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On the career of an underground DJ and producer, music industry, and professional growth.

advice series  DJing  production  marketing  releases  podcast  gigs  behind the scenes  tools  and more topics

Follow me on social media

Facebook is my main news hub where I share upcoming releases, gigs, photos, videos, and blogs. Typically, I post 3–5 times a week.

Telegram and Twitter duplicate what I post on Facebook, with occasional extra content.

On Vkontakte, I write in the Russian language for my fans out of from Russia and CIS.

I also upload vlogs and gigs videos on YouTube and share travel photos, selfies, and studio routine on Instagram.

Later Ctrl + ↑

Working on a course

When things are pretty quiet here, it may seem that nothing happens from my end, but it’s actually the opposite.

Those who have been following me for a while know that I’m passionate not only about music but also about education in the music industry and my blog with over a hundred articles is a testament to this.

Now I’m working on a full-fledged training course for DJs and producers. There won’t be recipes for quick success, promises of world fame after the first release, or abstractions from theorists. Instead, it will be a consistent system of learning and practical advice from personal experience.

I can’t tell you yet when the course will be available, but if you’re interested — leave your email and I’ll let you know when it launches: dsokolovskiy.com/education/.

 No comments    196   4 mo   Courses   Photo

Rave Podcast 125

May 2021

The May edition of the podcast is already available on Soundcloud, iTunes, YouTube, Spotify and Patreon.

This episode is groovy, hypnotic in places, and very fast towards the end. It’s been a while since I’ve played tracks with a tempo over 140 BPM, so if you been waiting for such a powerful mix, this is the one for you.

Tracklist:

00:00 Elfsong — Tesseract (Christopher Vassilakis Remix) Saturate Audio
05:17 Hackler & Kuch — Duck & Cover (Original Mix) The Zone Records
09:00 Klaudia Gawlas, Linus Quick — Brain Drain (Original Mix) Masters Of Disaster
11:27 Linus Quick, Pappenheimer — Soundcheck (Original Mix) Italo Business
15:24 Slavlotski — Terminate (Original Mix) Forescape Digital
20:18 Miniminds — Outlaw (Original Mix) Harthouse
24:13 Jan Fleck — Ronin (Original Mix) Black Circus
27:52 Filterheadz, Atroxx — Black Box (Original Mix) Unrilis
31:56 Shaun Mauren — The Right Time (Original Mix) Distorted Audio Records
36:00 Marco Bailey — Scorpia (Obscure Shape & Shdw Remix) Suara Records
37:28 NTBR — Warped Sense (Original Mix) SBMRN Records
40:38 Narciss — Fuel To The Fire (Original Mix) 10 Pills Mate
45:06 Pablo Gargano — Tension (Original Mix) Technosis
47:34 Narciss — Fragments Of A Language Of Love (Original Mix) Lobster Theremin
52:15 Grindvik, Sylvie Maziarz — Circles (Original Mix) Second State
53:36 Jorg — Facing The Truth (Original Mix) Jahanam
57:09 Fractions — What Doesn’t Kill Me (Original Mix) TBA
 No comments    220   5 mo   Rave Podcast   Tech House   Techno   Trance

The Guest Mix @ Amplify Sessions

Kev from Amplify Events asked me to do a guest mix, and I delivered this dark, trippy, and pounding mix.

This guest mix is quite special, with a strong theme running through. You know, that feeling when you look at the person dancing next to you, you smile, and then that person smiles you back without saying a word. That moment you realise why you love the music and the club nights like this, and you just lose yourself in this euphoria under the strobe lights and a hard pounding kick. That’s what I had in my mind when mixing it.

To be honest, the tracklist below can’t event reflect everything because there are just so many things going on constantly, sometimes 3-4 tracks playing at the same time, with extra loops, synths; around 30 tracks played in total I guess. It a bit crazy, but I absolutely enjoyed doing this mix.

Let me know what do you think of this mix?

00:00 Kerry Leva, Matt Lange — In Me (Original Mix) mau5trap
05:21 Gregor Tresher, Pig&Dan — Granular (Original Mix) Truesoul
09:23 Ronny Vergara — Emancipation (Original Mix) Elektrax Recordings
12:53 Rick Pier O’Neil — Swim Deep (Original Mix) Bonzai
17:21 Roberto Capuano — Wilford (Original Mix) Drumcode
19:04 Radu Dracul — Came Out Of You (Original Mix) Tronic
23:26 Luminesce, Miika Kuisma — Wave Of Life (Mark Greene Remix) JOOF Recordings
26:34 Timewave — Overdrive (Shaun Mauren Remix) JOOF Recordings
29:14 Wehbba — Framework (Original Mix) Drumcode
31:25 Hermann Hesse — All About Your Mind (Original Mix) Renesanz
35:45 Coyu — Desert Seas (Original Mix) Suara Records
37:41 Trudge — Страсть (Original Mix) 100 Pills Mate
41:03 John 00 Fleming — Tik Tok (Part 2) JOOF Recordings
44:11 A-Brothers — Against Nuclear Power (Original Mix) Elektrax Music
46:21 Cetera — Bacon & Chips (Roby M Rage Remix) JOOF Recordings
51:34 Anne Clark — Our Darkness (Charly Schaller Edit) The Techno’s Children
56:03 Chris Liberator, Dave The Drummer — Twinkle Toes (Original Mix) Hydraulix

Music listening routine

Tell me how you organize the process of listening to music: demos coming to the label and just new releases in different genres. Do you listen on the speakers or on headphones? Do you multitask it with other things (like replying to emails and do social media stuff)? Do people around you complain about the constant “boom-boom”? How do you manage to stay focused on the music to listen to all the tracks thoroughly?

Nikolay Glazyrin

Thanks for asking. I honestly don’t know how it could be helpful to anyone, but I’d be happy to share.

Listening to demo recordings

First let me tell you about the demos. The demos come in an endless stream of about 30 to 100 emails a week to the label. To reply to all of them at once as they appear in the inbox means to be constantly distracted and waste attention, and I try to work in a concentrated way. Moreover, some tracks are so bad, that I can’t listen to them just in the background :-) That’s why for some time I put emails into a special pile and then answer them all at once – it’s more productive that way.

Read about A&R duties

Speaking of email, I use HEY. There you can literally click Reply Later on emails, and then respond to them all at once in  “Focus & Reply” mode. It really helps. HEY is cool in general, maybe I’ll tell you more about it later.

Listening to music

Now about listening to music in general. I have two listening modes, as I call them: passive and active.

Passive mode is when I just listen to music in the background, doing my own thing. I used to listen to Soundcloud, Apple podcasts, radio stations, and YouTube, but now 95% of my background listening happens in Spotify because everything is more convenient and there’s a better chance of finding something good.

Usually, I turn on some suggested playlist in Spotify or a “Song radio” based on a track I like and go about my business in comfort. I don’t concentrate on the music in any special way, which is exactly why I call this kind of listening mode “passive” – something is playing, and that’s fine.

As soon as I notice something cool playing, I press ⌥+space and <3 – this is the system-wide shortcut I made to automatically “like” tracks, i.e. to save them in my collection. And then it’s also broadcast to the Telegram channel. It’s faster than switching between applications and clicking on the tiny “heart” next to the name of the track.

A heart, kind of. Alfred app

The automation is set up with Alfred app and the Spotify Mini Player script. Alfred is cool, maybe someday I’ll tell you about it too.

This way I listen to music for about ten hours a day, so I happen to find quite a lot of interesting stuff. I usually play background music through my speakers.

Of course, not all music suits the background, especially if you need to work thoughtfully: for example, I find it hard to do with hard techno, but I’m fine with progressive house or chillout.

Active mode is when I’m purposefully looking for something: a track with the right tempo and key, a new release from a particular artist or other releases from a particular label. It’s important to hear the details, so I often listen with headphones when I’m actively searching.

I used to use the Beatport Pro desktop app for this, but since the beginning of 2021, it has been discontinued. Now I use the Beatport website, even though it is much slower and more limited than the app, plus old-good Spotify.

I only need to listen to a track for about five seconds to know if it’s a good fit. This is a very highly concentrated listening mode in terms of the amount of new musical information per unit of time, so I can’t listen like that for a long time – two or three hours at the most. It’s important to take breaks, otherwise, my ears get soaked and I might miss something interesting. During the breaks, I either go back to background listening or get away from the computer altogether and switch to something else: running (also with music, of course), eating or sleeping.

Luckily, I don’t cause any trouble for the surrounding people, not anymore :-)

A new studio!

Fellow readers, where and how do you listen to music?

 No comments    239   6 mo   A&R   Advice   Productivity   Tools

Goal matters. Understanding why are you making music is important

When people ask me how to start making music, I answer with a counter-question: “Why do you want to do that? What is your goal?”.

The answers vary, but more often than not they can be divided into two groups: to make music “for myself” (just for fun, to show my friends etc) and “for a career” (to turn music into a profession, to make a living on it).

It would seem, what is the difference? Here some dude does something at the computer, press buttons and spin knobs. Why anyone should be bothered with this goal question?

But there is a big difference.

Imagine that you like to cook food. You haven’t had any special training, but you love to eat good food and treat your loved ones. You can make ratatouille, chilli con carne, or pad Thai. Or you can not cook anything if there is no necessary products or you just feel lazy today, and just order a pizza. In this sense, you have complete freedom, and your loved ones are likely to enjoy whatever you cook.

It is quite another story if you are a chef. Before you get a job, you have to learn culinary science, the basics of food chemistry, food processing, stock management, delivery, and much more. While cooking, it’s also important to follow the recipe, keep the yield of the product, and watch the serving, because the restaurant has certain standards and the customers have expectations. About fourteen years ago I was thinking about a career as a chef, so I know a little bit about it.

Well, in music, it’s the same.

Making music “for yourself” means being like a free painter: if you want to write it, you write it, if you don’t want to write it, you don’t write it. If you want to write something super unusual, even if it seems like bullshit to others, no problem, you can always say that it was “the author’s idea”. There are no standards. There is no external deadline. In short, do whatever you want.

On music standards

It’s quite different if you aim to be a professional producer. You need to know the production, sound design, acoustics, arrangements, composition, mixing – and that’s just the basics to make a high-quality track. Then there is more: you need to know the industry, know how to market yourself, bring the music to the audience, negotiate, plan the budget, understand the contracts, organize yourself, play DJ-sets and do many, many more things. After years in my music career, I know a little bit about that.

To summarize, to do something professionally, you have to know more related disciplines, understand the market, and work hard. A lot. And if you generalize even more, for a hobby the process is important, while for a profession the result is important. I think that’s the main difference.

In a hobby it’s the process, in a profession it’s the result

I want to end with an important point: You don’t have to become a professional. Don’t have to build a career. Cooking a meal for loved ones, or making music for yourself is fine. If you enjoy the process, just enjoy it.

 No comments    206   6 mo   Advice   Career   Music production

Distributed income

Cancelled gigs and plans, closed clubs and country borders. Thousands of DJs and producers have lost their jobs. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has affected all areas of our lives, but I would like to talk specifically about the music industry and the income of artists in particular.

Almost all artists strive for a busy touring schedule. And that’s not surprising, since the main income for artists comes from performances. But here’s the problem: if you put all your resources into one single source of income, you become very vulnerable. The artist had ten confirmed performances, and then, boom, they’re gone. The situation with closed clubs and cancelled airlines seems like something from a science fiction area, and yet it’s happening all over the world right now.

It seems that the main lesson for artists should be the saying “don’t put all eggs in one basket” and striving for a distributed income structure. Ideally, there should be three or five sources of income that generate roughly equal shares.

No Yes
Gigs fee — 90% Gigs fee — 30%
Streaming royalties — 10% Streaming royalties — 20%
  Educational products — 20%
  Soundtracks for films and commercials — 10%
  Mastering services — 10%
  Web graphic services — 10%

The structure in the right column is not ideal either and here just for the illustration, but the main thing it provides is an active reserve and the ability to pay the bills, even when the main source of income is lacking, like many artists all over the world sadly experiencing now. For example, months with no gigs (which by the way can happen even without any coronaviruses) is no big deal if other sources of income can generate 70% of your regular income), so you can pay the bills and use this time to focus on other projects.

In my educational talk back in 2017, I advised aspiring producers to have a financial backup and not be in a hurry to quit their day job. The combination of regular work and music is an example of a distributed income structure.

I don’t have a recipe or advice on how to come to a distributed income, but it seems like a good idea to start by understanding the importance of the concept itself. And, of course, this does not apply only to the music industry.

 No comments    156   6 mo   Career   Money   Music industry

Dark Entity is out now

A collaboration with Enlusion

Today my new single is released on Forescape Digital, a collaboration with Enlusion called Dark Entity. It’s a 130 BPM banger, which has already proven itself in my DJ sets. Be sure to read behind the scenes of the creation process if you missed it.

The release also includes the alternative “Heads-down” version and three remixes from the coolest guys: Fuenka, Facade, and Cosmithex.

Preview:

Rave Podcast 124

April 2021

The April edition of the podcast is already available on Soundcloud, iTunes, YouTube, Spotify and Patreon.

It’s a quite diverse episode, with progressive house, tech house, trance and techno. As a DJ it’s very interesting for me to put together such mixes with a smooth progression and “narration”, I hope it’s also interesting for you to listen to.

And also in this episode premiered an alternative version of my new track, which we made together with Kirill Enlusion, be sure to read about how we made it.

Tracklisting:

00:00 Planisphere — Spectrazoidesign (Original Mix) Green Martian
04:38 Michael & Levan, Stiven Rivic — The Only Way (Rich Curtis Microwave-Safe Remix) Mistique Music
08:14 Dosem — All Locations (Original Mix) Anjunadeep
11:49 Sasha Carassi — Drop Of Soul (Original Mix) Phobiq
14:37 Tkno — Nameless Point (Original Mix) Selected Records
17:40 Matt Lange — Tempi Disarming (Original Mix) mau5trap
21:12 Jel Ford — Backyard (Original Mix) Drumcode
24:58 Fuenka, Paul Thomas — Yang (Extended Mix) FSOE UV
29:13 Cosmic Boys — Justice (Original Mix) Legend
32:58 Drunken Kong — Dark Moon (Original Mix) Terminal M
37:13 Layton Giordani — System Majority (Original Mix) Drumcode
41:28 Relaunch — Air (Original Mix) Bonzai
45:28 Mat Zo — Petrushka (Extended Mix) Anjunabeats
48:28 Gabriel D’Or & Bordoy — Magnitude (Original Mix) AnalyticTrail
50:43 Spektre, Subfractal — Ram Raid (Sasha Carassi Remix) Respekt Recordings
53:42 Daniel Lesden, Enlusion — Dark Entity (Heads-down Mix) Forescape Digital

Making of Dark Entity

On April 12, Dark Entity will be released — a new track that we’ve made together with Kirill Enlusion. Not only the result is interesting, but also the path we took. With Kirill’s permission, I am sharing the process of creating the track (and even two!) with dozens of iterations, controversial moments, and behind-the-scenes details.

Overview of the project in Ableton. Not quite a “feng shui” look, but the main thing is the result

It all began when on September 23, 2020, I offered Kirill to make a track together. In the best traditions of producer humour, I asked: “Collab, bro?”, which almost made him choke :-)

And this was the first sketch I sent:

Kirill approved it and really felt the melody. Needless to say, there will be nothing left of it at the end. But that’s for later, and for now, we got to work.

I’m figuring out how this lead would look in a sort of Techno’ish environment and sketch out a basic arrangement:

I listen to it again and realize that it’s too “cheesy”, too melodic. I tell Kirill that I want something darker. He agrees and sends me this new lead:

I approve, he continues:

I like the rhythmic elements, but the vibe as a whole isn’t working. I want it to be darker. So I remove almost everything and make a foundation from scratch:

Kirill likes it. That’s it, we stick with this one as the core. On the next step, Kirill is trying different pads and melodies, and also improving the low end along the way:

As I listen to it, I think it’s too melodic. I would have liked the pads more as a texture rather than a melody.

Kirill builds the intro, adds stabs and  changes pads:

Then he continues and adds a breakdown:

And then he adds Sasha’esq arps, BXR-style snares in the drop and put it all together:

By this time, it was the middle of October. At the same time, I was finishing off my new studio, so I was extremely busy. Then the move, the hustle and bustle, and soon enough it turns out to be Winter already!

On December 11, burning with embarrassment of such delay, I return to the track. I listen carefully to the last version and realize that the stabs, the pads and the lead don’t work for me. I like the breakdown, overall, but to me it misses some emotional character, some big moment.

So I decide to keep the core, but almost completely redone the leads and the pads, and remove a lot of things to give the track more “air” — in particular, at the build-up in the first half of the track. I also extend the breakdown and add some unexpected musical moments. Well, and some more little things.

Comparing before and after:

I have to give Kirill a credit that he didn’t tell me to screw off, but he agreed that this was a step in the right direction, even though I had cut out a lot of his past iterations. Let’s keep working!

In the last Kirill’s iteration there was a second breakdown (↑), which I wanted to diversify in some way.

Trying something crazy:

Kirill: “Crazy lead? Hold my beer!”, and sends his version:

Whoa-whoa! We both agree that this was a bit too much. We’re thinking about a breakdown.

Another week goes by. I say that I have a gig coming up, and soon I’ll be able to test the track on the dance floor, which means we need to speed up and finish it faster. I also suggest speeding up the track itself from 128 to 130 BPM. Kirill supports it.

Meanwhile, I keep iterating on the second breakdown, completely reworking the melody and the timbre:

Kirill likes the sound of the timbre but is bothered by a few notes. Changes them, and it gets really better.

We put all the pieces together, fix some things, and send it off for mastering.

The result:

It remains to test the track on the dance floor:

A fragment of my set at Skazka Rave

Great feedback! We leave the track as is and finish the work on it. Done!

Alternate version

March 2, 2021. Just over a month until the release date. We are waiting for the remixers to send the release to the distributor. All of a sudden, I’m writing to Kirill: “Okay, there might be the fifth track in the release, hold on. I have an idea.”

Kirill: «о_О».

Suddenly I get the idea to make an alternative mix of the original, something like a heads-down stripped b-Side version: with no breakdown, no vocal samples, less melodies.

On heads-down tracks in my DJ collection

And I send a rough draft I sketched out at 1 AM:

And two more variations, just in case:

Kirill approves the idea in general, and out of the three options, he prefers the trance bassline. And immediately develops the timeline of almost the whole track:

The next day I soberly evaluate all the options and realize that everything is not quite right. It needs to be darker, more toned-down, and that trance bassline is too perky.

I propose to make the bassline gallop like in psytrance. Kirill says it won’t work that way. I argue.

In the end, I’m doing the alternate version practically from scratch, with a completely different rhythm, galloping bassline and dark atmosphere:

Snob Kirill is satisfied. Yay, we’re moving on.

Kirill takes the initiative and continues:

I like it on the whole, but in some moments I have doubts:

Me: Why did you remove the toms?
Kirill: They were disrupting the rhythm.

Comparing

Hmm, there really is something wrong. Changing the pattern:

Me: How about this?
Kirill: Yeah, that’s the best way.

Moving on. After the breakdown, I insert the acid line and trying the lead from the second drop, but with a different timbre:

Kirill, meanwhile, is working on the breakdown in an interesting way:

We put all the pieces together, fix some things, and send it off for mastering.

The result:

Kirill, thanks for the awesome work we did!

The release with both versions and remixes by Cosmithex, Facade and Fuenka will be released on April 12 and is already available for pre-order:

New website

A few weeks ago I wrote that I was looking for a developer to help streamline my site, and now I’m happy to tell you what came out of it.

Looking for a developer

Basically, we made the website from scratch. It’s simple, but there’s important work done and a lot of cool stuff:

The meaning

The main thing, of course, is the meaning. I had a simple task: to tell new people clearly and briefly what I do and to whom I can potentially be useful.

Take, for example, music. How do you show a new person what I make and play? Give a link to releases on Beatport or Spotify, and he won’t know about podcasts, sets, mixes, and playlists. You give a link to Soundcloud, and first of all, you won’t find anything there (I have 318 tracks and mixes there, by the way), secondly, there’s nothing about my playlists in Spotify and thirdly, without a text description, it’s not clear anyway. And now I can just show this page on the site.

Or educational projects. Did you know that I was working on creating a training course for DJs, for example? Or that I was doing a master class, and in principle, I’m open to doing more in a similar format? Probably didn’t know. And that, of course, is my fault, because I didn’t have any proper place where I could talk about it. And now there is.

Uniformity and consistency

I used to have a page about my music on daniellesden.com. Then I made a page with a story about me in general, in this domain and in a different design. Then at different times, I needed to make several more pages, and they all looked different because each page was actually a mini-site with its own styles and layout. Now it’s all properly uniformed.

Also, at the top and bottom of all the pages now a common menu, and the blog became one of its items. Technically, the blog is a separate world, but now it looks a little friendly with the other pages too.

Two languages

Now all the pages are finally available in both Russian and English. I had two domains before, dsokolovskiy.ru and dsokolovskiy.com, but it wasn’t always obvious, and some pages were only in one language. Now it’s more straightforward.

If you want to change the language, there is a toggle in the footer at the bottom right. It works on the blog, too.

Email notifications

You can now subscribe to the site and be notified by email of my new releases, upcoming gigs, podcast episodes, and course news (when available). You don’t have to subscribe to everything at once (although you can), but only to the stuff you’re interested in.

The best part is that it all works automatically. I had a mailing before, but I didn’t do it regularly because it had to be done manually and complicated. Now it’s self-service, with almost no input from me. Maybe someday I’ll tell you how it works “under the hood” on a separate post because it’s very interesting there, too.

Anyway, come by and visit:

dsokolovskiy.com

Huge thanks to Ivan Ogorelkov for his help. Ivan is the technical director of the web studio and an experienced specialist. He got to the core, understood the problem and offered a solution himself.

I especially liked one moment. Everything was done, filled, bugs were caught, cleaned up; in fact, everything is ready. I said to Ivan: “Well, shall we roll it out?” And he was like, “You know, everything’s fine, but the top menu in the mobile version works like shit [that menu was done by me — note]. Can I make it right?” Well, he did, and ended up redoing the menu completely, even though I hadn’t even asked him to do that. I love that kind of care and enthusiasm.

Invite Ivan to your projects: @ogorelkov.

 No comments    140   6 mo   My websites and blog
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