The Paradox Of Releasing Original Music

Releasing original music can be hard if the artist is truly original. Recently, the techno producer and label owner Ramon Tapia lamented that after spending the day listening to demos that, “Young aspiring producers create pretty much identical tracks.” However, when you listen to his label, Say What? Recordings, you realize that all of his tracks kind of sound the same. 

So you have this well known producer insisting that everything he gets sounds the same, but then when you listen to the stuff he releases on Say What?, it all kind of sounds the same. Therefore, naturally, after people listen to his label, they’re going to send him a pretty accurate representation of what they believe fits on the label, and thus everything he gets will sound, more or less, the same. This, my friends, is what you call a paradox. However, he is not alone in this. This is just how the industry is.


Categorization = Homogenization 

A problem that many artists have is squaring their artistic integrity with being able to get their music heard. And just like artists have this conundrum, so do the labels that sign them. Many labels wish they could allow artistic integrity to shine, but ultimately they have to make sales, and truthfully, most people, even music hipsters, are pretty closed minded to new sounds. 

Additionally, for better or worse, we live in an era where sound has become homogenized into a bunch of genres and subgenres, and where time has essentially collapsed (nostalgia is strong in 2021). It seems like this was originally meant to make it easier to create a taxonomy of music, and thus open up more possibilities for artists to create more unique sounds, but in a lot of ways, it has done the opposite. 

While everything back in the day used to be “rave music”, now everything has its own neat little home, and anything that strays outside this becomes too different to stratify, or simply gets earmarked with the ubiquitous “experimental” label, which is often a red flag for “inaccessible.” That’s why releasing original music can be hard. 

How This Has Made It Hard To Release Unique Music

This has made it difficult for people who create art focused music to find a home. Sure, there are labels that are more open minded than others, but those are far and few in between. Most labels have a sound and they stick to it, because they know that it will sell to their market. 

However, every once in a blue moon you see one of the label curators, like Ramon, stating that all the songs that they get sent all sound the same, not realizing that they caused their own conundrum by “curating a sound.” 

Archipel (my label), while we curate a sound, does things a little differently. That’s why, in this blog post, I wanted to touch on how we balance originality with marketability. 

How Music Is Sold And Consumed

First, let’s talk about how much is listened to and sold. There are three spheres – people who make music, people who listen to music, and the bridge that connect people between the two. This bridge is either labels, or channels such as blogs, YouTube channels, and Spotify playlists. 

However, because of the algorithmic era that we live in, in order for many of these channels to grow, they have to keep listeners engaged, and the unfortunate fact is that most listeners aren’t that interested in hearing new music. Sure, they may be into new music in a respective genre, but anything that challenges that genre may result in a user skip. And every time you get a skip, you get devalued in the algorithm. And content curators know this. Therefore, it’s in their best interest to keep things predictable, and to be wary of anyone releasing original music. 

a picture of how culture matters while releasing original music

Your Culture Matters

Another part of how people consume music is the culture that they live in. If it encourages people to be open minded to new sounds, then they may check out new sounds. 

A good example of this is Montreal, where I’m from. We have a ton of unique, forward thinking musicians that don’t sound like anyone else, releasing original music. Good examples of this are Tim Hecker, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Arcade Fire, Grimes, Kaytranada, and Leonard Cohen. 

Sure, there are a dime a dozen Arcade Fire and Leonard Cohen sounding musicians, but at the time they were first releasing original music, these sounds were fresh, and exhilarating. And this innovation was only possible due to the culture they existed in. Unfortunately, most places aren’t like Montreal though. 

Don’t Disregard Small Cultures

Speaking of culture, even if you don’t live somewhere as open minded as Montreal, there are most likely small circles where you can get away with releasing original music, and performing it to a receptive crowd. There is this perception that in order to enjoy music, you somehow have to be part of the mainstream crowd that represents it. This is usually unrealistic for most people, so I always recommend finding five or so people who can become advocates for your sound. They’ll tell others about it, and you never know what opportunities that will open up, or what other subcultures they belong to that your sound fits into.

a photo of a guy preparing for releasing original music

The Label’s Culture Matters When Releasing Original Music

I’ve written about this a lot, but another thing about Archipel is that just because your sound might fit, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be signed. That’s because just as much as a label is about creating a sonic portrait, it’s also about cultural fit, just like most other businesses. 

Think about it, you’re a software developer who applies for a job. You have all the credentials, and can write clean code with the best of them. However, so can everyone else who is in the same round of interview you are in. So what separates you from them? Your personality. That’s why we generally only sign people who we have a personal relationship with, or someone who presents themselves to be culturally relevant. 

Therefore, before you try to get signed with Archipel, it’s best to talk to us for a bit. Maybe get some mixing and mastering done. Interact with our posts. Talk to our artists. But if you don’t want to do all of this, then, for God’s sake, don’t just cold email a link. This has been happening constantly over the last 10 years, and it’s a waste of time. Instead, write something about how you would be a good fit and show that you have done your homework, just like any job interview. This attitude will result in a higher acceptance rate to other labels as well, even if your sound may or may not fit.  

Good Labels Release Original Music As Part Of A Narrative

A good example of this is a while ago I was mastering this artist’s release, and I thought that it would fit the label. So I reached out to him asking if he wanted it to be signed. His response was somewhere between flattery and shock. He was flattered that I thought it should be on the label, but at the same time didn’t think it would fit. That’s because with Archipel, I approach the label like an album, or a DJ mix, where the next release is a song that acts as a bridge to the next. 

I see the whole thing as a narrative, in a way. And that means that even if a song would have worked in the past on the label, at this particular moment, it didn’t, because of the curated story. 

However, this guy’s release, while it might have not made sense in the past, made perfect sense here. 

The moral of this story is that if you really want to be on a label, and that label curates many different genres, don’t worry if it will fit or not – just send it over. You never really know the intentions of the A&R. However, if you want to send music to a label like Say What? Recordings that almost exclusively releases 130+ BPM peak techno, then it’s probably not wise to send them your leftfield ambient track.

In Conclusion

Labels are a tricky thing if you plan on releasing original music. If it’s too similar to everything else, it will get ignored. If it’s too different than everything else, it will get ignored. Even if you find a sweet spot in the middle of that, chances are it will get ignored too, since you don’t have a relationship with the label. Therefore, it’s best to cultivate relationships, and join a culture that will accept you for who you are. Remember, at one point, all genres were truly original. It just took a curator to have the the confidence in order to release it on the market. Maybe it’s time for curators to have more confidence?


Starting a label for the right reasons (Part 2)

Our last post was about deciding on the right reasons to start a label, and before you go on reading this post on starting a label yourself, I’d invite you to go back and read the first part of this series. If Part 1 was a bit of a reality check for you, or perhaps was a bit of a disappointment, Part 2 will be more positive and help you get in touch with your entrepreneur-self.

So, let’s get things straightened up and go over the “I want a label” checklist.

The name of the game is networking

If there is one thing that is essential to run a label, it’s to know the right people and to make good connections; this alone will make a tremendous difference. Believe it or not, I know a few people who have previously decided out of the blue to start a label because they had access to all the resources online to do it, but no network; no surprise then that the outcome of a these endeavors were very few sales.

But how does one network?

I’ve discussed this previously in past posts; I believe it starts on Soundcloud, where it’s important to connect with people who have similar tastes…these people will be supporters of your projects if you connect with them. People will be interested if they see some action on your music and profile. If you don’t mention, like, or reshare anything you’re going to be caught in a downward spiral.

Other ways to network include:

  • Connect with local DJs, clubs.
  • Follow labels you love and release music like you want to release. Connect with the artists.
  • Leave comments on podcast and music you like.
  • Go out, try to attend festivals and be social. Making physical contacts is incredibly empowering and important.
  • Tip: Investing 1-2h per day in networking will bring huge benefits down the road.

Be present

A long time ago, I read an article stating that humans get curious or engaged after a series of 3 notifications prompting them to buy a product. In other words, you need 3 ads or 3 different sources to get people’s attention or a sale. This article was current, but I still believe there’s some truth to that. This means that for your music, you want to get people’s attention multiple times so they get interested enough to listen to you. However, people are constantly submerged with solicitation so a no-solicitation approach might even be better. This means you want people to talk about your music but you don’t want your approach to be “Hear me! Buy this!”, but instead a “This is a great track!” kind of comment. People are way more likely to be curious if there’s no “call to action” to do something. This means that you need to be present, and have a web of contacts to share the news for you; this will only happen if your network is solid.

Have solid contributors

You can’t expect to have a solid label if you can’t consistently release great music. To do that, you need some solid artists and releases. You need a balance of new artists mixed with known artists, either through remixes or full releases. But to get artists on board, you need to create a safe ground and attractive platform to have people wanting to jump in.

But once you have artists on board, you need to keep them. Having ways to keep them stimulated such as with label nights in a club, a podcast series, or pushing their music to get reviews, promoted, etc. – these things are very exciting for anyone.

TIP: A new label will have a hard time getting a PR agent to do publishing and advertising but this is something you can slowly do yourself. Perhaps we can discuss that in a future article.

Think of your branding

Branding is also exciting for an artist, but also for fans. People love finding a community that makes music that speaks to them. That’s probably the most difficult part of starting a label because a branding will stick with you until the label’s over. You need to be sure of what image, values, sound, aesthetic you want to project. You’ll attract people in as a consequence.

TIP: You can totally find someone on Fiverr for a logo.

Be innovative

Innovation is about watching what trends are happening in the music world, and trying to fulfill the needs of people who support what you do. If people prefer to buy music on a certain store, try to focus your promo there. Nowadays, the main trend is to go through Bandcamp for selling and promoting the music. But you might want to work with an aggregator to have your music be on 100+ online stores plus streaming sites. There are many aggregators out there you can work with. They all do the same things, but have different fees so you might want to shop around.

TIP: Start small, grow as you go.

Be ready to invest

Running a label has nothing to do with making money out of it, seriously. Trust me, you pay to have a label and sometimes, there are moments where you get some money back in the process.

If labels don’t really make money, why start one?

Starting a label opens doors. It will become your platform of expression, a hub to connect and attract people who share the same tastes as you and who can grow together into a place where you can all spread the music you believe in. Running a label is not about doing anything yourself. I’ve started enjoying running my own when I started delegating tasks to people who wanted to participate in helping doing something they liked doing. To surround yourself properly takes time but is also fun.

To finish up, starting a label also requires some technical items. You’ll need to cover these if you want your label to be selling.

  • ISRC codes. These are necessary for selling and are a way to create a single number for each song.
  • Have a website, a Soundcloud account, a Facebook fan page, and a Paypal account for payments.
  • Create a Bandcamp account.
  • Get an online shop aggregator.
  • Have someone do artwork if you’re not good at it. You can find someone on Fiverr and use Canva for little needs.

Starting a label for the right reasons (Part 1)

Every now and then, someone comes to me for mixing or mastering and will ask if I can introduce them to a label. In some cases, I do, but I can’t guarantee it will lead to anything in the end; sometimes it works and when it doesn’t. I often hear that in a reaction to this sort of rejection, people want to start a label. While I’m all for new labels, in this particular case starting a label might not be the right thing to do. Let me explain in a bit more detail:

Before we begin, let’s clarify two things:

  1. The main purpose of running a label is about commercializing your music because there’s a demand.
  2. An active label’s goal is to provide an aesthetic that has a correlation to the direction of the label, and to reach a target market.

Now, the main misconception people have about labels, which is reinforced by the fact that they are so easy to start nowadays, is that if you work with a label you’ll finally have the exposure you were hoping for. However, often times this is not what happens. “Yeah but it’s good music!”, I hear you say. Sure, it might be, but how will people know you exist?

“OK then, so how about I release on a respected label?”

Yes, you can try to do this, but you need to understand the effort required from the label to work on promoting you so you sell. Labels with reputations don’t jump on unknown artists that easily. It’s not a coincidence you see labels paying a fortune for PR to make sure the track is played by DJs so they say: “Supported by …”.

Often artists feel entitled and that their music should be known, and even popularized because they made a great song. Sadly though, when it comes to “music marketing” having a great song doesn’t even accomplish anything. You can compare it to a guy/girl who makes amazing food at home, then decides to open a restaurant. In both cases, the artist is in for quite a reality check.

That said, I know I sound perhaps negative here, but this is the kind of discussion I have on a weekly basis with people who start labels that end up resulting in a substantial loss of money, or artists that are focused on building one without having any network whatsoever.

Let’s reconsider the situation from a different angle. Let’s say you produce music, have a network of people liking it, playing it (eg. podcast, DJ sets) and talking about it. If you have a bit of capital to invest, you might be interested in commercializing yourself. But before starting a label, I would highly recommend doing something many start-ups do, which they call “guerilla marketing.”

guerilla marketing, musicGuerilla Marketing can be defined as a “low cost and sometimes disruptive marketing strategy to see the viability of an idea.” But mainly, it’s about doing something unusual to get attention. The best example I can share from my own experience would be one marketing blast I was part of in the early 2000s when Netlabels emerged, giving away music for free online and through any other possible channels. Giving away quality music was disruptive but also in tune with people who, back then, were also interested in getting music for free (note: it was in the golden age of music piracy and illegal downloads). In Montreal, in 2017, when it was said cannabis was going to be legalized, there was a guy who illegally opened four stores to sell it. He knew it was illegal and once it was shut down, everyone understood it was a publicity stunt for when it would be legal.

So then, how should you act?

Think of making your music a personal project

Don’t think about starting a label until you’re 100% sure you can get sales. In the meantime, what you can do is make a personal project that you can then promote with the technique I explained. One thing people often do is print themselves 100 copies where they give away most of them to all DJs they can get in touch with and sell some via a Bandcamp page, where you can sell your merchandise. I know some people that also use Discogs to sell.

Make sure that:

  • Your product sounds good with a quality mix and mastering.
  • Your project looks appealing. Although some people love going low key, using white label records for minimal costs and stamp them manually. You may ask a bunch of friends to help spray pain them with a template.

Find a channel of disruption

Where will you try to cause a stir of attention? There are a few options on the table:

  • Soundcloud: If you’re mainly digital, test the market by sharing your music with DJs. I regularly have some guys that send me music to play. No questions asked, they just want me to enjoy their music and I like that. Personally I think this rocks. This guy Loxique is extremely prolific and sends me music as well to other DJs and then posts videos of them when they play his tracks. He’s building his presence out there without even asking for a release because he knows eventually it will simply come to him, in due time. The logic is, if DJs play it and people see that, more people will ask to play it, creating a demand.
  • Social Media: the “me! me! look at me!” approach has become so overdone that it just annoys the hell out of everyone. This will sound weird but the best way to promote yourself is by promoting… others! Creating waves of support attracts people’s attention to what you do, without you having to talk about it. Let your music speak for yourself while you talk about others.
  • Festivals: Go to a festival with the idea you’re going to a golf course for business meetings. Stay sober and try to meet people without being aggressive. Be yourself, passionate and interested in others. When people ask about you, show your records you made or USB keys you prepared. Watch them be interested in return. That can establish contacts.
  • Stores: A bit like festivals, you can go and bring some records to the store. Some will agree to take them to sell them. But mostly, try to go when it’s busy and and to show that you have your own records; you’ll be surrounded by DJs. There might be a few in there interested in listening and who knows, maybe even asking you for a copy.

Have a backup voice

When we had the netlabels, we had a label managers that would be in charge of the website and online promotion channels. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Some people are really excited to be part of the adventure, and interested in doing something you don’t want to. It can be someone who is more gifted at communications, marketing, or social media. Teaming up now is sort of a rehearsal for when you might turn your project into a label (which will be covered in Part 2). But honestly, any successful labels have always been something of a few minds all together and not just a single one.

The reason why you want a second person to help you is simple: it’s easier to sell yourself if someone else does it for you. Find that person or find a few people who can do it for you. That will really be useful for your project.

In the next article, I’ll explain the steps to turn your project into a label. I will also explain how I started a label dedicated to help my clients.

Strategic Guide To Releases Planning And Production

In this first post of the year, I try to share my own perspective on music release planning for both labels and musicians. It will be looking into how a busy agenda can do wonders.

Music release planning is a game-changer

I’d say most of the musicians I know will produce music in bursts of inspiration. They’ll make music as they can and as they are able to finish it. When you understand how labels work and when they release music, you can also organize your strategy for submitting music.

By the way, if you haven’t signed up on Bandcamp yet, I strongly encourage you to get an account now!

Most labels who release monthly or more plan most of the year in advance. They receive many demos and they will fix some dates. There’s a strategy for the ones that are a bit more organized. Here are some tips:

  • Festivals. There are peak points in the year where music gets played by DJs, and festivals are one of those busy moments for networking and exposure. If your track gets played, many people will be wanting to play it too.
  • Downtime = vacations. Certain periods in the year have lower sales. This happens around vacation times when DJs are playing less. This time is good for consumer music releases though, as they will be your main audience.

I remember once spending an afternoon at HardWax in Berlin and discussing music releasing strategies for producers.

Pete and Shed were both agreeing that an artist, to be seen enough but without overwhelming his followers, should release 3 times per year. That has been a magical number I’ve always kept in mind.


Producers should keep in mind that it takes between 3 to 6 months for a label to organize a release. This involves proper mixing, mastering, artwork and promotion.

For labels, here are some tips and target points for music-release planning. Let’s analyze a year’s activity.





For music release planning, remember that the BPM Festival in Mexico in January is one of the busiest electronic music festivals in the world, with 300+ artists and pretty much all industry players there.One of the busiest festivals is certainly the BPM festival in Mexico. 300+ artists and pretty much all of the main industry players are there. It is an excellent excuse for people to extend their New Year’s vacations, while artists network in the following months. January used to be really dead for sales, but that’s changing today.

Producers: This is a good moment to network, spend time making new tracks, and listen to live streams and podcasts to see what’s working. Make a list of the labels that release the kind of music you make, and establish new contacts.

Labels: If you’re releasing here, dance-floor material will be appreciated. This is a good month to test the waters with compilations that can define the upcoming months of music.




Mid-January to early March is a period when sales tend to be low. North America and Europe are in winter mode and people go out less, but an important moment of the year is coming up next, so preparation is key.

Tip: Slow months mean studio time should be really active.

Producers: Tracks done, time to hunt for labels and follow up. This is a good moment to consider getting a release out for early summer.

Labels: Time to prepare a sampler/demo to send to key DJs for the upcoming spring festivals. If you want to release ambient music or more downtempo, this is a good period too.





When planning music releases, remember that the WMC in March is another big moment of the year.Another big moment of the year is the famous WMC, where so much is happening. Some DJs are ending a winter tour there and will be happy to play your bombs. It’s also a really key moment to test your important release as the peak of the year is 2 months away, in May.

Tip: Contact some DJs you see being booked beforehand to share unreleased material with them.

Producers: If you can travel, now’s a good time. Focus on shopping for labels. Studio time can be on pause to give your inspiration a break and renew.

Labels: Promotion, promotion, and promotion. A good time to invest in marketing. Ambient releases are okay too.




May is a great time for music producers to plan a release, with DEMF, Spain's Sonar, and Montreal's MUTEK (pictured) all back-to-back.

credit: Vice Thump

May is a great moment for a release. You tested in March and crowds might know some strong tunes, so then releasing now for Germany’s famous May Day is an excellent move. That’s also because what’s hot in that moment will help define some of the summer hits that will play at important events. Many key artists will be on tour, and with Detroit’s DEMF, Sonar in Spain or Montreal’s MUTEK, you have back-to-back events where artists want the best to play.

Producers and labels will have to network at this point.




This is the beginning of festival season. A lot of the bigger festivals have all of the same big names, while many lesser-known artists won’t be booked. Romania’s Sunwaves is around this time and is a good destination too. If your music is not prime-time, this period might be a bit low for sales. It’s also a very bad time to release a vinyl as people spend less time shopping and rely mostly on the music they gathered in early summer.

If you can’t relax, spending time in the studio should be more than valuable for the last stretch of the year.




The back-to-school period is a very busy period for clubs, just like spring is. Consider this to be an important period for releasing dance-floor music. DJs are back from festivals and hungry for new material. It’s an excellent moment to release an album. There’s a lot of buzz around the Burning Man festival, where more and more artists attend each year. It can be something to watch.




These are slow months. They’re a good moment for studio time and preparation for New Year’s, but also for the BPM festival, as described at the beginning. The end of the year is also a moment for labels to look back at what they did that year and evaluate their sales. Perhaps you can also take notes and do a post-mortem before the following year’s music-release planning.

For producers, I find that with the Black Friday sales, November is a good time to invest in gear and equipment. A lot of gear will be on sale and you can check out what was released that year, look into reviews, and then decide how to spend your money best.

 SEE ALSO :  Make Your Music Bucket List Happen 

How To Define Your Label’s Identity With Your Sound Engineer

In this article, I discuss the impact that music mastering can have for a label, and how a good sound engineer can help.

What is label mastering and how you can benefit from it

The term “label mastering” might sound new to you, but it’s something that can make one crew stand out from the others. When I refer to a label’s sound identity, I’m referring to the impression you want your label to leave with fans. For them, a label is:

  • A sign of quality.
  • A sure bet that the sound will sound as great as fans expect.
  • Whenever you look back, that sound still remains.

Label mastering means “making sure the sound is adjusted so each release sounds close to the others, and having a signature that makes your label unique.”

As examples, I could name Chain Reaction and its dirty techno sound, Ostgut with its driven techno, or Perlon’s quirky music.

Think of your own favourite label – one that has been running for years. Now think of the label’s early releases and compare them to the label’s more recent work. There’s a correlation, right? The sound is great, regardless of the release date.

Shaping the sound

A sensitive sound engineer will pay special attention to the label owner’s aesthetics and take a moment to listen to the artists to understand their musical direction. The partnership between an audio engineer and the label is as critical as the graphic designer is to forging the label’s visual identity. I see a label as the product of a strong collaboration between the three.

  • The label owner/manager decides the content of the catalogue.
  • The sound engineer analyzes the releases and directs what will suit them, sound-wise.
  • The graphic designer will aim to visually represent the way the sound feels.

Label mastering means that you will work hand-in-hand with your sound engineer to develop the direction of your label in the long run. If people can use your label as a reference, you’ll know you did well.

my demo is not being listened

Now, a tip for musicians that are sending demos abroad. So often, I see musicians sending me music for my label that sounds like nothing comparable to what we do. It always amazes me to think artists have no idea that a label aims to maintain a certain sound aesthetic. Of course, some labels are more open to different genres and ideas, but in general, the sound quality is what really will make the huge difference in deciding whether your tracks will be accepted or not.


You might also want to consider having a trusted engineer do a proper mixdown for your song, which I can help with.

SEE ALSO : The Changing Dos and Don’ts of Contacting Record Labels