One half of Rekids with Matt ‘Radio Slave’ Edwards, James Masters gives us a preview of what we can expect from the Rekids session at London Electronic Music Event – an insightful account of life at the label, from the day-to-day mundanities through to the once-in-a-lifetime memories.
Place of work
Based in London, but my laptop and wi-fi means I can work almost anywhere.
Partner in Rekids.
How long have you had the job?
Since the day I formed the company with Matt ‘Radio Slave‘ Edwards back in 2006.
Describe a typical working day
Every day is different but most include lots of emailing and either phone or Skype chats. Matt and I talk daily, to go through all the elements of our business, fixing and agreeing plans and actions to implement. Music is on most of the time. We get literally hundreds of demos each week and I really try to listen to them all – please put them in our Rekids SoundCloud dropbox! – as well as all the new releases and promos from other labels.
I plan all my face-to-face meetings for one or two days per week in London and then hit the remaining record shops in between. I’m still unsuccessfully trying to shake my vinyl habit but I’m old enough to want to go to a real shop for my fix if possible.
Running independent record labels these days is about doing it yourself, and doing it as best you can, but it helps to have good assistants. We bring in specialists to do our artwork, for example, but we try and already have ideas and give a narrow brief. Outside of the actual music, the most important aspect of the job is getting the distribution right. You have to have a partner you can trust who knows the market well enough and has the network and ability to get your music out there and sold as well as pay you on time.
Running independent record labels these days is about doing it yourself, and doing it as best you can.
Highs of the job
There’s so many.
Signing artists and building careers. Nothing can beat things like signing a New York duo and then licensing their single to DFA for the USA when DFA were the hottest label in the world. Or helping to take an artist up to the next level, up onto a global platform. It’s so exciting to see how far things can go and how they develop and to be a key part of it.
Panorama Bar, Berlin. From going to party and listen to the best DJs play incredible music for extended sets, to then having a Rekids residency there since 2008 has got to be high on the list.
Travelling. I’m fortunate enough to have travelled extensively with my work and much of that time with Matt. We have been taken into temples that were only open to the public for one day every ten years, eaten some of the most amazing food in the world and hung out with heroes and villains in hotel rooms and on beaches on nearly every continent.
Lows of the job
Never being able to switch off. Giving up the freedom of being a wage slave.
Who are the people who’ve had the biggest influence on your career and why?
Before Rekids I had a corporate job and worked for seven years for the same Japanese company. I worked closely with the managing director at the time and he had a strong influence on me. He was very Zen, gentle and wise. He gave everyone his time but when tough choices needed making he didn’t avoid them, he just took counsel from his team and then got on with it. It was a difficult time; we closed factories and offices but I learned a hell of a lot about how the world really works. It was also the catalyst for deciding that my next step would be working for myself.
I’m also a big fan of Trent Reznor – not just his music but specifically how he interacts with the music business and pioneers new paths. He really is an artist in the truest sense, and I get super excited at the thought of more film scores from him.
How can we get your job?
You can’t have it! Although you can do something similar. In fact, I would encourage anyone with a burning passion to just get on with it yourself. Don’t fall into any genre traps, just be true to yourself and sign and release the music you love.
Did you ever have any aspirations to be an artist yourself?
My skin isn’t thick enough nor my shoulders broad enough to be a performer and artist; I wouldn’t last the distance. From doing what I do I really see just how hard it can be for an artist, which in turn helps motivate me to work as hard as I can to try and make it easier for them. But saying that, I’ve done a bit of DJing in the past and I might again in the future, plus I’m sure I’ve got at least one book and one album in me!
Don't fall into any genre traps, just be true to yourself and sign and release the music you love.
How has the job changed since you started? What’s been the impact of digital on how you operate?
I think the job is the same. It’s still about great music, it’s just the methods of consumption and delivery have changed. For example, there’s a school at the bottom of my road; every day I see groups of kids walking home huddled around an iPhone singing or rapping along to the music playing. This is both amazing and disturbing. On one level it’s so cool to have that level of access to music and to share the experience like that. But on another level the audio quality is so appalling and I’m sure the artist isn’t getting paid for the 20+ gigabytes of music that get shared around in a flash – although they might be getting a micro-fraction of a penny in streaming fees.
YouTube is making a massive difference. People from anywhere in the world with an internet connection can become fans of artists they would never have heard of before. So this and social media in general are now a more significant part of what we do. The revenue is slowly but surely increasing and anything that helps replace the lack of compilation licensing and physical sales income is welcome.
Streaming is something I know we have to be a part of now – and will end up being the dominant format of the future – but I’m still unconvinced we have the right model in the market currently.
Are there any records you wish you hadn’t released?
No. One of the core agreements Matt and I have is that we have to agree on every release 100% and we try not to follow fads or fashions. We’re really proud of the catalogue and artists we’ve released. Although I might change the formats and production values of some of the releases if I did things again though!