BRCast #92 - Sekora Records
What made you create this label? Why? What is the idea and inspiration behind it?
Sekora came from my fascination with nature and trees in particular. It’s beautiful how trees have their own unique identity, some have a history longer than countries or even religions. “Sekora” is derived from combining the words “Sequoia” – Also known as giant redwoods, the largest trees in the world, and “Sakura” the Japanese translation of cherry blossom.
How long had the idea of a label been on your mind before its official launch? What were the challenges running up to its launch?
Sekora turns 5 years old this year, since I released my track “All Around Us”. I already knew from the start of my artist project UOAK “Unseen OAK” in 2016 that I wanted to have a label that fits with my artist brand and style. A place where I could express myself musically and artistically. Although Sekora is a label, I’ve always viewed it as an experience or a collective and brand that people can associate with and come to love. Sekora is so much more than just a label.
Luckily I already had founded and was managing another record label, so when I started Sekora everything went a lot smoother through experience. I just wanted to create a label where I could release my UOAK tracks. The songs performed well because of the network I already established, and soon enough I started signing a couple friends for remixes and originals, including BLR, Redondo, Light Below and Damaui. I never really reached out to artists I didn’t know yet, and at some point people like Nik Alevizos found me and I quickly started receiving more demos from all across the world.
What is the inspiration behind the log and artwork?
Sekora is heavily inspired by nature, “Where nature meets electronic music”, but since our music is still electronic in essence, I wanted to create something that blends the natural beauty of the outdoors with an artificial element. Sekora’s circle and fully rounded experience as a label, brand and live concept is reflected in the circle or sphere depicted in our logo and artworks.
What genre of music the label hosts and what do you look for specifically in a track that gives you that sense of belonging in a track to release it on your platform?
Sekora has a unique sound that isn’t bound by a specific genre. Although I don’t like putting it in certain boxes, I would mostly describe it as melodic house, deep house, organic and melodic techno. With Sekora I don’t look for a specific sub-genre, but mainly what does the song tell me? What makes it memorable? Everything we sign needs to be something I can play myself and fit in the radio show and playlists.
I’m always open to experimentation and even encourage it, and what I look for most is that certain hook or memorable element that makes me want to listen to it again.
In terms of demos, how do you accept, review and reject from all the thousands you receive? What are the challenges in sifting through the boatload of demos you receive for releases and the communication you maintain with aspirants?
First of all, I can proudly say that we listen to everything, and my team responds to everything. When I founded Sekora I found it important to offer an experience to artists that I didn’t have myself. Being ignored by your favorite label can be heartbreaking sometimes, so I wanted to do things differently.
In the beginning I was listening to and A&R'ing everything myself, but as we grew this became so time intensive, I barely had time to make music myself, so I hired our now label manager and senior A&R Greg Newman, who goes by Blank Page. He’s become an essential part of the process together with our newest A&R Matt Leger.
The A&R team now listen and A&R everything that comes in, working with and responding to demos. Everything they think has potential, they work on with the artists first and later send to me. And when a track isn’t what we’re looking for they politely decline, thank the artist and encourage them to keep evolving their craft. Everything approved by the team and some of the artists I A&R directly, will be listened to by me, which is still a lot of demos. I eventually make the final call and provide musical and technical feedback to everything I receive.
How many VA and compilations do you release in a year and what kind of tracks you choose? What kind of artists do you select for the VA? Basically what purpose does a VA serve to a label?
Honestly, we haven’t had a compilation or VA album yet. We do special Sekora mixes and I host the Sekora Radio show instead. It could be a nice idea to release some of these mixes as a compilation. What do you think?
Which one has been a highlight release and why?
I personally really like the Bound to Divide Remix of Scent of Wood by myself and Ceci. We’ve had amazing responses and results with this release. It’s the perfect combination of music for dancing and chilling, so it does well on dancefloors and on streaming like Spotify.
What do you expect from new talent when you sign them? What makes you reject them from releasing on your label?
When it comes to new and upcoming talent, I look for a couple things, first and foremost, is the song good and does their music fit Sekora in overall vibe and feeling. Does it work melodically, does it make me feel something and get me excited to work with them? I don’t expect a song or production to be perfect right away, but musically it needs to work from the start.
Then secondly, I always take notice how they respond to feedback and how easy they are to work with. Are they willing to put the work in? Showing dedication to improving their craft, and building their artist profile are some of the essential qualities an upcoming artist needs to have to stand out from the thousands of newcomers in the space.
From your country, which other label is pushing the same music as you are and how do you think everyone is helping push the local producers?
Here in The Netherlands, we have loads of labels in the deep house and melodic house and techno space, it would be unfair for me to single one out. And although we have a great scene for the Sekora sound in The Netherlands, our artists come from all over the world, which we celebrate during our events and meet-ups during the Amsterdam Dance Event.
When it comes to pushing local artists, we work closely with friends and artists who also release on other labels. I personally enjoy working with those other labels as well, through playing each other’s’ music on the radio show or in our playlists.
I think you naturally gravitate towards those who do cool stuff too, and it’s a matter of give and take. Helping each other become better and growing is more fun than doing it by yourself.
What kind of support do you look for from artists and other parties in promoting your music worldwide? What are the challenges in promoting music to corners of the world where you may not be as popular as in your home country.
I’m always curious to learn more about other people’s cultures and how they enjoy music, and which music they enjoy. Any support is always highly appreciated, big or small, and if an artist or party has a great way of connecting with their local scene it makes it even better.
In this global world it’s become easier to reach people worldwide and increase numbers, but how connected are you locally as an artist? If you play in your hometown or country, how many music lovers can you bring together or reach? Seeing how well connected and aware an artist or party is in their own community is perhaps more important than simply having good numbers worldwide.