sub:Merged is Scottish based Techno label born through Darren Brennan and Mohamed Medhat who go under the moniker of Medhat & Dekkstrum. Accompanying the guys in running the label is Robin Hildenbrant. Officially launched in 2014 during Amsterdam Dance Event, with what was described as the best Techno line up of the whole festival. The label has gone from strength to strength in making inroads in the scene and have been a shining beacon for Techno brands worldwide, sharing their passion for the music through killer releases and world class events.
Decoded sat down recently with Blanda, the A&R manager at sub:Merged talk about his role, the state of the scene and his plans for 2016 and beyond. Not only is he undertaking the A&R side of things he is also a DJ and Producer himself. Past releases on labels like Different is Different, Turning Wheel Records, Refuge Digital & Five Star Digital, which led to a stellar release last year on Amazing Records owned by Many Reasons. 2016 will be another productive year of releases more music on some great labels within the techno industry. His sets are always high energy with an excellent track selection and mixing and can adapt his style to the time of slot for a party whether he is closing a main room our on warm up duties.
Hi there Robin, thanks so much for finding the time to chat with us at Decoded Magazine. Can we start by asking about your role at sub:Merged and where you met the owners, Mo and Darren?
Thanks for having me! A few years ago I met Mohamed through Facebook because of the music interest we shared. We have been chatting for a while about music related stuff and after a year Mohamed told me he wanted to do a showcase with a his label on ADE. I offered to help with this and also some A&R stuff. Because I am based in the Netherlands I made some appointments with a few venues to see what they could offer. We managed to get a location for ADE 2014 to do the showcase.
After this I tried to focus on A&R for the label we did and we tried to get new techno artists on board. The first label was not 100% techno and was releasing a lot different genres at that time which made it difficult to get real techno producers on board because most of them want to release on a 100% techno label, which does make sense of course. After this we decided to create a new techno label and sub:Merged was born. Later I met Darren too on Facebook and we started to develop the new brand and the ADE event.
In the old days, A&R was strictly concerned with finding and developing talent, but these days do you find there is an overlap with other areas of label management like distribution, artwork and promotion?
In the beginning of I focused on finding new talent fort he new label. We wanted to release a high quality sampler which would be released in the week of our ADE event in the Westerunie. After a lot of work we released a very good sampler with 12 tracks with artist like Skober, Mr. Bizz, The Yellowheads and more outstanding names. This sampler was followed up by a huge E.P. of Loco & Jam which is still played by a lot of big names in the industry. After this release I also did the distribution and promotion.
The label has been running for a couple of years now. What do you think are the fundamentals elements that have kept the label at the forefront of electronic music?
I think the main element is that this label is open for all techno artists. We are giving every producer that has talent a great platform to release music. If we get goosebumps from your music we will release it. Secondly I have a strong believe on our team. Mo & Darren and myself are passionate in all what we do for the label and have a clear vision how we want the label to be managed.
Over the last few years recruiting for the label, what has been your biggest lesson?
For me doing A&R management was totally new so all I did was learning. I am not sure if this point is a lesson, but what I found hard was turning down music. Because I know a lot of producers they all send me their music. A lot of them are producing quality techno and also the standard is sometimes higher than my own productions. If you need to turn down music from a producer you know, because it is not matching the labels requirements, it can give you a weird feeling. But I guess I needed to set these feelings aside, because as I mentioned before : “The music must give us goosebumps “.
Some labels these days seem to be focused on a specific portion of the musical spectrum. How do you go about sourcing new music for sub:Merged to keep with the times?
Of course you need to follow the flow of techno because it is evolving constantly. The techno we had in 2010 was going towards 130-132 bpm and nowadays you see a lot of techno releases going from 123-125 bpm. We want to sell music that is fresh, but we don’t have to turn down music because the bpm is not matching the day.
With so many new producers out there trying to break into the scene, do you think it’s worth sending productions to large labels when they don’t have a big following or back catalogue?
Well it is hard to see what the vision of labels like Drumcode or Toolroom is, but I think you should a least give it a try. With sub:Merged we are creating a sub label named Emerged which is used for our upcoming producers. Our vision is that we don’t really care how many followers you have on Facebook or Twitter, but we listen to your music. And if the music is good we will give you a chance at our label. And also we are there to develop producers when we think they have the ability to grow.
Over the course of the years you have seen so many changes both good and bad in the industry. How would you describe sub:Merged’s impact to the scene?
We are working for 2 years on the brand now and we achieved a lot in this period of time. To kick off with a huge ADE event and release so many good techno within this period is just amazing. The impact of sub:Merged is growing and we see this in feedback we get from a lot of big artists that are getting our promo’s. Big names are playing our music and that is what you want to achieve as a record label.
Now that the music industry is so heavily invested in streaming and quick turnover download sales, what will labels, and for that matter artists, need to do to compete in the digital realm?
We all know that the download sales is decreasing because tracks are being shared on a lot of websites nowadays. We think that the label needs to have various products to make it profitable. Events, label showcases, artist bookings, merchandise and vinyl sales are all products that we have implemented in our plans. We have a lot more ideas how we can run the label successfully but we will tell you more about this later.
We’re curious to know, with the recent rise in vinyl sales, has the label ever considered going down this route?
We are watching all trends and vinyl releases are coming on sub:Merged.
As with many labels, we imagine you get sent a great deal of good music which doesn’t quite fit the brand. Are there any plans to expand to cover other genres?
We have plans to cover other genres, but at this moment the demo’s we are getting is almost 99% techno orientated. For now we want to focus on building so we will grow to one of the biggest techno brands of the world.
Any insights into some projects you are working on for the future?
Currently I have slowed down my time in A&R management. The coming years I am going to focus on business development for the brand. We are focusing on a lot of new events and my job is to find suitable locations. Furthermore we are doing a lot more with the team, but we want to keep a lot of projects inside our team until we have confirmation. A lot of good stuff is coming!
Thank you very much for talking to us Robin, to finish up, what advice would you give to any new label, producer or DJ out there?
The only advice what I can give is to give all to your passion. Work hard and believe in your dreams.