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Music & Branding In The Digital Age

Michal Menert // So-Gnar // Yooj


Michal Menert

So-Gnar Yooj

TEM路PO Noun:

1. The speed at which a passage of music is or should be played. 2. The rate or speed of motion or activity; pace.

FORWARD Welcome to TEMPO. Whether deliberate or not each one of us has a personal speed of motion and activity. Our tempo dictates the way we interact and reach out to the world around us. We live in a world where distance is no longer bounded by time; a world where networks form like spider webs, and impressions are equally as powerful digitally as they are physically. The progression of this digital lifestyle has resulted in the ability to build brands and create powerful long lasting impressions with the click of a button.

This premeire issue of TEMPO focuses on music and branding in today's everincreasing digitally influenced world. We gain insight from Colorodo based producer Michal Menert, Berlin based producer Yooj and action lifestyle brand So-Gnar's very own Andrew Heard. Through their focus on utilizing technology to create and promote their work, their interviews express the many challenges and important techniques used in the production and promotion of digital media for mass consumption.


Colorado based Michal Menert was born in then Communist Kielce, Poland. During his childhood, Michal’s father exposed him to a wide variety of Eastern and Western music, giving his son fertile soil in which to plant his musical visions early on. Playing guitar, keyboards, and dabbling in a variety of other instruments gave Michal Menert a unique approach to composing his own musical style. Menert grew up in Colorado with Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights. Together they played in several bands, challenging and inspiring each other as they developed their own unique production styles. He coproduced the debut Pretty Lights album, Taking Up Your Precious Time, and has collaborated with Derek Vincent Smith on a handful of tracks since then. He also performs with Paul Basic under the name Half Color.

Michal Menert was the first artist signed to the record label Pretty Lights Music, with the release of his album Dreaming of a Bigger Life in the Spring of 2010. His sound combines obscure vintage samples from both Eastern European and Western vinyl with rich analog synthesis and organic hard hitting beats. It is a fusion of yesterday’s elements and tomorrow’s ideas. After the interview don't forget to download a copy of Michal Menert's sophomore album Even If It Isn't Right free at prettylightsmusic.com

work. That’s the biggest challenge: creating original work that can compete with DJ’s playing the songs everyone knows.

Tempo is such a fundamental aspect of your music, beyond the literal definition how does tempo relate to the digital workflow and the way in which you promote and broadcast your brand?

MICHAL MENERT How do you filter the content you put out when you have the ability to contact such a large audience? (ie. Facebook, Music Blogs, Podcasts, etc). When does content generated from the live show become stale? I try to turn the filter off... that’s been the biggest struggle since going ‘public’ with my music; being able to stray from letting the audience’s cravings dictate my output. It’s one thing to be conscious of there being an audience, it’s another thing entirely to cater directly to it. As for content generated from/for the live show, I’m still drawing that line in the sand. Any artist who takes their vision to the stage can be faced with moments of brutal self-analysis, second guessing, and doubt in the strength of their material. It’s easy to see the elements that work for others and think “ok, THAT’s what I should do” but perseverance has taught me that those same songs that yielded blank stares the first time around now bring the house down if they’re placed right and if people have gotten a chance to get familiar with my

I try to keep a range of tempos in my work. One of the EDM pitfalls it tying genres to tempo ranges. Dubstep, drumstep, downtempo, midtempo, moombahton etc... These are all genres that span 10, maybe 15 bpms. Rock music, jazz, funk...all genres that are defined by a sound and a direction rather than the speed at which they’re played. My albums range from 75 to 125 bpm, I don’t consciously try to promote or broadcast my brand through any means, maybe that’s why nobody knows about me :) I definitely approach my creative efforts with purpose and direction, but I’ve never sat down and said “ok, time to make a 95 bpm song to broadcast my brand” because I’m usually trying to keep the worlds of commerce and creativity as separate as possible, at least throughout the creative process. There’s more than enough artists in EDM that are hyper-aware of how their music is a ‘product’ and how it can best be branded and sold, and I’ve always snickered at that approach. Growing up, I’d never bought an album as a product. I bought albums because of allure, or because I hoped they would bring me something magical. Obviously with the traditional music institutions going broke, and business models failing because of the rise of DIY social marketing, at home labels and on the go production, there’s a shift in the way that wolfin-sheep’s-clothing branding works. You can get a million hits on something because it’s hyped, but what happens next week or next month, when people see through the hype? You’ll still get the sizeable group that doesn’t care about substance if the substance isn’t there, people begin to drift their attention to something different. I like to think that being honest, making music I can still stand behind years later, and not buying into the

can get a million hits "onYou something because it’s hyped, but what happens next week or next month, when people see through the hype? "

proposed ponzi schemes of how to blow up in the point to choose your own adventure type story. electronic world is the best way to brand myself. Collaboration is key, but only when I think a lot of producers forget that they are already a brand, and that their work can speak for the time is right. Is there a way of deciphering when that time is? itself as long as it has something to say.

Originally did your musical vision dictate your samples, or did the samples dictate your music vision? It goes both ways. I think you can tell a lot about a sample based producer when the sample dictates how good the song is. There’s been handfuls of hip hop producers that I’ve loved that I eventually grew tired of because they were clearly only as strong as their lead sample. When you go the route of sample collage, you stop looking for just the hot breaks. You start looking for the dark spots on the vinyl, the sparse moments where tonality play more of a part than a groove or loop. Obviously samples can suggest a lot to me, but I see them more as a starting

It’s evolved so much from when I was playing in bands. The chemistry in a face-to-face collaboration has to be there, and if you play with enough people you can sense when it’s going to work effortlessly with someone and when it’s going to be like pulling teeth to get anything accomplished. On the contemporary production side, you can collaborate with people you’ve never met and have something splendid result from it. I’d like to say the best time to collaborate is when there isn’t pressure surrounding it, but I’ve had great collabo tracks spawn from stressful last minute sessions. I think anything forced in the creative world can be seen as so by an audience, so making sure that, no matter what the circumstances are, the collaboration is

"The reality and gravity of the situation is that we are a part of the ideas we wish to change"

something that all parties involved can get behind is the only way to ensure that the time is right. Most collaborations I’ve been a part of happened by accident... meeting a producer I had heard of when I pass through town, linking up at a show with one of the other acts, meeting friends on tour or at festivals.. Happy accidents.

projection mapped stage that allows us to do more than just blind people with lights, but rather creating a cinematic experience has opened up the audience to a denser side of my music. As it grows, I hope to create more content that flows like a film rather than a light show. On the business side, there is a definite advantage to bringing a whole show rather than just a 90-minute set on a table draped in cloth. It engulfs the audience and gives them an experience you helped shape that isn’t at the mercy of house lighting and sound.

As an artist we start a project with a specific concept in mind, however by the end of a project we often find that the concept has strayed far away from its original roots. How often do you find the concepts of your projects shifting As an artist do you feel its more over time? important for your message to reflect the current times, or rather to challenge I think every piece of art takes on it’s own life the current times? force and evolves with the artist as it’s brought to finality. Otherwise, you become more of a machine than a creative force. I used to fight this evolution of an idea until I realized that it’s a part of the process. it’s like planting a tree and then complaining that the leaves aren’t coming in the way you imagined. You have to respect that art imitates life, and if you put enough energy into something it will take on a life of it’s own. It’s actually refreshing now to feel like a conduit for the growth of an idea into a finished piece. It makes you feel like there’s something more than just what we quantify.

As you grow as a musician and artist, do you feel that incorporating a stage production is a critical element of broadcasting your message, and advancing your career, or just a benefit of being a successful? It’s a HUGE part of getting an idea across. Think about how album covers helped sell albums and bands. We are visual creature. How may guys (or girls) tolerate a potential partner’s audible nonsense because they are visually striking? I’ve been touring without a stage for long enough to where it’s not a crutch or distraction when I’m using the new stage I recently debuted. I think being able to work with Dave Najarian and RadioEditAV and come up with a conceptual

That’s a really good question. I think in times like these where our society is seemingly eating itself alive, to reflect is to challenge. One of the most misguided beliefs thought to bring about change is the idea that a society is the enemy. The reality and gravity of the situation is that we are a part of the ideas we wish to change, much as these ideas are a part of us. Therefore reflection serves as a great way to first assess and understand the times; before we react and challenge something we don’t fully have a grasp on.

Do you consider the computer to be an instrument or a tool? I consider the computer to be an ever-evolving marvel. When I was a child, it was a window into a digital world of wonder. It was an instrument of imagination. As I grew up I began using it to help me assemble my ideas into tangible, savable pieces of my life. I gradually began using the computer as a tool to build my future. It’s much like asking if music is a way to express myself or a way to make a living. It’s both. Tools and instruments are not mutually exclusive. Just look at the singing saw. For more Michal Menert visit: http://prettylightsmusic.com http://michalmenert.com

The Mission of So-Gnar is simple. "Life is So-Gnar, and for many people, life is way too short to not be inspired. We create through inspiration from our friendships, music, and snowboarding, which is where the roots of So-Gnar originate. Welcome to our underground world of design inspired through our blessed life of submarine travels below the surface of mainstream commonality. We encourage you to Build Locally & Spread Globally‌"

So-Gnar was founded in 2005 by professional snowboarder Pat Milbery as a vehical for creative inspiration through events and design. In 2008 Pat partnered up with his college room mate and best friend, Andrew Heard. Born and raised in the twin cities of Minnesota, Pat and Andrew were able to help each other develop into creative and conceptual artists. Their artistic style is ever present in the way they approach building and spreading their brand. Keep your eyes peeled because So-Gnar will be making appearances in the 2012 Summer X-Games and will be hosting the Third Annual Snowboard On The Rocks at the world renowned Red Rocks Ampitheater.

Disregarding the musical definition of Tempo, how does the word apply to your brand? I think this is most relevant to us in the form of the amount in which we are generating content. We are often times consumed by our web traffic. Thus we try to keep a solid and consistent tempo when generating content. If you don’t generate content over the course of the week, what reason do people have to go back to your site?? Do you feel that the use of guerrilla advertising (I.E. wheat paste, stickers) has more of in impact on people when they are viewed on the streets, or when images of the branding surface on the web? This is hard to determine. I have no idea of the impact that street art has. There are no stats related to it. However, we like it, and will continue to incorporate street advertising into our platform. I think the key is a combo of both. Creating the street advertising, then having pictures of that live on and generate more awareness online.


With a computer being a Lite-Brite for bad ideas, how do you develop content that people can trust? This is a hard one. I think today many people's art and creative content can get passed over if it doesn't look good in a thumbnail and/or they are well versed in Social Media. I think to be successful you need to be well rounded, and skilled in not only art but also presenting and marketing yourself. I know several amazing artists that nobody has heard of because they don’t get there art out there. In addition, Branding is key. It depresses me when horribly branded concepts do well. How do you filter the content you put out when you have the ability to contact such a large audience? (ie. Facebook, Music Blogs, Podcasts, etc) This is the most difficult aspect of social media. Most things we do interest us, we are the ones doing them, yet often times they don't interest others...or don't generate a ton of Social Media traffic. I love to personalize posts whenever possible, i.e. addressing the intended audience whenever we geo target.

How do you educate people about your message and your brand, and is it okay to push peoples buttons at times? Where do you draw the line when it comes to creating content as opposed to creating noise? We prefer to push people's buttons. The majority of the action sports industry is really bland and uninspiring. Not to mention that many of the biggest brands have stolen their logos and/ or major branding from other companies in the world. Thus we like to take it up a notch, and offer a fresh perspective in what we feel can be bland surroundings. Plus, we love interacting with the consumer as much as possible. The "Snowboard is not a Sport" creative that we recently released is a perfect example. .

For more SO-GNAR visit: http://www.so-gnar.com/

to be succesfull "I think you need to be well

rounded and skilled in not only art but presenting and marketing yourself "

Eugene Albert, better known as Yooj, is a Berlin based producer & DJ, born and raised in the San Francisco, Bay Area. Though electro first sparked his interest in electronic music, he moved to Bologna, Italy in 2009 and discovered the deeper side of house music. After moving back to California to finish his university degree, Yooj moved to Berlin in the fall of 2011 in order to place himself in a more like-minded city and fully immerse himself in the underground culture. He released his first tracks in the summer of 2011 on Monique Musique, and has since garnered play and support from

John Digweed, Joris Voorn, Marco Carola, Slam, Adam Beyer, Kaiserdisco, Timo Maas, Thomas Schumacher, Davide Squillace and more. His first solo EP, ‘Mademoiselle’ climbed high up the tech house charts, backed by a powerful Martin Buttrich remix. Head over to Beatport.com and treat your ears to a trip across the Atlantic and check out his brand new EP "Seeing Things" out on Monique Speciale. Whether you are a fan of this genre of music or not, there is no denying that Yooj has uncompromised talent and is sure to continue to gain recognition in the electronic music scene.

I am completely useless. My music is created 100% on my computer, aside from small figures of vinyl sales at boutique shops, almost everyone gets my music legally or otherwise from the internet. Everything I learn - whether it’s how to use my DAW (digital audio workstation), how to brand myself, or any other relevant skills - is all knowledge taken from the internet. With the recent influx of new technology, gaining access to the means to create music has never been more feasible. How do you think this has affected the electronic music scene and how has it affected you?


Tempo is such a fundamental aspect of your music. Beyond the literal definition of the word how does Tempo relate to your digital workflow and the way in which you promote and broadcast yourself? When I start a track, I pick a tempo, always between 120-128 beats per minute, and stick with it. I guess in terms of self promotion and music distribution, I try to stay relevant, but not annoying. I don’t want people to forget me, but I don’t want people to want to forget me either. In other words, post 2-3 times per week, try to avoid releasing more than one EP in a month, and if you have a label, don’t release every week. Building your personal brand is important when marketing yourself and your sound. How has the role of digital technology enabled you to achieve this? ‘Digital technology’ is a pretty broad term, and really dictates just about everything I do. If someone stole my car, I could still figure out a way to get around, but if I’m without my computer

In 2012 everyone can torrent a normally $300600 copy of Ableton for free, download a bunch of free sample packs, and watch an unlimited number of tutorials on youtube that can take you from beginner to expert. In the 80’s, 90’s and even early 2000’s, to make electronic music meant you needed to be able to pay for a studio, a studio engineer, and thousands of dollars of physical, analogue synthesizers, drum-machines, microphones and everything else that is now replicated digitally. This means that now there are a huge a number of producers (and growing every day with the explosion of electronic music in the U.S.), whereas before it was just a handful who had access to all of the required things. For me, it means that the music I make has to be that much better, in order to rise above the ever increasing amount of noise and competition. How has living in a city that is known worldwide for its acceptance of electronic music and nightlife culture pushed you to brand yourself in a way that differentiates you from the next guy? From an electronic music standpoint, living in Berlin is similar to living in Detroit or Chicago, in that there are instantly certain connotations that come attached to those cities. Though it has since moved on from the sound, many outsiders still view Berlin as the home of minimal techno - a very sparse, often darker sounding music that is scene as a reflection of the city itself. My music

I generally try to maintain at least a little bit of " an air of mystery in the way I portray myself, both with my online presence and my live shows."

has definitely gotten darker and deeper since moving here, and I generally try to maintain at least a little bit of an air of mystery in the way I portray myself, both with my online presence and my live shows. How important is “knowing the right person” versus intense self promotion and networking?

For me, knowing the right person is everything (I would include networking in this category) while intense self promotion is becoming increasingly useless - nobody’s going to care about you when really all you’re doing is cluttering their Facebook feed and spamming their inboxes. If you don’t know the right people to go through, it will be very difficult to get the big label heads to even listen to your music, you won’t be able to join the right agencies, and you won’t get any gigs. Do you think the big clubs in Berlin are going to book someone who sent them a soundcloud link, or will they book someone from a trusted agency or

a label they’ve dealt with for years?

In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy, Great artists steal”. How does this relate to your work and the prolific use of sampling in electronic music today? It took me a while to figure out how prolific sampling really is in electronic music. For a few years actually, I was always blown away by how artists could make these great tracks with these great sounds, and then I started coming across the original pieces in my own searches, realizing that there are entire songs that were sold under the producers name, that just take a loop from a pop or disco record, add a kick drum, a few hats and a clap, and they’re good to go. My two best selling tracks both relied on vocal samples that I ripped from youtube videos. What is your stance on file sharing sites such as zippy, mediafire, hulkshare, etc. Are you cool with it as long as people are discovering you or do you subscribe to the Metallica frame of mind? As long as it isn’t leaked before the intended release date, I don’t really have anything against it. I can’t imagine how many more copies of my songs have been downloaded illegally instead of bought, but out of those people that downloaded them illegally, I would imagine the large majority of them wouldn’t have actually bought it if they couldn’t find it on their favorite sites. Now, that many more people know about me, and might actually care to know if I’m playing in their city, and buy a ticket to the show. For more Yooj visit: http://www.soundcloud.com/yoojmusic http://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/yooj/ http://www.beatport.com/artist/yooj/202666

egA latigiD ehT nI gnidnarB & cisu

jooY // ranG-oS // traneM l