Lessons In Labels: Samurai Music
This week sees the release of Dub Phizix & Skeptical’s Run It Like The President / Half Man. Hot on the the heels of their previous bullets – the deep, rolling Lastik and the still ubiquitous Marka – Samurai have scored a major musical moment. Forward thinking firebrand funk, it’s a major coup for the Kiwi label. We checked in with label boss Geoff Presha to see how the release came about… He came back with lessons in how to run a successful label AND some cool Samurai goodies to give away!
“I was always a fan of their music and there’d been talk of a release. They both told me at separate times they would really like to do something for the label so it came together quite nicely,” he tells us. “First off there was mention of another, and now very famous track with a Manchester MC on it for Samurai, but that one slipped through my fingers unfortunately. President was signed soon after it was made. Half Man was written exclusively for the release and it took a while to get right, but I am extremely happy with the finished product as are the boys. T Man and Sparkz are such great voices, they really make the tunes. I am very honoured to have an original DRS illustration for the cover as well. I’ve long been a fan of his art, he actually did a sketch of me that was used on the CD of our first ‘Way Of The Samurai’ compilation!”
Geoff’s label mission began back in late 90s. Frustrated that New Zealand D&B artists didn’t have a platform, he created Subtronix Recordings which developed into a strong international imprint releasing early cuts from artists both sides of the globe including Baron, Mosus and The Upbeats. Having earned his stripes and learned the essential mechanics, Geoff wound down the label and came back with warrior-like intentions: enter Samurai Music.
“It was born out of the same ideal really but with a lot more determined and experienced approach as its foundation,” grins Geoff. “The first release with State Of Mind & Trei was very exciting and the reception for Samurai Music as a whole. Signing a Klute release and then Calibre, as well as helping work with new talent like Tokyo Prose has always been great fun. There is a lot to talk about in that regard, I’m blessed to have worked with most of my favourite artists on the label. Putting out an ASC album and now having Marcus Intalex added to the list of names on the label is also something I am very proud of!”
Klute, Calibre, Marcus Intalex, ASC, Dub Phizix, Skeptical: Strictly dealing in big names and releases, Samurai are a label to be reckoned with… And these are the secrets of their success. If you’ve ever considered running a label of your own treat these words like the gospel!
1: Release the music you love and ignore trends.
2: Create a totally unique image and vibe around your label. Build a brand and ethos people can associate with.
3: Talk to your artists. Ensure you get on with them as people before you start working together on anything else.
4: State your intentions and terms extremely clear to artists about releases from the very start and keep them updated as the process continues. Artists tend to hate surprises when it comes to releases so its better to make sure they know what’s happening every step of the way.
5: Have a good relationship with your distributor and anyone involved closely with your label’s product.
6: Build relationships with influential DJs and tastemakers and take good care of them, they help sell the label’s music massively.
7: Listen closely to pre-masters, masters and test presses for mistakes.
8: Find a quality mastering engineer whose sound you really like. Talk to him about his process.
9: Agree to promotional activities required with your artists when you sign releases.
10: Find out what other releases are coming out around the same time as yours before you finalise a release date. The last thing you need is to clash with the next Samurai release!
1: Copy other labels and look in your own genre for inspiration musically or otherwise
2: Ignore the paperwork and accounting end of running the label.
3: Sign any tunes Samurai wants
4: Release anything you will not be happy with in 5 or 10 years.
5: Tell other label owners and top DJs about any new artists you are working with until the releases are ready to go. Chances are they will try and steal them from you!
6: Think social media responses are relative to sales. Some of the biggest selling artists have no social media presence, and some of the artists with the biggest social media responses don’t sell much music.
7: Let your releases out into the public arena until you have them ready to sell. The public is very impatient these days and they are spoilt for choice. Chances are they will resent you for the music not being available when they know about it, and feel its old by the time you manage to get it out.
8: Send music to DJs before you want them to play it. Chances are, even if you ask them not to put it on mixes, they will.
9: Change musical styles massively with every release. Create a sub label if you want to stretch out. Music buyers like to know what they are getting with a label generally.
10: Forget to send me all the tunes you sign first so I can also play them on mixes when I’m not meant to!
Fancy winning a Run It Like The President 12” and a Way Of The Samurai CD? Then answer this question:
Which of these artists have never had a release on Samurai?
D) Dub Phizix
Easy! Email the answer over to firstname.lastname@example.org along with you address and phone number and you could be a lucky winner. Closing date: August 31. Good luck!
Run It Like The President / Half Man is out now on Samurai. Listen and download