Defected Records’ Wez Saunders and his team managed to pull off a 12-hour virtual music festival in under one week. Despite recent blows to the live events industry with the global outbreak of COVID-19 Defected Records wasn’t about to let the music stop. In fact, it’s kept pumping life into house music for the past 20 years. “The passion and commitment to what we do (from the community) [are] unquestionable,” said Defected Records managing director Wez Saunders. “As such, we owe everything to our people.” Its dedication to the music community stands as strong as day one. The Defected Records Virtual Festival is a sign of the unwavering commitment to music and its community.
“During these unprecedented times, there is a fine line between panic and prudence. We aim to be prudent. It is time for Leaders to be decisive. We will be decisive and resilient. We will remain honest and do everything we can to ensure the wellbeing of the people – for our families, our friends, staff, our DJ/producers, our community, right across the entire Global population.” – Defected Records’ Wez Saunders
The independent U.K. record label has welcomed some of the finest acts in house music for the last two decades. With 15 sub-labels under its umbrella, it has something to soothe every house music lover’s soul. They’ve grown beyond the sweet sonic sounds. Their label offers clothing and merch as well as produces festivals and events.
Dennis Ferrer, Todd Terry, Sam Divine and Kevin Saunderson have all released tracks under the powerhouse label, and some even host weekly radio shows. CamelPhat & Elderbrook and Josh Butler also form part of the family with their respective releases. Who can forget the 2017 hit “Cola” or the luscious, soulful track “Feels Good.”
The Defected Virtual Festival is a continuation of their digital efforts for their online community. “[We’re] offering the opportunity to engage with our brand and each other from the comfort of [people’s] homes following the postponement or cancellation of all live events from mid-March through to May due to the outbreak of the virus,” said Saunders.
“For our community, we decided early that we will continue to create and provide content, continue to demonstrate our vision and purpose, and to provide a service through the medium of music; be it records, playlists, radio shows or other. We are still here. We are still here for them.” – Defected Records’ Wez Saunders
Broadcasting from London’s iconic Ministry of Sound, the virtual music festival started at 12pm and ended at 12am. Monki, Low Steppa and The Shapeshifters were a few among the stellar line-up. It finished with a b2b2b2b2b2. Glitterbox dancers complemented the energy from the uplifting house music from each DJ set. (Disclaimer: Safety first. Everyone adhered to the social distancing recommendations during this time).
“We had no problem programming 12 hours of house music as our DJ/producers understood the need to provide a chink of light during these very dark times,” shared Saunders when asked about bringing this idea to life. “The concept for Defected Virtual Festival came from a wish to bring together house music lovers under our mantra In Our House We Are All Equal. While unable to travel or tour, our team led by owner Simon (Dunmore) knew we needed to think outside the box.”
Artists have canceled tours, and event organizers have either postponed or canceled music festivals. “Now, in March 2020, as the number of cases that have contracted COVID-19 exceeds 200,000 people, and hundreds of millions more have entered into self-quarantine or self-isolation across the world with the intention of helping to restrict the rapid spread of the virus, the need for positivity has become more important than ever.” said Saunders.
“There is so much opportunity here – adversity always causes creativity to flourish.” – Defected Records’ CMO James Kirkham
Defected Records’ CMO James Kirkham also weighed in on the current events and adapting to shifting times. So what marketing initiatives should labels, artists or anyone in the music industry be taking? “It is all about recognizing a modern fan. They’re multi-faceted, multi-versed, multi-dimensional with many passions and crossovers. They’re culturally curious, worldly-wise and want passions like music to be a passport to other cultures. We need to play on this,” said Kirkham. “So in this time, perhaps we will enter a new era not of lazy badging of music but instead close proximity to artists, exploring personalities and characters. We might see more ‘intimate’ ideas where small amounts of fans get ‘closed’ audiences with their favorite artists or DJs, finding out more about them as people. There is so much opportunity here – adversity always causes creativity to flourish. It is a fact.
As far as how we, as a collective, can support our favorite artists during these times, and consequently the labels that house the music that moves us? “Continue to consume music as you always have. Use it to pick you up, motivate you, distract you, feed your emotions – never change that,” said Saunders. “Just because (for most) you can’t go out, doesn’t mean you cannot consume music. Carry on supporting your favorite artists and labels in all the ways you always have done across social media and streaming services. It will be invaluable.”