With Balkan Connection coming off their most successful year yet we catch up with label boss Milos Miladinovic for the latest episode of Ask The Label Manager.
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?
– Thanks for inviting me. Pleasure to give interview right after Balkan Connection has been selected as one of the Beatport’s Top 10 favourite and best selling labels of 2016. Also, I’m just about to sign my 1000th contract through Proton’s SoundSystem distribution, meaning, I’m officially involved in development of 1000 releases through the same. Back to your question, I completely manage Balkan Connection and Balkan Connection Tech labels. I also manage BC2 Records, but this one, with the help of some of my close friends (A&R’s) such as: Ivan d-phrag Filipov, Ewn Rill, Beat Maniacs, to name a few. Labels are founded and based in Serbia (Belgrade-Nis). Balkan Connection South America is also big part of the Balkan Connection family of labels, and it’s being managed completely by Nicholas Van Orton (Argentina). Next to BC, BC Tech and BC2 Records, I am also working as a label assistant of 16 more labels. Some are still active, some are currently on the break, but here, I share the full list of labels I worked and still am working with, down the road: dont (by Ogi Gee Cash & Dimiz, Serbia), Wicked Imprint (by Eddie F, Slovenia), Baires Records (by Santiago Garcia, Argentina), Selektive (by Vladislav Rashkov, Bulgaria), Lovable Fairy Tale (by Matthew Hoag, Slovenia), Classound Recordings (by Luis Bondio, Argentina), Sindor Records (by Cesar Lombardi, Mexico), The Purr Music (by Jelly For The Babies and Filip Fisher, Serbia), Groove 9 Records (by Amol Reon, India), Genesis Music (by Michael A, Belarus), Sever Records (by Ewan Rill, Russian Federation), Moving Dub Records (by Soulplace (Last Of Me), Serbia), One Of A Kind (by Jelly For The Babies and Bonaca, Serbia/Sweden), Northern Lights Music (by K Nass and Rafa’EL, Egypt/Poland), Last95 Records (by Last95, Serbia).
Before we continue with our interview, I’d like to say that none of this would be possible for me, if I haven’t met back in 2009 with Balkan Connection founder Ogi Gee Cash and co-owner Dimiz. Thanks to them and experience they selflessly shared with me, I joined the world of label management. For this, they have my eternal gratitude.
2. Where does the name from your label(s) comes from? Is there a story behind how it/they came to be?
– We come from Eastern/Southeastern Europe, which is also known as Balkan region, consisted of several beautiful countries. Our main goal from the very beginning was to release and promote quality electronic music/producers from Balkan. So, the Balkan Connection name came across my mind. We made a beautiful connection across all Balkan countries thru music, of which we are very proud of, and down the road, as we become more and more known in the world of electronic music, mainly progressive house scene, Balkan Connection label has become home for all the artists worldwide.
3. Does your label(s) have a distinct sound? How would describe the labels vision and sound?
– Balkan Connection releases are mostly consisted of quality Progressive House music, including all of its sub-genres: Progressive Deep, Progressive Tech, Progressive Techno etc. It was like that from the beginning, so we stayed true to it. We believe this is the reason why we are so popular in Progressive House genre, because we tend to keep our releases under one genre as much as we can. Now, how would I describe labels vision and sound? Well, thru our labels, we share our personal taste in music, so far it worked great, naturally, we will keep releasing music we personally like, love and feel. As for the other two labels, on Balkan Connection Tech we release mostly House, Deep House, Tech House and Techno. BC2 Records is also Progressive House based label, but we do tend to experiment with other genres on this one, as long as the music is up to our liking.
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?
– Yes, we receive around 200-250 demos each week. Nowadays, usually 1 out of 100 demo submissions is suitable for our labels. This is the main reason why we, after 8 years of replies to every single demo submission, unfortunately had to make a small sacrifice, and reply only to those demo submissions that are actually within the style, or at least close to style of music our labels release (we do check all demo submissions, but only answer to these). Listening to demos requires a lot of time and close attention. I’ve been spending up to 10 hours a day on listening to demos and replies, in order to end up with 1 signed track for the label. So, as I’ve mentioned, after 8 years of replying to all demo submissions, we had to make this small sacrifice, and answer only to those demo submissions, containing music within the style of our labels.
5. How long is the wait from when you sign a project to when it will actually get released?
– Well, this really depends on the label’s schedule. Balkan Connection is the most consistent label, and in order to keep this consistency and quality, schedule is usually 6 months ahead. It gives a solid deadlines for the remixers to do their best and without any pressure. So, average wait is around 6 months. On Balkan Connection Tech currently there is no big schedule, so whenever we would receive a quality demo, release would follow up as soon as possible, 2-3 weeks. BC2 Records has become consistent as well, and here, schedule is usually 4-6 months ahead.
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.
– Well, I wouldn’t really like to select anyone in particular, but, obviously, the ones with most appearances on our label are the core ones, such as Ewan Rill, Nicholas Van Orton, Jelly For The Babies, Magnetic Brothers, to name a few. In my opinion, it’s great for label to have core artists. Artists that you can rely on and can step in with originals or remixes at any time you need them. But this is becoming more and more difficult nowadays, since most of the artists are becoming label owners as well. But, the few that I mentioned, even though they have their own labels, they stayed with us, which is really something worth respecting and mentioning. Many of the artists that grown up within our label and that we considered as our core artists, moved on…
7. What is your thought process behind remixer selection on a given project and how many is too many in your opinion?
– This depends on original track really, the style of it. When I sign something new, I listen carefully several times on repeat, while at the same time I search thru my label roster for the most appropriate remixer for the project, by my opinion. Many times I also work with the artists themselves, asking them to give me a list of potential remixers that they would like me to check with, if they are available for the remix job, and we finalize release like that. It usually takes up to 15 remix requests, in order to end up with two or three confirmed remixes. Release with two to three remixes are the best in my opinion, if we’re talking about the single+remixes release of course. If we talk about 2 track EP, than one remix for each track makes the release perfect! It happens though that we release bigger releases from time to time. I personally don’t see the problem with that. If all the remixes are top quality, why not include them within the release?
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?
– Sadly, we don’t sell merchandise. But it’s something worth thinking of. It’s a nice way of promotion for sure. Maybe some day…
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?
– We have fans worldwide. Not sure how to answer to this question, so I will share some of statistics I have. Here are the top 10 countries of our fans/followers on social media: United States, Germany, Russian Federation, Argentina, United Kingdom, France, Hungary, Mexico, Canada, Netherlands. And here are the top 10 countries where majority of our sales are: United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Russian Federation, Japan, Switzerland, Spain.
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?
– Most successful track and release would be our 3rd issue, back in 2007, from amazing Luke Porter, “Session 9”. This is statistically speaking, but of course, I can’t pick the favourite, as they all really are. There have been numerous of amazing releases over the years with great sales and support from legends such as: Hernan Cattaneo, John Digweed, Nick Warren, Eelke Kleijn, Dubfire, Richie Hawtin, Armin van Buuren, Paul Oakenfold and many others.
11. What artists would you love to have on the label?
– Tough question. We have been working with lots of amazing artists since 2007. and we’re pretty happy with our label roster. But let’s say, the ones I would like to join our label with original tracks or a remixes would be (also our great supporters) such as: Hernan Cattaneo, Guy J, Guy Mantzur (to name a few). Also, it would be amazing to re-establish some old connections, to once again have on our label, with originals or remixes, artists such as: Cid Inc, Derek Howell, Luke Porter, Khen, Lonya, Vipul, Dousk, Stas Drive, Lank, Scotty.A and so on…
12. Where do you see the label in 5 years? And are you pleased with where the label is now since its inception?
– Pretty much the same as now. Will continue to share my taste in music thru my labels. So yes, I’m pretty happy with how things are now, and will just continue to do so.
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, earnings are not so great, especially with the underground music labels. But hey! We’re in this because we love it! How else would we last for 10 years? 🙂 Next to all the label management, yes, I also have a regular job. Combined with earnings from label management, I manage to cover basic things in my life.
14. Do you pay advances or remix fees? And is it reasonable to do so in your situation?
– Sadly, we are not in a position to pay in advance for originals or remixes. As we established in previous q/a, earnings are not great when running an underground music label. So, in my opinion, artists should be more open to work with labels on percentage shares, especially with already established labels, as good promotion is guaranteed and everything ends up with both sides being pretty much satisfied. I would say though, that advanced fee is reasonable thing to ask for. Every artists that have quality, deserves to be paid for his hard work.
15. Who is your distributor and have you been with them for the entire existence of the label?
– Our distributor is Proton’s SoundSystem. We have been with them from the very beginning. One of the very first labels within their distribution. We are very happy with the treatment we receive there. So for now, we don’t plan on moving on.
16. Are you or have you done label nights and if so how have they contributed to the label’s growth?
– We haven’t done many label nights so far. Last year though, we become more active on this field. We had label nights at Belgrade (Serbia), Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) and at Bloque Festival at Kavala (Greece). All these events were really amazing with great hosts and audience response, and we’re definitely looking forward to next Balkan Connection Showcase’s. So, if any of Change Underground readers are interested, feel free to contact us for organizing Balkan Connection Showcase in your own town/country.
17. What’s your favourite thing about running a label?
– The favourite thing, for sure is that I am able to share my taste in music thru them. Then there is that feeling when you sign an amazing demo to your label, or someone delivers amazing remix, when release receives amazing support, receives all the features in stores and so on… It’s all priceless! Other than this, connection with people. Nothing better than working with people that love the same thing really. I just love our underground universe!
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?
– Before sending us demo, a small research about us would be appreciated. Check out our Beatport page, Soundcloud page, hear what we release, and if you think that you have produced something within the style of our label, approach to us any way you wish: email, facebook… We are happy to sign any quality music that is within the style of our labels, no matter if the artist is established or not.
19. What if a demo is good but needs refining? Do you have time to help the artist and give them some tips?
– Not that I could personally help out much, as I myself am no producer. If needed, BCSA’s label boss, Nicholas Van Orton steps in with some tips.
20. Who does the labels mastering? and do you ever have tracks mixed down by an engineer for better results?
-Nowadays, most of the times, artists send their own masters (mastered by themselves or their engineer, persons they have already worked with and were happy with the result). So, if we’re happy with the result, we go with it. If we’re not happy with the result, than we take care of the mastering. Our mastering engineer is Nicholas Van Orton.
21. This is tough but if you had to pick your five favourite releases or tracks on the label what would they be?
I really prefer not to answer to this one. Simply because, as I’ve mentioned before, we release only what we like, love and feel. So there is really no point in separating some releases from the others. Love them all equally!
22. Lastly, what advice do you have for someone just starting a label?
– Release only what you truly like, love and feel. Specialize and focus as much as possible on one genre, in order to receive constant support for the same. If you wish to promote different genres, open different label. Have a good promotion. Don’t wait on artist’s demos, but prefer to approach the artists you’d like to release on your label. Don’t do it alone, always have a team! Because, for example, if you’re a producer, and wish to start a label, you’d have to make a lot of sacrifices and compensations on the way, and your career as producer/dj will suffer. If you prefer not to have assistance, than at least try to consulate with people that are already working with labels. It’s an underground community, and so far, from my experience, everybody is willing to share from their experiences, and everyone is really friendly oriented. Lastly, always be patient, it’s the world of underground music, so it might take some time to be noticed and receive continuous support.
You can check out the full Balkan Connection catalog: here