Running a label can be a thankless job. No matter how many releases and big records one puts out, there is always more that could be done to promote releases and endless demos that need to be listened to. The money isn’t good, so it is usually a labor of love. Often label heads are DJs and producers to provide an outlet for their own music and a way to create another avenue in the business. Dan McKie is one of those who has taken a long and winding road through the industry. He got his start as a DJ and producer around the turn of the millennium, moving from a duo to his own project. He remixed some big names like Solange, Beyoncé, The B-52s and others, before focusing on more underground projects. Some of those songs and EPs have been released on Stealth Recordings, Static Music, Frequenca and Freakin 909.
He then launched 1980 Recordings in 2007 that has covered a large range of electronica since its inception. He also served as an artist manager for up-and-coming DJs, in addition to running his own PR and promotions company.
With some many hats being worked and juggled, we decided to catch up with McKie for a new Industry Insider to learn about how he is able to manage all of those different tasks, his journey in the business and much more.
How did you start your career in your industry?
I was a cheesy DJ at first, microphone, pop music etc. I was always loving dance music in the 90’s and it was the likes of Roger Sanchez “Another Chance” & Fatboy Slims productions which perked my ears up. I then used to buy Cd’s & vinyl even though I could mix properly or play vinyl until I learnt around the year 2000. Then I started DJing more house-orientated events.
I was in a DJ/producer duo from around 2003 until 2006 and we had great success with remixes and releases on Ovenready, Skint/Loaded, Baroque, Ministry of Sound and more with music on the daily rotation of Galaxy FM in the UK.
When we parted ways in 2006, I carried on and started to produce myself trying to discover my own way and sound, as I was always the ideas guy & DJ in the duo.
In 2007 I moved to London and truly got immersed in to the music industry, setting up meetings etc. I was an A+R scout for the now defunct GUT records. I was working with some friends on events and hosting rooms at various iconic London venues (The Gallery MOS, Turnmills and more).
An American manager then managed me for a while and he had the likes of Ultra Nate, Chris Willis and more under his wing. I learnt a lot from this time of my career. I was making some big remixes for the likes of Beyoncé, Solange, Kelly Rowland (all separately), The B52’s, The Ones and more. Decent money but I found it was a bit sparse and I was never truly happy with the sound I made. So, I went a bit more “underground” and started making music I liked more and wanted to play out in my sets.
I started my own record label, 1980 Recordings, at the start of 2007 and I still run it now. This has covered a broad range of electronica over the past 11 years and now we are in out 12th year and we still have a decent record of Beatport / Spotify / Traxsource / Bandcamp success and more. I would say I am now making music I truly like to play out. I now have releases on King Street Sound, Viva Music Limited, Stealth Recordings, Static Music, Frequenca, Freakin 909, Pacha Ibiza, Southern Friend and more.
In amongst all of this I have been an artist manager and helped the careers of people you wouldn’t believe. If you ever see me in person ask me and I will happily tell you as these people are egotistical and would never admit it in their interviews that I opened the way to their career in the music industry. Is amazing how quickly some people forget. I also started my own music PR agency, which is a whole other story.
What is the best part of your job in your industry?
DJing, finding talent as an A+R, breaking a record to the public/radio and making your own music, of which when you get a reaction from it when you are DJing gives you the nicest feeling.
What are the biggest challenges of getting into your industry, how did you navigate it all?
Getting through all the cliques. There are so many in this industry, it’s ridiculous. Don’t get me started on this topic. You would think it’s all about the music, but it isn’t. You have so many DJs/Producers making music, some of which make average music if they make it at all, (I like to call those tracks “emperor’s new clothes tracks”), and if they are in the right ‘cliques’ then they get the radio play, the big DJ play, the Beatport banners etc. Silliness.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting out?
Be nice, be polite, be approachable & be workable. It’s simple but effective. I’ve always lived by “it cost nothing to be nice” & “karma doesn’t have an expiration date.” Yes, you get those moments where you need to be abrupt and harsh but that is usually after someone has been extremely offensive to you. The amount of times I have dealt with artists who are lovely then the ego kicks in after a tiny bit of success. Be nice.
Did you start off as a fan of electronic music and then became involved on the business side, or did business bring you into the electronic music world?
I have been a fan of music since a small child. I was originally a metal head with some of my favorite bands being the likes of Iron Maiden, Faith No More & Extreme. But as I grew as a person my musical love grew -- Fleetwood Mac, Queen, lots of disco, Bowie and more. But I have always loved electronic music ever since I discovered it as far back as some of The Who’s synth orientated tracks and of course Paul Hardcastle “19.” It was by accident I got into the industry. From being a glass collector and then filling in for the resident DJ when he finished early to go get pissed with his mates, to being asked to help on a remix, to then evolving to being a DJ/producer full time. Then owning my own label, publishing, event management, venue DJ/live booker, music director in Ibiza, artist management and also my 10-year-old music PR agency, itsapromothing.com which involves press, PR, radio plugging, DJ promo, Ibiza music promo, social media management and more.
What does electronic music mean to you? What is your favorite genre?
It’s my life, I live and breathe it. People ask me for help all the time as I have a vast knowledge and understanding of it. I am involved and engrossed in it 24/7 much to my girlfriend’s annoyance. She is very patient with it (well that and my love for watching football & drinking beer, ha).
I don’t think I have a favorite genre as I like all kinds of electronic music and that reflects in my productions. Under Dan McKie I produce all kinds of house (Deep, Progressive, Tech) & Techno. Under my Editr name I produce disco, funk, disco house. I also have another alias but that’s a secret ha.
What cities/regions do you think electronic dance music is best thriving?
Worldwide. I push music to the world of DJs and radio and there are scenes everywhere from Berlin, most of Germany in fact, Italy, UK, Australia, Thailand, USA, Brazil, Argentina, Ibiza, Croatia, Spain in general and many more. Because of the internet and the instant gratification on demand generation we live in now you can have a scene and following anywhere in the world.
What are some hobbies you pursue in your downtime?
Watching football, drinking all kinds of delicious beers, eating at nice restaurants and spending time with my little family (my girlfriend, daughter & I) doing excisions out of the city to connect with nature a bit more.
Where do you see the most innovation in the electronic music industry?
Well the industry has always evolved from vinyl to CD, to mp3 stores to streaming. We now have the likes of Amazon and Google rolling out free tier music streaming which will dent Spotify’s plans but Spotify aren’t stupid so they will have something up their sleeves. The whole world is going subscription. DJ’s DJing off wifi, no more USB’s – but I personally like the USB DJing thing. But I suppose you now have the introduction of virtual reality (VR), which will probably involve staying in your house with you mates and going to a virtual club paying an online fee to enter, taking virtual drugs so you don’t have the come down & health risks and can go straight to you own bed with in seconds.
What was the best piece of advice someone ever gave you?
I am not sure I have a "best piece of advice." It probably came from my mother, when she taught me manors. It you have manors and respect that goes a lot further. I also learnt a lot of my own advice from doing things at the start that took a while to fix, like spamming the shit out of people DOES NOT WORK. Get to know people, meet them, have a beer, have a laugh and then these people are more open to everything that comes their way from you.
Who were the people you looked up to when you got into the business?
In the electronic music industry probably Norman Cook, Roger Sanchez, Pete Tong, Judge Jules, Dave Pearce, Moby to name a few. I was super lucky enough to have dinner with Norman Cook & Roger Sanchez (separately) and that was mental, inside I was going crazy but, on the exterior, I was “playing it cool.” I chatted and listened and they asked questions, which was super endearing. This taught me a lot about this industry. Norman has supported many of my tracks and Roger just released a new two track EP of mine on Stealth Recordings.
What skill set is most important when working in the music business?
Juggling. Ha. These days you have to be a digital marketeer, a graphic designer, videographer, a producer, DJ, label manager, A+R, radio plugger, PR, lawyer and much more. You can’t just be a DJ & producer anymore.
How do you stay relevant in an industry that is constantly changing?
By making and release music of my own and others I like. Hopefully there will always be a place for me and my sound and my labels sounds. I try not to make music for it to be “on trend.”
If you had to choose another profession tomorrow, what would it be and why?
I am a qualified photographer but I’ve not done that since the early 00’s and I learnt it before the digital age took over. Maybe I would have stuck with that. But I have always wanted my own cool small bar or club so I think I would of went down that route as manager/owner. I still could, who’s to say.