Boiler Room Prague

“You are on the guest list for Boiler Room Prague.” The odds were relatively small, but luck is on my side in 2018. I’m going to the infamous event tomorrow.

You don’t need to be an underground music aficionado to know about Boiler Room. Since its inception, the series of live streamed events from uncommon venues has gained traction in the wide public. From pool parties to barely habitable broken down warehouses, Boiler Room has possibly seen it all. It’s no surprise, that despite being publicly announced only a few days prior to the event, it quickly pulled nearly a 1000 people “going” and 3000 folks “interested” in the official Facebook event

How do you get in?

If you know about Boiler Room happening before its public announcement, there’s already a good chance you’ll get in. Seeing mocks of poster design weeks before, I already had a fairly good idea who’s backing the event locally. When RSVPs became available, I clicked the link and registered with the website. I knew the response is coming the earliest 24 hours before the event, so I blocked time in my calendar and hoped. And indeed, the night before, I got my guestlist invite. 

Chosen ones and not chosen ones

It vaguely reminded me on the days when I used to play one big free festival back home. After the line-up became public, people used to mark and mock DJs who played commercial discos. In the BR event, unlucky people started to point fingers, call names, even started organizing a protest party. It always happens, they say. The ones who got their name on the guest list became “slaves of the commercial event apparatus”, and the ones who didn’t claimed “they didn’t want to go there anyway”. After coming to the party, I quickly realised that however Boiler Room chooses their guests, they do it right…

A party that’s not really a party

The queue is slowly moving towards the venue. Checking your ID with the guest list is purely an analogue thing. It’s cold, so I’m happy to be in after about 15 minutes of waiting. Coat check, beer, and let’s go upstairs where the music happens.

The venue is half filled, and it turns out there’s not many more people coming. I try to find a spot outside of what I think is going to be visible on stream. As people shuffle around, I find myself in a position that’s both comfortable and where the sound is quite ok.

Boiler Room is not your regular Friday party. Everything is done to look fabulous on the live stream. The sound is substandard compared to clubs. People who are not in the spotlight don’t seem to feel it just yet. I finish my beer and look around. If I want to stay in a good place for the whole evening, I need to move around the venue as little as possible. I’m going for two additional beers and it turns out to be a terrible idea. After finishing both in a relatively short period of time, I have two major problems. I need to pee. I’m drunk.

Guess what. it’s -4 Celsius outside and that’s where portable toilets are. No way I’m going to check and re-check my jacket. I do the job like a true Siberian lumberjack (possibly about 10 times this evening, because of even more beer later). It reminded me of conditions at Burning Man.

It’s all about the music anyway

The music is good. Local heroes Eva Porating, Schwa and Fatty M are creating a really nice vibe. I am satisfied. Anthea starts by resetting the room with some more mellow music but manages to go into intelligent techno later on. My personal highlight of the evening is Tommy Four Seven with pumping, high energy tech beats. 

What is kinda sad but understandable: I didn’t see any of the DJs in action. They are in front of the crowd, as they always do at Boiler Room. It feels like a party with good music, but without a DJ. An unusual experience indeed.

Conclusion

Being part of Boiler Room is a bucket list experience, but it’s not your regular party. The music is great, the venue has an atmosphere. There’s a lot of possibilities to talk to random strangers because nobody else from your crew is going to be invited anyway. The hospitality around, however, is almost non-existent compared to standard clubs. It’s still worth experiencing though. I honestly had fun!

 

Amsterdam Dance Event 2018

Amsterdam Dance Event 2018 was a decision in the spur of the moment. I decided to pump my credit card last minute (6 weeks before, -ish), and book an expensive hotel and expensive flight. It’s ADE after all, and all the people who mean something in the music industry are going to be there. Many things were the same as last year, so if you’ve never been to Amsterdam Dance Event, feel free to read this series, first.

This year, Katia has joined me on this adventure – actually going on an even bigger adventure herself. I understand, that some people might have had some hard feelings when I was telling them all the time: “Don’t count on me and don’t rely on me, if I decide to go, it will be on extremely short notice, go on your own if you want to”, and suddenly I’m turning up in Amsterdam with this cute Russian lady. The true story is, Katy plain told me she’s going with me, and while I did not believe one can get EU visas and everything sorted for ADE 3 weeks before the start, she did. On her own, with next to zero involvement from me. All I asked is, that she comes prepared to DJ.

Landing in Amsterdam

Before last year’s Amsterdam Dance Event, I took a bus to ‘Dam (the beauty of going on short notice) and back. And I swore I’ll never do it again. Even tho my flight ticket was pricier than my usual bookings, it didn’t ensure an on-time flight, which made Katia wait for me for 3 hours. She hates waiting.

Once in Amsterdam, everything went pretty much smooth, except for me being the usual idiot in public transportation.

Since we bought a day ticket, it wasn’t really that bad – and tram line #2 is considered a tourist attraction after all. We missed our stop, twice. Then we probably missed the right turn, and also the hotel entrance passing by as it would be just another building entrance. For some reason, signs in Amsterdam tend to be always placed over your head.

We also managed to grab our passes at the Centraal Station info point, which was in a different location than last year and was closed quite early together with the other shops in the passage.

After checking in at our hotel, packing out vodka, and me having coffee (I run on coffee during Amsterdam Dance Event), we went for quick sightseeing and food. I always take my special people to the best fries on Damrak called Mannekenpiss or something like that. You’ll easily spot it by a huge queue of tourists. I ask Katia to not allow me to enter Primark at all costs (haha, guess what…) and we go for a beer to another special place of mine: this pub next to the Pizzeria La Zoccola. Why is it special you ask? They were not open because of technical issues in their kitchen – and they still served us beer.

Business, but not so much business

One of the most important aspects of Amsterdam Dance Event is meeting people. Few days before ADE, Kevisen a.k.a. Cattaree reached out to me and I was super impressed with his music. So we had a nice chat about mostly music, the scene in Dubai, and how it works to grow as an artist from Mauritius. I’m sorry for his friend tho, who did not have many opportunities to jump into our conversation, as he’s not a musician. I always am, when this happens.

Together with Katia, we wrapped off the day by a nice romantic stroll down Red Light District. I got to bed reasonably early.

Conference day 1 – Wednesday

After grabbing goodie bags, I smuggled Katia into a meeting with Steffan from Sendmate, the ultimate killer of e-mails (not just) for musicians. I’m planning to see if it does! It’s a mailing list for Messenger if you feel like trying out.

After that, it was a quick rush (with an even quicker photobomb of Ferry Corsten – because that’s what I do at Amsterdam Dance Event, stupid shit to (mostly) embarrass my friends 😀 ) to the Creativity Keynote with the biggest takeaway: do 2 hours of cardio to induce creativity.

I was not much into going to hear the panel about The other family – how to live as a touring artist/manager together with having a family – but it was karma that made me come over. It was very nice and the key takeaway is: if your partner is not fully on board with your career, then it’s not going to work. You already know, that one thing I do during panels is grabbing the mic and asking questions like there’s no tomorrow. I was curious how Ferry balances his time with the family when he needs to be in the studio. Apparently, he does have specific times when he works in the studio unless he’s on a tight deadline.

Keynotes everywhere

Yann Pissenem provided an insight on how he’s running Hi and Ushuaia Ibiza. Basically, we all saw that: he’s got a serious pack of batteries, a very high tolerance for pain, and huuuuge amount of passion. I loved that and would sure as hell want to work with him. This would seriously be the highlight of Amsterdam Dance Event if there wouldn’t be…

… the Paul van Dyk Keynote. This is a childhood hero of mine. If you ask my mom, the only electronic musician she would know would be him, because I kept on rambling over and over about his music ever since I was 12.

The keynote was pure emotion. Of course, Paul’s life ever since the accident at ASOT is twisted and turned. There were not so many people in the room. But I’m sure everybody believed every emotional stuttering, every tear, and even the F-bomb when talking about nobody from ALDA ever calling him and asking how he is…

This keynote had an extensive Q&A, ranging from fan wishes and appreciation, through spiritual stuff, into questions like “are samples cheating?” (Yep, it’s 2018 and we still have monkeys asking this, duh). I took the opportunity to ask about Paul’s pre-show preparation. This consists of sleeping till 30 minutes before the show, while his tour manager does all security and gear preparations.

I am a party pooper

After that, we went for a pizza and tiramisu at the famous La Zoccola, followed by a not-so-short walk to the Rijksmuseum (where we took that epic picture). While Katy was buzzing from all the impressions, she fell asleep first, leaving it to me to wake us up for the party. Yeah, about that… All the food made me fall asleep (so we kinda missed the Melodic Deep party, blame is on me).

Conference Day 2 – Thursday

It was actually good to get some quality sleep, Thursday was pure hell in my calendar. So what’s the best way to start a hard day? The Red Bull Business Lounge, where I did a couple of meetings. The one that I was looking forward the most was actually outside of ADE organization.

Joey Suki, ex-DJ and awesome music producer, was hosting a Lunch & Learn session under his ArtistCoaching brand. Joey is the nicest person ever to talk to, and he knows his stuff real good. He’s exactly the type of person I learn from. It was a small session of about 15 people. We talked about and most importantly solved a lot of problems. We also had great food 😀

The greatest takeaway were brainworms. And an ultimate realization, that I need to build Dark Beauty with my label kids. As an artist on the front line. We either need to convince the underground we’re worthy. Or create our own alternate underground together. After I played gigs at locations most DJs only dream of, it sure makes sense. But I needed to hear it from people that have already done it and have a wide perspective to compare to.

De Brakke Grond

…was our next stop. It’s heaven for tech geeks and we both had fun with all the toys. I eventually ended up staying for a while with the small UNO Synth, grabbing the attention of one brand rep. Thanks, Mark, you did well. I already ordered.

Today was Katia’s day. She’s a big big San Holo fan, so we couldn’t miss his keynote about getting from bedroom to big room. Both Sander and Nathan Duvall were giving a lot of funny but true lifehacks for producers. Most notably “listen to a lot of bad music”. So, I decided to go to San Holo’s show later tonight, but not just yet.

After two days of failing to hit a club (duh), we started early today. FYM x Sudbeat x Soundgarden was an amazing event, in an even more amazing venue – Thuishaven. Oh, it was so refreshing to vibe with Hernan Cattaneo, Luke Warren, Blond:Ish, Atish, Audiofly, Marcelo Vasami and all the other amazing acts. The people were comprised of mostly the older generation, like me and upwards. This always means the floor is laid-back, with a lot of positive energy, and a lot of smiles. This daytime event finished at 23:00, so we had plenty of time to replenish and make our way to Melkweg.

A night with Bitbird

After a short stop at the hotel and McDonald’s, it wasn’t a long way to get to Melkweg. We basically only wanted to see San Holo, despite the fact Monstercat also hosted an event in the hall next door (with Noisia, we saw a bit).

It was a teen audience, so I basically just came for the music. San Holo played a 1-hour mix of his most known tracks, the audience was ecstatic. Tracks like Light and We Rise got under my skin as well already. The bad thing about this kind of parties is, that young guys tend to hunt for young pussy here. They don’t care much that they kinda are disrupting your intimate zone.

Ultimately, I was happy to head home, it was a very eventful day.

Hackathon

Want to be the change you want to see in the music industry? You are coming to the ADE Hackathon. The brightest minds in the scene, reunited. Ok, not so much, only a couple from last year attended.

I got the opportunity to mentor my own team. This was one of the major goals for Dark Beauty this year. We built a carpooling platform for ravers. It’s simple, it takes you home or whatever you call home (like afterparty). Best thing? You already paid with your festival ticket, so no hassle at all. 2 clicks, a message from the driver waiting for you outside, and you’re on your way.

We didn’t win, because crazy frogs from France came up with planting trees in Minecraft. You see them growing at the festival. It is an extremely amazing idea, having in mind the generation of ravers that are growing up now.

We also DJ-ed for quite some time back2back with Katia, on a stage under the DGTL logo. And it definitely didn’t go unnoticed. After seeing us play, I got a couple of contacts. They are going to (possibly) help me do the Dark Beauty label night next year.

Speaking of which, I’m probably going to take a break from ADEHack…or not 🙂

The cherry on top – Guy J

Unfortunately, Katy needed to go to the airport almost instantly after the 24 hours of hacking have been over. But she sure looked pretty inspired, which always makes me happy.

I needed to sleep for 3 hours so I could at least get my way to Lost&Found boat party. No need to say it was amazing, but it truly was. More events like this in my life, with people who are able to enjoy a party in such a positive mood, would surely be appreciated. I even met a few of people from the front row from 2017, unfortunately not everyone 🙁 . It was a cherry on top of this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event.

Big plans for next year

Martin wants to go in style for Amsterdam Dance Event 2019 and I’m sure I’d love to join. On the other hand, the kids want a houseboat. This is indeed an insanely good setting for studio/party/networking time.

I’m also preparing a label night, which will probably turn out to be an afterparty. It’s definitely not certain it will happen. But I have a plan, and that’s what the label kids always love to hear. They know they usually work out. It’s already quite late to work with venues, but I have a handful I’m going to work with, Soon™.

Destination Black Rock City #3: Monday

I never slept so well, at least not in a tent. It seemed like the past day has been more eventful than all my previous life. My head was buzzing and I needed to perform some kind of mental hygiene. Already. A lot needs to happen today, including getting my very first burner bike and playing my very first DJ gig at Black Rock City.

My mattress is done, and flat, and shit my back hurts. I’m sitting down, taking a sharpie and a notebook. I desperately need to get all those thoughts on paper and free up some mental capacity. We have couple of new arrivals in the camp and I love them already. It’s official: fried bacon is love at Burning Man.

Getting my Burner bike

Bikes are the way to move in Black Rock City. If you can’t get one pre-event, can’t get one to the event, or just don’t care enough – you can always rent. It’s actually for a good thing, even. By renting a bike, you are funding a repair shop. You never know when you’ll need one. Playa dust is unforgiving, especially to bikes.

It’s 10:30 and I’m making my way to the camp that is renting out burner bikes. It’s my first morning here, I don’t know what temperature or feelings to expect. I have no idea how much more water to drink, how much water I need to take with me. I have no idea how much of a hike it’s going to be. So I drink until I piss clear™ and go along the C-street. It took me about 30 minutes to get to Hammer and Cyclery.

Some types of people don’t really get Burning Man

Burning Man is a predominantly analog world. So I came in, showed a paper confirmation, and they found my name in a paper catalogue. After that, I was supposed to wait with a bunch of others. Now that’s ok – waiting gives you an opportunity to talk to others, to participate. Some of the folks around didn’t see it that way, tho.

There was no queue. Everybody of us was supposed to wait until their name would be called. Guys at the camp need to take care of about 1000 bikes each day, so all unnecessary drama is, well, unnecessary. But there was a guy (who even checked in after me), looking like Peter Sagan, who didn’t really feel like waiting. He started to demand to get his burner bike “because he was here waiting for already half an hour and some guys who came in after him did already get their bikes”. Another two or three people came forward to him to join his cause, which made the staff look for their cards. It took unnecessary time, and created unnecessary tension. They were bumped to the front of a line that didn’t exist, got their bikes, and were gone.

The Burner bike that chose me

I think, this was actually a very neat mitigation. The rest of us didn’t really care about waiting, and troublemakers were now gone. My name suddenly got called up, and after about 50 minutes, I got to choose my bike.

The rack I was heading to had just this one bike inside. So the staff guy who was assigned to take care of me went heading towards it. It was a blue rustbucket with blue tires and solid tubes. It seems, that the burner bike actually chose me.

I feel thirsty, but now having a burner bike means I am home in the next 5 minutes. It’s a very interesting sensation to ride on the playa, one needs to experience it.

Some few minutes later, I’m back in my tent, rehydrating. It’s indeed my last time experiencing thirst this year. I feel like now is a good time to go and stroll around. Test how much I can roll on a burner bike in one go.

Oh, all the sweet and painful distractions

You can run, but can’t hide. From the desert sun, I mean… Even though you don’t perceive it in the spur of the moment, it’s searing hot down there. One thing I learned the hard way is to be thorough about applying sunscreen, multiple times per day. Otherwise, you’ll get to experience the annoyance of having a 1 cm thin sunburn strip in places you never thought are reachable by sunlight.

There’s also a lot to enjoy while rolling. You’ll get used to drunk-driving (or drunk-rolling), but you’ll find hours of entertainment en route to wherever you are going. And, of course, the tremendous amount of fun, and some reasonable amount of suffering that comes with it.

What I mean by suffering? “Oh hey, look at that U-ramp, I always wanted try this!” My brain is on standby only and a minute later, my head hurts while I get back on my feet with people who seemed to enjoy my hilarious performance. Of course I smashed my head quite hard, but with that amount of Adrenaline, Oxytocin, Dopamine and Endorphin, it’s no big deal.

“Hey buddy, be immediate, try our jump!” – A minute afterwards, I’m getting to know, that the easiest way to kill pain is… having a sip of hot sauce! When your mouth is burning, you don’t feel any other pain. How awesome is that?!

The Superclubs

When it’s time to go take an afternoon nap, I’m passing through a structure during something that resembles a sound check. It’s a giant pyramid and its name is Playalchemist. It’s also the place that is going to become very dear to my heart in the coming days.

Along with Playa Skool and Opulent Temple, these are the superclubs of the 10-ish side of Black Rock City. The lineups are impressive and I’d love to be everywhere. Iconic art cars such as Robot Heart and Headspace are also around. Is this heaven? I’m sorting my thoughts while passing a space with pumping techno. There’s a fair share of ravers already dancing, and of course, this is Distrikt.

I expected to be overwhelmed? Ok, here’s my overwhelm, just 10x stronger than anything I ever saw before.

The subtle fun

You know what’s more fun than rolling around on a burner bike at Burning man? It’s rolling with your gang. Why? Cause you basically stop at every bar 😀

After couple of drinks along the way, seeing a 747 Jumbo rolling on the Playa is less surreal. People in bars are creative and the drinks are tasty. There’s still a lot of camps unpacking slowly. The air is densing up and suddenly, it’s a short whiteout.

We opt in to have a look at camp Best Butt and their neighbors at camp Penaltyboxxx give us a taste of their nipple dips. All 10 of us are into it. We dip our nipples into ice water while we get a cold mist at the back, and follow through with a shot of whiskey.

Before our first camp dinner, we do one more stop by for a quick daiquiri fix in a camp that’s Hawaii themed – today. We also do a brief stop at the iconic Barbie Death Camp.

The evening fun

I kind of did come here to try to see what my real “persona” is. It’s day 2 and I know that the DJ part of me is definitely not dominant. Only 3 people from the camp know that I’ll be playing tonight, but all of them are very eager to see me, while I’m still very reluctant to create unnecessary hype around it.

We are leaving for an evening in the stylish Leopard Martini Lounge, which is a camp run by the mom of our camp daddy. Yes, Black Rock City is run by dynasties. And it’s run very well indeed.

There’s no shortage of alcohol in Black Rock City. The drinks are russian-strong. I’m one of the few around that didn’t get the dress code memo, but all the leopard-people are very tolerant. As is everybody at Burning Man. The conversations run deep, when we suddenly spot (or better, hear) karaoke across the street. The gang gifts perhaps the most entertaining version of Toto – Africa to the whole neighborhood. Last time I sung was perhaps during my wedding, and it was so much fun…

…until someone from the gang realized I am expected to DJ in about 15 minutes.

I’m giving it my all, but camp Lip Bomb is pretty much on the other side of the city. In a normal setting, I’d already sip some drink backstage, meditate, think about the first track. Oh, yeah, I have no f…g idea what to play tonight.

The camp is small, but it’s jam-packed. It’s pretty groovy already for this early in the night, but well – folks do have a lot of fun here, so why not. “Housey” house is playing, while the stage manager (and DJ, because the previous guy didn’t show up) greets me with a hug. I feel anxious, so he relieves me with a “no worries man, as long as you are having fun, all the people will, too”.

One of my USBs is not working, but the backup one does. My headphones are not working as well. What a day to be alive! There’s a pair of headphones in the DJ booth (an old RV remodeled to a booth with backstage) that works, though. I can use those. I decide to go down from current 125 BPM, but add some more groove. I’m mixing in Monkey Safari – Epilogue (Guy J Remix) and it blends perfectly just in the moment when the gang arrives.

Suddenly, there’s a lot of traffic in the DJ booth. Photographers, camera guys, random entourage. I occasionally see my campmates in front of the booth and they seem to enjoy it. People are having fun and so am I. Orkidea – Nana almost blows the roof. Time flies. The DJ after me is on time and is unpacking his giant controller. The mixing gets funny, cause I’m helping with the set up, and my fingers have almost no physical space to turn knobs. My 90 minutes are over and I have no idea how fast it went.

A walk of fame

After a couple of very hearty goodbyes, I try to make my way out of the club. The camp headed out to Ego Trip and I intend to join them. Seems like I played well, because people are stopping and hugging me on the way out. There’s going to be occasions of people recognizing me for the next couple of days (all the way to L.A. airport).

As I reach Ego Trip, I realize it’s freezing cold. I’m also pretty tired. I stop by to listen to the music for a few seconds until I am pretty sure I don’t feel like staying. I’m heading back to the camp, hoping to warm up a bit on the bike. Not happening. There’s still a lot of darkwads, so speeding is not an option tonight.

We have a new fellow campmate setting up shop while I arrive. We were virtually collaborating on the bar setup prior to the event, so I am very happy that he could make it at last. He was looking for a ticket for several days after he got scammed. Yes kids, don’t buy tickets from random strangers, they are fake 99% times.

Couple of minutes after me, all campmates are back. I am not considering  time anymore, so I don’t know when I passed out in my tent into yet another enjoyable sleep. Score!

Discover has been discontinued

Dear all. I want to inform you that effective immediately, I am discontinuing Discover Dark Beauty – the A.I. curated music platform.

Building DDB has been a tremendous learning experience. Unfortunately, it runs at a cost of server and development resources that are currently needed elsewhere. I will definitely not throw the service away. It is becoming a key component in other tools I’m going to launch for my artists.

I encourage you to use the new Soundcloud Discover tab, which will most probably give you similar or same results.

Destination Black Rock City #2: Sunday

The Nugget Casino Resort in Reno has been taking great care of me in the past 3 days, so it’s indeed a bit (subconsciously) sad, that I need to leave to continue travel to Burning Man. This base of operation, temporary studio, and war room is one of the comfiest places I stayed in my life. The sadness is subdued by anxiety and an essence of stress. I need to pack all procured goods into two containers, that will be allowed onto the Burner Express bus that’s scheduled to leave in 2 hours sharp.

Ziplock Spacebags are a work of magic.

I’m packing more clothes and less air, so the mass of costumes is effectively cut in half. The one thing that’s not willing to fit is the sleeping bag. I bought a thicker one because I had no idea about the conditions during the night. I was still suffering from a nasty cold slowly turning into an acute sinusitis (my unfortunate problem), so I chose to be rather safe than sorry. For next year, though, I’ll opt for a thin bag, and thick pyjamas instead. Ultimately, I made it work: large parts of the sleeping bag did stick out of the backpack, but it resembled something that would pass as one piece of luggage. And pass it did.

The hotel did have a lot of Burners checking out that day. Obviously, if the checkout is until 11 am, everybody is going to check between 10 and 11. I realised this the hard way, after desperately waiting and letting full elevators pass for about 20 minutes. In a brief moment of being logical, I hopped onto an elevator going up instead, which turned out to be a cool idea. What comes up, must go down… I almost missed the shuttle, but as Burners tried to fit in their luggage and bikes into the trunk, this gave me the few minutes to get on board. 10 minutes later, we’re parking at Reno Tahoe Airport – seeing nothing but weirdly dressed people. I’m in the right place!

Travel to Burning Man

The Burner Express is one of the best ways to travel to Burning Man. It gets both your sorry ass and stuff into the desert. 15.000 people did use BxB this year, which means about 8.000 less cars in Black Rock City. We do that for mother nature, don’t we? Of course, being able to have a 1 hour stop to buy crap that was sold out at Walmart yesterday, skipping the line at the Gate, and eventually being let into the city when everybody else is put on hold due to whiteouts (dust storms when you don’t see shit that’s 5 meters away) is a very nice bonus.

The organisation of BxB is fantastic.

You immediately get the snarky taste of experienced Burners trying to hold our Birgin (Burner Virgin, a person who is heading to their first Burn) hands. It’s also the point, when you get your Will Call tickets. My god, it’s the most beautiful ticket I ever held in my hands. I get the same goosebumps while recalling the emotions from when I got my burner starter pack. Minutes later, we’re on our way.

After the 1 hour shopping stop, I did have the bare minimum of burner survival material. All of it, but one item – a collapsible water container. See, BxB lets you buy water in 5 gallons quantity and pick it up in the desert. Turning on the much needed MacGyver skills, I bought a solar shower, which is exactly 5 gallons. This worked, except the water tasted like shit (but it was water). I solved this problem later on in the week when we had some empty containers in the camp. Btw., BxB also lets you bring your bike in and out, which was funny – cause I did buy that extra, but I didn’t get a bike. Since Walmart was out of bikes, I needed to rent one last minute for a huge pile of money.

The real travel to Burning Man (Starts at Gerlach)

I thought passing Gerlach meant being in Black Rock City in next 5 minutes. Wrong! I didn’t really know what I was looking at when the bus stopped in the endless traffic jam. It was, in fact, the city covered in a nasty dust cloud. After about 30 minutes, Rangers (the good ones) started to turn trailers around back towards Pyramid Lake. Just as I thought we’re being turned around as well, the ranger made a gesture and the bus bursted into a mad party.

We’re being let in! As we were passing cars, and dusty burners waiting in line, some of them were not looking super happy. Well, fuck their burn. As we were slowly rolling towards the Gate, I opted for rather watching yoga girls doing their art, and really hoped to get to know some of them later. Our bus got checked (tickets), and as we didn’t have anybody stupid unlucky enough to have falsified tickets, we were good to go.

We parked at the depot, and quickly ran to see the Greeters.

There was none of them at the bell. Well, let’s hug and greet ourselves. And ring the bell. “Virgin” does not seem to be a popular word around here. Every Birgin is kind of whispering the magic formula while they smash the bell with a rebar. “Fuck iiiit, I’m not a virgin anymoooore”. I’m shouting without any shame. The bell rings, I’m covered in dust from rolling around, accidentally kicking another burner’s head. 5 seconds in, and I’m already a jaded Burner (it’s those bitter folks who’ll always tell you how last year was way better). I’m Home.

The dust storm is settling. I have all my stuff, including a cardboard box with everything I bought during the shopping stop. I have 4 pieces of luggage, which I’m trying to tie together on a journey that should only take me across about 8 blocks. What I didn’t know –  it was about 4km of walking. The people I’m passing by are mostly nice. They greet me with “welcome home” (except for the Redneck camp where I’m told to “fuck my burn”). About half way through, I’m passing by two really nice ladies, who ask me if I need help.

“No…” *BAAAAM*

As you would expect from a good comedy movie, at that point all my luggage collapsed, and all the canned food started to roll down the street. “Ok, we help you!” Those two awesome chicks were from Mexico. They were hot, super nice, and after they helped me, hugged me and kissed me, I never saw them again. Good for me, I’m a married man without a Burning Pass (when your significant other gives you a free pass to fuck other people at Burning Man).

Minutes later, we’re in the camp. It’s in an awesome location (almost next to Center Camp), in an awesome neighbourhood (google Planned Playahood and Orgy Dome), and it’s deserted. It’s about to get dark, so I better get going to build tents. I bought two of them: one large, serving as a dust cover, and a smaller one to be put inside where I only am going to sleep, dust free. As you might have guessed, I never even unpacked the smaller one and trashed it as first thing back at Reno.

Midway through, my campmates come back and we hug. In Black Rock City, everybody hugs and it’s nice. While remembering my childhood, where you were supposed to procure tent poles out of nearby wood, I was facerolling through the process, inhaling dust the amazing atmosphere of this District 9 – like city. It got dark, and still felt so surreal…

I am pretty tired. I did not manage to pick up my bike, so I’m thinking to call it a day. Or not? Let’s just head out for a short walk to see what’s around. Since I see quite some bikes rolling, I decide to take whatever light source I have. This is always a good decision in Black Rock City.

Colors… everywhere

Darkwads are a problem, especially early days. After that (and few unnecessary bruises), even tourists get the message. With a headlamp and a glow-stick tied to my ass, I make my way out of the camp for a short walk. At least, I planned it to be short.

What I immediately notice are the colors. There is a fortune worth of EL wire on the Playa. Suddenly, I’m all surrounded by light. It’s becoming overwhelming already. “It’s just day one, wait for Saturday”, my campmates tell me later. Residing near Center Camp, I thought it might not be that bad of an idea to get closer to the Man.

It’s getting chilly, but there’s a fair mass of people converging on the biggest orientation point in Black Rock Desert for coming days. From afar, the Man looks intimidating. Coming closer, I realized I expected him to be much taller, though. To be absolutely honest, I felt lost within the mass of happy faces, but felt accomplished for making it out here.

Walking around the perimeter, I caught a glimpse of Galaxia – the Temple. At this point, fatigue was irrelevant and I stepped ahead towards the pilgrimage. Construction was still ongoing. But my god, it was already the most beautiful piece of architecture I’ve ever seen. It’s almost midnight, so I’m making my way back to the camp. Some clubs along the way are already buzzing, others (like Neu Verboten and Ego Trip) are still being built.

Ok, so maybe I might go out one more time tonight 🙂

While we don’t have a real fireplace at the camp, there’s something like a fireplace talk going on, as we try to get to know each other. It’s a diverse gang of very nice people I’ll be spending 9 days with. As I notice coffee withdrawal symptoms, I get some more water and think of laying down, when folks decide to go dancing. I’m hesitant, but they offer me a bike that’s waiting for a campmate. I’m curious how city exploration works in a larger group, so I’m in.

It’s hard to believe money does not work in a place like this. Hell, even barter is frowned upon here. Everything is gifted, and I’m struggling with the concept (as much as probably every other first time Burner), so I observe.

“Hey guys, would you like a drink?” “Yes please, what you got?”

It’s surreal. I’m getting a Sake and a cocktail moments later, as I’m vibing to breakbeat music. We’re drinking in a place called “Duck Pond”, which is a mid-sized club with a very thoughtful layout. Breaks aren’t really our thing, so after finishing drinks, we’re going next door to Celtic Chaos. While I don’t know the DJ, the music is nice. Time is flowing, so I’m surprised at first that some people are heading back to the camp.

Suddenly it’s 3 in the morning and I’m falling asleep. Like a baby.

Destination Black Rock City #1: Getting tickets to Burning Man

I failed for 3 consecutive years. Getting tickets to Burning Man is a ritual on its own and it took me 3 years to realise. I’ll be honest: I wanted to sneak in via shortcuts and the Universe said no. I wanted to abuse my status of an artist from the default world, but that didn’t work. Obviously, at Burning Man, everybody is an artist, and isn’t at the same time. Your participation is your artistic expression and that’s one thing I didn’t get. I thought it’s enough to send few e-mails and wait to be spoonfed tickets. Nope, nope, nope.

It all started by setting my calendar as soon as the dates became public. As many alerts as possible. This time, my determination and mindset were all different. During registration day, I was all anxious. It was one click. One small click a minute after launch, and a big click for me. I felt relieved, but knew the main tension point is coming.

Main sale day was one big test on thinking on my feet. I created a ticketfly account as recommended, cancelled all my plans, and came home from work early. Too early in fact, as I didn’t really pay attention to the switch to Daylight Saving Time. Lucky for me, this gave me an additional hour instead of taking one away.

Fast forward to a time 30 minutes before tickets to Burning Man going on sale.

My personalised link didn’t throw an error this time,  I’m in a queue! Is the sale starting earlier? For people, who supposedly want it more?

After 8 minutes, my queue is over – a countdown starts running instead. A countdown that is, based on my calculations, end exactly 2 minutes after sale launch at 9pm of my time… I’ve heard sad stories of people missing tickets to comic-con by seconds. I was trusting in the system, didn’t dare to reload the page and having faith. The ticketing system could already be down by the horde of Burners and Wannabe Burners, who all want the same: tickets to Burning Man.

9:02 and not a second later: One more queue. I see a white stickman walking in front of a progress bar, that looks like it’s updating itself based on the queue size in front of me. I think it’s a good sign that I’m not getting any “sold out” message. As soon as my stickman is about halfway through, I know it’s going to take about 15 minutes of waiting altogether. I’m sweating. Terribly. What’s going to happen when my stickman reaches its destination?

17 minutes of waiting it took. And I’m prompted to login to Ticketfly. And the login is not working, with facebook throwing nasty exceptions on me. With Ticketfly checkout embedded into the Burning Man web, I soon realise why. I need to use this account, as the email registered needs to match my Burner Profile. A password change is not an option, as I never set one. I cannot delete the account, and disconnecting facebook does not help me either. The last remaining option is “Reset password”. I pray for it to arrive fast, and fast it arrived. It helped, I got through! But…

I have 4 minutes to pay.

Yes, to manage server load, everybody who passes the queue stage gets I guess 10 minutes to pay, or try again. I was typing as fast as possible. The form was not really user friendly, but ultimately, I had it all. I did not care about all the service surcharges and fees. Just please: Let. Me. Buy.

My head is pulsing. My t-shirt is wet from sweat. A green confirmation bar tells me to have fun in Blackrock City. I grab hold of my lady and tell her calmly, that I’m in. I’ve got tickets to Burning Man. I feel the urge to share it with the world. So I do, via facebook, my arch enemy of the past minutes…

Quarter review: Q1/2018 a.k.a Holy sh*t, I did f**k up a lot

The first quarter, where I planned to take things seriously with Dark Beauty, is gone. TL;DR: Boy, did things go sideways! 

What I promised

In Q1, I wanted to mostly catch up on the release pipeline. “Timeless”, “Juno”, and “Carol” were planned to be released in February, March, and early April. I had a couple of artists I wanted to talk to about building DBA, being a platform for artist development. Last but not least, I wanted to bring at least one product to the market. Nope, didn’t happen.

What happened

All was going extremely well in regards to Dark Beauty up until January 20th. The quarter review would have been full of high fives, if I didn’t interview in one awesome company. Everything went pretty smoothly and I joined them… full time. At the moment of writing, I’m Chief Technology Officer of an InsureTech project. And I’m really passionate about what I do. I was never happier at work. Problem: The amount of time I spend with Dark Beauty is almost non existing.

Also, Burning Man happened. After 4 years of trying to gamble the system, I decided to not look for shortcuts in getting there anymore. Seems like my intentions to participate in the rough, artsy, inspiring, and dusty temporary city became pure enough… and I got tickets. I’m going to the Playa in August/September, which means two things: Preparations are cutting into the spare time I don’t have; and I’m possibly not going to make it to ADE 2018.

Releases

Yes, the Russians are still spamming demos to 400+ labels on CC, like they did back in 2015. But now they use Mailchimp, and apparently not well enough. It should have told them clearly, that I did open their mail, but never clicked a link. So why do they bother to send the same tracks over 3-4 times?

While demos were not the best channel to scout, there was one exception. Simon and  Fabio, a.k.a. Pindura. They originally sent their self released single for repost consideration. As I don’t do this anymore, I politely responded and thanked them for the effort. Well, then I listened to the track, and was blown away. After couple of e-mails, we agreed to try a remix EP. As unbelievably as it sounds, we got 4 remixes out of 6 people I’ve asked. 4 really great remixes, coming out later in May.

I’ve mentioned the new place where i work now. Well, the world is small. One day, I’m scouting the german scene to find nothing groundbreaking. The other day, I come to work for my first work day to meet Marvin and sign the EP together with his longterm collaborator Patrick. Space EP is currently being distributed for promo.

With that said, I will fit “Timeless”, “Juno” and “Carol” into the upcoming schedule, as I didn’t make it in Q1.

The good stuff that happened

In Ultima and Space EP are my Q1 highlights in terms of music. The Proton contracts have been a huge relief from bureaucracy. Other than that, there wasn’t that much going on. Except…

It was just before Christmas in 2017. I got a message from a girl, named Anastasia (It’s not my Prague DJ in crime partner Anastasia Lova). Our conversations got long and deep ever since. She is an aspiring DJane, now successfully played a club debut, an open air event debut, and gets recognized in her local scene more and more. She has a vision for herself. She is excited. She is curious. She’s the prototype of a person I’d love to work with in DBA. She taught me a lot by simply asking questions I’d never ask myself. It’s really very simple lessons for any aspiring artist: Be young. Be pure. Be curious. Be like Anastasia, a.k.a. Mierri. Thank you so much!

What needs to change

Mastering. I used to do mastering myself up until the point I couldn’t do it reliably due to hearing loss. After trying out few mastering services, I finally found a reliable and affordable mastering engineer. It’s none other, but Cid Inc. What I find as a bottleneck though: the label placing orders for mastering. I mentioned it’s affordable, and it really is. But if you’re a label, you cannot just pay it straight from the pocket – you need to do contracts, accounting, budgets, taxes. This stuff takes an awful lot of time. So for the sake of not waiting three months to get a release out, I’ll expect artists to arrange mastering themselves from now on.

Time. I need to put Dark Beauty time back to my calendar. Past Saturday’s three hours made a huge leap forward, so this is possibly going to continue.

Products. There was none released, but there are two in the works. A book, and a series of video tutorials. Book first, tutorials later. No more multitasking on both.

Goals. I set bold goals for Dark Beauty this year. But strayed away. I need to focus more. And I’ll be actively looking for an intern. Yes, I’m going to pay that intern for work.

The ADE Hackathon (Dark Beauty at ADE 2017 pt.6)

For the first time during ADE 2017, I see light rain in Amsterdam. I’m making my way from DeLaMar to the back of the Centraal Station, where ferries dock. My circadian (and all other) rhythms are already messed up, so I’m not really worried by the fact I might not be on the proper one. While the ferry passes by Aitana (the hotel we stayed in with Martin), I am considering bailing out for the last time – as I imagine a comfy bed up there. One does not simply sleep at the ADE Hackathon. 

I had no trouble finding MTV Headquarters, really. An old shipbuilding facility, that’s now refurbished into a very very very modern workspace. What I really meant – it is majestic. All the fancy startups would be jealous. I’m signing my soul to Viacom in exchange for an ADE Hackathon T-shirt and making my way into something, that could be described as a lobby. But in reality, it’s a giant creative space, where your brain gets stimulated wherever you look.

ADE Hackathon at MTV NDSM

It’s me x100

I’ll be honest – it’s always nice when your peers openly think of you as smart. It happens to me and it’s a bit more than occasional, I feel special when it does. But my god, I wasn’t really able to imagine a 100 people just like me in one place up until today. Well, here we are, the illustrious “Brightest minds of the music industry” at ADE Hackathon 2017!

I’m passing by the DJ booth while looking for my teammates.

But first: How did we come together? It all began few weeks before departing to Amsterdam. I got invited to a Slack team with instructions. From there on, you pitch ideas in one channel, recruit team members or get recruited in another one. If you feel adventurous (I did), you create a third channel, where you coordinate everything with your newly recruited team members.

Fast forward a week before ADE Hackathon, it all gets shaken up – people change plans or… bail out. That’s harsh life of hackathon teams. Teams start panicking merging, and lucky for me – I manage to get into one that’s very active on Slack. Bruno from Brazil, Kellie from the US, Dennis from Rotterdam, Sebastian from Austria. Fresh minds, first-time hackathon attendees, known as “Ghosts ‘n’ Hackers” and guys who are making the Moov, later on. We adopted a flower-shaped couch and about 15 cans of beer. Why not.

Intro keynote

Meindert Kennis. This guy, CMO from Spinnin’. He talks about the magic behind their talent pool, innovation, and of course – he’s hiring. All the high profile names and brands support the ADE Hackathon because this is 100 rockstars that are able to disrupt the industry in a snap, literally. Everybody wants a piece of us.

We clap, try to speak with all the important people, get business cards, get job offers… And we are introduced into the hackspace – which is a huge room well prepared for being creative. By that of course I mean there are post-its and Red Bull in quantities that are possibly going to kill us.

Let’s think and have dinner

What happens when team members get connected last minute: you need to agree on a problem to solve first. Luckily, there are industry Pros from Phillips Hue, KPN Technium, and Woov staying onsite and are very eager to consult. Best thing: they are people who are a step ahead in the industry. Instead of consultation, we opted in to get as many insights about the development of their products as possible.

We are collectively leaving for dinner. What we don’t know yet is the location – it’s a secret. Until we enter a magical industrial area in the dockyard. With a huge DGTL banner and two full-blown stages. DGTL x Kompakt is happening here, tomorrow. And we already know what it’s going to look like while stuffing ourselves with super delicious burgers. That might well be the highlight until I suddenly get the silly idea to hijack the DJ booth. I get silly ideas in Amsterdam. Don’t ask. I am allowed to play by the organizers. At the booth in MTV.

People start dropping. Like flies.

While we iterate on our ideas, there is a sudden trend. Some people are leaving for a smoke and not returning. The last ferry leaves at 1 am, this is going to be a deadline. I think it’s mostly because some of the people are participating in their first Hackathon. The coffee machine breaks down. It’s getting colder (somebody left the doors open). This is what you would normally call a “shit hits the fan” situation.

It’s 1 am and my team is now Kellie and myself. We decide to call ourselves Ghosts & Hackers and are safely heading out of analysis paralysis. Bruno and Sebastian join us remotely later on to approve the final idea. We are going to build an AI-powered, geolocation-based recommendation system for ADE. All based on the problem, where best-promoted venues get crowded and people are not aware of alternatives because there’s so much happening. Suddenly bits and pieces start coming together, as we mock the first low fidelity prototype on paper. As soon as we are done, Kellie decides to move home as well.

My moments to shine

As the team’s chief of UX and UI, I need to create the wireframes first and ultimately ship the prototype and User Interface. ASAP. I have no idea when I finished, but I know Sebastian and Kellie did have already parts of the backend done. There is hope!

I need a place to crash…

Suddenly, it’s morning. I find myself on an inflatable mattress next to the elevator. Two hostesses who try and try not to wake us offer me a smoothie and I graciously accept. I feel like a hobo (and possibly look like one). A shower is something I’d enjoy now, but a stylish cap is ok as well. Yes, this is the moment when “Peter with the thinking baseball cap” was born.

I’m grabbing breakfast and a (possibly the 56th) cup of coffee. I make myself comfortable in the DJ booth and people seem to be waking up. So I did what I naturally would do – I started playing. Guys from team Angel App join me in the booth moments later and we have a tech talk while playing a b2b2b. After few mins, it’s just me again, but folks from team JokR are in the mood to dance. Here you go you beautiful French people, have some house tunes on me! (little did I know)

Kellie and Bruno come in and it’s time for work. Sebastian stays remote, and Dennis is sick at home. But holy shit. I just DJ-ed at MTV Headquarters!

Maarten, the most phenomenal host

We did have everything we needed, not just food and drinks, but also tech, data, and gadgets. And if there was something we didn’t have – we called Maarten. Maarten is the GM of Young Creators. He is the person who makes absolutely everything possible, is able to provide even more data on the fly in the middle of the night. He is inflating mattresses, repairing the coffee machine, making sure people are on Slack, and literally everything. Shoutout and a big round of applause!

Guys from Trancefamily can possibly picture me, on a party we were organizing – in full Duracell-Bunny mode – and quadruple that effort over 24 hours. Yes, that’s Maarten and I don’t believe he’s human 😀

Time flies when you’re having fun

Instead of picturesque description what happened next, I will leave it up to your imagination based on bullet points. We had about 5 hours left to hack, most of us pretty much nothing to show. Some teams didn’t exist anymore, others were thriving.

This happened for pretty much all of the teams including us, in chronological order:

  • “Damn, half of my team didn’t show up”
  • “Ok, one final update to the design”
  • “Ok, now that’s really the final design”
  • “Final_Final_Production.sketch”
  • “Ok let’s split the effort – you do the pitch deck, you do code, I do the final design”
  • “We all code”
  • “We all code and enjoy it in a very perverse way”
  • “Somebody messed up the commit”
  • “Oh crap, the Jury comes in and preliminary pitches start”
  • “This place is now a nuclear reactor of creative energy”
  • “Guys, hacking stops in 15 minutes”
  • [7 minutes later] “Guys put everything down and commit finals”
Preliminary pitches, Finals, and Winners of ADE Hackathon 2017

At 3 pm, we start pitching our ideas to the Jury. We need to show at least something and know there’s going to be some time to do some final_final_final touches. Bruno is doing the pitch for our team, and I’m commenting, mostly related to UI. I try to be funny with lines such as “look, there’s this Melkweg venue you’ve possibly never heard of, with a young prodigy Armin van Buuren setting the decks on fire”. Yeah, in our jury group, there are people from Armada and they don’t seem impressed. Dammit.

You’d normally be stressed as hell when doing this kind of pitch to an investor. In a hackathon setting, it’s pure excitement. There’s nothing to lose, and so much to win!

The hacking for ADE Hackathon 2017 stops, everybody does final commits and we all move out of the hacking space into the lobby. Guys from JokR hijack the decks, playing techno. I love it. We’re chilling out while we wait for the jury to decide 5 finalists. Maarten summarizes the past 24 hours in a slide deck. I hope the picture of sleeping hobos never makes it out of MTV HQ.

We are not part of the top 5. The finalists present their final pitches to all of us and it’s all amazing products. It’s no surprise that the most daring product wins. AngelApp – a drug consumption app that can save lives. Having seen intoxicated people collapse on the dancefloor a lot of times, I can only agree.

Little did I know

I have mentioned team JokR numerous times throughout this post. Their product was about “re-living the musical journey of yesterday’s party”. Which means: you open the app, lock your screen, dance. And in the morning, you get an e-mail with the playlist of tracks you loved so much, yesterday. Might be a nice cure for whatever stupid thing you did through the night 🙂

The technology is based on your phone’s motion sensor, which is an awesome idea indeed. The guys apparently tested it in the morning while I was taking over the MTV booth. Now we know, that Orkidea – Nana (Jerome Isma-Ae Remix) is the most banging tune. (And it is, for real). So yeah guys, enjoy your KPN special prize! 🙂

ADE Hackathon: An experience I never want to miss again

I’m bailing out of DGTL x Kompakt, even though we have free access thanks to participation in the ADE Hackathon. I’m calling my wife while floating on the ferry. I need to sleep and I need to sleep badly. And my head is buzzing from all the beer with creative energy. I know I need to sort my head now; the only thing now I’m sure of is that I need to resign from my day job to do stuff like the past 24 hours (which I ultimately did and built Discover DB as the first of many). I just had the time of my life.

(Of course, I did not sleep, at least not right away)

Obvious question is obvious: #TeamDarkBeauty on ADEHack 2018, let’s do this!

RIP music curation on Soundcloud? Discover Dark Beauty is no more

Soundcloud deleted Discover Dark Beauty along with several other music curation channels without notice. I’m wondering, if this means an attempt to take a bite off repost channels’ revenue. Looking at previous attempts to monetize, I’d say the guys in Berlin are starring into the barrel of a gun yet again (if true).

This is highly speculative and subjective content.

 

It seems to be a calm afternoon. I try to have a look on some cumulative stats of Dark Beauty while on the go, but it won’t load. I dismiss this as connection error. Two hours later, friends start messaging me they cannot find Discover Dark Beauty (I call it DBR internally, so I’m gonna stick to that as an acronym). Houston, we got a problem!

How DBR worked

I was launching DBR with one intention in mind: Instead of 4 niche-specific channels I’d need to follow personally, I wanted to group them into one feed, and filter it by quality. The backend consisted of simple APIs that periodically fetch newly posted tracks, and evaluate their popularity (comments, posts, reposts). The best tracks bubbled through the threshold. I logged into Soundcloud, opened today’s batch. After doing one more manual QA of each track, I have liked and reposted them on DBR (manually).

Surprise surprise: during testing, I found out that there is a wide overlap in people who like and repost almost every single track from that. The Dark Beauty niche is real! 🙂

Where I might have crossed the line was what happened afterwards. I started following people who were active on the tracks on DBR. As a result, I would get data, and get them to follow back. Soundcloud usually gives you a warning strike if you follow too many accounts at once, but I already know you’ll never get a warning if you reach out to 99 people per day. Noteworthy: you do not follow anyone twice – that raises flags. I was hoping to get an audience big enough to be able to pitch producers for eventual premieres on DBM. I won’t lie to you, if this would have worked and artists would later on start pitching their tracks to DBM, we could start charging them for the service – as some channels do.

Lesson learned: A music curation channel should serve the audience and help grow it, organically. I have crossed this off from the possible direct revenue streams, but am going to continue building one.

What this might mean and who’s going to suffer

I really do hope it’s me who broke the Terms of Service (I’ll look into that). It might become a disaster if repost channels start to get banned. It might be a disaster for SoundCloud. You could guess, that having a big audience usually means, that you also have a big mailing list. Instead of monetizing the audiences of Progressive Astronaut, Sweet Musique and similar, they could very easily lose them. The channel gets banned? E-mail newsletter out, and the community starts to move to a new place (Spotify? Website?). Money? Gone. Audience? Gone.

Since the upcoming one is yet another “music industry hacking weekend” for me, I’m including the topic of music curation to the itinerary. While the channel is gone for good, my API is not. I only need to craft some nice UI on top and voila.

Note: This is by no means an attempt to rant on any company or subject. I just analyzed a very unusual behavior, that’s all.

Dark Beauty in 2018 – Still an electronic music label?

It happened one Friday in later October 2017. I snoozed my alarm to realize I was going to be late to work. Again. Even though it was the best job I had to date, after a weekend spent in thoughts about future, I handed in my resignation. Today, a week after my notice period was over, I’m getting up 6:25. To annoy my wife, and write few hundred lines of code / text /marketing for Dark Beauty. For the next couple of days, my own electronic music label is becoming my full-time job.

So, what exactly changes? What are the plans? Before I can go deeper into that, let me share a piece of background.

Very openly: Dark Beauty started as an outlet for me and my aliases only. When it comes to record labels, most of the producers I know are frustrated about not getting responses, or not getting signed. Which was not really the problem I was facing: I was in a state where I could sign tracks, but then usually lost all transparency about what was happening later. When are my tracks going to be released? How much money am I going to make? Who is going to remix my work? Who gets the promos? Guilty as charged, these were all issues I was very eagerly pushing aside myself while working with ABTC Recordings a while back.

All was cool until I started working more in the product business in my day-to-day job. Suddenly, all my frustrations became opportunities, which I was validating during 2017. Especially the time at ADE was eye-opening. “You don’t start a record label in 2017” was the message I kept hearing, and… I agree. I’ll get to that later. I also had the opportunity to speak with the most powerful people in the industry and have a look how top labels like Spinnin’ and Armada are working with their data. Turns out, top labels do their job several levels better compared to what I perceived.

Based on this, the first thing that I need to change is:

My commitment to Dark Beauty

Long story short, signing artists, getting their music on Beatport, and eventually paying them is only about 1% of the work a good label needs to do. And in order to take it further, it takes what? Time. I wrote that I’ll be working with the label full-time for upcoming few weeks. It’s going to be weeks with almost zero income, which for obvious reasons does not work. After that period, I will set aside 2 hours per day and I have to take that time from somewhere. Which unfortunately means putting my Raavn brand on autopilot for few months (already happening since November – mostly means no new releases or remixes). A sacrifice I’d make any day.

Dark Beauty is part of Proton now

In past few days, I have finalized the transition to Proton as our new distributor. Our previous one was fine for previous purposes, but there were few issues I would need to address in the future. The reasons for the switch is mainly:

Transparency: With great power comes great responsibility. Every now & then, an artist would come to me back in my days, asking about how much he or she earned. That required me to log in, click through a series of filtered statements, export, calculate, get back to the artist. As you can imagine, it was not comfortable. Not mentioning that credibility of the label suffers if you’re not able to send back a number in 2 minutes. Every artist should be able to check himself (herself) and that’s what we (Dark Beauty artists) can, now.

Contracts: Hands down, the contract text of the paperbacks was hilarious, but it was a disaster to produce, get them signed, and imported. Now, our artists get an email, click a link, that’s it.

Opportunities: The friends over at Proton are not new to the industry. It’s a vivid community that knows whats and wheres. With joining, we can use a part of their credibility, which is already opening new doors for us.

Technology and communication: having perks like account monetization on Soundcloud is sure very nice to have. But what Jason and his team are doing absolutely well is proactive communication, that’s simple to understand and actionable.

I’ll be catching up with releases, finally

I have to confess, that I lost most of the agreed releases, because artists don’t like to wait. After remastering, “Timeless” will come out in February; Sierra Haven “Juno” in March, and Cold Hatred’s “Carol” in April (Spotify + Free Download). I’ll be scouting in Prog and Techno music for new exciting local names in the Prague and Berlin region. I’m aiming for 10-12 releases this year. I’d rather have less, with better music and a lot of great remixes.

Dark Beauty is having a sister label, soon

This is an investment for the future, aiming at emerging markets around India, China, and Russia. These markets have quite different attributes and are VERY VERY VERY exciting to explore. Target niches are Uplifting Trance and Main-room. I will be working with the awesome folks at Horus on this one. It’s possible there won’t be that much buzz around this project, tho.

Q1/2018: We’re repositioning away from an electronic music label

My friends and colleagues from the music industry have noticed that light blue notebook I’m carrying around. Yep, that one, with the bear 🙂 Some of you are joking about it containing a million dollars worth of intellectual property. Well, guess what? Turns out there really is a lot of great ideas inside.

What is Dark Beauty going to be, if not and electronic music label? First and foremost, it’s going to be a business. A product business on two levels. Yes, it’s tempting to say that music is about emotions, and that an artist should be in it for the good vibes, not for the money; that a label should be a family. And that’s well true. I want Dark Beauty to be a family; a well-fed family that’s intellectually stimulated, has bold goals, and celebrates achievements together. A family of artists, that want to make it in the industry, or die trying. A family of artists that take actions instead of sobbing with lame excuses.

Q2/2018 DBA and DBF (Thanks to working for IBM I’ll never be able to let go of acronyms)

So where is DB going to shift from an electronic music label again? I’m heading into the product sphere from two different perspectives. The way most indie labels operate is: they perceive (or don’t) themselves as the product. They put out music as “The Label”. I want to level up that game by building artists as separate products. Instead telling the story about DB, I’ll be maintaining distinct artist stories of whoever comes in. In order to be able to support and grow the family (I’ll refer to it as “DBA” from now on – A is for Artists), I’ll be building industry specific products. People are able to build industry-changing apps in 24 hours, so I don’t se a reason why I couldn’t build 7 products in 12 months (I’m saying building, not launching). Goes without saying I have a budget for it.

The core

While in Q1 I’ll be focusing to identify first members of DBA (Looking at usual suspects like Martin Michniak and Nephyx, hi guys! 😀 ), I’ll physically build that thing in the second quarter of the year. How it’s going to look like? I don’t know. But I sure do know that it needs to retain every piece of information that I share there, so I don’t need to repeat myself with everyone who joins. I want to cover an artist brand development roadmap first and foremost: From brand New artist, through Emerging brand, Local hero, into a Global hero. I’m also seeing a network of visual artists, as well as managers being part of the inner circle of DBA. DBA will also cover management issues (a.k.a. happily showing the finger to promoters who’d love to see you perform for free).

The inspiring outer circle

Once there, we will discuss about DBF (F for Focus). I do have a very specific network of people I absolutely “click” with. They can be identified by being able to have a bi-directional conversation with me (Meaning: we were able to intellectually enrich ourselves, both ways 🙂 ). I want to expand this network of people. The trait they share: everybody wants to make the world a better place, and is not afraid to dig in. Most of my great ideas come from talks with these people. I know why I want to bring them in, question is how and what to do.

Q3/2018 Sample Packs, HAZE2 and DBM

“Sample packs? Seriously?” – well turns out there’s still room to bring fresh sounds into the game, especially if you have an analog at home (I don’t but it’s planned). Niche specific sounds, a fresh perspective on packaging. It’s going to be primary a way for DBA to get inspired, but I believe we can get a buck out of it later on.

Lessons learned from 2017: 2 months are enough time for 2 remixes only. So this time I want to allocate 6 months to make the HAZE compilation better by having at least 6 remixes. I already started poking around, gonna pitch tracks to remixers in Q2, and will chase for the deliverables in Q3.

My current consulting biz (Problem solver for music industry) will also join the Dark Beauty umbrella, and will be rebranded as DBM (M as Marketing). After implementing rates, my world got polarized into the half which tells me I should charge more, and the other half who are never going to contact me again. There’s going to be possibly a more affordable version for the general public (maybe even free, don’t know yet), which will in essence guide you to solve your issues using DB products. It’s not going to be applicable for DBA, people who can make it in are worthy of my time investment.

Running an electronic music label successfully? All in the mind
Q4/2018 ADE, DBF, End of year evaluation

There’s going to be a lot to talk about at ADE 2018 if all goes well! I’ll be extending mostly personalized invites to DBF, as well as talking to artists and targets for our product line(s). If there’s a Hackathon, I’ll fight hard to bring a whole team to the hacking table.

After ADE, I’ll try hard to develop DBF, possibly with some outside mentoring. The goal is to be of such relevance at that time, that whoever I would like to bring in, would consider it a very worthy challenge.

I’ll wrap the year in between Christmas and NYE with some analytics. What did work? What did not? Does DB have active revenue streams? How did DB do financially overall and what’s the trends? And then early on in 2019, I will make the decision together with DBA and DBF: to either plan to scale what’s good about Dark Beauty, or kill the project altogether (to make room for something else).

Why the changes? Why can’t you just stay an electronic music label

Short answer: Cause a small indie electronic music label can change the world only with help of what they release. There’s exciting times for all artists ahead, and I want to contribute to the future of music.

Long answer: What I was hoping to achieve at ADE 2017 was to find ways to bring Dark Beauty under a reputable umbrella, because it will never survive as a one-man show. To be part of the future of the industry, in my opinion you need to go big. Balls deep in. Didn’t work unfortunately. I was too overwhelmed from where the industry itself is compared to the state of DB.

Later on I had talks with great labels that are struggling in my opinion. I tried to listen to the concerns, tried to think about ways how an eventual merger would help both. Unfortunately, label owners are almost exclusively the cause of 100% of their problems. Excuses like “If I had the skills, time and money, I’d own the world” are statements that are a showstopper for me personally.

The wrap up

If one does not have a perception of at least one of skills, time or money, I think there’s something very wrong. I’m now talking about 3 totally different labels (one of them is out of operation already) who are more less saying the same. Then I have a look on collectives like Monstercat, and am like: WTF? How can there be such a gap in mindsets? I don’t really want to solve this particular question, though. I think you are not able to fix a broken mindset, but you sure as hell can be the inspiration for that mindset to start changing. And that’s what I ultimately want to do with Dark Beauty. Inspire with success stories.

p.s.: Yup, I did use the words “electronic music label” in a slightly sarcastic way. It’s also good for SEO.