As part of our All Access Areas series where we go behind the scenes and talk to the movers and shakers, we caught up to Steve Parry, owner of SMP3 digital distribution system for global labels to c-owner of Selador Records with Dave Seaman (check out our full interview here)
Steve Parry has been involved in the scene for over 20 years now. He has been a working DJ since the tender age of 15 years of age, has spent time managing the prestigious 3 Beat Records in Liverpool, held a 3 year residency at the legendary Cream and had a show on Liverpool’s Juice FM for 10 years. Besides the aforementioned Steve has had strong success as a promoter running his impressive Alderaan night which was present in Liverpool from 1997 through to 2001 and he has recently had great success from his current night in his hometown with Luna.
These days besides his Luna night, Steve spends most of his time running his music management company, SMP3 and Selador which he runs along with Dave Seaman. We caught up with one of the busiest men in the business to talk about SMP3, Selador and how he balances his mammoth workload.
Hi Steve. I would like to start by thanking you for answering a few questions for Decoded Magazine today, as I know you are an incredibly busy man. Let’s take a step back to begin with. When did you first have the idea of starting SMP3 Music Management, and why did you feel the time was right?
Thanks for asking me, Decoded is great, so always nice to have a chat about music with you guys.
Well I worked in 3 Beat Records for 10 years and it was a dream job, finding the music for the right DJ and keeping ahead of the game. I always loved it! Seeing people get a buzz out of finding a great track was always something that made me smile and being a trainspotter myself, I always searched for that next new track. When I realised ours days in 3 Beat were numbered due to the technological advancements of digital DJing and as the vinyl market was rapidly shrinking, I decided it was time to leave my dream job.
The shop needed to downsize and offered redundancy to help the shop keep afloat. I handed in my notice one week before our first child Sophie was born. This was possibly the maddest thing I could have done, as I didn’t have anything else lined up! I enjoyed being a new father so much and helped get the house we had recently moved Into shape and lived on my redundancy money and DJ gigs, but money doesn’t last too long, when you spend it and so was time to think about the future.
SMP3 Music Management was originally set up as being a personal shopper/ music filterer for DJs. I had done this for years in 3 Beat, seeking new music to big name DJs and so I took this idea forward to the digital age and filtered through DJs promos, bought tracks on Beatport, and generally scoured the net for new music for DJs each week. I still do this service six years later for some rather big names. They trust me to find the good stuff and so they don’t have to wade through the mass of unsuitable promos that’s a time consuming job. Giving them valuable time to go in studio or spend time with family. Because I was doing this service, I was always speaking to labels, and a few asked me who was good to help them promote their music.
After the 4th or 5th time of me recommending other comprises, the ‘light bulb’ moment struck me as I thought ‘I could do that myself’… and so after lots of planning SMP3 Music Promo was born. I started SMP3 as a small thing, maybe one promo a week for me to send was my goal and it would have delighted me. I’m now sending up to 30 promos a month now, I never expected this at all. I’ve never advertised, I don’t think I’ve even approached a label to come my way, it’s all word of mouth, so that feels great that I must be making some labels happy.
What do you feel SMP3 offers that other promo services simply do not?
I always wanted to run a promo service that I would want to use if I ever ran a label. Using the best technology and hand picking the DJs to send to. This was because I was sent so many promos as a DJ to my inbox, from industrial techno to cheesy pop, and I always wondered why people sent this stuff to me, as it is wasting their own time and my time, so being the trainspotter I knew the subtle differences between what DJs would more likely play a track compared to another DJ not playing it.
So I offer that personal touch, a boutique service I suppose, dropping the right music to the right DJs that deserve to hear your labels tracks.
What is SMP3’s biggest strength as a promo service?
I suppose it’s because I choose all DJs for each promo by hand and think about it in great depth (that’s the geek in me), so instead of sending to ‘the techno list’ for example I listen to the music and think who would play that track and then send the promo to them. Then hopefully the DJ trusts what I send them, and is more likely to listen to the promo and so therefore are more likely to get feedback and DJ support, which in turn makes the label happy. It’s more effort, but I think is worth it.
You appear to have a very good working relationship with Inflyte which is run by Paul Hamill. How did this relationship come fruition and how does SMP3 work with Inflyte?
Inflyte are fantastic. I met with Paul Hamill at ADE two years ago now, and he showed me very basic layout of how his new system would work. It’s designed by a DJ for a DJ.
Before that I was a huge fan of FATdrop and I still am, it’s great! However Inflyte have taken things to a whole new level. They are keen to always push things forward. They have the app, you sync your promos and listen and react offline, and link to Dropbox. So that means a working DJ can sit on an aeroplane and listen to promos while up in the air offline, and have the hot new promos sent to Dropbox for them when they arrive in the hotel room.
Paul and the gang are great. I’d known Paul for many years before hand although I’d never met him. He has a very similar background to me. Radio shows, DJing, productions, putting on own club nights, big residencies in home town, married, have kids and are a similar age (ok I’m a bit older than him for the record haha). It’s quite freaky how many similarities we have. So I suppose that’s why we get on so well.
You have some strong relationships with some big names in the industry and many fantastic record labels. What have been some of your biggest wins over the years for SMP3 and are there any labels that have escaped the net that you would truly like to work with?
I had a twice weekly radio show for 10 years on Juice FM, and had guest mixes for every show, so you get to speak to a lot of DJs and make connections, plus 3 beat and putting my Alderaan and Aztec parties on, so that’s how I got to speak to so many DJs so often and make so many contacts and friends.
Label wise I’m working with a lot of people’s labels who I’ve known for many years though these connections from Bedrock, Sudbeat, Hope and Selador (of course), to people I’ve known for years that weren’t big names like Ki Creighton and his Under No Illusion label, and Chris Forshaw’s New Violence and Night Colours labels, my mate Paul Nolan’s Chapter 24. It’s a great mix of established labels and new labels from friends who I work with. I think it’s healthy to work with new labels, and it’s nice to see friends doing well too. There are many other labels that I haven’t mentioned of course, so sorry if I’ve missed you out chaps!
Label wise who hasn’t worked with me yet – well so many! But that’s good, as it will always keep me on my toes trying to slowly get their attention! Tronic, Ovum, Cocoon are a few labels that spring to mind that I really love and consistently deliver the goods (for a long time), so maybe one day…
Besides running SMP3 you also run Selador alongside Dave Seaman. Can you tell us a little about how you guys decided to start the label and where the name came from?
I’ve known Dave since 1991. He used to come and play for various nights that Dave Ralph ran in Liverpool, and we’ve been in touch on and off since then, I sold him records in 3 beat and when I started SMP3 Dave was was on the first DJs on board who used my music sourcing service (we still do this many years later)
Chatting on messenger one day I mentioned to Dave I wanted to start a label and he instantly rang me and asked if I would want to run a label with him… I was actually a little hesitant at first as I didn’t want everybody to think it was Dave’s label and nothing to do with me, as if be overshadowed as he’s a dominant figure in our scene and has been since the early days of house. He assured me he would mention it’s a joint label and two years down the line he still does that, so all good!
SMP3 has been around for a number of years now and you have over 20 years of experience in the business. What have been some of the biggest technical advancements for DJ promos and label management to make your life a little easier?
Well when I launched smp3 music promo I used FATdrop, which is a great system. It added the feature of leaving feedback before downloading the promo, which is something that was never available when labels mailed out vinyl releases. I used that system for 4 years and it’s a very solid system for labels to use.
Inflyte have been innovative with apps, linking to Dropbox (was a problem to react on phone as nowhere to download track to previously), offering the ability to react offline (a great feature for travelling DJs), and integrating the system so labels can monitor feedback. Also from the app you can post your reaction to social media and tell the world about the great new promo you’ve received. They’ve just added the choice of lossless or MP3 downloads too.
Can you tell us a little about how SMP3 helps labels and what sort of services you can offer artists/labels?
Using an established promo compost that DJs already leave feedback for and support tracks gives the new unknown label that invaluable foot in the door. What you’ve got to realise is that big names get 3/400 promos a WEEK! So they are going to pick the trusted names rather than Joe blogs new track on a label you’ve never heard of. It’s a bit harsh, but it’s a reality. The favourite record shop assistant that knows your sound isn’t the person sorting your music for most DJs any more… So the trusted promo pools are almost taking that role over for the digital age.
I am sure you have had many ups and downs over the years like many a professional out there. What have been some of your biggest learning experiences over the years and what advice would you give to aspirational artists and label managers out there?
It’s hard work running a label. I always knew this but never realised how hard it is until we started Selador. It’s time consuming, very time consuming and unless you’re a high label, you’re not going to earn a living out it to be honest.
What I would say to a new label; just because you have an “established name” remixing for you, it doesn’t always translate to sales automatically. Don’t expect overnight success. It doesn’t happen (unless you’re Martin Garrix). It’s the long game. It can be a very long game. This I would say is advice for all walks of life on the music industry, DJ, artist, label, club promoter. Don’t expect overnight success!
Also – Be nice and be respectful. It’s much better to work with somebody that is somebody that you get on with.
Promotion has always been important but it appears to be even more so today with the likes of social media and the potential that a big name DJ might be caught on video playing a label’s/artist’s record. What are your thoughts on how social media has impacted promotion?
Social media is very important nowadays. You have the ability to promote your own music to people that like your music directly. Videos, artworks, DJ charts, DJ feedback. It’s interesting for the reader and is a potential sale for your label. I would highly recommend being on the ball with social media.
In a recent interview with Decoded Magazine John Digweed mentioned that he gets through new music a lot quicker today. Do you feel the shelf life of music is massively reduced today compared with years ago and, if so, do you think it is a good/bad thing?
Tunes have a much shorter shelf life than in the vinyl era. There are far more releases each week and most of the music is available to buy for around £1 or so online. So you compare that to buying a vinyl record from a record shop and getting it posted to you, could cost £10 or more if you were buying from abroad.
This has got to have an impact on the shelf life of a track. Tracks tend not to be around for months and months, sometimes just a couple of weeks for the majority of tracks. It’s a sad thing really, music has become more throw away than it used to be.
It’s easier to pirate and if you do buy it, it’s much cheaper than it was. So the artists and labels are working harder to release more music and earning far less.
What is in the pipeline for SMP3 and Selador in the near future that you can tell us about?
Off to ADE soon, so looking to speak to DJ’s who would like me to find them music each week and also to labels who want their music promoting. There are some new developments coming on Inflyte too soon that will be great for DJs and labels alike. Also a few new developments i’m working on now behind the scenes that could see us expand.
One final thing if I may… How do you find the time to run a label, work with DJ’s each week , run a promo service, produce music, DJ and find time for family life as well? Are you superhuman?
You forgot to mention my radio show too haha!
I’ve always worked hard. And I’ve always tried to find jobs I like. Luckily I love what I do, and I enjoy working very hard to make things happen. What’s the point of having a job you don’t like? There’s a big world out there and so much to do and see. You’re in work for a third of your working week and you only get one life, so enjoy it.
As the song that was playing when my son George was born says – “Life’s what you make it”.