Owning a label is not an easy task. Often you are struggling to break even on releases between distribution, marketing, promo, A&R and potential vinyl pressing. Having an identity is vital to try and stave off the headwinds of change in the music business. Success will come and go, leading to some lavish times and some very frugal times. Gavin Lynch, better known to the world as Matador, one of the hottest names in techno right now, is also the head of his well-respected RUKUS imprint. The label has been home to acts like ANNA, Marc Houle, Fabio Florido, OC & Verde and more, in addition to his own music. With three strong years under his belt, he has learned a few things about the label business and what it takes to make your imprint tick.
Matador’s RUKUS just put out a new VA (various artists) sampler last week titled 3AM Vol. 1 with new records by with AARYON, Daniel Blackman, Russell and WHYT NOYZ. As you can guess from the title, it is built for those late night moments. Stream the sampler below and pick up a copy here.
Matador was kind enough to impart some wisdom on all of us on how he has been able to run his label successfully over the past three years. Looking at the team, trusting your vision and having good time management are just a few of things you need.
Team: A strong airtight team is essential in order to keep the train moving. Our core team members have been there from the start, so we are all very committed to this project, and all bring a similar vision to the table which really helps to sync ideas & concepts quickly. It wasn’t until I started RUKUS that I truly realized how crucial it was to have a team you can trust.
Long-Game: In the initial stages of this project it was merely a way for me to release my own music, when and how I wanted to, which has served me well. However, it didn't take long before I was receiving some fantastic demos, and after so many you can’t just sit by, I had to start releasing this music, so we began to draft in original artists to release. We want to re-release artists and build a credible and close-knit roster, so we invest in our artists and our releases, always thinking ahead.
Success is unpredictable: sometimes you sign something, and you think wow this is going to absolutely kill it in sales, or that’s got ‘perfect for radio’ written all over it, but it might not necessarily pan out that way. It’s easy to feel the pressure, or feel responsible for that, because it’s your label and an artist has put their music in your hands, but you can’t control everything that happens; and you have to be OK with that.
Time Management: Managing your time goes hand in hand with the plan and allowing for creative periods in the studio is essential in order to let the mind breathe. Only after I’ve done this type of studio decompression do I begin to listen to demos or delve into label stuff. When we are doing that, Nicola (label manager) and I sit down and go through the compiled list of demos for the month. This process can take up to six hours.
Keep looking outside your own label: It would be easy to release my own tracks on RUKUS all the time as opposed to holding out for other labels, but I think it’s important to release across a selection of them, because you need to keep things fresh and also allow space for the label you’ve created to grow. Some tracks can take over a year to finally nail so there’s no need to rush into releasing something just because you’ve got a platform to do so.
Be patient with the big decisions: Our artwork has been evolving for almost two years now. Rather than sitting with the same graphic making lazy changes, we really work hard to make something memorable and eye catching. Accepting that these things take time was something I had to learn. As impatient as I was it was worth the wait, as our most recent artwork for the 3am series is simply stunning, I’m probably going to have it blown up and printed for one of the walls at home!
And remember you’ll still be learning years on – that never stops!