How to win a remix contest (by someone who won one and doesn’t know how!) – Part 1


With all that in mind, why would you want to enter a remix contest? Well, there are a few reasons why you might want to do it. In my case, I found that smaller labels tend to be a little bit more open about what they’ll release. Whilst they might well have a sound in mind, they’ll usually be more comfortable with the idea of casting the net a little wider than a bigger label, who essentially want the cookie cutter without paying for it. 


Back in 2018, I entered a remix contest that a soulful house label from the USA called Quantize Recordings were hosting. The song being remixed was “Never Be Alone” by Sebb Junior and Tasha LaRae. The original was an exquisite disco-influenced production by Sebb Junior and outstanding vocals by Tasha LaRae. Vocals like this don’t come along as often as you’d like, so I jumped at the opportunity. How hard could it be?


A hell of a lot harder than I ever expected, it turned out. I thought I could just apply a sort of “standard” Amateur At Play “template”, slap in LaRae’s vocals and there you go, job’s a good one. Except the result from doing that was terrible. Everything was in the right key and there were no technical errors that couldn’t be fixed – but the result was just boring, and it didn’t work for the song.


I kept trying all sorts of different ideas and kept finding old demos that I’d started in the past to try and solve the problem. Out of respect to Quantize Recordings – and partly because I don’t wish to assault your ears – I am unable to share these various attempts with you here, but trust me, they were terrible.


As the deadline approached, I felt the need to send them something. Anything that was remotely close to the sound the label was looking for. In a frenzy, I chose something, sent it off to them and that was that. Obviously, I didn’t win the contest. For a while afterwards, I did some soul searching to try and work out why that was.

What had I done so wrong?


The answer was pretty simple, in the end. I had totally failed to understand what the remix contest was all about. Quantize was looking for something that wasn’t too far away from the sound the label has, and they were also looking for something that paid respect to the vocal that ultimately made the tune. I had not done either.

This was the reason I failed so badly. My Biology teacher at school used to tell us “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. More crudely, he also used to say “Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance”. Both are absolutely true. I didn’t approach the task from the right mind set, and I paid the price for it…

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