Every week at Toolroom we receive hundreds of demos from upcoming and established producers. And believe it or not, we (eventually) listen to all of them. We caught up with our busy A&R Manager Matt Smallwood to find out more about what the music team are listening for.
Tell us about your role at Toolroom – when did you start, and what do you do now?
Well I have worked at Toolroom for 4 years now and as of the start of 2015 I am head of A&R and label manager for both our Toolroom and Toolrom Trax labels. It’s certainly been a crazy few Months and the role is pretty full on as you’d imagine, but I am incredibly lucky to have a job that I love doing. I know that sounds really cheesy and cliched, but I do absolutely love it and can’t imagine doing anything else. My day to day role includes everything from sourcing and signing new music, managing release schedules, lining up marketing and promotion campaigns for current releases with our media team and trying to make my fair share of office brews at the same time.
Toolroom received so many demos every week – how do you listen to them all?
Well we have a big team here at Toolroom – there’s 8 of us in the music team alone – so having lots of ears helps. All of us have a love of electronic music, and the majority of us also have a good grounding in production, so we can all get involved in the ‘first-round’ of A&R. Basically how it works is that we have a separate laptop with our demo account email; and we have a rota whereby someone goes through a certain amount of demos every day. If they are not quite right, we send a reply (without feedback unfortunately – we simply don’t have the time to do this individually). And any tracks that might be of interest to the label then come to me to make a call, and potentially explore further. We know it can be a frustrating process sending your music off to labels – remember many of us have been in the same boat – so we are really trying to get back to everyone (eventually)!
What kind of sound are you looking for in Toolroom and Toolroom Trax?
After our huge #RESET campaign last year, Toolroom has certainly tightened the reins as far as our musical policy is concerned. The guidelines are much tighter and much stricter and I honestly think that as a label collective, we are in the best place musically we have been for a good few years now. A Toolroom release must be well produced, it has to deliver on a big club system, it must get our fan base buzzed up and most importantly, we have to be passionate about it. You get a natural fire in your belly when something is right and you hear something that pushes your buttons, that’s the best and most accurate indication weather to pursue a release or not. Musically Toolroom is all about well produced, credible house and tech house. Toolroom Trax is more underground in sound compared to the flagship Toolroom label. We can take a few more risks with Trax and really show the world that we are massively passionate about underground music here.
What’s the best demo you’ve ever been sent?
Our latest signing to the Toolroom management roster is Adrian Hour. Now, Toolroom fans will know plenty about Adrian and I predict that within the next 12-18 Months, the whole world will know about him! When we were putting the Toolroom Trax re-launch together I had various lengthy chats with Adrian about this new label and it’s musical direction and how I was super keen for him to get involved. Within 3 days of our chat he sent me ‘Make You Feel Good’ and it just blew me away. Adrian just gets it, he is one of those incredibly talented individuals who just delivers time after time and I’ll always remember the fist time I heard that track and the buzz that it gave me, easily the best demo I have received so far!
How much does Toolroom value its legion of producers fans?
Massively! Essentially they are the future of the label so it is really important to us to have a close relationship with the up and coming producers out there.We also have something very exciting planned for all you budding producers out there – so watch this space!
Toolroom’s Top 5 tips for sending your demos
1. Make sure the track is actually complete and you are 110% happy with it. We sometimes get demos with an email saying ‘I think maybe the bass needs to come up a bit, the percussion is a bit muddy, but it’s almost there I think’. That’s not a great start for us, we really need finished tracks, preferably mastered as well if possible, but not essential.
2. Make sure the Soundcloud link actually works before you hit send.
3.Include some information about yourself and the track(s) rather than just sending a link. We don’t need an essay, but a bit of context always helps and is interesting to us.
4.Don’t send to 20 labels at once and BCC them all in with a generic ‘Hi, here is my new track’. The personal touch goes a long way!
5.And the last one has been said a million times, but try to be original. Yes we are all aware of trends and styles, but don’t just load up the latest track into Ableton and copy every phrase and drop.
To submit a track to Toolroom for A&R consideration, please see here!