How to get professional
It's no secret that the creative space is a very hard place to make a career in. The demands are high and often times the journey to get there is what breaks the artist. Across forums, social media groups and communities, I often see new artists asking how they can make a living (income) from their work. And while it is totally possible, I think most of us will never step into that reality because of why we are asking, and how we're framing the situation. We aren't truly passionate enough about the work for such a big payoff in my opinion. I brought ADRENOX here because he has a passion and a drive that I recognize in highly successful people.
Can you start with telling us how your creative journey, and Adrenox became a thing?
Well it’s multiple ways to answer that question I guess. Like how did ADPX come about in general? Or how it grew to what it is now? I guess I’ll answer both at the same time. What got me into camera work was actually video games to be honest. A little gem by the name of “Driver: You Are the Wheelman is what started it all. It was this game made in 1999 when the whole purpose was… well driving; but it had this dope ass replay editor that I had never experienced before. I spent hours upon hours, making cinematic recap videos of my missions… man I loved that game. But yeah, it was games like that and THPS a.k.a. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and MAN don’t let me get into talking about that game.
So that’s what got me into the camera/editor world early on. But of course I never intended for it to be a career path at the time; I was only 11 years old. Most of my editing was video game related until I hit 18 and went to Michigan State University. It still wasn’t a career path though, I just wanted to make dumb YouTube videos. I got good at photoshop just because I wanted to insert my friends into awkward pictures and situations. Then I was an anime kid so the first thing I did when I was learning Adobe After Effects was try to create a Kamehameha of course. So I just kinda fell into the skill set out of just bullshitting and sitting on YouTube really.
Doing video as a profession didn’t really come into focus until around Sophmore year at MSU. I was originally a Computer Science Engineering student, for some reason I thought I wanted to program stuff. My plan was to do the code for video games since being I didn’t think I could make it as game designer; I couldn’t draw for my life. I could sketch houses and buildings though because I was an architect major in HS, but that’s another story. Comes to find out that Computer Science wasn’t for me either… college math was brutal. I had to change my major, but I didn’t want to fall back on some easy major, like packaging, like a lot of my peers did (shade) after their first choice collapsed. So incomes my Media, Arts and Technology major, still not specifically dealing with video but I decided to do a minor in fiction film. By that time I had a nice following on YouTube because of my short stories and stupid funny skits. I really enjoyed relaying a narrative, usually in a comical fashion, but I soon evolved from that specific genre.
Fast forward a few years. I’m a senior now. By that time I had been a producer for a campus TV show. Had a decent following on YouTube, and produced a few videos for local businesses around campus and back in Detroit. After graduating that had evolved again and I soon got a job as the head of a video division for a department on campus. I stayed there for 4 years while building my portfolio and clients slowly. But the typical 9-5 sucked all my time away at this point. What was funny is that by then I had the money to do bigger productions and projects for my personal YouTube but now almost no time, and most of my friends had moved away after graduating. So even though I was making $45K , which was pretty good for a recent graduate, I could see myself burning out. When my 4 years came up I sold all of my Canon equipment, switched to Sony and when to try out my skillset in Japan.
I skipped a lot of steps but what was important throughout all of that time was constantly learning and evolving. The video profession is evolving at an extremely fast rate and if you don’t keep your skills relevant and up to date, you can get left behind very quickly. So even though my job was sucking up much of my time, that little bit of time I had left was either dedicated to video experimentation or other clients. I would go into my Japan era but I think I’ve already said too much lol. I’m writing a book here.
Great insight, I definitely agree with what you said at the end about constantly learning and evolving. That's how it's been in my own life too. There's a small motto that always stuck with me and it's helped me personally kick doubt. I would often tell myself "I believe in my ability to learn". Because I was positive that you could grow yourself out of your problems.
So it seemed like along your story you just did a bunch of things.
Speaking from your ambitious, forward-focused mindset, what do you think about people who are lukewarm with their dreams? How do you think they can move towards more enthusiasm to become the person they want to be?
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 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 come 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 genre's are so ripe right now, ready for evolution and an upsurge in creativity. The blends I'm beginning to hear with styles such as retrowave / synthwave with Chillhop elements and like 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.
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 planned, hopefully around early December we plan 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 genre, 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 require 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 type 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! :)