Explorations In Underground Music
YouTube was originally created from a desire to see replays of Janet Jackson's nipple slip at the Super Bowl halftime show before becoming the domain of free cat videos.
Thankfully it's now a great source for House and Techno tracks. This is due in large parts to the recent growth of a few specific channels whose names keep emerging as the bearers of these fine gifts.
Now on a daily basis i'm being notified about music I not only love but more often than not has only just been released. And it seems it's not just me who holds these benefactors in high regard, some channels boasting over 100,000 subscribers which is a pretty impressive following for what I presumed were just lone house and techno enthusiasts.
These channels have been alerting me to stuff I really like and in time to get pre or recently released sales directly through the record labels or artists themselves.
I know for some this kind of transaction will never replace the traditional visit to a record shop, I still love to do that but my wantlist has morphed from a menu of obscurities and gambles to a list
of records that I am already familiar with and know I love.
With the channels I spoke to, permission is (almost) always sought from the artists before a track is uploaded. When that hasn’t been possible a disclaimer is posted stating that the video will be removed if requested. Helpful information about the artist’s are also listed; links to facebook and Soundcloud pages and more importantly, where you can purchase the music.
Uploads are in a very low resolution, so ok to play at mid volume on a home system, or say in your car. This means the tracks can't be ripped for free to be played out, but also means if you don't check your volume before playing, the penalty will be some blown speakers, my own car system can attest to this.
One of the many artists I have discovered through these channels is ‘For Heavenly Use Only’ records boss, DJ and producer Folamour. I got in contact to ask him for his opinion on the use of his music for these channels;
'Yes, I have a close relationship with some youtube channels such as Houseum, 030esar0303, Délicieuse Musique and others. They have been supporting me since the beginning and most of all, they are great people, with good culture and ears. They do an amazing job on spreading house music to a larger audience I think.
I'm not sure exactly how it affects the sales, but I always work with these channels when I release a record. For me it's the best way to share the tracks to the people who will be interested in buying the music and who are not already following the label.'
Roughly, for the types of artists featured on these channels, a first release is going to be between 300 to 1,000 records. It's worth mentioning that the financial return for a release of even 1,000 records - presuming they all sell - is roughly zilch. And if you're unfortunate enough to be sent a few returns then all that hard work in the studio is going to gain you a small financial loss.
The exposure an artist could realise by being selected by one of these channels and reaching a wider international audience is huge. Not only in terms of pushing the music but possibly leading to new bookings, an opportunity to make more great music and most importantly a huge confident boost. It could be the difference between a first time release going unnoticed or selling out, a debutant giving up or being able to continue to make a living through music.
With some of these uploads getting 250,000 + views these channels have created a conduit from artist directly to the consumers who are most likely to appreciate and purchase their records. And the best thing is, for the artist it is completely free. It surely decreases the reliance on any 3rd party marketing or perhaps a bigger label which they are probably too small (cool) for any anyway.
Another reason I love YouTube for music is the comments section. It's golden. A fertile hotbed of nerdy information, production geekery, pointers on similar tracks and as with anything internet based, out and out bickering.
The following is an excerpt from a track called ‘Long Gone’ by London producer Al Zander's (accompanying video is dope, also check out other releases under the Lodger moniker). The track was uploaded by OOUKFunkyOO (which is another channel definitely worth subscribing to). Humorous musings on Zander's achievements as well as some encouraging advice for what, presumably is a despondent, fledgling producer (some sage lifestyle advice also from Brom Grimes-Long, don't say you haven't been warned);
Funk Fox - 'It makes me so depressed that I'll never make music as good as this'
Joshy Smoshy - 'Man i know the feeling but accept the fact that the music you make is unique, never try to look at someone else's chords or percussion or progression and think how can i reproduce that because it isn't true to yourself and your passion for music'
Joshy Smoshy - 'The song isn't technically that difficult but the producer has put a lot of thought into what sounds nice together, for example the melody goes really well with that 3/4 sound you hear, what i'm trying to say is that you just need to spend a lot of time on one song just experimenting. As well, make sure you back over the song and modulate on the go, like you can hear him adjusting the drive of each part over time giving the song an appearance of being dynamic'
Joshy Smoshy - 'Actually the song is technically fucking good lol'
Brom Grimes-Long 'I've been producing for 10 years and if I really wanted to produce something like this, I could. The amount of effort I'd have to put into it would be pretty moderate and it would take a few days to a week for me to really feel good about it. Considering you've found this within the first few years of starting, that's pretty cool! The more music your learn about the better because you're increasing your horizon. Don't get too heady or ahead of yourself; 3 years is absolutely nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Take one step at a time and slowly you'll see new abilities open up to you and new activities to try out within your life. If you find it hard now, fuuuuck, you're going to die when it becomes between you and conventionalism. So pick yourself the fuck up rookie, you've got plenty to do and a lot of fun to amaze yourself with. Don't you dare stop on the path of music once you've started. 10 years and I still consider myself a rookie. Stop comparing, start daring, stop crying, start trying. And get off the drugs.'
Brom Grimes-Long - 'If you make whatever you want, as long as you're proud of the song and try super hard at it, that's you; regardless of whether you think you're better than that or not, that's what you've made. I don't do well at copying so I make what I am, I do things unconventionally but people still find things to say to make me sound better than I think I am and I feel amazed because I didn't make it that way (they'd say things like "Whoa! Nice sidechaining but I didn't sidechain). With experience, courage and effort, you can make some pretty magical tracks along the way, by accident. God doesn't intend for you to feel complete yet, so you need to keep on trying for that opportunity to take place; when the time comes along, seize it because you love yourself enough. Music is about trying new things and having fun, getting lost and inspiring others.'
So out of curiosity and overwhelming gratitude we decided to get in contact with these mysterious selectors to find out a bit more about them, the motivation behind their channels and the music they choose to promote.
I contacted 4 of my favourites, all of whom replied and were happy to answer a few questions.
I am celebrating these channels because I think they're great. Taste and the internet are not finite entities though, so feel free to comment/bicker below.
Definite Party Material
How long have you been running your channel and what was the motivation behind it?
Slav - Despite many quality house channels out there, I couldn't find one that would really reflect my taste and decided to create Slav around a year ago.
Houseum - I created Houseum in May 2016 but I started to take it more seriously from december 2016. I always liked to dig a lot.. and eventually wanted to be on the other side and sharing the music.
It takes a lot of my time but I still can't listen to all the tracks I receive. I take it very seriously and I work on it several hours a day but it's always a pleasure, I was listening to so much music before too so it doesn't change a lot for me today.
CMYK - The first upload was made in December 2013 so about 4 years. At that time I was traveling regularly for my work and had my record collection spread out in like 3 cities. So I got in the habit of digitising them quite systematically to always have the music with me at least. I figured some of those were not on Youtube and it seemed nice to put them up since I had already made most of the effort!
DPM - I’ve been uploading regularly for about 2 1/2 - 3 years now I think. I had a few go-to channels where I’d listen for new tunes that I’d then show my friends at pre drinks & afterparties and thought I’d give it a go myself because sometimes I couldn’t find certain tracks on YouTube. I got my mate to make a logo to make it look a bit more organised & got a few tracks lined up and just kinda went from there. I’m someone that likes to fall into a rabbit hole when I listen to new music so this is my own personal one for other people to dip into club music basically.
What determines what tracks you upload?
CMYK - I like quite different styles of music and of course it also evolved during those 4 years. I was uploading a wider range of House/Techno/minimal at the beginning and I guess over time I specialized. Some adjectives that could describe the current sound I'm into might be: breaky, minimalistic, groovy, deep. Stuff with acid lines often gets me too. I try to stay out of straight 4x4 patterns. If a track ticks all those boxes chances are it'll work for me! :)
DPM - DPM started out as somewhere I could stick tunes up for parties, so the vast majority of it is dancefloor oriented in one way or another or can be if you use the tracks creatively. I tend to go for tunes that are quality tunes on their own but also have something about them that's a bit off-key or leftfield. I'm aware I've got a platform that people use to find new music so I think it's important to try and expand people's tastes rather than just churn out uploads that all sound the same.
Houseum - I upload music that I like personally and that fits with the channel. At the beginning I was digging myself for all the stuff that I wanted to upload but now i’m receiving so many promo’s from unsigned artists and labels, so now I mostly upload music i’ve been sent, but i'm pretty selective. I think I only take about 15% of the requests for my channel. Of course the more the channel grows the more the labels have priority. I still dig a lot beside the channel, house music but other genres as well.
Have you been contacted by any of the artists that you are promoting, if so has that contact been negative or positive?
Houseum - Well, I always have postive contact with artists, I don't upload tracks without the agreement of the label manager or the artist. I really like helping talented artists and they're always very grateful. I can say I made new friends :)
DPM - If it’s a smaller artist or someone unsigned I try to message them and let them know I like what they're doing because everything I upload is something I enjoy from the perspective of a fan/DJ. Bigger producers not really but I know a few big names are lurking in my subscribers. But yeah, I do get a lot of messages of thanks and generally producers are happy about being uploaded. I've been asked to take down a few things but it's not really ever that deep for me. One of my favourite producers/DJ's (best not to namedrop) emailed me once about taking something down and I was more gassed that he was aware of me and friendly about it than bothered by having to take it down. This year I've been getting a large amount of promos so I guess people want me to promote them, which was basically the first goal of this channel and it makes me feel like I’m actually onto something good when people trust me with their work like that.
Slav - 10% of the music featured is directly from artists/labels submissions. 90% of the time I contact them. I do my best to listen to all the submissions, but it's quite a challenge lately.
CMYK - I used to contact myself all artists and labels I wanted to upload to ask authorisation, I think that's one of the main differences with other channels and played an important role in the future development of my projects. People were like 95% very happy someone cared enough about their music to take the time to not only buy it, but rip it and upload it online for other people to listen to. And since I took the time to have a chat with the peeps we usually kept in touch and then they'd send me the music themselves, and with some people we'd eventually become friends!
YouTube comments for these type of uploads seem to be a mixture of information on where samples might come from and the production methods behind the tracks, people's opinions on the track, links to similar music as well as a platform for abuse. What has been your experience with people's interactions with your posts?
DPM - My comments section mainly reads like the comments box in the old feedback sheets that use to ship out with vinyl promos, concise feedback about whether a song bangs or not. I get a lot of “memory” posts letting me know what DJ’s are playing what tunes. I’m quite transparent with the fact it’s just me in my flat uploading music so I dip in for a chat when I can or give a little more info on an artist/label. I knew “Karizma - Work It Out” was gonna be an upload that would reach way further than just my subscribers/usual audience so I started a little thread in there about songs of the summer and ended up with like 50 replies recommending music. Playing tunes and talking about tunes go hand in hand so I generally encourage it, I’ve never really had any issues with arguments or shitty comments.
Slav - Overall very positive, the underground house scene is one of a kind, filled with fun loving people. Even with negative feedback it's more often constructive rather than destructive.
CMYK - I don't really check them to be honest, but there's nothing crazy going on I think. From what I've seen it's mostly comments of appreciation of the track, which seems appropriate!
Can you tell us where you are based, what else you are up to over there and what’s good in your scene at the moment?
CMYK - Barcelona, I've been living there for over 3 years now! Down there I have a crew with 3 friends called Kommuna (https://facebook.com/KommunaBCN/) with which we've been making events with international bookings on about a monthly basis for over 2 years, it's going pretty well we're really happy! We invited guests like Vera, XDJ, Andrew James Gustav, Max Vaahs... We also have a small sister label called Kommuna Tapes (https://facebook.com/KommunaTapes/) which had its third release just out!
To be honest these are mostly the projects I've been focusing on, it's much more satisfying to do stuff in real life, bringing over my favourite artists to Barcelona and get to play and chill with them, put some records out with friends' music etc... Now the channel is something I feed with my current network and people send me the music directly.
DPM - I’m based in Bristol and i'm a resident on Noods Radio down here and have been for about a year now. I do a show monthly, it was every two weeks but it got quite taxing, basically just mixing tunes and chatting about them. My promo inbox has been on point this year so I feel like I’m starting to get a good show together.
My friends and I have just announced (by the time this goes online anyway) a party here called ‘Midnight Shift’ where i’ll be a resident. We wanted to make it unique so we’re booking a jazz band for the evening and then after the “shift” it becomes a club night. I’ve known the guys I run it with since the old house parties that inspired me to start DPM so I’m really looking forward to getting it launched and we’ve got a really cool theme/aesthetic that we’re running with that you’ll see more of soon….
I also run a label called Scuffed Recordings with High Class Filter, a UK Funky producer from London who I’ve been friends with online for a few years now. We wanted somewhere where we could push more leftfield/oddball club sounds that still fit within House/Garage. We’ve got a few releases lined up, including one from myself, and I’m excited about where we can take it.
Noods is a bit of a hub for a lot of creative music/programming that I’m really glad to be a part of. Leon & Jack have quite eclectic tastes and it’s showing more as the schedule has got more packed out. There’s chat shows about the music industry, Jazz shows, movie soundtrack music, live streams from clubs… all sorts on the station.
Bristol doesn’t really have many mid-size venues so there’s parties in a lot of interesting spaces, which fits in with a lot of the cities DIY sensibilities. I’ve been to parties in old court rooms, a children’s soft-play centre and I went to one the other week in a swingers club. For it’s creative output it’s actually a small city so you tend to get to know people in the scene quite quickly and crowds are generally really, really good. Party wise, my favourite would be Timedance, which is also a UK Techno label run by Batu which I’m a big fan of. First party of theirs that I went to was Ben UFO all night at The Island, which is a 300 capacity jail building with a sound system stuck in there. Minimal lighting and a big system, real heads down business. Alfresco Disco have been putting together some really sick, well presented parties and we’ve actually booked one of their residents for our night. Dirtytalk, Noods, Rough Draft, Psychotherapy Sessions & Eminent are all doing well programmed parties too. Banoffee Pies are doing great things as a label and they pop up with parties every now and then too. There’s loads more to name but label wise I’m digging Livity Sound, Don’t Be Afraid, Black Acre, Body Music, Dr Banana, all out of Bristol.
Slav - I live in a quiet town in south-western part of Poland. I don't go that often to music events, but when I do it's usually Prague, Berlin or Wrocław. The scene is booming there and sometimes you just can't miss those amazing line-ups.
Houseum - I'm living in Paris and I'm creating my label at the moment. At the same time, I'm studying Music Management, it's very interesting and it helps me a lot. I think Paris is the best city at the moment for House music, my audience comes from all the world which is so cool but for the most it is french.
Having accumulated so many subscribers, has this project of yours lead to any other opportunities for you to be playing these tracks out yourself? If so where might we be able to see you play?
Slav - Slav is still a side project of main, but the more it grows the more I think of going full time with it. Most importantly it lets you get to know some great people in the space and my life is filled with amazing fresh music.
DPM - The first ‘Midnight Shift’ party on December 16th at the Crofters Rights in Bristol. Also just confirmed my first out of town headline gig for February and been taking a few more enquiries, so hopefully the DJing thing picks up next year.
Houseum - Yes sure, thanks to the channel I could integrate a management music school with a pretty big network and I have so many contacts now in House music which is very important in the music environment. That's why I'm creating my label, I have many other ideas for the future but now I know that music will be my livelihood.
CMYK - So I am writing these lines from sunny Sydney, where I will play at this very nice party called S.A.S.H this Sunday. I was in Séoul last week-end, I am making a Asia/Australia tour and that's the most exciting times I had DJing for sure! I try to keep my gig schedule updated on my Soundcloud in the description thing and share it regularly on my Facebook. Here are the next confirmed gigs for the year:
05.11. @ S.A.S.H, Sydney
11.11. @ OneSixOne, Melbourne
13.11. @ Breakfast Club, Melbourne
16.11. @ 12x12, Bangkok
17.11. @ Savage, Hanoï:
18.11. @ Social Room, Hong Kong
24.11 @ Kommuna, Barcelona
08.12 @ Sigh, Madrid
27.12 @ Crans-Montana, Switzerland
Give us one other channel we might want to subscribe to.
Slav - Houseum resonates with me most, although I have to mention hurfyd and ooukfunkyoo too.
CMYK - GooseTracks - This channel is run by a good friend of mine from Barcelona. She has great taste and we started to get her playing at our Kommuna parties from time to time and she made excellent warm-ups. There isn't much she doesn't share actively but it's quality.
Houseum - I would say "A I X E L E N T". I love Dub Techno and if you don't know that genre this is the best channel for discovering it.
And you should definitely try my other channel named Pretiosum, it's more into melodic techno and ethnic stuff.
DPM - Maslow Unknown is my favourite dance music selector on YouTube. He’s similar to my channel in the fact that it’s just one guy who collects tunes. He only uploads vinyl rips and every selection is sick. Loads of funky house, bloopy trax and sample heavy jams.
And finally thanks very much for providing us with some great tracks. Pick your favourite one from your channel.
DPM - Big Miz - The Bomb. I first heard the rough version of this track on a Dixon Avenue Basement Jams radio show like 9 months before the record came out (I’ve still got a rip of the really rough version) and was waiting impatiently for it that whole time knowing it was gonna be big when it came out. I got an email about pre-ordering it from Boomkat a month before the release day, I was at the pub at the time catching up with an old friend and I was pretty drunk but I managed to get an order in. Turned out I bought 2 copies but I didn’t notice until the next day but I went with it. Ended up giving my spare copy away to a subscriber, I think it’s in Germany somewhere now.
Anyway, yeah this tune is a banger.
Slav - One track you say? Well I have to go with Jack J's - "Looking Forward to You" then...
CMYK - Schematix - Salbutamo. A bit of self-promotion never hurts... but to be honest this is one of the most interesting tracks I got to hear in a while... It's the A1 of the 3rd release of our label Kommuna Tapes. It's a trance track at 150bpm that is like 10mn long and has a lot of stuff happening. I've been buying a lot of 90s trance records for some time, if you pitch those guys down a lot it can be totally down my alley and nobody is checking trance records so it's all 1€ :) You have to go through a lot of shit to find the good ones tho.
Houseum - FILIPP - Banana Bread
So there you have it. 4 altruistic devotees of the scene, out there with their butterfly nets, harvesting electronic oddities on our behalf. I was very pleased to learn that their endeavour and passion for this music is yielding personal rewards in carving a musical career for themselves. And with such great taste why not? To end up playing alongside artist's they've spent a lot of their spare time championing, it would be a neat and worthy conclusion.
In case you were in any doubt about what this music means to these diggers, i’ll leave the last word with Slav. When asked what determines which tracks he uploads to his channel he responded;
"I do my best to focus on music that is timeless. I want people to come back to these tracks for years to come. I keep refining the selection process constantly, but essentially when I listen to new music I look for this feeling of beyond good. If it touches that deepest core part of you, it ends up on Slav."
Support the artist! These guys do. Details of their YouTube channels and what else they are up to are here...........
Definite Party Material
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/dpmsound
Soundcloud - https://soundcloud.com/definitepartymaterial
Radio - http://noodsradio.com/residents/dpm
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/definitepartymaterial/
Label - https://scuffedrecs.bandcamp.com/
Parties - https://www.headfirstbristol.co.uk/whats-on/crofters-rights/sat-16-dec-midnight-shift-00-01-w-snazzback-seka-42202
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8MLS5X0vWxxa5nyJxfSA1A
Mixcloud - https://www.mixcloud.com/slavrecords/
Soundcloud - https://soundcloud.com/slavrecords
Soundcloud - Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/houseum
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/houseum.yt
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/CMYKmusique
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CMYKitsme
Label - https://www.facebook.com/kommunatapes/
Parties - https://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/cmyk