Maykel Piron - all about Armada Music
As the 15th Amsterdam Dance Event kicks off, we hook up with someone who's been there since the first edition. Maykel Piron, Managing Director of Armada Music, winner of the International Dance Music Award for 'Best Record Label Executive' and co-founder of the New York-based Napith Music, takes the time to explain a little something on his Armada Music, voted 'Best Global Record Label' at Miami's IDMA show 2 years in a row. How has it changed over the years, what does Armada Music do against illegal downloads, what part does new media have in the future of the music industry and last but not least: what is coming up in 2011? Time to focus on our very own..Armada Music.
Armada Music has celebrated its 7th birthday this year. How has the company changed over the past years, according to you?
Maykel: "I believe we've changed because the music industry constantly changes. We change along with it. Through the years we've grown, got more experienced with online exploitation & promotion and how to handle changes on the market. You can't compare it to 7 years ago, when we rose from the traditional concept of a record company. However, we did know then already that our releases would get the biggest exposure through online activities. The online market used to be a lot smaller, so we're lucky to have had our focus on digital sales and online promotion from day 1. Armada Music constantly changes, in a positive way. Seven years ago, we rose from the vinyl business and now we are a company that doesn't even think about vinyl anymore, cause it's completely gone. For a part, the basic principles of promotion are the same, cause we're promoting with the idea of DJ's playing our music, loving our releases and supporting our tracks. It's the same basis, but the way we sell the music has completely changed."
The past two years, Armada received the critically acclaimed International Dance Music Award for 'Best Global Dance Label'. How does it feel to be such a major player in music industry?
Maykel: "Getting an award, or a title, like that is great, obviously. But eventually it’s all about doing good, quality stuff. I think I'm too deep into it all to look at it that way. I feel we still have a lot of things to change, to improve. So it's fantastic that people look at it that way, but eventually there's still a whole lot of plans waiting to be developed. That's why I think we're not even close to where we want to be. But it's fantastic to be called 'Best Global Dance Label'."
Do you think you'll win it again next year?
Maykel:"Haha! I think we've gotten at a next level with Armada this year, so it would actually be appropriate to get it this year. If we got it last year, we're definitely in the running for next year. But anyway, there's a lot of labels in the world that do a really great job, so you never know."
What is the biggest challenge for Armada now? Is that the fight against illegal downloads?
Maykel:"No, illegal downloads are what they are. We can't change that on our own, unfortunately. The biggest challenge is to find out what can get our artist to grow. To find out about new ways of promotion and product exploitation that can help our artist to grow and make our releases more visible in the different worldwide markets. That, to me, is a challenge. Again and again. To make sure we exploit our music to a wider audience and get more people in touch with the artists we represent. Whether that's an Armin van Buuren, who's already quite popular, and be sure he's introduced to a different, new target group, or a new artist, that still needs to be introduced to the mass. To me, that's the beauty of it."
What does Armada Music do to prevent illegal downloading?
Maykel:"I think we have to set the example. What we try is to let people know that it's good to consume music in a legal way. Whether that's via iTunes or Spotify, it's all legal and that's what we want to stimulate. So in our communication, we make sure there's always a link to legal download portals. In the past, people have been saying that all record companies do is trying to make money, but that's the way business is. Of course we have to earn money. All the people working here have to get their pay check at the end of the month. If we're not able to do that anymore, we have to stop signing records, signing artists and nothing will be promoted anymore. Maybe they'll release it at a different label, but those record companies are dealing with the exact same problem. In general, illegal downloads are the problem and we've learned to work with that problem. It's a fact, it's there, so we keep pushing new ways of dealing with it. The CD sales are still dropping. So if you never attract all these new ways of exploitation, you can get in trouble as a company. That's why it's always my concern to discover and realize new ways of exploitation. At first there was vinyl, that sold really well but eventually didn't sell at all. Then there was the CD, which still sells reasonable, but of which the sales have dropped with 50% compared to last year."
What about the future of mp3? Is that going anywhere, according to you?
Maykel:"Eventually, mp3 won't be mp3 anymore. Vinyl is gone and the cd is becoming less as well. It will always be there, but in the future mp3 won't be needed because you can stream everything. Internet will be so fast, you don't need mp3's anymore. Mp3's will probably last for another 5 to 6 years, but once you're in a country where internet is extremely fast, the consumer will probably be listening to music through streaming."
Armada Music represents nearly 30 labels now. Never afraid of growing too big?
Maykel:"No. If I'd have to do it all on my own, it would have been too much. But since we're working with a good team, we can handle it. As long as we keep the overview and be sure there's enough people working on it, you'll manage. Who knows, maybe next year we've got 40 labels. I'm never afraid, cause you base the decision on the fact of 'we can handle this' or 'we can't handle this'. With the right people and team, you can. “
So people saying 'All Armada does is release as many music as possible' are talking non-sense?
Maykel: "Yes, cause it's all very well thought-out. People are allowed to say whatever they want, but everything is well-considered, there has always been a strategy. In the beginning, when we didn’t have as many labels, it has always been a target to grow there. But with the right people. Luckily, we've found the right people, we've got a splendid team."
Where does Armada Music have its focus on now?
Maykel:"The focus of Armada is building the career of artists that we're now working together with. The focus is on the labels and artist development. We've been working on many different artists in the past years, several have developed into an Album act. Releasing an album takes a whole lot more time than releasing a single. We're also concentrating on artists that we've just signed, who'll release their album next year, like Emma Hewitt and Dabruck & Klein. We strongly believe in them."
What about new talent? What part do they play in 2011?
Maykel:"Like we've been doing in the past years. We always love to give new talent a chance. New talent has to develop. We always have to keep our focus on that as well, on looking for new, young talent. To be sure that new blood ends up in the dance scene. It's absolutely fun working on that, and we're obliged to put our effort and money into it, or else you'll be stuck with the same old thing, again and again. We've been investing in young, new talents for years and eventually a lot of guys are ready to release their debut album now."
Amsterdam Dance Event is just around the corner. What does the festival mean to a company such as Armada?
Maykel:"We've got Armada Night on Wednesday, that's always a great kickoff to ADE. And of course, we'll be going to the conference with a large group of people. I've been to the first ADE conference, 15 years ago. Back then, 50 people would show up, and now the whole dance scene makes its way over to Amsterdam. All of our business contacts, people we work together with, we meet at one place. The fact that we can talk about our business and network in our very own city, makes it absolutely great. The great thing is that the event grows bigger and better every year. It's fantastic to have a conference with so much style and international fame, taking place in our very own Amsterdam."
What awaits us in 2011?
Maykel:" We'll continue to do the things that we're doing right now and bring you some very interesting releases."
Then, to round things off: what's your favourite track of the moment?
Maykel:"'Dabruck & Klein - I've Got My Pride (Hold My Head High)', released on our Zouk label. Not because they recently signed to us or anything, I just love the tune!"
Check the Armada Music Facebook, Armada Music YouTube channel and Twitter. For more info on Napith Music, the New York based label of which Maykel -together with Jens Thele - is the A&R Director, check www.napithmusic.com .