In a country with innumerable nights sub:Merged have managed to get their heads above water. Launching in grand style at last years ADE with 30 international DJ over 4 rooms including Dave Clarke, Pig & Dan, Marco Bailey and Detroit legends Robert Hood and Kevin Saunderson, they set themselves apart from the get go. They followed up that enormous party with Soma main man David Clarke in Lisbon, Portugal. They also have a record label which is shows all the signs of success too. Their first release by UK stars Loco & Jam reaching the top 30 in a worldwide techno chart. Decoded caught up with Director Darren Brennan to chat about his vision for sub:Merged, the parties and the global techno scene in 2015.
Hi Darren, its a pleasure to meet you. Tell us about your day so far.
It’s been busy as usual. Every day really is varied. Today I have been following up on some contacts from artists.
Your role as a director is a varied one. Explain to us the differing strands of your job and how do you balance your time?
It can be difficult at times to balance dealing with anything from demos, label work, marketing and event promotion. Both Mo, my fellow director and I often have to deal with different priorities at different times. But I’m conscious we are a new label so we are working on building our team with good people to help with the workload.
Tell us about sub:Merged. How were you formed and what makes your brand unique?
Both Mo and I have been in the music business for over 20 years. Without doubt we are music lovers first and foremost and remember how the original dance scene began back in the late 80s/early 90s. sub:Merged is a concept Mo and I created in an attempt to bring the techno music scene closer together like it used to be back then. Although there is some amazing music being produced just now, it can be difficult for some of the less established talent to get noticed.
We operate both at the grass-roots level with the raw talent of upcoming DJs and producers as well as the big headliner artists and events. So one week we can be playing alongside Dave Clarke at one of our events and the next supporting a local promoter with a new night they are launching. We are trying to bridge the gaps between the two ends of the scene and hope others will follow our lead. We also believe collaboration has to be the cornerstone of our industry to take it forward. There are a lot of artists and labels that we love what they are doing so we will be their strongest advocate and work with and help them where we can.
Our brand ethos is to work with the legends of techno, the headliners of today and the stars of tomorrow. We see this as important both for the good of the techno scene but it’s also good business because we believe there needs to be a proper plan to ensure the continuity of new talent for the future.
You launched in fine fashion with a massively successful party on the Sunday of ADE 2014. There must have been a lot of planning that went into delivering that party. Can you explain to process from initial ideas to showtime?
The ADE 2014 event was just under a year in the planning. We realised that to make the impact for the label we wanted it was going to have to be a large scale event. We started from a blank page so had to organise everything from bookings, marketing, stage production, sound & light and everything else in between. Let’s just say there were quite a few late nights involved!
What differences do you see with promoting events in different countries? How does it compare with the scene in Scotland?
I think the key is understanding each country is different. What works in one city or country doesn’t always translate to other countries. The profile of bookings is not necessarily as important as might be expected. Booking a well known headliner is no guarantee of success if they don’t fit with the scene in a particular city or country.
Tell us about your residents. How important for brand identity is it to have a few DJs you know will create the right vibe for your party?
Both Mo, I and Robin (Blanda) our A&R manager are all DJs, so for the moment we are the sub:Merged residents and represent the brand ourselves. However we have always planned as we expand our events to provide our label artists with residencies in the events we promote. When we choose artists to sign to the label it is because we love the vibe they create with their tracks and we know this will translate to their DJ performances.
So where do you see the brand going in the next 5 years?
We will have a regular presence in a selection of large cities in Europe and North America with our events. We will also be launching our booking agency and clothing retail ranges soon so I’d like to see them grow strongly over the next few years. But for me it will always be about our label artists. If we have a strong roster and we have helped promote and push their careers forward then I will be happy.
Dave Clarke has played at 2 of your parties now. How did you meet the Baron and are we going to see him play at a sub:Merged party again this year?
I first met him when we booked him as our main room headliner for our ADE party. Dave is a techno legend and we have been lucky to have him play at our parties. I think with his experience in the industry he can see what we are trying to do with sub:Merged. I think you are definitely likely to see him at another sub:Merged party this year!
How do you define Techno? What is it about the genre that inspires you so?
I think of all the electronic genres it is still the purest and thankfully it hasn’t fallen victim to the commercialisation that other genres have. I love the diversity of techno styles and how they influence each other to keep things sounding new.
How hard did you find it to start up the label? Its not all listening to demos and signing tracks hey?!
Thankfully my fellow director Mo has experience with starting a label already so it wasn’t quite as hard as it might have been if we had been starting from scratch. I think the key is deciding on a concept and not deviating from it.
Do you feel that the support of the heavyweight artists helps to increase sales? Why d’you think this is?
I think gaining support from the heavyweight artists will undoubtedly help boost sales. With the sheer volume of new releases every week some great music can fall through the cracks.
Last Year Omid 16B wrote a damning article about the use of promos to drive unit sales in the commercial sector. Do you think the status quo needs an overhaul or is the current model of business the correct one to use?
I don’t think promos can ever be the only business model nowadays. With the advent of social media and streaming services, promos have to be part of a wider overall marketing strategy for making sure new releases get as much exposure as possible.
I’ve asked many people in the past if money were no object who would they book to play the best party they can imagine. But money is a deciding factor for any promoter, so what lessons have you learned about booking guests?
It doesn’t have to always be about money. I think this is damaging to the scene if only the highest profile headliners get gigs as it gives no exposure to the new talent. Following our brand ethos is important to us. Obviously like any promoter we need to sell tickets to be commercially viable but we try to create line-ups that are a strong mix of the big names along with the best of the upcoming talent.
As we start off 2015, what does sub:Merged have planned this year?
We have lots of plans in the pipeline. Along with some great releases coming up, we will also be doing events in new cities. We will be launching our booking agency and our website in the next few months too.
You can find out more by following sub:Merged on Facebook here