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QRD #47 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
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Record Label Owner Interview with Poussez of Artizan Music
January 2011
Name: Poussez (aka label owners & producers Jafar & Maxime Cescau)
Label: Artizan Music
City:  London (UK) & Gothenborg (SWEDEN)
Artists Roster: Poussez, Jafar, Maxime Cescau, Andreas Saag / Swell Session, Nacho Marco, Demarkus Lewis, Rhythm Plate, Terry Farley, Rich Medina, W10, Eightbitrate, Taz, Funky Transport, Pete Dafeet, MrCenzo, Yam Who?, Andy Touchfingers, Tim Split, Spieltape, Poetiquette, Rithma, John Larner, Holmes & Watz, Blacksoul, Deporto, Luke Sawyer 
Websites: www.artizanmusic.co.uk / www.poussez.co.uk / www.uptownboogiedown.com / www.facebook.com/artizanmusic / www.soundcloud.com/artizanmusic / www.myspace.com/artizanmuzik

Listen to Jafar & Touch “What Is Love” (Poussez Remix)

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Poussez – Artizan Music was started by Jafar, Maxime Cescau & Andy Touchfingers in 2005 as an outlet for their solo & collective studio works as Poussez. It was born from the consolidation of years spent running labels, working for the majors, independents, distributors, djing, running parties, etc. The usual really. It was also envisioned as a platform for ‘master craftsmen’ who also fitted the Artizan mold; that of futuristic, emotive, underground dance music: Deep House, Tech House, Nu Disco & Techno.

QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?

Poussez – Whatever has been earned in the music business over the last 18 years through DJ bookings & running events was what we put into the commencement of the label. In 2011 nothing has changed whatever is made goes straight back into the business.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Poussez – At time of writing 17 with an 18th just around the corner.

QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?

Poussez – We believe in quality versus quantity. Just because it is that much quicker & easier to release music through the internet does not mean quality control should be compromised. We are actually looking to reduce our output next year to perhaps a release every 3 months, so only 4 or so next year. Suffice to say each one will have a limited edition run of bespoke collectors 12”.

QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?

Poussez – There are NEVER enough hours in the week in the music industry. Our time is divided between weekend DJ bookings, sometimes in the case of international that also includes midweek onwards, but generally speaking we treat it as a full 9-5 like any other business. However when your passion is your business normal rules don’t apply, therefore it’s very normal for us to run the label & do admin 9-midday, the studio after lunch till 6-7 in the evening, then break for dinner run a couple more hours & relax with a movie by about 10pm. You don’t even notice the time go.

QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?

Poussez – Receiving support & praise from your peers around the world, especially when that can be key figures you have respected for many years. (Poussez & Artizan Music’s productions have been supported by as diverse a range of artists as Tony Humphries, Jimpster, Charles Webster, Franck Roger, Danny Krivit, Laurent Garnier, Little Louie Vega, Ben Watt, Joris Voorn, etc.) Watching our web stats quadruple in recent years has been particularly satisfying. :) We also love running events. (www.uptownboogiedown.com)

QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?

Poussez – There is no denying that in the zeroes one cannot turn the sort of figures the industry was pushing in the glory days of physical product, but essentially the model is flipped. The focus has to be on touring & events. Artizan Music therefore serves as a platform for new music as ever & an outlet for releases, but it is also a vehicle for promoting events (www.uptownboogiedown.com) which continue to run regularly in the UK & Sweden.

QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?

Poussez – Constantly keeping up with marketing is an endless battle in the digital age. Twitter seems a bit pointless to us.

QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?

Poussez – Freerange Records, Drumpoet Community, the excellent UK-based BOE, Connaisseur, Liebe Detail, Rush Hour, too many to list really.

QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?

Poussez – We had all been in the industry a long time before starting the label. Maxime ran the 4bit Art&Music label, had worked as a sound engineer for many years in Chicago & San Francisco plus set up a distribution company in the early zeroes. Jafar ran the brokenbeat label Kwaito Recordings, had spent 4 years at Universal music, been head of UK operations for Mostiko (a dance offshoot to Rock giant Roadrunner) & spent many years in dance music distribution. Andy teaches keys to some 70 students a week & used to run drum & bass label Odyssey.  All three have been djing for over 17 years & producing for over a decade.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

Poussez – An artizan is a master craftsman & Artizan really set out to profile established & up & coming names that fit the mold alongside being the mainstay for Poussez’s productions. We like to think our uniqueness lies in our attention to detail & love for what we do. Everything from the design aesthetic, newsletters, podcasts & parties are crafted with love & patience from the heart. Our roster represents artists we love & we hope to continue to be able to be a platform for discerning music. We are a music label run by music people.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

Poussez – Not at all in this day & age on the digital side, but our physical product is handled by Prime Direct in Greenwich London, which is not far from Maxime’s home, so that has certainly helped. Jafar moved over to Sweden in 2009 & that has not impacted on us at all. If anything it has expanded us having offices in two territories.

QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?

Poussez – In almost 20 years of appreciating dance music our passion & excitement has not waned one bit. Of course being producers & running the label does mean you are critical, but we were always like that as DJs anyway. It pays to be very critical when searching out & appreciating music. There is a wealth of great music out there, but not much extra-special next level stuff!

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Poussez – As it says on our website, we listen to everything we receive, but due to time constraints cannot always listen to everything. We humbly also ask those producers that are interested in us & keen to join the label to really bear in mind what the label is about. Deep, forward thinking, house, techno, tech-house, & nu-disco that has that extra sparkle & uniqueness. We also prefer to receive direct links to online players like Soundcloud. Links to downloads if we can’t hear the track first wont be listened to.

QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?

Poussez – Most have been existing friends garnered through our years DJing, others like Sweden’s Andreas Saag was sought out the moment Jafar moved to Sweden because we loved his material on Freerange... turns out Andreas was a super lovely person too. Rhythm Plate was another couple of guys we’d always loved & soon met through friends of friends. Being genuine with people & acting with integrity & making genuine friends goes a long way in this industry, there are a lot of people out there not in it for the right reasons & ready to stab you in the back.

QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?

Poussez – Generally speaking word of mouth & via our parties, podcasts, & the web. www.artizanmusic.co.uk ;0)

QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?

Poussez – On vinyl our best seller has been Demarkus Lewis’s ‘Misbelievin EP’ & that’s an easy one to figure out. Demarkus has very loyal fans & we were lucky in that we sat on this one for a while after we signed it. D was off on a more electro direction at the time & there seemingly were a lot of folks missing his old deep house sound, so when this 12” came out it sold out 3 times over. It does well on digital too, but the best digital seller to date is tied between Poussez’s Modern Identity (brand new Andreas Saag remixes have just come out on Beatport too) & Mr Cenzo’s ‘African Ghost Tale’ quality timeless deep house. (www.beatport.com/label/artizan)

QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?

Poussez – I think for us getting Andreas Saag to remix our own Modern Identity track was definitely key. Andreas’s sound transcends a lot of boundaries & with our original being very well received (former IDJ magazine top tune of the month) it was an honour to have him remix us.

QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?

Poussez – Vocalists primarily & live musicians. Jafar used to drum in a band & Maxime has engineered so many over the years, so neither of them is strangers to bands. We like the cross-pollination of bands with electronic production.

QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?

Poussez – Egos. Neither party understanding the other, no common ground musically or otherwise.

QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?

Poussez – Depth, emotion, & a certain soul.

QRD – How involved are you with a band for acting as a producer as far as hearing demo ideas or selecting tracks to be on a release or mixing & mastering?

Poussez – We do all our own mixing & mastering. If we hear a demo that has potential, but it needs compression or refinement or some editing of course we’ll always say.

QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?

Poussez – We do our own artwork too so 100%

QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?

Poussez – It really depends on what is happening on our dj schedules, our own studio commitments & the label pipeline. The shortest minimum period would be around 3 months, but the longest has been up to a year.

QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?

Poussez – If the music is still strong enough we may still release it, but with so many demos coming our way it would depend entirely on how timeless the music was.

QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?

Poussez – We are more of a ‘producer’ led label, but essentially the marketing is the same. Be proactive. So many studio bods are just that; dope producers, but lacking in marketing-savvy. In the glory age of the internet you need to be socially optimized, PR aware & understand what it takes to break music. For example, when we sign one of our own productions to a label we don’t wait for the label to do the work (which they will), we also spread awareness ourselves via all our own web affiliations & databases. We liken the underground scene to a huge hot air balloon & every release or bit of marketing you do is but a glob of blue-tack on it. It takes a lot of blue-tack to stick.

QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?

Poussez – We did sit on a Burnski record far too long & in the end he signed if off to BOE, was bit gutted about that, especially as he’s doing really well now; but BOE is an ace label run by a mate of ours, so glad it found a decent home in the end.

QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?

Poussez – Good question, would depend entirely on other factors, sometimes you can sign records purely for strategic purposes. A really underground artist that doesn’t necessarily sell many units, may still run a great club night that will give profile to the label in other ways.

QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?

Poussez – Depends on the artists profile, we have done advances, we have done one-off fees. We have done 50/50 deals, we have done 60/40.

QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?

Poussez – Depends again on the terms of the deal &/or any advance, publishing tie-in or similar. Also depends on what the label is having to put in for marketing & engineering costs before profit is made. For example one release may require just a club mailout another may require full global radio push, video campaign, viral campaign, etc.

QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?

Poussez – Both.

QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?

Poussez – We try to yes. Artizan is represented by a publishing house called Five Missions More, so we do try to tie in publishing deals. (www.fivemissionsmore.com)

QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?

Poussez – Very. The more artists that can use our logos & name after their names on marketing materials & on international tours, the better.

QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?

Poussez – Both. You can never have enough marketing to cut through such a saturated market.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Poussez – Newsletter, social networks, podcast. Gigging as much as possible & the popular Uptownboogiedown events in the UK capital generates decent awareness & connection, we’ll certainly direct to a loyal London based-fanbase at any rate.

QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?

Poussez – Periodically yes. We require help maintaining social networks & grooming databases. We also use street teams for events, but not really to push releases (unless those indirectly feature on the events flyers which has happened in the past).

QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?

Poussez – Jafar, Maxime, Andy on the board. Maxime, Pete Nawara & Pete Hawkes on design plus 2 interns on periodic rotation. We use 2 external PR companies (www.nimblepr.co.uk), 1 external Radio Promo company & periodically, additional Press support.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?

Poussez – Prime Direct handle our vinyl distribution & they have good relations with all the key players. In the past the Cool Cuts shops (those that provide returns for the Hype Charts) are given preferential advance white labels & all are always invited free to our events. We have always given shops like Black Market & Swag in London a S.O.R. policy on larger quantities direct from us (sale or return).

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?

Poussez – Again we use external agencies for this, but there are key players to whom one on one email contact is maintained alongside that of any relevant show producers. Again it’s all about cultivating one-on-one interaction. It shows you are serious & you care more than just shooting off mailouts & hoping for the best.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?

Poussez – One-on-one emails, free music, free entry to events. Promote any coverage from them on our website. If that fails send a fiver in the post. ;)

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?

Poussez – Free music, free entry to events. Post links to their content via our sites. Mention them in our newsletters.

QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?

Poussez – Ads only work when you are a ubiquitous & very recognized brand within any chosen field. It’s a bit of a how long is a piece of string question. Consumers won’t connect to an ad for a brand they don’t recognize. PR comes first, then ads. It however is a tool to financially incentivize or ‘thank’ key websites & editorial... although, one must say, that is very much the PR industries worst kept secret: i.e. so many brands & companies can essentially ‘buy’ editorial with ad spend, irrespective of quality of product. We fail to see the overall effectiveness in that, as the consumer is not stupid & more marketing-savvy now than in any previous era.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Poussez – To get Artizan Music’s physical & digital product in the optimally right places for our style of music & to the consumer who appreciates it around the globe.

QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?

Poussez – Because the costs of the initial cutting lacquers are fixed, we simply press in runs of 300.

QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?

Poussez – 30%.

QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?

Poussez – Yes. More T-Shirts to come.  We are discussing options for creating an Iphone App of some sorts. Maxime was recently involved in a picture-book app for children about a hungry lizard called Paco-Bongo.

QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?

Poussez – Yes, our websites always promote releases from Poussez, Jafar, Maxime Cescau, & Andy Touchfingers that feature on 3rd party labels &/or compilations.

QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?

Poussez – It is a tough balance, there is no denying that, but essentially a career in music is the sum of all the parts together & doing it all WELL.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Poussez – We already do.

QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?

Poussez – There is cross-pollination of people remixing each other’s releases & a lot of our roster are already friends with each other. Overall, we run large, two room events & they normally feature 5 or 6 artists from the label, so it’s a good time for us all to hang out, catch up, have fun, & chat music.

QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?

Poussez – Most producers are realistic about the scene.  Artizan is of course a business, but we also believe in music with credibility & integrity; that comes absolutely first with an eye on the market place. It’s about keeping it credible whilst being aware of what is going on around you.

QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?

Poussez – R.O.I with underground music are you kidding? ;0) We always keep a close eye on the changing sound in our field.

QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?

Poussez – Yep & we are pretty on that sort of stuff we like to think :0)

QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?

Poussez – Interns have worked for free or experience or free music & entry to events. Not every release has appeared on 12” & ultimately by working with a talented but exceptionally understanding group of people. Where we haven’t been able to pay advances we’ve tried to always bring the roster into club bookings. Poussez have also done swap-remix deals. For example Nacho Marco remixed for us & we for his LoudEast label.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Poussez – Nope, still life in the old girl yet but the future is something like an iPhone app.

QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?

Poussez – No there will always be people who like collecting physical things. The thought of a sterile, clinical, white house with nothing in it but a MacBook is nice in one way, but not in another. Vinyl is about collecting choice artwork & a tactile thing as much as it is the music. The two go hand in hand like foot & shoe. The cassette however is just cool, it’s retro, it reminds this current generation of their youth in the 80s; we hope it lasts, but it will be a limited return methinks... perhaps its a retro fad & return to ghetto blaster cool or similar. 

QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?

Poussez – With the way technology is going, it doesn’t matter but we’d hate to see vinyl go altogether; it has done so much for music over the years.

QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?

Poussez – Yep, all for that but they ought to also be housed in really nice collectable packaging with lovely artwork.

QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?

Poussez – Into it.

QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?

Poussez – It really depends on the music industries solutions to ongoing piracy. Do fans get charged through their broadband? Do record labels & artists get paid via service providers? Or is it all about a worldwide acceptance that the cost of going out to appreciate music will go up, because that is the only revenue left for artists.

QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?

Poussez – It’s a double-edged sword as it still promotes the artists & labels. Its pointless trying to send cease & desists, because the web is too big. That would be a fulltime job in & of itself. Where possible, we just try & limit the quality of promo copies doing the rounds so that the WAVs are only available through the stores.

QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?

Poussez – I think pushing producers who have really done a disservice to what was originally a great piece of music is punishable. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the amount of dodgy eurotrance versions of classic indie, funk, pop, or house records for one. The other is lazy ‘Re-edits’ that essentially do nothing more to an original track than add an extra 32 bars in Ableton & a kick drum & then put that out as your own music trading on someone else’s name & profile... totally unethical. Re-edits when done well actually add something new to an original. That’s a different ballgame... check out Greg Wilson as an ace example.

QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?

Poussez – To be honest with the levels piracy are at, it doesn’t even make sense to run a label at times, so I guess if we haven’t stopped by now we won’t. :)

QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?

Poussez – Do something else, ha-ha-ha. Question your motivations & beliefs. Do you really believe in the music first & foremost because that’s what this is about? You want to make millions go work for a bank.

QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?

Poussez – Touring & events. Touring & events.

QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?

Poussez – As we said not all artists are market-savvy. Proper labels (as opposed to the millions of overnight efforts you see springing up for 5minutes with badly designed artwork, plugging terrible music & essentially ripping off gullible young producers) have direct & regular access to vast networks to act as a platform for that artist more than they alone can do.

QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace, LastFM), but with MySpace’s decline, what do you see as the place where “normal” people go to find out about & get excited by new music?

Poussez – Soundcloud.com & YouTube.com.

QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?

Poussez – Being true to itself.

QRD – Anything else?

Poussez – If you are in London for NYE then come celebrate with Artizan Music’s UPTOWNBOOGIEDOWN:
Video via Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GutzJQPa3zQ 
Purchase Artizan Music via Beatport: www.beatport.com/artizanmusic