Occasionally, I’m scrolling along on social media and I see something so utterly weird that it stops me dead in my tracks. This was very much one of those moments – and it’s so odd, it nearly makes me want to rethink some things I’ve said in the past.
This blog is not generally a fan of remix contests. As I wrote when talking about the 23×23 campaign, they come with a lot of drawbacks. Many can’t be shared anywhere, and you can’t do anything with them if you don’t win. And even if you win, the record label isn’t obliged to release it anyway.
All the same, this remix contest is easily the weirdest I’ve ever come across. It consists solely of whale sounds. No bassline, no pad sounds, no chords, no drums, and not even a single cowbell sound to work with. It’s literally one stem and you have to create something using that.
And whilst I like to think of myself as a fairly creative sort, I can honestly say I wouldn’t even know where to start on a remix of this. So if any of you out there fancy having a go at this, you’re braver than I am.
The prizes consist of crypto money and gear. Whilst I’d normally say remix contests are a waste of time and you should concentrate on original material and official remixes you’ve been commissioned to do, it might be worth trying this one if you fancy pushing the envelope and seeing what you can do. You never know what you might learn…
One of the reasons campaigns in the dance music world get nowhere is lack of scrutiny. The dance music press mention it once at launch and then inevitably don’t follow it up. They never ask any further questions about how things went – everything exists in its own vaccum.
This blog doesn’t work like that. I ask hard questions about what’s going on and keep asking those questions until I get answers. Which is why I find myself coming back for a second day to the subject of the 23×23 campaign. One detail I forgot to mention yesterday was that one of the ways soon to be used to increase female participation in dance music will be remix contests.
Frankly, my insides went cold the moment I noticed this. Why? Because I’ve done endless numbers of remix competitions in the past and I can tell you right now that the vast majority of these are utterly pointless. For instance, if you don’t win the remix contest, you often can’t do anything with your remix at all.
Thinking of releasing the song in its own right without the acapella because you made everything on it from scratch? Think again. In a lot of remix competitions, there are rules in place which prevent you from doing this. Which means that all of that work you did is effectively wasted. You can’t use any of it elsewhere, you can’t give it away, and strictly speaking, you can’t even play it in your sets.
All I would say to anyone thinking of doing a remix contest is be under no illusions. Chances are you almost certainly won’t win. And even if you do, you might get some nice gear or maybe even a cash prize. But the record label ultimately own the copyright over the recording – and they don’t have to release your remix, even if you’re the winner.
Read the terms and conditions carefully, and if your instincts are telling you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. For 23×23 to be promoting this as one method to increase the number of women making music is irresponsible – it’s the equivalent of entering a lottery, with absolutely no guarantee of anything even for the winner.
I understand that the first remix contests will be appearing on Metapop on the weekend of December 11th and 12th. Rest assured this blog will be studying the terms and conditions very carefully indeed…
DJs appear to have spent their pandemic doing a number of different things – and none are remotely interesting. Sasha spent it baking bread. John Digweed’s was so dull that he didn’t even bother to tell us what he did – and now we’ve found out what Carl Craig did.
In between bouts of trying not to talk about his police chief cousin, it seems he tidied up his studio. And the story goes he found the parts for “From Beyond”, which was one of the first records he put out all the way back in 1989. They’re now available to download on Loopcloud for the purpose of a remix contest taking place on the site now. Feel free to have a go yourself if that’s your kind of thing.
But I personally can’t help but wonder why a so-called visionary like Craig can’t just make something new, instead of rehashing 32 year old ground. Indeed, isn’t it curious how little new music all of the so-called originators of techno create? They seem to think they can just rely on stuff they made decades ago.
The other bit that grates here is Carl Craig can easily afford to pay for remixes. Craig is a multi-millionaire with a house worth over $700k. He could comfortably cough up some money for new perspectives on his old work – yet here he is choosing to waste the time of hundreds of producers who won’t be able to do anything with the versions they create. And all so he can save himself some money.
Curiously, a source who knows Craig reaches out to say “I was speechless when I saw this. Carl would never do a remix for nothing. He used to boast that he wouldn’t do any remix for less than four figures. If you’d have contacted Hagi [Craig, his manager and wife] and asked him to do a remix for nothing, she’d have told you to f*** off.”.
Perhaps if money is tight, he could, for example, send it to Derrick May? Rumours have circulated on and off since 1993 that he’s going to release new music soon, and given all the allegations surrounding him, it’s not like he’s got a great deal else to do.
It would be the perfect opportunity for May to demonstrate his self-declared mission of “saving the world from bad music”. Not to mention he could do some videos of him making the remix – proving he’s got skills in the studio and creating social media material. Heck, he could even demonstrate his theory that you can have different instruments playing in different keys on the same song.
Or is it the case that Craig knows his friends wouldn’t do anything for him unless it came with a hefty pay cheque? It’s a mystery…
I’m currently running a two-part series on this site telling you about my experiences with remix contests. I’ll tell you about what went wrong with all the ones I didn’t win, and what possibly went right with the one I recently won for Russian label Mask Sexy Records.
Yesterday, I went through what definitely didn’t work for me and, chances are, probably wouldn’t work for you either. In this concluding part, I go through what just might…
If you’re reading this, frankly, I’m a bit surprised. Maybe you haven’t seen the first half of this series yet. Maybe Google has sent you to this page first. Otherwise, you might be best to hold off having any confidence in what you’re about to read until you’ve, well, read it first.
After my experience with the Quantize Recordings contest, I stopped entering any remix contests at all. I’d made my mind up, or so I thought. You can’t do anything with the remix if you don’t win because it’s copyrighted to a record label from the second you submit your entry – look it up in the terms and conditions, it’ll usually be right there. And even if you do win, record labels are usually under no obligation whatsoever to actually release your remix. Again, look up the terms and conditions on various remix contests if you don’t believe me.
That was until around October last year. I came across a record called “Don’t Give Up” by Dormidontov & Newzs Feat. Michael Balzer. It was on a Russian label called Mask Sexy. I’d come across the label a few times before and I liked some of what they put out. Then I noticed that they were running a remix contest.
I was initially hesitant. I’d had experiences of them before, and all of them bad. I sat on this for a little while thinking about it. During a moment where I was in between projects, shall we say, I thought why not? I downloaded the vocal stem and started work. I didn’t do it with any intention of submitting the entry. I did it solely to pass the time – and I found myself being a lot more creative all of a sudden.
That bassline reminiscent of the sound of numerous speed garage tunes from the late 1990s? An entirely deliberate choice to contrast with the softer sounding chords elsewhere in the mix. I thought it worked and I stuck with it. Everything else came along so much quicker without the pressure of trying to conjure up some pre-conceived notion that someone somewhere may or may not have.
The only constraint I gave myself was to stick with a vocal mix. As much as I enjoy doing dubs, I couldn’t see any in the release history of the label, so I thought I wouldn’t stand much chance doing that.
Is this a contradiction with my statement saying I was only doing it for fun? Most definitely, yes. It was at this moment I realised I had to send this thing. So I found the email address for the label and submitted my entry. I got a courteous reply saying that they were looking forward to checking it after the closing date.
The closing date came and went and I heard nothing. I just chalked it down to experience and said I wasn’t doing any remix contests again. And then I happened to be scrolling on my Instagram feed and noticed a post from the label announcing the winners of the contest.
Much to my surprise, I read my name on the list. I had to read it several times to make sure that I wasn’t having some weird out of body experience. Seeing my name on there was utterly humbling. I never expected it in a million years and it restored a little bit of my faith that some of these contests are actually judged on merit and not on pre-conceived ideas by labels not wanting to pay.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to check out the release very soon, and hopefully, this series has helped you out with a few remix contest conundrums. And if it hasn’t, well, you should have probably held back your confidence in the first place!
Today and tomorrow, I’m running a two-part series on this site telling you about my experiences with remix contests. I’ll tell you about what went wrong with all the ones I didn’t win, and what possibly went right with the one I recently won for Russian label Mask Sexy Records.
In today’s first part, I go through what definitely didn’t work for me and, chances are, probably won’t work for you either…
If you have come across this article through my social media, you probably know roughly what to expect. You probably know my sense of humour and what comes with it. So you’ll know to take anything written over the next two days for what it is. I simply speak of personal experience.
If, on the other hand, you have found me in the future from a Google search, I imagine this title hasn’t filled you with the utmost of confidence. Nor should it, frankly. I have no idea if what I’m about to write has any lessons in it whatsoever. I’m just going to tell you about my experience with remix contests and you can take what you’re going to take from that.
So I’ll start by declaring that I don’t know exactly how many of these I’ve entered. My first one was on Beatport many years ago – it was for a song called “Funk Dat” by Sagat, which originally came out in 1993. I entered it simply because I could and because I wanted to try remixing something. I was learning exactly how my DAW of choice – Cockos Reaper – worked, and I thought the best way of doing that was to work on something where the ideas were already partially there. I think this was the right strategy for me, it might not be the best strategy for everyone.
I never won anything for any of these. And let’s be frank about the reasons for this. Most remix contests are commissioned by record labels who don’t fancy paying someone to do a remix. Back in the 1990s, remixes cost a lot of money. If you wanted the likes of David Morales, Marc Kinchen, Todd Terry, Masters At Work or whomever to do a remix of your track, it was going to cost you big bucks. It wasn’t remotely unusual for them to charge £15,000 and above.
Labels were more than happy to pay in those days because the money was there to do it. Vinyl sales often counted towards the ultimate chart position of a song, so a decent remix pack on the 12” could help swing it in favour of a particular release. The remixers knew this, and charged accordingly.
Those days are long gone. Budgets at most labels are far thinner than they used to be and remixes have been particularly badly hit in this regard. So remix contests are a useful way of getting a remix without paying for it. They also usually – especially in the case of the major labels – are looking for a particular sound. They want what’s hot. They want what’s going to do well on the streaming sites, because that’s where their listeners are these days.
And who could blame them? That’s their job. If you want to enter a remix contest for a major label, my advice is to be acutely aware of these facts. There’s absolutely no point anyone going into this without both eyes open. Unless your remix becomes an absolutely huge global smash hit, there’s simply no way you’re going to make much from it. Just do it for the fun. It’s not like you’ll be able to do anything with it if you don’t win, anyway…