Thoughts with Aviary Bridge records
One of my strongest beliefs about success is that it's largely dependent on who you know, and also what you've learned through other people's perspectives and experiences. Meeting label owners and heads of creative teams/brands has helped me understand some crucial things to the art and business and expand my own goals and toolsets. Today we feature Leon Permentier, Producer and Co-owner of Aviary Bridge records, who has helped me understand more about what really goes on behind a proper label
Leon, thanks for joining us today! For those who don't have the privilege of knowing about your label, can you tell us about your experience in building up Aviary Bridge Records?
About four years ago I met Laura Mason (Elleodin) on Soundcloud. We talked about how we started with music production and how much of a struggle it was to find the right information about music production in general, and also on social media and marketing. We joked about writing an ebook for starting music producers to spare them of the trouble of having to search for it as we did.
The more we talked about it the more serious this idea became. We would end up writing an ebook, making a website, creating a small community, and starting a label type of thing for young producers to get a feel of how the music business works. We actually started writing the ebook, but one evening we watched a YouTube video where a guy was talking about how a record label can work as a vehicle for your music. This basically changed everything, and we started Aviary Bridge Records.
We released some of our own music through Aviary and not long after that we signed our first artist, a young producer from Romania, sar.casm. He's still with us today, having a track together with Behind Clouds on the LoFi Beats playlists with more than 6 million streams already. Soon after we started looking for talented producers that could benefit from our help on Soundcloud. We figured that if we would build a small family with talented producers, we would build a solid foundation that will lift everyone up as the label grows and vice versa.
We knew that 'slow but steady' was the best way to go forward for us, so everyone would be able to keep up and learn along the way. Although that ebook will probably never get written, we never let go of our goal to be mentors, share knowledge and help young artists with all aspects of the music business. We've seen many labels and collectives come and go in the past few years. Some of those have become very successful in a short period of time. Sometimes it makes me wonder if we should've done things differently from the start, but then I look at our catalog, and more importantly the warm and caring family we've built here and I know we did the right thing :) Most of our early artists are still on the roster and form the core of our family
Just a select few of the many artists working with Aviary
It's funny you mentioned that having a record label can be an excellent vehicle for your own music. That's what initially prompted the idea with Tsunami as well. Getting the exposure I needed seemed too inconsistent and in the hands of too many hard to reach people, so creating my own team/collective appeared to be the best option for long term sustainability and growth. Of course, not everyone will have the means or the desire to create a full-blown label with significant influence, however simply forming great connections with other artists, and establishing unofficial partnerships is a great way to increase your capacity (IMO)
When you’re searching for artists to sign with, or work with on a deeper level, what are some qualities that make or break the deal? How can an artist hope to develop these relationships with label owners?
Part of the question has already been answered earlier, but when it comes down to adding artists to our family, we mostly look for talent. Raw and undeveloped talent that deserves exposure. The kind of artists that would benefit from being with us. A perfect example would be one of our latest signings with Swagger Thief, a duo from the US. Amazing talent! Yet, with multiple albums already out they still didn’t get many listeners. The guys are really enthusiastic and very eager to learn.
Together we looked at their past, what they could've done differently and what they want for the future. We had some long but exhilarating chats! And together we managed to get more than 10k streams on their first single released with Aviary. They have not only seriously improved their music productions, but also their social media strategy. Soon we will release their 5th single as a promotional single for their album which will drop a bit later.
To get back to your question on how to build relationships with labels as an artist. Do your research. Firstly, you should look at where you are right now and what would benefit you the most in the short, but also in the long run. If let's say, you released 2 albums and a couple of singles, but are not getting any traction. You should look for a label that offers a mentorship. If you're doing well on your own, and know how to get on some smaller playlists by yourself already, then it's probably best to look for a short-term relationship with a label that has connections that will get you on bigger playlists.
Most labels take demos through their website and we do as well. If you find a label that you think you would fit in with use the demo submission option. I'm getting lots of messages on Instagram, Facebook, and email, so I've come to the point that I can’t keep up and just have to ignore most of it. but I do always take the time to listen to every demo I receive through the demo section on the website.
So, unless you already have a connection with the people behind the label, use the proper channels. Feel free to check in a week later if you haven't heard back yet. Even the smallest labels are getting tons of submissions. Do not mass submit the same demo to lots of labels at the same time. Do your research first, find the right labels for you, schedule ahead and send your demos to the labels one by one. Sending in demos is not like pitching for playlist features.
By scheduling ahead, I mean to work in advance. Most artists have a 'one beat a month' thing going on, and they should! But try to work two beats in advance. This gives a label time to listen to your demo, contact you, arrange contracts, distribute and properly design a marketing strategy. I can only speak for Aviary, but we schedule at least 6 weeks ahead!
Final tip: Just keep in mind that almost everyone working in music is getting tons of messages a week. Be respectful and thoughtful. You won't get on someone’s priorities list if you spam their inboxes. Follow up after a week to see if they got your message. As frustrating as it sometimes might be, not everyone will respond to let you know they are not interested. But do not assume that they are not interested in anything else. You could have caught them in a bad time, or they are simply too busy to respond to everything. Don’t take it personally and just try a new submission in a couple of weeks
What you mentioned above was crucial; to use the proper channels of contact unless you know the person yourself. Personally I also only accept submissions for our own playlists via our specific page for music submissions (Here). It gets too hectic trying to manage DM's from IG, messenger, email at the same time. We genuinely want to hear new music and meet new artists, yet we also must maintain order and balance so we don't burn out. As an artist, you greatly increase your chances of being included and remembered by simply making the label owners' lives easier and following their process.
Recently there's been some debate around "cookie cutter lofi" and whether or not our genres are sounding more the same each day. How do you feel about the current state of Lofi / Chillhop? Do you feel like we need a revival?
That's a good question really. So, when we started getting into the chillhop thing 4 years ago things were a bit different. The niche was just about to pick up the pace. Spotify was starting to accept chillhop as a niche and implemented a couple of playlists dedicated to chillhop. Soon it became more playlist, more LoFi orientated, and every playlist started picking up followers really quickly. With that, obviously, lots of young producers switched from EDM, Dubstep, DeepHouse, Trap to LoFi. At that very moment, the whole 'movement' changed, getting influences from lots of other genres.
Along the way, as the niche became bigger, Spotify started focusing more on specific styles and sounds. Logical that lots of producers started to mimic that style. As Spotify evolved so did a part of the niche. Now, if you look at the LoFi/Chillhop niche, you'll notice that lots of producers have skilled up and have evolved into musicians, but also that a huge part didn't. The current state of LoFi is poor actually. If you listen to the big playlists there's hardly anything in there that will really surprise you. It all sounds a bit the same.
I know that it actually is kind of the purpose of the whole niche, Study Beats, but yeah, apart from a few big names that really have their own sound and signature style, there's this big ocean of tracks that all sound the same.
There are obviously some artists feeling the same way who have started making LoFi House ;) Spotify jumped on it and created a LoFi House playlist. More people are shifting towards LoFi House now, so it's only a matter of time before a second and third LoFi House playlist comes into existence (maybe they are already there, I dunno).
Do we need a revival? No, that will sort itself out really. What we need is communities with a large reach to teach artists about techniques, music theory, plugins, gear, to make them more skilled producers, while at the same time inspire them to really find their own sound and style. In case you're not sure what that means, listen to Kupla. He's the most obvious example as you recognize his music from the first second it plays.
If we, as one big community, can manage to help everyone become a better producer, the whole niche evolves. Basically if not everyone would try to get on the LoFi Beats playlist, but would aim at forcing Spotify to create new playlists that are actually different from the usual ones, more artists would have a chance of becoming a regular and thus being able to support their need for better gear, which will let them create music of better quality. And I don't mean that everyone should get an SP404 from their first royalties. As much as I love the SP404, it's quite limited in options and there's already a few Mayaewk's and Lightfoot's out there ;)
This topic is definitely a controversial one and I don't intend (Neither does Leon) to rub anyone the wrong way. In every genre and industry, there will be over-saturation and exploitation, it's nothing new. Yet I (personally) do feel like this conversation needs to happen among our genre(s) though, because so much of what's being made right now is coming from laziness in exploration (IMO), yet our genres are so ripe right now, ready for evolution and an upsurge in creativity. The blends I'm beginning to hear with styles such as retro wave / synthwave with Chillhop elements and as you said, Lofi house are amazing. I do believe this is a future for our genres, as we as a community begin to grow tired of the current trends and venture out for more, as we've been doing forever.
In addition to artists having work to do; curators, label owners, and tastemakers also have a huge responsibility here. As a community, we typically only hear the music that is curated by these people with influence. So as influencers, It's important that we're making an effort to discover and promote the music that will best inspire producers to search out their own style and to become better artists, not to keep the same sounds in a loop hoping to monetize off the trends. It seems like as of recently producers are more trying to fit in with what these curators want in hopes of being playlisted, rather than exploring their own styles and techniques and creating new demands and avenues. As Leon said above, we need to create a strong culture around education and empowerment.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2019 and the coming year? And as a label, what would you urge artists to focus on hard for the next year?
Leon: Ah, nice one! We have so many exciting projects in the works at the moment. Some really big ones as well! Today (July 5th) we reached the 100 pledges needed to press the Bastelbande album from last year on vinyl through Qrates. We tried a campaign last year, but since it was a double 12" the price was too steep and came short. Now, a year later, a smaller selection of the album fitting on just a single 12” reached its goal in just 14 days. Very happy about that, as these guys just deserve their truly amazing album on vinyl! We are in the final stages of a huge Trip Hop project together with S1X Music. We're gonna do a run of 250 copies on vinyl, directly from the pressing plant! We aim to release in September with a big celebratory release party and everything! This project is most likely the first out of 5 we'll do with S1XMusic.
Last year we successfully released Solstice on vinyl (pictured above), together with Dust Collectors. But for this year we are doing a follow up on that project, together with Urban Undergrounds. The artwork is ready (which looks mind-blowing), the first four names have sent in their demos (deeB, Moose Dawa, Mujo, Remulak) and we are now carefully approaching artists to join the vinyl project. It's not an open submission thing as we really don't want to have to disappoint people. And this way we have full control over the artist line-up on the album.
Then, if all goes according to plan, hopefully around early December we plan to release a nice LoFi Hip Hop vinyl compilation together with Pueblo Vista! Rumour has it Mayaewk is working on a 12" as well. There's more, but let's leave the vinyl part at that as there's lots of other big stuff. We are currently trying to set up some sort of shared YouTube channel. I won't be able to say much about it yet, but it's gonna involve multiple labels/collectives and it could be seen as 'LoFi TV'.
Aviary is currently splitting up into sections/imprints. This will allow us to separate genres based on mood and feel. Aviary Day, for the LoFi Hip Hop, Chillhop, etc and Aviary Night for the more danceable or electronic Downtempo genres. As being a multiple genres, we obviously have a multi-genre audience. This way our audience knows exactly what new release to check out.
This split might even go further than just Aviary Day and Aviary Night. We will probably keep Aviary Bridge Records going as well with one or two high-quality projects a month that requires a larger promotional budget. To stay able to offer a home for all of our family members some changes are needed. Next to being a family we are a business as well, in which normal business types of rules apply, including money flow. We hope that with this strategy we can improve our standings with Spotify and Apple music, but also with Promoters and Tastemakers. There's obviously lots of thought behind this, and I'm not able to explain it in full detail yet, but change is coming!
What artists should focus on for the next year? Improving their skills as musicians. The bedroom producer thing has its charm, but if you're serious about your career there's a lot more to it! Also, other platforms. Spotify might be leading with their 20 something LoFi playlists, but other platforms are slowly starting to embrace the niche. Apple, Deezer and even Tidal are slowly expanding their editorial playlist in LoFi. Furthermore, artists should really focus on building a strong social media profile! Or better said, their artist 'brand'. With Soundcloud becoming a‘producer only club’ there's no way to reach your fans on the same platform you put your music on. Social media is the only way!
And also, focus on the realization that being an artist is a lot more than just making music. You can't just produce music, hand it off to your label to put it out there while you are working on the next project! Being an artist is all about quality music (obviously), professional artwork,a strong social media game and building a network of people that can help you reach a wider audience
LoFi community, GAME ON! :)