For the latest episode of Ask The Label Manager we catch up with Jaksa Pavicevic to learn about his unique vision behind A Must Have.
1. Thanks for joining us and giving us some insight into your life and daily label manager duties. So let’s start with the obvious, what label or labels do you manage and where are you based?
I’m running A Must Have label and am from Dubrovnik, Croatia.
2. Where does the name from your label(s) comes from? Is there a story behind how it/they came to be?
It was 2005 when my friend Gunch and I came to this idea. Originally it was founded as A Must Have Records since I knew one day there will be records in our catalogue, but this name also had sport connotation because we wanted to, like the next boy or a girl, sign only best of electronic music. We wanted musical world records, if you will. Later, our distributor demanded removing ‘records’ from our name but the message was already sent and I released records anyway.
3. Does your label(s) have a distinct sound? How would describe the labels vision and sound?
Highly emotional introvert, craving for some attention.
4. We would guess you probably receive a lot of demos, how many would say you receive in any given week and what percentage would you actually consider releasable and do you reply to every submission?
No I don’t to be honest. My friend mentioned me last week we have wrong e-mail address on our Soundcloud for many years. God knows how many demos went to email which password I forgot 7 years ago. Dixon might sent us track and I would never knew of it. Imagine.
5. How long is the wait from when you sign a project to when it will actually get released?
Depends, but I try to make it no longer than 2 months.
6. Who would you say are your core label artists? And do you think it’s important for a label to build a roster around a few key artists and develop a distinct sound in the process.
Sandji who’s music means a world to me since I met him. His knowledge and good taste is one of a kind. I never spoke or saw anyone who is so well educated but also loves to experiment and play like a kid with music, so much. He creates most beautiful melodies I know, and then he just put some wicked stuff over it. Something you would never expect. But it sounds great. It’s like he is building traps and then shows how to get out of it. It’s beautiful. He’s my guy for sure. There is Pion then. I could dance to anything Pion does- forever. In recent time I work a lot with Traumhouse and Pacco & Rudy B. There is something going on there for sure.. Andre Sobota will have a remix soon. Kurt Baggaley is with us too. I could never ask for more. I’m just kidding. I will ask for more, always.
7. What is your thought process behind remixer selection on a given project and how many is too many in your opinion?
I just call Pion. I’m kidding, but there is no rules really. Imagine some release with 10 of your favorite artists having their own remix there. Would you not listen to it all 10!? I personally try to stick with 1-2 remixers.. Don’t know why, I find it enough I suppose.
8. Do you sell merchandise and if so what do you sell, where is it available? and do you think it’s important to have merchandise?
I just release music. I’m leaving t-shirts, cups and hats with label logo to others. It’s not my game.
9. Where would you say the majority of your fans are based? And does that correlate to where the majority of your sales come from?
Germany and USA. One might think we sell a lot to such a huge countries. But think again.. Considering how many people lives there, they are buying awfully little of our music.
10. What has been the most successful track or release on the label? Both from a sales perspective but also support or live / radio play form established DJs?
Stefan Vincent Remix of Jaw’s ‘Pop’ track is bestseller.. Still selling the most of it, even after 5 years. Prolly because Stefan become so big. We are recently getting a lot of support for Pion’s ‘Radost’, new release, liked by many..
11. What artists would you love to have on the label?
I’m really writing a lot to MUUI recently. I hope he will have patience for me for some more time..
12. Where do you see the label in 5 years? And are you pleased with where the label is now since its inception?
We will be much higher in five years than we are now. Otherwise is useless. I’m far from pleased now. But then again, I’m happier than I was last year. Its a hard market and I hate seeing what sells and you really have to give all you have if you want even a smallest piece of the cake.
13. Living off the earning of a small digital imprint is unlikely, how do you supplement your income? Do you have a job outside of electronic music?
Yes, I have. For 17 years it’s the same thing now, but I’m getting a feeling I’m a bit too old for it these days. A grey cloud of many doubts is upon me. But music wise the sky was never clearer.
14. Do you pay advances or remix fees? And is it reasonable to do so in your situation?
Yes, for sure. You should invest. And you shouldn’t think only to get money from it back. You will hardly, but you can benefit on different ways for sure. I’m quoting my buddy Paul Hazendonk here. I learn a great deal from that guy.
15. Who is your distributor and have you been with them for the entire existence of the label?
Proton. They are ok. I started in 2009 with them, after I moved from Daredo. Now, that was lousy distributor back in a day. Proton are accurate, available for assistance when needed and when you send them an email, you got your reply back really soon.
16. Are you or have you done label nights and if so how have they contributed to the label’s growth?
Not yet. I’m feeling more and more that I should.
17. What’s your favourite thing about running a label?
Talking with my artists. That really makes my heart warmer. What a bunch of knowledgeable boys and girls. Proud to know them. I also really love when we are at Beatport front page and hate the world when we are not.
18. What advice would you give to anyone trying to get a release on the label? How do you suggest they approach the demo submission process?
It helps if you know the label’s sound. for example; you don’t want to send a dark techno tune to Lost & Found. Label managers really hate when someone sends them track that is totally not their style. I think its sort of respect that must exists. Browsing label’s catalogue before sending demo is not bad idea
19. What if a demo is good but needs refining? Do you have time to help the artist and give them some tips?
Yes I have and I do it gladly. Its part of the process.. Once I even signed a track which I believed no one else ever would. The producer was really great, enthusiastic, a boy with a dream. On the flipside, track was unpolished, poorly crafted but there was this 10 seconds to die for in. So I assumed no one will hold on to this 10 seconds. And so it was. We started from the scratch, some 50 emails later we had a track that we weren’t shame of It was hard to say who was happier of us two.
20. Who does the labels mastering? and do you ever have tracks mixed down by an engineer for better results?
Rudy of Pacco and Rudy B duo, a Proton veteran does it for us now. I’m happy to know and work with him. Not only he is awesome producer, he has a giant enthusiasm you MUST appreciate. I highly recommend him to anyone interested in proper mastering service.
21. This is tough but if you had to pick your five favorite releases or tracks on the label what would they be?
Kostya Run – El Mirador (Sandji’s Saultry Dub Orchestration)
Ella Romand – Space Dream (Maybe Tomorrow Remix)
Exoplanet – People Looks Like Flowers At Last – Cicadenzang
Pion – Are We There (Estroe Remix)
Gabriel Cazali – Solo Sucede – Applescal Remix
22. Lastly, what advice do you have for someone just starting a label?
First you must know what you want from this label.. Many people are just romantic and don’t give a first thing about sales and some are different. Some will release even what they don’t like but they assume it might sell well. So, choose your path wisely, preferably with lot of heart. Industry is tough and hard these days. Bottom line is your label is a mirror to your soul. Act accordingly.
You can check out the full A Must Have catalog: here