Let’s Talk About: My Digital Enemy and Zulu Records’ 200 releases
We have decided to reach out to My Digital Enemy, label owner as well as well-known DJ and producer to talk about this incredible milestone
Historical house music imprint Zulu Records has recently released its 200th release. We have decided to reach out to My Digital Enemy, label owner as well as well-known DJ and producer to talk about this incredible milestone, as well as his new project for the label and more.
You’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years now as an artist and label owner. How would you describe the evolution of the industry in all these years as an artist and as a label owner?
When we first started producing music we were pressing vinyl so the digital takeover and the death of vinyl was a massive change. In fact ‘My Digital Enemy’ is a reference to this, as we started MDE exactly when vinyl was dying. Beatport became the top site for DJs and iTunes for everyone else. Since we started Zulu it has all changed again with the rise of streaming services. We have really had to evolve with this, as streaming gives a direct link to the clubbers and lovers of dance music and the ability to make playlists further helps with this. Beatport is still our main focus as we do see ourselves as an underground dance label and the club always takes priority.
Why opening a record label at the time and what have been the most difficult things at the beginning?
In 2011 we had a lot of releases coming out on various labels, and as much as we tried to plan the schedule we found labels changed dates (sometimes without telling us) which meant we might have two releases on the same date, then a large gap in the schedule.
We decided to start Zulu Records so we could have more control over the releases. It all paid off as within our first 6 releases we had 2 Beatport top 10 tracks. The most difficult things are keeping true to yourself. It’s very easy to be tempted to jump on every fad that comes about such as ‘EDM’, ‘Future House’ and now ‘Tech House’ but the best thing you can do is keep true to your roots and for Zulu, our roots have always been house.
200 releases, that’s an insane number, even with the nowadays release standards. How the label has changed from release 1 to 200?
When we started we were on a more tribal tip with heavy percussion, congas, low toms, and a slightly Latin vibe. Now there is less of that which is really just a fashion at the moment. With dance music, everything goes in cycles so no doubt the tribal sound will be back in again soon. Listening back to our early releases is quite enlightening as I would happily put most of them out right now. The quality was really high even back then.
How you managed to keep the label running for so long? Have you ever thought ”it’s done, I don’t want to keep it running?”
I see Zulu as a labour of love. I love pushing it on to bigger and better things. I have never even thought of stopping. Expect to see us around for the foreseeable future!
Mental health, over the last years, is a topic highly discussed in the dance music industry. How do you stay focused without burning out, especially with the faster and faster music market
It is difficult at times. We are in an industry that’s very up and down and there is also an element of luck involved with hitting the right sound at the right time, but this is also part of what makes it so awesome. Things come along out of the blue and suddenly a track you weren’t expecting much from is a huge success.
It’s all about surrounding yourself with likeminded people who you enjoy working alongside. This applies to artists too. No one likes working with people who are making life difficult so the best approach is to be nice!
Some suggestions on how to run a label in the right way? Things you have learned to avoid over the years?
For Beatport, when starting out stick to one style and build your brand on one genre page, that way you can build a core following of DJs who always visit that page. If you are releasing on all different pages it’s very hard to gain that following.
Don’t expect success to be easy. You need to work hard to keep the momentum of the label and don’t get complacent just because you are doing well. You need to push even harder to sustain it and make it to the next level. This applies to artists too.
Don’t only focus on DJ sites. Do an edit version of each release for the streaming services and sign up for Spotify analytics so you can push them for playlist inclusion.
Be active on social media. Thank DJs for supporting your records and share everything!
Don’t get disheartened if things don’t work out at first. Regroup and have another bash at it. Learn from your mistakes.
Thanks a lot to My Digital Enemy and don't forget to check Zulu's records below.