to those who don't just listen to electronic music but also make their first steps in their career, or those who are already professionals in the industry…Steve: Yeah, me too!Spartaque: My first question here might be the real basics but anyway: When did you start your career and what brought you to electronic music?
Steve: The first time was basically in 2005. I won a DJ contest by Carl Cox on Hollands biggest radio station Radio 538 in their famous dance radio show Dance Department. Carl picked me as a winner and we've kept in touch since then. That kind of started from there. I've always been interested in music, since I was a kid. I was into soul music, disco music, and then later I moved on to electronic music.
Spartaque: I didn't know that… It appears, you've been in contact with a legend since your very start… One of the best guys in our industry… You have your label Orange. I'm a real big fan of your label. You know I play your stuff often. I really love the stuff you release, your tracks selection. I would like to talk more about this. So why are the latest art works are not Orange?
Steve: The art works were never Orange… When I started out four years ago, I worked together with amazing photo artist from Italy for the covers. After these years, I thought I should start to move on, I needed a fresh start. I started using different distribution, different promotion. I felt we needed new artwork as well and I designed them white / black. So Orange is not about fruit or something ;-)
Spartaque: I thought you picked Orange because you're from The Netherlands, that's the color of your country…Steve: Yes, exactly!Spartaque: I saw that your latest Phenom release in the remix by Filterheadz. It's amazing. My congratulations!
Steve: Thank you so much! That was a real big step for me. I wanted to have a big remixer for this 80th release. Filterheadz agreed to do it and I am really happy they did. They’re one of the biggest techno names from Belgium and it turned out brilliant.
Spartaque: Good job! Another question. Also about your label. What if you had a choice today – to open your label or not. What would your choice be?
Steve: That's a good question right here. I probably would have waited a bit longer. With all that information I have now about starting out… Everybody was asking me: when are you going to start your own label? At the time, I felt ready but now, looking back, I probably would have waited a little longer. I would have saved more money and spent more time on marketing and promotion.
Spartaque: Yeah, I have two labels of mine. And I'm thinking, yeah, it's good I have them, but on the other hand, I wish I hadn't my own labels at this moment… Steve: Yeah, it's a lot of work. People don't realize how much work it is to run a label. Basically, I do everything myself, from A&R to artwork… It's fun to do but there really is a lot of work. Spartaque: I agree with you totally. Could you give me the names of, say, three labels you'd like to score in 2018?
Steve: Of course, probably 90% of techno artists want to get released on Drumcode. Spartaque: I knew you'd name this one… Steve: Everyone wants to be on Drumcode. But also, labels like Terminal M by Monika Kruse. I just love the label and their sound. And I'd also like to be back on Intec. It's been a few years since I released there. But I would love to be back there. Carl Cox is my good friend and it's one of my favorite labels, so I'd like to be back. Spartaque: I love that TOP 3 you named. There are some good people behind them. Good choice! As artists, sometimes we have to wait for a long time until we have our stuff listened to. Some DJs might be getting suicidal while waiting… So what was the longest time you had to wait? What was you’re your longest but most successful experience? Steve: You need to be patient with big labels. This might take months, you know. My longest, and most successful, experience was with Intec. I had to wait for 18 months.
Spartaque: No way!
Steve: Yeah, it's fairly long. But it was well worth it. It's the one of the biggest techno labels ever. Of course, I would have liked to see my track released sooner but their schedule is so packed that you just have to be patient. It's hard to wait sometimes, of course.
Spartaque: As for me, not as an artist but as an individual, I am a very active man. It's a disaster for me to wait for so long… We don’t usually speak out on these topics on public… Maybe during a dinner ahead of some gig… So it's really interesting to hear about this from another artist, your personal view.
Steve: Yeah, people usually talk about such stuff face to face, without bringing this up on public. But, oh well, that's part of the job, everybody sends stuff and waits.
Spartaque: Even my labels that are not so big… it takes time to listen to all demos that are being sent. It's crazy sometimes.
Steve: For me it's the same. Sometimes we get 25-30 demos a day, and that's for my relatively small label!
Spartaque: To be honest, bro, your label is doing very well… You deserve this. The next question. What rules the industry right now? Is it music or marketing?
Steve: Definitely marketing, I'm afraid. Back in the day, if you had talent, that's all that mattered. If you were talented, you would get to play and you would get booked. And now it's not about talent anymore. Better say, it's not only about talent. You need to be active and show yourself to the media. You need to have thousands of social media followers. You need to have a marketing strategy and everything else like promotion strategy. It's crazy these days. So marketing is definitely more important right now.
Spartaque: It seems you need to have at least two clones of yourself running all those things. Also, you're in the same position as me. We are both fathers. We have to run so many other things and it's a little bit crazy. As for the labels, is it more important to have big names or just good music?
Steve: It's the combination of the two, I think. When you have a label, of course, it's nice to have big names. They can help you build up your brand, build the label. But also, I like to put out good music from up and coming artists and love to see them grow. So, for me it's a combination.
Spartaque: If you get EUR 50,000 of investment for your label, how are you going to spend it? Have you ever thought about it?
Steve: Well, that would be nice of course!
Spartaque: Yeah, if some big guy comes up to you and makes an offer…
Steve: I would probably spend it on marketing and promotion. As I said earlier, I think it's probably one of the most important things at the moment. And maybe from time to time, I would be spending the money for some big remixes. Not every month but once in a while. This would also help, in combination with marketing and promotion.
Spartaque: Right now I see that the big DJs, they sometimes release… not to say crappy but "experimental" tracks. It's even hard to play this kind of stuff. Normally, this stuff comes from some super big names. Sometimes I even think if it's worth paying them so much to get such "unplayable" stuff for your label.
Steve: I think on that level, top artist can produce whatever they want. They produce music and it will sell. People will buy anyway, even if it's a very experimental track. People will buy because of the big name. I say this with respect to the artists, of course, but I think you're on point right here.
Spartaque: Tell us a bit more on what we should expect from you in 2018 – maybe some releases, great collaborations or massive events you will take part in…
Steve: I've got two collaboration works I'm working on – one with Giovanni Carozza from Italy and one with Luca Gaeta. It's not finished yet but we're working on it. Then I'm planning to do more label showcases. The first one is next week for Techno Tuesday in Melkweg Amsterdam with JSPR, Francesco Miele, Dexon and myself. I believe you played there as well?
Spartaque: Yes, a crazy good party.
Steve: Yes definitely! I'm also planning two showcases in Croatia and one in Jordan. I will follow up on that because the deal has not been finalized yet.
Spartaque: Maybe my last question. Tell us a little bit about the party where you recorded the mix you've sent me. And maybe call the name of a guest you would be interested to hear on Codex podcast.
Steve: I recorded the set last week in Italy's Salerno. The club was called Be.Cool . A really nice club with an amazing vibe. I played there for two hours. The crowd was amazing too. A name who I would like to hear on the Codex podcast is JSPR. He's a big artist from The Netherlands as well who released on major labels like Elevate, SCI+TEC, Minus as well as on Orange Recordings of course. So I'd like to see him!
Spartaque: Thank you very much. I really appreciate you doing this interview and being my first guest. I believe it will only strengthen our good friendship and I'm sure it will be very interesting for those who listen to CODEX podcast. I wish you the very best and good luck with your projects, ideas, gigs, and releases in general. Hope to see you soon, bro!
Steve: Thank you for having me as your first guest. I really appreciate it, thank you very much!