Running a record label in today's music industry climate takes a certain kind of fearless commitment. Digital sales have leveled off in the face of streaming sites like Spotify. Vinyl sales seem to be increasing in most genres except dance music. Digital DJing has taken over as the industry standard in most parts of the world. With a whole generation of up-and-coming DJs going digital and many of them pirating their tracks, it's a miracle that any dance music label can gain any footing.
Being able to leap this giant hurdle is what makes Dallas-based Audiophile Deep stand out from the pack. They have taken an innovative approach to marketing their music and increasing the exposure of the artists on their roster. They are giving away initial offerings form their artists to increase their fan base and profile. This approach seems somewhat self defeating on the surface, but there's a logic to it all, as label manager Jimmy Freer explains.
"We realized that the fact of the matter is it's tough pushing small talent, despite how much we would love to do it sometimes," Freer says. "We kind of thought, 'Well hey, if the artist is smaller, why don't we help them get to a point to self-sustain for their own sales?'" That strategy led to the idea of a free download gate, which Freer says brings in as many as 500 to 1,000 new followers for a track in as little as a week. "There really isn't much of a downside to it; a win/win for us and the artist is the ideal philosophy here. It sure beats a $40 royalty check for lackluster sales."
Audiophile Deep is a tech house and house sub-label of the more EDM-driven Audiophile Live label. Freer and Jacob Buck found much success with Audiophile Live amongst the EDM and beatport sect of DJs charting, 55 beatport genre Top 100s with seven of those being top 10s. Freer's shifting tastes created a desire to release more underground house and techno tracks and that was the impetus for Audiophile Deep coming into existence as a sub-label. Luck would have it that timing was on their side.
Freer and Buck became regular faces at It'll Do Club and in the process became huge fans of the deeper underground sounds the resident DJ Redeye was bringing to the table every week. This just happened to be at a time when the idea of the more underground focused Audiophile Deep was starting to come to fruition. This led to the pair approaching Redeye to come on board as A&R.
"Back in the vinyl hay day, I used to dream of being the A&R for a cool house label like Strictly Rhythm or someone like that," Redeye admits. As a seasoned vet with a firm two decades under his belt, Redeye was able to bring a bevy of contacts with a wide range of artists and that would other wise not be available to such a young label. Coupled with a firm vision for the direction of the label, everything seemed to just fall in place.
When asked what he looks for in tracks for the label, Redeye explains, "I like my house and techno to have a certain amount of 'sexy' to it. I'm not so fond of bash-you-over-the-head obvious dance tracks. Sexy, spacey, tonal. I try to keep the range kinda wide as far as the sound." With that said, it's not strictly a science: "i just know when i hear it," he says. "Also, if it's Texas-made, that gives it a lil bit of push in my mind as well."
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This aesthetic can be found in some of the labels stand out releases from American House vet wally Callerio's alias as Poncho Warwick's "Tell You What" single, Brazilian-based WD2N's Necessary Evil single, Argentina based Gabe's "Time to Relax" and upcoming release from Dallas-based Multipass featuring Chicago house legend Derrick Carter on a track called "It's Quiet Now." Audiophille Deep also features remixes and singles from veteran Dallas producers like Left/Right, Demarkus Lewis, Black & Tan, Opencloud, Paradise, Hands Free, NTRAIN, Brett Johnson and Dorian. Earlier this month, they released a Dorian single featuring local club fave Dezi 5.
That is a lot of music and artists to chew on for a label that is still less than a year old. In fact, they've grown so fast and kept such open minds that they could risk covering too much ground in the spectrum of house music. This led to the creation of another sub-label under the guise of Audiophile XXL. This lead to somewhat of a schism within the label.They decided to dedicate Audiophile Deep to the New York-Chicago-Detroit style and assign UK and Future house sounds to the newer Audiophile XXL label With Robert Pennington as label manager.
"Audiophile XXL was a type of problem solver for both Jacob and I," Freer says. "We had been at each other's throats about where to put our bass house-U.K. content that we were becoming quite well known for after signing Aaron Jackson out of Oregon as well as receiving accolades from the EDM.com team, being called their favorite future house label at the time. Neither one of our labels was prepared to take on the load of introducing a new type of sound to our fans, but Audiophile Deep was the initial culprit that took on the genre."
Freer also recently merged labels with his mentor Austin based Francis Preve's Academik label. With a roster-expanding merger, Freer explains, "This has lead to a big Texas family factor in which we are currently modeling off of the Dirtybird system." For a label so young they already have an astonishingly deep catalogue. Using their model of giving away tracks to build hype and followings for the artists they have quickly flourished in a particular niche in an industry where labels are dying off on a regular basis. "The label can rarely hold the status of fame that an artist can in most cases," Freer says. "Their nutty fans are just too reliable, so [a label like Audiophile Deep] gets them in a position to be heard and accumulate those followers."