This week saw the release of Monstercat’s 20th album since launching in 2011… Not bad for three years hard work, right?
Entitled Monstercat 020 – Altitude, it’s the brand taking an overview of their accomplishments so far and plotting their navigations into the new year. We thought we’d use this as an opportunity to feature the brand and interview Monstercat co-founder Mike Darlington, find out a little more about the album and see what’s in his crystal ball for 2015.
We should probably shift that massive elephant in the room first, though…
“I like the competitiveness of our communities,” grins Mike. “I don’t think there’s been any negativity between us, we’ve often looked at working with each other in different ways. I’ve had a lot of fun working with Luke and his team in the past. I think it’s nice to put a bit of fire in the fans and have somebody who can be seen as a good competitor. A fitting match if you like.”
Sporting talk: There’s more than enough room on YouTube for both brands. And with artists such as Pegboard Nerds, Rogue, Krewella, Muzzy, Au5 and many many more appearing across both channels, there’s nothing but support and shared love for new music between UKF and Monstercat… Perhaps more so that some comment box warriors would believe.
Elephant shifted, here’s what Mike has to say about Monstercat 020 – Altitude and how his brand has developed such a distinctive and prolific series.
Everyone knows they can stream the music, they know they can go ahead and download it for free, they know their options… But they’d still rather buy each album and develop their collections. It was a happy accident to be honest; but a beautiful one.
“It all comes back to being a music fan,” Mike states. “Back in the day I used to think ‘it’s amazing that these labels are selling all this great music but I can’t afford every track!’ So wouldn’t it be great to bundle the music into a package. Because of our non-traditional release schedule – three tracks a week – it’s great to put them together into a bundle for people who can’t afford every song and it has since become a core staple to our brand.
“They’ve become a collectable for Monstercat fans. It’s no longer just about the music to them… Everyone knows they can stream the music, they know they can go ahead and download it for free, they know their options… But they’d still rather buy each album and develop their collections. It was a happy accident to be honest; but a beautiful one. In terms of the Altitude album itself, it’s a representation of us looking over the past three years and seeing what we’ve created. It’s a learning point for planning the future. It’s an overview. We’ve reached this end of year point. The best way to plan for your future is to learn from your past.”
Learning from the past himself, Mike explains how the quality of music has drastically improved during the series (largely a result of the brand’s now 22-strong team, complete with one person whose full time is to listen to every demo!) and how he’s constantly aware of his own mistakes…
“I think there have been times when I’ve been a bit ignorant to new sounds and ways of doing things in the past,” he admits. “Monstercat’s success was down to other people’s ignorance. They would say ‘you can’t do things like that, it doesn’t work like that’. But we did it and worked for us. I wish there was an angel on the shoulder who could kick my ass when I don’t accept different or new ways to do things. It’s weird; you’ve learnt from doing things a certain way, which teaches you to be different. But that becomes your norm and you don’t do anything different. So I always try to keep an open mind.”
With this reflective theme in mind, we asked Mike for some reflections on 2014 and what we might expect to see in 2015.
“I think 2014 has been one of the best years we’ve had for a long time in terms of different sounds; a lot of independent labels and artists have come forward, which, for me, is really exciting. There are still some super powers monopolising the market, but there’s been space for a lot of new people to step up.
What’s even clearer with these new guys is that the focus is purely on the music. They’re not trying to make the next big bangers or festival hits. They just want to make beautiful sounding music, and I think that fact is so important. It shows there’s still beauty in what we’re doing: it’s about creating experiences; it’s about making music that feels good beyond the big shows. Electronic music isn’t just about that place where we all jump up and down… I want to go home and listen to it. I want to put my headphones on and fall asleep to it. That’s the beauty of electronic music; it can be anything.
DJing is really under scrutiny right now, and I think we’ll benefit from that because artists are putting more and more effort in to their shows.
“I think more artists are going to develop their live shows more and make the crowd feel like they’re interacting in something special. DJing is really under scrutiny right now, and I think we’ll benefit from that because artists are putting more and more effort in to their shows.
I think musically we’ll also see more transitions back into more musical electronic music. It’s not just going to be who can be loudest or heaviest any more, which I think is a very exciting place for our music to be in. Artist-wise I think we’re going to see a lot of big moves from Aero Chord, Haywyre, Grabbitz, and Pegboard Nerds are going to carry on developing into the main-stage artists they deserve to be.”