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Industry Focus: Strictly Rhythm Co-Founder Gladys Pizarro On Her New Venture & The Lost Art Of Developing DJs

We talk about the challenges of developing artists in the era of streaming and social media, lessons from the past and more.
Gladys Pizarro

Gladys Pizarro

Gladys Pizarro is a name known in industry circles. She co-founded famed New York dance music label Strictly Rhythm, that helped shape the sound of the city and dance music in the 1990s. She is using her experience and knowledge of the music business to launch her own company called Launch Entertainment. Pizarro initially launched the company in 2008 right at the onset of the EDM boom, but the timing wasn't right for a company that worked with a completely different world of electronic music. Now a decade later, she is relaunching the company with the music climate in a better place for classic, authentic house music.

We chat with Pizarro about her plans to relaunch the company, how developing artists has changed over the past few decades and more.

What is the company you are starting and what is its goal?

Actually I started my company in 2008 in the height of the EDM phase, which was a total mistake. After a few releases I paused and decided I was heading down the wrong path. So I waited for the climate to change musically in order to relaunch the label now. Launch Entertainment is a label where I develop producers, dance music artist and DJs who are in the dance music - electronica genre. The goal here is to develop the artist through social media, the internet and contacts to create a following that can become illustrious for the artist and the label.

Why did you start this company?

I decided to relaunch the label now because I feel there’s a void that needs to be filled in the music business. For instance, labels today do not have the time to develop an artist. That takes time and money. Most labels today are data driven. A music executive will go on social media to see who's hot, check to see how many followers they have, although having talents helps, its not a prerequisite many make a decision with this formula, then decide if they should get signed or not. Don't get me wrong it awesome to have an artist that the primary work has already been done for you. Now all you have to do is build from there. At Launch you don't have to have 100,000 followers if you’re talented and can take constructive criticism that’s enough to get you signed to the label. The staff will work out the rest and I will work my magic.

What did you learn from your time at Strictly Rhythm that can apply to your current venture?

That building relationships with your artist and doing it with integrity is everything. I still keep in touch with almost every producer, artist and Dj that I have developed back at Strictly Rhythm and Nervous Records

The dance music business is much more global these days. How will you try and take advantage of that?

The advantage I have comes first from my foundation working at Strictly Rhythm. There are some viable contacts that I have at the major label here in the US and abroad which gives me access to them. Through technology using the internet, social media, and my contacts I can create awareness to engage music executives that maybe interested in synching my music to a film or a commercial or license the music in a specific territory.

What will you do to develop artists today?

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I'll give you a basic start. Developing an artist is challenging in todays market, I’m not going to lie. But again due to my foundation at Strictly I have some connections that will get me in the door faster than a regular person. Hitting social media by building a fan base, hitting the right DJ at the club, getting the radio mix show play, creating such a buzz that a major label may want to get involved. Hiring another promotion company to help create a massive buzz are just a few pieces of a formula that may lead to getting the track added to a radio station.

What types of artists will you look to work with? Are you working with any now?

The types of artist I look for, and I’m going to sound cliché, is the go-getter, that’s hungry, that will do whatever it takes in a respectable manner to get the job done. If it requires a long studio session, if we have to open up for another act, If there’s a chance to get some real commercial exposure they will have to be willing to be able to handle constructive criticism and handle all the pain that comes with the hard work that’s involved. At the moment I’m currently putting out Dj-friendly tracks, but when a producer brings in a vocalist that I’m interested in, I’m going to do what I do. I’m currently looking for that act that can fill an arena. I’m looking for the massive hit. I’m either going to find or develop it.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen since the 90s when it comes to developing an artist?

The changes I have seen today is that most labels do not want to develop an artist like back in the day. Today you can do develop yourself through social media. That’s why label reps spend hours searching for new and upcoming talent via the web. Everyone who has a computer has access to social media. This is where the advantage works for me. My plan is to bring back my development skills into play. I am a seasoned veteran in developing producers, artist and DJ's. That’s why the name of my company is named Launch.

A lot of A&R has become data-driven. Are you using data at all for your work and how do you feel about this rather large shift?

Although A&R has become data-driven and it gives the label a great start, it’s not a prerequisite at Launch. Yes I will use some data to gauge a few things, but if I tell you Ill be giving away a part of my formula.

How does streaming fit into what you will be doing with your artists?

Although my label at the moment caters mostly to DJ's, streaming can work for me as well but only if your track is on a heavy traffic driven playlist,

That’s when you can make some nice money. The label doesn't make any money if the track is alone on the site, it will only receive pennies to the dollar and I have huge issue regarding that. I feel if its streamed we should get more. The advantage of streaming comes when you have a well-established artist. That’s when you'll really see that money.

Since you are working with mostly Djs, are you working with them more on the live side and also with getting songs signed?

I’m working with producers that make tracks some with vocals, some with vocal sample and some instrumental. I’m currently on my fourth release and I’m currently interested in signing a female artist at the moment.

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