As the CEO of Armada Music, Maykel Piron is a man with a vision for bringing the utmost in quality dance music to our ears. Coming previously from Warner Music, Piron teamed up with trance legend Armin Van Buuren in 2003 to start something of their own. Maykel played a massive role in establishing the foundation of the Armada label, grooming it to become what we all know it to be today -- a trendsetting label that has always been on the cutting edge. With multiple awards, nominations, and over 20 years’ experience, Piron is the perfect example of how hard work pays off. If you're curious about the origins of Armada, seeking advice from a label executive, or simply looking for a good read, Piron's story is truly inspirational and will be sure to provide you with valuable insight into the music industry.
Armada has evolved tremendously since it was established over a decade ago, but where did Armada come from? How did it start and what is the key to the label's success? The answers to these questions rest with it's guiding force, CEO Maykel Piron, who lets us in on his story.
How did you start your career in the music industry?
I started my career as a DJ and avid collector of vinyl. I DJ’ed at school parties and played records for hours on end in my home bedroom studio. This all led to me starting to play at different venues in the Netherlands at the age of 14. Professionally, it all picked up at the age of 19 when I started to work for a DJ promotion service, after which I joined Purple Eye Productions and began to release records from Ferry Corsten, Marco V, and Armin van Buuren. Eventually, Warner Music Benelux asked me to set up a dance division in 1999, and I became the A&R manager of three Warner labels for three and a half years, including Warner/Chappell. But in 2003, I wanted to grow beyond that. I relished the prospect of a new challenge and I found the right partners in Armin van Buuren and David Lewis to start a brand-new record company. Hence, Armada Music was born.
What is the best part of the business?
I think there are a lot of things that contribute to making this industry one of the best in the world to work in. The rapid pace in which this business grows and develops ensures that every day is made up of a few new adventures. This - combined with the explosive growth of dance music itself, the way in which music unites different people from all over the world, and the fact that I can do what I’m really passionate about every single day of my life - makes me want to still be a part of this game decades from now.
What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is that we are currently dealing with an industry that changes at a very rapid pace. New technological developments and ways of promoting music arise almost every day, and to keep up with these developments is extremely difficult. It used to be much easier back in the days. All music was pressed on vinyl then, and every record was promoted in almost exactly the same way. But when the internet made its mark on the world, all of that was instantly outdated.
Now, the musical landscape is almost like a chameleon, that’s how often it changes its color. Last year, SoundCloud didn’t monetize tracks. As a matter of fact, Apple Music didn’t even exist twelve months ago. And the trouble with this is that you need a lot of manpower in order to keep up with all of these developments. Whenever you think you’ve got a policy and strategy tailor-made for the state the industry is currently in, something happens. And then, you can get back to square one and draft up a new policy and strategy yet again. So the biggest challenge is to not only keep up with the almost continuously changing landscape, but also to make use of every single one of those developments in the best way possible. Only then will you guarantee that your business and it's music live to see another day.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
Never stop expanding and maintaining your network, don’t be afraid to take a risk, and stick to your gut.
As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
I think the answer to the previous question is also of value here. This industry is continuously changing, ever more quickly as well. By the time most people have caught on to a "new" genre, every music-oriented business in the world is already trying to discover the next big sound. Of course, there will always be labels, companies, or even artists that ride the waves of what’s commercially viable at some point. But what happens when this certain style of music gets dropped in favor of something new and fresh? You’ll be forced to either jump the bandwagon or perish. If you don’t keep up, you get left behind. Most of the times anyway.
With Armada, we took a chance a few years ago. We wanted to diversify the kind of music we put out and began to release music on a wider part of the electronic music spectrum. We’ve grown from a trance label into a record company that has come to represent so much more than just one genre. Now, we are putting out solid tunes in deep house, progressive, electro house, trance, chill, techno, you name it. So to answer your question, the secret to longevity in this business is to stick to your guts, be prepared to take risks and never lose sight of what made you want to pursue a career in music in the first place. In my case, a true, deep-rooted passion for electronic music.
What does electronic music mean to you?
Electronic music is essentially my whole world, business mixed with pleasure and passion. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any better than that.
What cities/regions do you think electronic dance music is best thriving?
If I’d have to name three regions in which electronic music is best thriving at THIS moment in time, it would probably be Asia, India, and the U.S. That doesn’t mean that electronic music isn’t blossoming elsewhere, though.
Where do you see the most innovation in the EDM industry, and why?
I like to think of the Netherlands as a leading country when it comes to electronic music, DJs, festivals, sound, the name it. But this essentially applies to the rest of Western Europe as well. In the end, I feel that innovation is a global process, despite it always making the first appearance on a smaller scale. As far as nightclubs are concerned, I’d have to go with the U.S. and/or Asia. There are so many insane clubs and venues there it makes my head spin. But Pacha in Ibiza is still my favorite club to go to if I’m to go out with my wife and/or friends.
Find out more about Armada Music, including forthcoming releases and events, via the label's website.