In a world of corporate buyouts, mergers, and partnerships of huge media conglomerations, it’s no doubt that competition is tough for indie labels with big dreams. When cash is king, how do smaller labels manage to take home their slice of the pie?
Today I’ll be looking at an American label that has become a tastemaker on a global scale in just five years from its inception. Based out of Philadelphia as the brainchild of hyperactive non-stopping producer, DJ, songwriter, rapper, author and filmmaker Diplo (Whomas Wesley Pentz), Mad Decent is constantly pushing the limits and perceptions of what a record label is and how it should function. For new labels, here are lessons to be learned from this forward thinking creative platform.
1. Let talent and taste guide you, not norms.
Baile Funk (Blonde de Rolê), Dancehall (Major Lazer), Progressive Kuduro (Buraka Som Sistema) and Post Trap (Flosstradamus, UZ) are just some of the genres housed under Mad Decent.
The label goes for sounds that feel like night and day when compared side by side. The reason? Diplo strongly feels the organization shouldn’t limit itself to one genre, but rather approach acquisition of artists based first and furthermost by talent and innovation, no matter what the category may be.
“At Mad Decent, we see what has always driven this culture and this movement has been the side stages, the underground, the kids taking chances and doing something different. Electronic music was a rebellion against the same old rock songs and messages and fashion. But that’s already what I see with the Top 10 DJ’s doing the same shit over and over, and festivals perpetuating it. It’s not for me, it never has been. I’ve always tried to nurture new sounds and help shed lights on what’s exciting and what’s moving music forward.” – Diplo
2. Take chances in acts you believe in
“The label is definitely about trying out different experiments and seeing which ones stick and not really being jammed into a certain genre.” – Mad Decent artist Bosco Delrey
“The business side that I see from Mad Decent is that they reinvest to create a happy environment for people to release their music,” Bot says. “It’s about growing and building, and supporting new artists. That’s by far more interesting than the traditional label model of ‘let’s make the most money we can.’” – Andrea “Bot” Fratangelo, one half of Mad Decent production duo Crookers.
3. Give back (Mad Decent Block Parties & Heaps Decent)
Mad Decent Block Parties have taken over neighborhoods across the United States in the past few years, offering free entry and showcasing the label’s established artists and new talent. This summer’s Chicago block party was so popular that fans rushed the barriers and the event was shut down due to over-capacity. Free events like this help build loyalty of long time fans and attract new ones at the same time.
A little good will never hurt an organization’s image, either. Heaps Decent is “committed to finding and nurturing the creativity of underprivileged and Indigenous young people and emerging artists.” The Austrailian-based non profit organization co-created by Diplo provides resources to help talent develop their musical careers and promote creativity.