://about blank, November 2014. It’s below freezing but that doesn’t stop the 50-strong crowd waiting outside the Berlin nightclub to attend the first Oscillate party. The lineup included Reznik, Parasol and Cuthead and the attendees left the club that night knowing what Oscillate stands for; the music it champions, the crowd it attracts, the DJs it supports.
DJ and Melbourne-native Kate Miller co-manages Oscillate with her partner Mato, who launched the series four years ago with a friend. “Back then I was a resident DJ — I started getting more involved with organising two or three years ago,” explains Miller.
The queue that formed for the second Oscillate event was double the size. Word had spread about the initial party, and the carefully curated lineup only bolstered the fledgling party. This time round the original attendees knew what to expect, and a fresh crowd who’d heard good things came to see for themselves. The DJs played music that fed into Oscillate’s sound, creating a living, breathing, evolving brand. Since then Oscillate parties have hosted huge names, including Jayda G, DJ Fett Burger, Shanti Celeste and Kate herself.
“We’ve only just launched the label,” says Miller; their first release comes out on November 24th, 2018. “It felt like a natural progression and it made sense as we already have a following and a community from the events. We’ve got to know people that we’ve booked and heard their music and their friends’ demos, so it’s been a natural progression.”
People who’ve been to the parties will have an idea of what our taste is, look out for our records and keep up with the label.
Anyone who’s attended an Oscillate party will know what to expect from the label. “We hope that people who’ve been to the parties and who’ve already enjoyed the nights will have an idea of what our taste is, and they’ll look out for our records and keep up with the label,” says Miller.
Oscillate didn’t invent this format. The use of club nights to boost the brand of a label can be traced back to the late ’90s golden era of electronic music, when Ninja Tune hosted a night called Stealth in an old factory in Shoreditch. Matt Black and Jonathan Moore founded the label and launched the party series back when Old Street was dodgy rather than trendy.
Or there’s techno label Perlon which hosts …Get Perlonized in Berlin’s legendary Panorama Bar. Or Innervisions, who host weird and wonderful events around the world that have created a unique cultural universe surrounding the label.
A recent example is Ecke Records, founded by Pierre Leveque and Johnny Counce AKA Squallfront in Berlin in early 2018. “Loads of people around us were making interesting music that didn’t really fit on any of the labels,” says Leveque. “They all had a similar vibe and journey, so we decided to launch Ecke.”
Regularly putting on parties creates a community around your label, which helps promote the music to an audience that are receptive and open-minded to it.
With the label the parties came naturally. “The events are the main thing that build a community around your label. So if you’re regularly putting on parties, at least every month, you’ll get people who keep coming because they enjoy your nights and know your music. Then they’ll get to know other people who come regularly and this creates a community around your label, which helps promote the music to an audience that are receptive and open-minded to it.”
Parties are an excellent way to showcase the scope and range of a label’s music, but they add even more value in the form of relationships. Organising parties and events in any city in the world will automatically connect the label to the local music scene. Scoping out venues, chatting to local promoters and booking DJs you like is a strong foundation to build relationships in the city of your choice.
“It’s harder when you’re pushing things on your own as an artist,” says Leveque. “With a label people will see your releases and they’ll trust what you’re giving them. Just make sure you know why you’re making the label, what you want to promote and why you’re putting on the nights. As long as you’re pushing boundaries, you’ll stand out.”
Casper Mejlholm, along with three other DJs, manages Mechatronica, a label that has skyrocketed in popularity in the last year. Founded back in 2012, the collective started out doing small nights in venues around Berlin, focusing on acid and electro music made on live hardware.
At the time their sound was unusual and their parties offered something different to the city’s relentless techno and house scene. “The parties came first,” explains Mejlholm. “Back then we were keeping very low key around Berlin and trying new things.”
After a couple of years dedicated to building a community through their parties, Mechatronica decided to launch their own label. “The label kind of came naturally — through the parties, we met people whose music we’d been listening to for years. We already had a connection with them because we’d worked together and we knew we were passionate about the same kind of sound and wanted to do more than just a night every two or three months.”
So Mechatronica the label was born and, as Mejlholm discovered, the two components work well together; the label supports the parties and vice versa. “It goes both ways — it’s a really nice synergy,” says Mejlholm. “The fact that the label got bigger in the last year means we can promote our parties through that. Then at the parties we can hand out flyers promoting our new releases. The label and parties feed each other.”
So what advice does Mejlholm have for those looking to launch their own party, label or both?
Staying true to the sound you want to express will pay off in the long-run.
“If your goal is to build a community around a sound that’s not broadly recognised, then patience and consistency are really important. Staying true to the sound that you want to express, even if it means not breaking even on the night, will pay off in the long-run.”
And Mechatronica have learnt this firsthand. By maintaining consistency with their concept — the exploration of the link between man, electronic music and mechanics — they’ve established a strong following and global recognition.
“It’s not always been easy to get people on board with our sound but around a year ago we started seeing a big spike in interest. We’d been doing our residency at Griessmühle for three years and slowly it seemed that more people wanted to listen to a wider mix of genres, like electro, breaks, italo, EBM and weird acid tracks — not just techno and house. People wanted to be challenged. So my advice is stay consistent, keep throwing parties and stay true to your sound.”