The Directors Chair Label Manager interview 102 with Christian Smith
“Christian Smith” and his “Tronic” imprint needs little introduction to the modern world of club music.
It’s a label that has developed into a precious carved stone in the dance music fraternity with real purpose and intent. Sonically it’s a label that has its own sound design for its outputted releases with a consistent power play of activity within its own unique gradient.
Artists featured on this label include an impressive list of the past, the present and the future of music producers. Talented acts including “Pycatron”, “Dosem”, “Dave Angel”, “Macromism”, Wehbba”,“ Uto Karem”, “Eric Sneo” “Anna”, “Paride Saraceni”, “Arjun Vagle”,”Joey Beltram” and “Christian” himself have all contributed to the label and that’s just a mere part of the ever growing list.
The releases on the label include both single / EP projects, album releases and there’s always been an abundance of fresh featured remixes.
We managed to catch up with “Christian” to chat about all things “Tronic” and its focus.
1. First of all “Christian” thank you very much for talking to us. I wanted to start by asking you what was the original motivation for starting the label, which I believe started with your own vinyl release of the title “Move” with “John Selway”?
You are actually off by 14 years, I started Tronic in 1994 while studying International Business at University in Washington DC. Back then there were no labels that released housy techno (long before the term tech-house was coined) I started the label purely out of passion because I did not want to be constrained to other labels wants and needs. Twenty years later and the label is the second biggest techno imprint in the world. It’s amazing because I never really aimed for Tronic to become a top selling techno label. I just wanted an outlet where I can release music that I play in my sets.
2. The label has always had its own sound design and architecture, How did you start to develop this sonic picture for the label and have other artists follow / contribute to it, and how would you describe the sound of the label?
My philosophy has always been rather simple. To release music that I like I am passionate about. I have also always been very open minded and very international when it comes to the music I sign. The music policy was always anything between house and techno. It can be mellow and groovy, and can also be hard peak time tracks. Also, quite a few artists have been regularly releasing music on Tronic over the years, this has of course helped shape the labels sound and identity. I am very happy that the artists have been so loyal over the years.
3. You have featured many outstanding established artists on the label over the years, which is a credit to “Tronic”, but does the label also have a focus for finding undiscovered talent and promoting the next generation of producers?
I think it is any good labels responsibility to push up and coming artists as well as working on the regular artist relationships. I will be honest and say that I give preference to artists who have released on the label before. It is really tough these days for new artists to get recognition, and I can proudly say that Tronic has helped quite a few artists with their careers, whether it was to first get recognized or release albums for more regular or established artists.
4. In the modern world of releasing digital music there seems to be an increasing pressure on labels to output music very frequently. What’s your view on this and do you feel it’s become beneficial for music on a whole or reducing its life span?
That is one thing that I really dislike about the digital times. Back in the days if you had a big record, it was hot for 2-6 maybe even 8 months, and people would speak about it for a long time. Now after 3-4 weeks most big tracks are over and forgotten. I’m not exactly sure why people seem to now have such short term attention span. Maybe it’s because of the sheer amount of music that come out on a weekly basis, or that buying one track on Beatport is less special than a full 12” vinyl. With regards to the current times, Tronic has adjusted of course, and we release 2-3 singles a month. Sometimes even 4. I do this because I get sent so much good music and don’t want to sit on the tracks for too long. I could start a second or even third label, but I prefer to just have one main label that I put my focus on. Otherwise it gets messy and I always see with other people who have multiple labels that the quality control eventually drops as they lose focus.
5. Keeping in topic in the modern digital world of music, has “Tronic” had to adapt over the years and in affect changed its focus, considerations or model for the modern era and do you have any plans to expand into different avenues in the future?
At the moment I am very happy the way things are going. The quality is strong, the artists are loyal and I am very pleased with the response of the fans. The only thing that I will change for 2017 is that I will be doing more Tronic branded events. With Tronic events I get the opportunity to push lesser known artists as well. It’s a fantastic way to showcase the producers that deserve their chance! I feel that any artist with some power has the responsibility to use that to help newer artists. It just makes sense.
6. Back into the music release side of things, one of the admiral qualities of the label is that it doesn’t deviate too far from its focus in providing quality club grooved slammers, but have you or would you ever consider releasing a more leftfield type project from some of the artists to showcase their diversity?
Tronic is one of the few techno labels to release several full length albums a year. Commercially speaking the album format is kind of over, but I feel very strongly that albums are a fantastic way to evolve musically and experiment with different styles. We already have 4 albums confirmed for 2017. In addition, I am currently working on a compilation with some BIG artists making ‘electro’ tracks. Old school dancefloor broken beat electro. This has always been a passion of mine since I was a kid in the early 80’s listening to Newcleus and Egyptian Lover. I am astounded by the immediate support of this project and am really looking forward to pushing this sound as well.
7. Theres frequently a lot of talk about vinyl resurgence, what are your thoughts on this and is it something “Tronic” would ever go back to?
Tronic will be doing around 10 vinyl releases in 2017. I think that’s a fairly strong number considering how weak that market is. I am doing it because I started the label long before the digital age, and want to continue releasing vinyl as long as it’s sustainable. However, I also understand that MP3’s have totally taken over the sales, and now streaming seams to be the next big thing. Never forget the past, but always look to the future.
8. “Tronic” events seem to have become an additional focus of the label, what’s the idea behind the events and can you share some of the key moments?
The idea is to have a few Tronic related artists play together, have a good time, while strengthening the brand globally. One of the most magic Tronic parties is the yearly Tronic Beach Festival which takes place during Sonar OFF week in Barcelona. It’s a free beach party, no sound restrictions, and 4-5 thousand people dancing on the beach. I really enjoy doing this party because the vibe is always incredible. I also really enjoyed doing Tronic events in London, Amsterdam, Berlin and countless other cities.
9. You have previously talked about self-management regarding yourself as an artist, is this also the case for “Tronic” as a label or is there a team behind it with different roles?
Teamwork has been crucial to the success of Tronic. I have a full time label manager who runs all the day to day business things and she is fantastic! I am of course still heavily involved and decide on every song that gets released on the label. But I could never do all the work by myself now as I have a lot of different things going on the same time. Besides having Tronic, I also have a weekly Tronic radio show, I tour just about every weekend, and I also have a family to spend time with. I actually have a manager myself, but also still co-manage myself. As for other Tronic artists, I always give advice on what to do. Some take it on board more than others, but generally its very appreciated.
10. Finally we are all consistently excited about “Tronic” activities but what can you share with us about your pans and outputs for 2017?
Albums from Eric Sneo, Drunken Kong, Viktor Ruiz and more J
Tronic Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/tronic-music
Tronic Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tronicmusic/?fref=ts
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