How to make a dance music compilation — with Nukleuz’s Dave Louca
Reported by Benz
Submitted 26-09-06 00:31
Nukleuz and their parent company Media Records have been putting out compilations in the UK for some time now — from the Hard House Anthems and Big Room Tunes collections that started at the beginning of the noughties through to the very successful Hardcore Nation and Trance Sessions CDs more recently. The dynamic of the label has shifted somewhat to put more of a focus on such releases, and the label has three coming out in the next month alone. So how does one go about making such a compilation? Dave Louca is head of A&R and Promotions at the label, and alongside Peter Pritchard, the managing director of the company, he’s the guy responsible for seeing through a compilation release from drawing board to record shop. Let’s pick his brains, shall we?
Once Peter and Dave have entertained a new concept for a compilation, the groundwork begins to establish just what needs to be done to bring it to life. “We pad out the idea looking at what music we have, what we need, who we could work with (companies, djs, producers etc) and see if we think it would be a good album.” Dave explains. “In some cases such as with our new Frantic Residents 06 album, we already have a popular series of albums running and just need to decide when is best to release the follow up instalment and what would make the new one a fantastic album.”
Aside from the tried and tested series, new concepts are generally born from a desire to showcase their labels’ material, or from new musical trends that Peter and Dave become aware of. These are dance music trends that they feel they could accurately and successfully represent in a compilation and feel passionate about. “This was actually the case with Hardcore Nation where we felt the scene was far too huge to ignore. For our Trance Sessions CD, we just wanted to showcase to the world that we had some fantastic international big room trance so put together an album of our biggest trance tracks. This was so hugely popular that the third in the series is due out in October!” he enthuses, clearly proud of his labels’ output. ”Also the time of the year and big events can be the focus of an album. For example, Ibiza Anthems, Amsterdam dance events, Miami, Christmas hits, Valentine’s Day albums etc.” Do I sense a ‘Hard Trance For Lovers’ compilation in the pipeline?
Dave and Peter generally give themselves around 8 weeks to plan and prepare a compilation prior to release, although have been known to turn around CDs in much less time. The next stage after the planning process is liasing with the artists and any associated brands to find out if they are willing and able to be involved with the project. “In the case of the new Frantic Residents 06 album that meant approaching Will at Frantic, Andy Whitby and Cally Gage as a first port of call. They all thought it was a great idea and had loads of ideas. That’s when the real work starts.”
The tracklisting is generally a halfway collaboration between the artist(s) mixing the album and Dave and Peter’s aspirations for the album. It’s not always plain sailing though, as there are a few issues which can get in the way of an ‘ideal’ tracklisting. “In some cases the djs may ask to use tracks that use illegal/uncleared samples in which case we have to say no. And sometimes the labels you request tracks from for use on the album refuse the request, but not often. So there’s a lot of give and take. We always have the final say, mostly due to legal reasons, rather than artistic reasons, to avoid big issues. It is also important for the djs to understand that the fans listening to the album are not in a club with a huge sound system, with the adrenaline buzzing and all their friends around them. They are more likely at home, in their car, at their computer, at work. So the tracks need to be picked with this in mind. It needs to be exciting and dynamic to listen to in those situations, which isn’t necessarily the same selection they would choose for a club set.”
Once the vital musical aspects have been locked down, the promotional side of things have to be taken into consideration. After all, a great album that isn’t promoted well is going to struggle to do well. Eye-catching artwork is of the utmost importance — especially when the CD sits in a record store surrounded by thousands of other releases. For Frantic Residents 06, Cally and Andy were called in for a rather unusually late-night photoshoot — at 4 in the morning, after a heavy night out. They look surprisingly good considering! “In this case the album is part of a series which has its own look and feel and identity, so we wanted to keep close to that too. Where we have an existing running design for an album series, we stick to that theme. And over the years Nukleuz has for the most part established its own look and feel. When we are creating the first album in a series or a stand alone album it is much harder as there is nothing to go by already so we need new images and new designs. So we have to brainstorm concepts and search for cool, standout and memorable artwork ideas to use. In some cases we use the djs and in cases such as Nukleuz Trance Sessions Volume 3 where there isn’t an artist as such we need to think even more creatively.”
A team of external designers take Peter and Dave’s requests and use them to create the bold, colourful designs that adorn the compilation covers. The artwork is then use to design the rest of the promotional material — posters, web banners, e-flyers, press adverts and so on. When it comes to the rest of the promotion, no stone is left unturned. “We all get involved with the promotion of the album. And at the moment online promotion is a huge part of the marketing ploy. Andy and Cally both have large databases of their fans and run popular MySpace groups. A lot of sites are very happy to help support us. Press is also important. We send their whole editorial staff copies of the album for reviews and features and keep up a good relationship with everyone which helps us get great coverage. We also advertise in magazines and websites where we believe the right fans would be reading.”
Dave seems pleasingly very positive about the future of the hard dance scene, with many of the tracks on the new Frantic compilation tickling his proverbial fancy. “There’s a lot of seriously good talent out there at the moment dropping tracks that just have to be signed. Andy Whitby & Matt Lee (aka Gammer)’s DMC # 1 Hard Dance Track ‘Mindblowing’ is awesome, so is Technikal’s remix of Dougal & Gammer’s hardcore classic ‘Heaven On Earth’. And there is a special place for Robbie Long & Stormtrooper’s inspired remix of BK’s ‘P.O.S. 51’. There is such creativity in the hardcore scene at the moment and the spill over into hard dance is only a good thing. Check out these tracks, you won’t be disappointed. And the opportunity is always there for new and old talent to get tracks signed. Just email me email@example.com or grab me on MSN firstname.lastname@example.org.”
So there you have it — everything you need to know to make your own (legal) compilation! While these guys carry on with Frantic Residents and other series, I’m going to be getting together my plans for ‘I’m Dreaming of a Hard Christmas’, coming soon!
For more information on ‘Frantic Residents 06’ please check out:
Photos courtesy of Frantic and Nukleuz. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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