Feed Presents: Malachi
Graham Lord has been a producer and DJ since 2000, releasing music as part of Audiowhores, Word of Mouth and now under the name Malachi. His tracks have been released by labels like Defected and Toolroom, but he's also set up his own labels over the years.
Hi Graham! Would you be up for giving us a quick overview of the story so far, and how you came to release Make It Funky in July?
Yea! So we started Audiowhores back in 1999. I met Adam, the other half of Audiowhores at a club in the outskirts of Manchester, and we released a first white label, Destiny, in 2000.
It was back in the days of vinyl, so we spent £1,500 on pressing up 1000 vinyl, and basically flogged them ourselves! We'd go to record shops in Manchester to give them 40 records on 'sale-or-return' and you wouldn't see a penny of that until they were all sold. Ended up selling all 1,000 copies, and for many years it was one of our biggest records - took a while to follow it up!
As you say, since then we've been on labels like Soulfuric, Toolroom and Defected. We hit upon Audiowhores at a good time really, just before there was a big influx of record producers and DJs. So yea, we got to tour about with Defected, had some good times and DJ'd all over the world.
Audiowhores were active until recently, roughly 5 years ago, when we decided to take a little break from it, and since then I've been doing my solo project - Malachi. I've had some releases on some bigger labels like Armada, Milk & Sugar, and my own label as you mentioned, All About House. All been good so far!
What led to you setting up your own label and releasing music that way?
I've had a couple of labels over the years, one back in 2003 called Tempogroove, and All About House more recently. The philosophy behind setting them up was, if you can't get your track on a big label, it's not really worth surrendering 50% of your royalties to a smaller label. Instead, it's better to put that 50% into promoting yourself through Facebook ads, Instagram ads, or building your mailing list etc.
You're better doing that, rather than giving half your royalties away to a medium sized label that's not really going to promote you. They're just going to put out your record, and if you're lucky they'll shout about it on their Facebook page a couple of times... and that's it.
Especially as a new artist, it's very hard to actually get your record in front of the bigger labels to start off with. If you're not getting any feedback from them, it's so easy just to release it yourself, have your own label, and plow some of the money you make from it back into promoting yourself.
That's the way I feel it should be done these days when you're a new artist.
I think I whole-heartedly agree! Having seen it from the label side, so often you're relying on the artist to post about a release on their social media, and effectively do the marketing themselves. It makes so much more sense for the artist to be doing it for themselves because there's that direct connection with the people that are listening.
Yea, to go back to the label thing, when I first started Tempogroove, there weren't many aggregators (distributors) out there. I was dealing with the likes of Traxsource and Beatport directly and they would send me these Excel spreadsheets listing every sale. It was really hard work, especially when I started signing other artists. I'd have to go into these really complicated spreadsheets, copy and paste all the different releases to separate everything, and do all the royalty splits from there. These days though, you can just use a service like Amuse - you'll get 100% of your royalties, and they'll do all the splits. It's just so so easy now to get your music out there - there's no reason why you shouldn't.
Let's talk about how things have changed since 1999. Releasing music yourself, as you've described, has become a possibility in that time. How else have things changed from your perspective as an artist, particularly in the world of house music?
Probably the same as in all music genres I'm guessing. The production tools have become more accessible, as have the distribution tools. That means there's just a lot more music out there. I almost feel sorry for the likes of Traxsource, Beatport, Juno and iTunes etc, having to sift through the amount of music that they get.
With so much more music out there, there's a lot more competition, and that's why you really have to push yourself that bit further.
To anyone starting to release music now, is there anything you would advise? How do you go about growing your audience and making sure more and more people are hearing about what you're up to?
If you're just starting out I would say don't rush things, it's a marathon not a sprint when you're a producer and DJ. Wait until you're 100% happy with your music before releasing it, learn and learn after every track. I listen to music I produced even 2-3 years ago and think "I won't do that again!" So you really need to work on your craft, your sound, and that will take a long time to come. Just make sure you are learning all the time, be reading about plug-ins, new samples, and so on. Otherwise, if you release something mediocre, you'll get thrown into the pot of tracks that might not get picked up by the download sites.
Then in terms of promotion, invest in yourself, use tools like Feed - which is really good. It literally just asks you to invest £3 a day in order to get yourself out there.
You didn't have to say that - thank you!
With the download sites like Traxsource and Beatport do they have a similar pitching process to the likes of Spotify? Do you let the editorial team know what you've got coming up, and they decide wether to add your music to a playlist? Or is it more directly related to what people are downloading and moving up the chart?
I can only speak for Traxsource really as Beatport is quite hard to get in to for our kind of music. Even though they sell a lot of house music, it tends to be geared towards the more tech-y / techno side of things. I know the guys at Traxsource quite well which helps, but they've got a full FAQ on how to get featured. Basically, a lot of it revolves around giving them exclusive releases, submitting DJ charts, and generally releasing good music! If you keep releasing quality music upon quality music, one track every 4-6 weeks, eventually you'll get noticed and you'll get featured. It's as simple as that really.
That timeline of releasing music every 4-6 weeks, with consistency basically, is so important. Keep going, keep releasing music, and see what people respond to, you'll improve and learn each time.
Yea, that's the way it is these days, you have to be releasing music on a regular basis to get noticed. And it's been that way for the last 5, even 8 years. Back in the day you could release one track a year, it could be a massive hit, that blows up on vinyl and BBC Radio 1 play, and then you could ride the wave of that one track for 1 or 2 years. Unless you're the likes of Dennis Ferrer or Roger Sanchez, you can't really do that anymore. It's got to be a constant flow of quality output to get noticed by the digital stores and the fanbase.
What have you got coming up for the rest of the year?
Yea, it's been over a month since Make It Funky came out. It was a Traxsource exclusive initially, and got into the Top 5 Nu-Disco chart, which I was really happy with. Then after the exclusive period of 3 (maybe 4) weeks, I've been hitting it on Spotify and really pushing it there, and that's been generating some good exposure.
Then, Adam and I (Audiowhores), took a bit of a break, but we've been plugging away at the studio again, and have got a couple of tracks ready to go. We're just polishing them up a little bit. They're going back to our roots, a little bit like Audiowhores 2002-3 which is more about a disco sound. We've also got a proper, full on, house track with a really good vocalist that we've found. So we're really excited to get them out.
Other than a couple of Audiowhores tracks, and maybe a couple from me, no big plans at the moment - we'll see how it goes!