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How to Become a New School Remixing Hero

Remixing is certainly not a new art form, so what’s different about it now?

Record labels have traditionally commissioned remixers to make tracks appeal to different audiences.  No DJ would have been caught dead dropping Tori Amos in a nightclub until Armand Van Helden transformed it into a dance hit. Similarly La Roux would have been an unlikely playlist candidate for a Dubstep night without Skream flipping it into a bass-shaking monster.

In the dusty, vinyl-filled days of old, producers were either approached by a label to do a remix, or they’d create a bootleg under an alias and have some cheeky white labels pressed up.

The web has now completely eliminated these barriers to entry. A raft of new school remixers are harnessing the exponential growth of Soundcloud, with over 175 million unique monthly listeners, to boost their profiles and get paid gigs and deals.

In fact a significant number of these producers only create remixes. This allows them to tap into completely new audiences, accelerating their exposure and their fan bases.

In the current climate where established labels, booking agents and managers are looking to sign acts with a solid following and rising profile, this makes all the difference. When I worked at Universal Music, A&R’s we’re specifically scouting on SoundCloud to find these remixers and commission them for work.

So who are these  guys and how do you get a slice of the action?

Who’s killing it in the remix scene?

23 years old Norwegian music producer Kygo, has gone from an unknown producer to stardom purely with remixes. Until he hit the bigtime they were all unofficial and mainly free to download.

 A quick look at his tracks and the number of plays on his soundcloud profile reveals the scale of his success.  He’s recently had his first original productions through Sony off the back of this.

Another Norwegian producer, Matoma, in just 5 months went from totally unknown, to 10.000.000 plays on his different remixes.

His style is also particularly defined, working in the emerging genre of Tropical House. A lot of his remixes have taken hip-hop tracks and reworked them into this new style.

Deciding who to remix

It can be tempting to pick your favourite classic songs to remix and that’s certainly a natural place to start. If an artist has been inspirational to you then there’s a good chance that some of their fans will also appreciate your music.

You can however, be a little bit more wiley with your remixes…

Try remixing artists who you might not traditionally listen to and give them your own twist. This will help you appeal to fans who would never have discovered you or even considered listening to your music before.

Better still, if you want to get maximum exposure then remix artists who are currently in-cycle. This means they have a forthcoming album or EP which is being marketed. If you see an album available only on pre-order in iTunes then you’re on to a winner. Taking a look at music blogs, label websites, advertisements and press will also clue you in on this.

Creating the remix

The problem with creating unofficial remixes is that you almost certainly won’t have the individual stems… this is where you need to start getting creative…

It is sometimes possible to extract the vocals from a fully mixed song but the results are variable. Before killing time on this, head over to Acapellas4u.com which is a great resource and has more acapellas than you can shake a stick at. If a vocal can be isolated, someone has probably posted it there already.

If these don’t bring you any joy then you can look for segments or loops in the track you can use. This is something that hip-hop producers do a great deal of – sampling a recognisable riff and then laying it down with their own beats. EQ’s and filters are vital for removing or isolating sounds, especially those with a mid-side mode.

If it all gets too tricky, then some producers create ‘re-edits’. These are like a remix but are much closer to the original song. Here’s one example :

So you’ve created a kick-ass remix, but this is only the first part of the job. Now you need to start getting the word out…

How to promote your remix on Soundcloud

To get maximal reach then understanding Soundcloud’s search algorithms is a must. Ranking high when someone is searching for that artist or track is the best way of getting plays and attention.

Tag your remix effectively by finding popular remixes of the same track and studying their tags. Use compelling word in your title like “FREE DOWNLOAD” – this is great for DJ’s looking for tracks.

There are lots of groups on Soundcloud specifically for remixes or tracks for DJ’s. Go through these and post your track. Currently Soundcloud allows 75 groups posts per track.

Use the track description to link to where you want to push traffic, like your website or facebook page.

Using a ‘like gate’ or ‘signup to download’ to on-board fans before they can download the remix. This can help convert your soundcloud audience to more engaged fans. Click DJ is a useful tool for this.

A number or highly successful accounts like The Groove Dealer, EDMTunes and Melodic Sounds curate and repost music on Soundcloud which is submitted by users. Note that some of these have the slightly dubious model of requiring a payment or donation without any guarantee of a repost.

Always ensure you have great artwork. Using the pack-shot from the original track will make your remix instantly recognisable, but also embellish it with your name or logo. 

Matoma’s Remix of Sheppard’s Geronimo uses the original pack-shot with his own logo set into it.

Promoting your remix on YouTube

The same principals around good tagging practice are also applicable to YouTube. Vidiq is useful app with a free tier which lets you analyse the tags and metrics of successful videos on youtube and also optimise your own channel.

You can use this to mirror tags from the song you are remixing to help surface it to that audience.

YouTube is becoming increasingly popular for music curation with channels like Majestic Casual which post a stream of new and emerging music using their own branding. Just like regular music blogs, you can contact the curators of these channels through email and ask them to feature your track.

Taking the time to find the most appropriate channels and getting in touch can pay dividends. Many producers focus on contacting labels, missing this untapped area for promotion.

The smallprint

Your remixes might not be viral smashes to begin with but you’ll be laying the groundwork for your future success so don’t get put off. Without exception, all the successful remixers have put in the effort to consistently make and share remixes.

We also need to make you aware that there are cases where unofficial remixes have been taken down and copyright notices issued. After a receiving a string of these your account could be cancelled.

This is a bizarre quirk of the music industry right now, which jumps on the successes of user-generated content and self-made artists whilst investing time and money in takedowns.

These decisions can come from the labels and/or via the artists or their management and seems to be random. On the whole, if you’re getting noticed at this level, it’s a pretty good problem to have and we think it’s worth the risk.

Andrew's copyright notice from Soundcloud.

Andrew’s copyright notice from Soundcloud.

One of our founders, Andrew had a Taylor Swift remix taken down recently. He had a huge number of plays riding off the marketing for her latest album. She then withdrew her catalogue from Spotify (we think a PR stunt) and shortly after Andrew’s track was taken down, no doubt so the label could avoid any more agro.

The Upshot

Remixing is not only a lot of fun, but also a very accessible and real way to grow your audience and attract attention. It might take some time and consistent effort but labels do actively scout for successful remixers.

If you’ve created a remix you’d like to share then please post it in the comments below so we can take a listen!

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2 Comments

  1. I am an active remix producer and have had a lot of fun with the work I’ve done so far! My problem was that I wasn’t sure exactly what I could/could not do in the industry with remixing. This has answered a lot of questions I had!

    Please find 2 remixes of mine on my soundcloud page http://www.soundcloud.com/kminormusic

    Feedback would be massively appreciated!

    Thanks again this article rocks!

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