10 Key questions with….Kemal
Some questions to you guys:
- Do you make music?
- Do you want to get your music on the radio?
- Do you want to know if record labels, blogs etc. actually listen to the music that you send to them?
Well in today’s blog and the first of this year’s interview series, I interviewed SendMusic co-founder and music industry aficionado Kemal.
What do you currently do?
- I do a few things actually including but not limited to the following:
- Produce the Diplo & Friends show on BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra
- A&R for the Grammy nominated production trio The Invisible Men
- Building SendMusic as the best platform to share unreleased music
How did you break into the industry?
- I followed my passion for music. At University I started DJing. When I finished Uni my friend and I started working in Community (some might call it pirate!) radio. I also started writing music reviews for a magazine, putting on club nights and doing as many music related things as I could. It was just a case of connecting with people who had the same type of dreams.
- It all culminated in me enrolling to do a sound engineering course. The universe then worked in my favour and I saw that 1Xtra were launching and advertising for jobs. It took me a year from the first interview to get a continuous role there – but I’d managed to gain some of the skills and experience needed with the things I was doing in my spare time and was able to work across both 1Xtra and Radio 1 late night shows before bringing Diplo to the networks.
What advice do you have for producers trying to break into the industry?
- Your first 100 productions will be poor, get through these as quickly as possible. Try to make 3 beats a day instead of one a week – it’s a journey and a process. The quicker you get the 10,000 hours in, the quicker your path to success will be. Like anything that is skilled you need to really batten down the hatches and practice your craft, a lot, over and over again. I think anyone can make good music if they are focused.
How would a producer with a great track get it onto the following:
A Diplo or other big DJ mix?
- They would have to get a track to either Diplo or one of the guests we feature on the show. The best way to do this is to build your own brand. By brand I mean your artist name, releasing high quality music regularly and building a fanbase. This way other dj’s will hopefully start to like your productions and support you. Every Diplo show features plenty of music from hot new DJs / artists / producers. Try to get your music to these people instead of Diplo initially if you’re not getting the support you’re expecting. Research plays a big part of success here, find out who to send music to that has a connection to Diplo, or whoever you’re trying to reach. If your music is good, it’ll travel.
A Radio 1 playlist?
- Again your focus should be to build a brand and create a fanbase. A producer or musician’s job is to make music that is undeniable and then try to build a big enough fanbase so that people talk about and support it. Trust me, Radio 1 will take notice, but it’s a long and lengthy process so keep at it. Put out as many high quality tracks as regularly as you can, to build a fanbase and get regular support. Also remember that Radio 1 may not be the best home for the music you’re making so try to find the right channel for whatever style of music that you produce. Use some thought here and consider what places are best for your music to submit to.
A Spotify playlist?
- This I think has more to do with building a presence on the platform as you can now pitch for inclusion to playlists. Get as much support as possible and start with the smaller playlists. The cumulative effect of this is that it kicks in the Spotify engagement algorithm which works to put you in better contention for the larger playlists. Remember that to get onto the big Spotify playlists you need to probably be established with a solid monthly streaming number. Start with small playlists, even with 100 or 1000 subscribers, before long you will hopefully progress to 10,000 subscriber playlists and beyond.
How is it best to send music out to DJ’s, labels and Management companies?
- First stop would be to look though the SendMusic directory (send.mu/directory) as we’ve got some major players in there – so sign up! Do your research, look at their relevant social spaces, they usually have demo drop details. Most of the information you need is on the internet, so just start digging.
- Format wise I prefer when people send 1 track (your best!) and never more than 3. More than that and the reality is most people working in the music industry just won’t have the time to go through them all. I get 15 emails a day asking me to listen to music so if you’re sending 12 tracks it’s just not going to happen. If they want to hear more, they’ll get in touch and ask. Make sure that it’s a high res mp3 with contact details on how to get in touch, which is best done in using the file name effectively.
Does anyone really ever listen to the music at the record labels, blogs, Spotify playlists in your opinion?
- Yes, most people get into the music industry because they are passionate about music. The underlying issue is that these people are inundated with tracks. Getting through as many tracks quickly and securely and sending feedback is why we created SendMusic!
Do you have to have a massive social media presence to get signed now?
- No, but you need something unique, whether that’s your personality shining through online or your amazing music making skills making you stand out. There are lots of smaller labels that support artists without huge followings. If however you’re definitely looking to be a top 10 pop star then yes, you most probably do need to work on your social media presence and have an audience already.
Do you need a Radio Plugger?
- Radio pluggers help after you reach a certain level – when you’ve had time in a scene and built some connections. As a general rule of thumb they are more for pushing music to daytime shows and rotation. Good radio pluggers should have connections with presenters and radio production staff that can help get your music heard but you don’t necessarily need one – especially if you’re making underground specialist music.
What is the best way to keep on top of trends in music?
- For music trends look out for what’s hot using different indicators, such as charts, sales / streaming, what’s being played on radio shows, in the clubs and in DJ mixes.
- From a business angle read things like Music Week or Music Business Worldwide to find out about who is doing what at labels, publishers and more.
Is it better to be independent in this day and age or with a management company that can align you with singers and an infrastructure
- This depends on the artist. I’m an advocate of doing as much as you can by yourself until managers approach you. Lots of upcoming artists think the answer is to get a manager, but the vision still needs to come from the artist – where he or she is going artistically. A manager is just an enabler. I guess the questions underlying this is – as an artist do you want full creative control or do you need help navigating the industry? It can be complex, there are lots of tricky roads to manoeuvre, e.g. record deals, publishing contracts, licensing, touring etc. You can do it all yourself (it’s easier than ever with more and more tools evolving every year) but the independent path doesn’t let you focus 100% on the craft of making music.
What plans do you have for SendMusic in 2020?
- 2020 is already gearing up to be our best and most exciting year yet!
- Our Mobile App will launch at the end of March and I think you are going to love it – there are also big plans in the summer centred around some key music tech events.
- We’ll be heading back to ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event) in October, where we were shortlisted as a ‘Company 2 Watch’ last year.