What does it take for a music release to hit a chart? Just ask Los-Angeles based Shadow Wulf Records who has seen every single one of their releases land on several of Beatport’s charts. Beginner’s luck you say? Not in this case. Investing in music coupled with their rich experience has helped them land success after success. The techno label comprised of Aaron Jacobs, Drew Blyther, and Crescendoll has more than 35 years of combined experience in the music industry. You could say they know a thing or two about what it takes to run a promising, successful label. They’re not only label owners, but they live, eat and breathe the house and techno culture as artists too. The Shadow Wulf Records family talks about their journey as artists, growing as a label, and why it’s important to develop relationships outside of one’s own pack.
Thanks for chatting with 6AM to dive more into ArtistMap, a mastermind program that focuses on supporting aspiring artists in their quest to turn pro. How did you hear about ArtistMap, and why do you think it’s important for aspiring artists to develop a strong mindset as they embark on their artist journey?
We are very honored to be asked by 6AM to take part in this ArtistMap feature. We’ve been working with you guys for about six months now promoting our new label Shadow Wulf, and your team has been essential in our label’s journey towards professional success. You guys have also helped us with some smaller promotions for our other label Wulfpack, for which we are also grateful!
Now more than ever artists are called on to do a lot more than just their art. They need to have more well-rounded skills to be professionals including skills in promotion, branding, organization, and communication; to name a few. Having a roadmap [and] focus is crucial to their success. We believe that keeping that focus and dedication to their journey along with honing their skills and making the necessary investments in their future makes the difference between an artist and a pro. We believe this same concept holds true for labels.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What first got you into music, how long have you been DJing and producing music–what came first?
Our label is run by three artists. All of us were DJs before we became producers and label owners. Aaron Jacobs established himself as a DJ in the New Mexico dance scene in 2002, before moving to Los Angeles in 2010 where he became an SAE grad. He met Jamie Schwabl and co-founded Wulfpack label in 2012. Drew Blyther, a native to California, began DJ-ing in 2008 and began producing in 2014 along with attending Icon Collective to hone his skills. He joined Wulfpack in 2014. Erin Parisi (Crescendoll) got her start in South Carolina where she began her DJ career while completing her undergrad in audio technology. She relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 and began producing the same year she joined Wulfpack in 2016.
We believe the charting and sales are the results of strong promotional efforts, talented artists, competitive and consistent music quality, and solid communication among our team, our artists, and all of our collaborators in the rollout of each release
Shadow Wulf Records’ secret sauce to successful releases
You’re involved with Shadow Wulf Records, sister label to Wulfpack. What motivated the extension, and can you tell us about your relationship with each?
Between 2013-2015, the three of us connected and have been creating together ever since. Each one of us has acquired strong individual followings and have carved out niches for ourselves in the SoCal underground scene. As we developed professionally, our interests and sounds began to gravitate toward darker elements and more unique styles. We were inspired by countries like Germany, Amsterdam, Romania, and the U.K. It was clear to us that to further our music, we felt we needed another label. Something with focused selections and offerings that would appeal to listeners worldwide. In that spirit, Shadow Wulf was born. This new sister label includes collaborations with artists and labels that seek to embody a dark techno and dark minimal voice. Our two labels will still ultimately share the same intentions: connecting artists both in the U.S. and abroad with diverse releases, underground shows, and collaborative social efforts.
There are three of us that run Shadow Wulf. Erin manages distribution, operations, A&R, press releases, and video content production. Drew is in charge of mastering coordination, promotional campaign structuring, branding, and label marketing. Aaron handles Soundcloud management, additional promotional content, graphic design, and artwork. Aaron is also a label founder and owner for Wulfpack in which Erin also carries a primary role in operation, and Drew maintains mastering coordination. We have a core team of six running Wulfpack.
6AM has worked with the label in the past, and it’s been great to help share your music with our listeners. Why seek external support through paid promotions, and why should artists consider allocating budget toward this?
We see quality press as crucial in the road to success. 6AM has always provided us with this and helped us to reach new listeners and a bigger audience with each release. It also helps in making each release more professional and significantly highlights the artists we work with, which helps build stronger relationships with our artists. We see this press as a necessary investment in our business’s future and we also see the significant benefits of building a strong relationship with a promotional company such as 6AM.
Our artists have praised our label for our more hands-on, sincere approach, and the hard work we do promoting each release. They feel it honors the music they make.
The key to growing your name? Building relationships based off of interactions not transcations
Shadow Wulf Records had a really impressive 2020 with projects placing on various Beatport charts (Shadow Wulf Vol. 1, Butterslice EP, Misfit EP to name a few). What do you think helped contribute to their successes?
Thank you for the compliments! We feel our early successes show we have a powerful team behind our label. We believe the charting and sales are the results of strong promotional efforts, talented artists, competitive and consistent music quality, and solid communication among our team, our artists, and all of our collaborators in the rollout of each release. Our artists have praised our label for our more hands-on, sincere approach, and the hard work we do promoting each release. They feel it honors the music they make, and that it makes us stand apart from other less attentive labels. We take these compliments to heart and intend to continue this kind of hands-on approach with our artists. This approach has resulted in many opportunities that we previously thought were out of our reach.
Even though we are a small, new label to the minimal/techno scene, we are confident in our strategy for music distribution and artist outreach. We are honored to work with every artist, promotion team, and of course our mastering engineer Ryan at Dark Star Audio. We anticipate continued success in 2021 and beyond through maintaining this level of effort, focus, and attentiveness.
In the past six months, we have worked with 28 artists, 23 of them international. [They] have releases planned out for the next six months.
Expanding your horizons is important to extend your presence
How does the label handle signing music? Do you keep it in the family–after all, wolves run in packs–collaborating among friends? What can artists keep in mind when submitting to your label?
Funny you should ask with Wulfpack we have definitely followed the pack mentality, but with Shadow Wulf our interest was in expanding to a broader artist pool and going more international. We began the label by reaching out to international artists some of us had shared in releases with on other labels. From there [we] began to build new relationships and solidified our brand. Now when we reach out to artists, they are familiar with our label’s name, and some have even started tracks before we have reached out to them. So far, we are focused more on our own outreach as far as submissions are concerned, but we are always open to listening to other submissions via e-mail. However, we are focused on developing our label’s sound and reputation, and with that comes a certain level of selectiveness in submissions. With many releases, we work hand-in-hand with the primary artist to brainstorm remixers that fit with the release. Sometimes the artists have suggestions and contacts of their own that help with this, and other times we help to make the connection. With many releases, our label heads contribute remixes, keeping things in the pack while welcoming new members to our pack simultaneously. Now our pack is expanding across the world!
This is important: only send music to one label at a time. There’s nothing more irritating for a label [to agree] signing a track or an EP and then being told it’s just been signed to some other label. Avoid the confusion, wait a little between sending your music to multiple labels. Submit with intention, think about the music on the label and if it fits their sound.
Tips from the pros: pitching music to labels
With so many social media platforms out there and new ones surfacing, how does the label approach promotion efforts when it comes to releases? Are there certain ones that you feel hold more weight when it comes to reaching the right audience?
While we have had some success with our methods of social media promotion, we are still experimenting. What currently works best for us is a cross-promotion between Instagram, Facebook, Twitch, Youtube, and personal outreach. We get the most engagement on Instagram overall and find that using stories is a fun way to share content. We also incorporate Shadow Wulf into our monthly Wulfpack email newsletters as well. Twitch has been huge, and we have utilized it in building our following. In particular, it was a very cool tool to use for a label launch, and we did a 12-hour stream featuring each of the artists on our debut VA compilation. [The stream included] features and interviews about the label, our collaborators, and our vision. It also helped with initial fundraising! We have also seen success with the use of promotional videos for each release. Our listeners can hear and experience the tracks right away without having to click a link and that’s key.
As far as reaching the right audience, we think that they find us on their own through the artists and promotional companies we work with. We find using as many tools as we can to promote our label and releases helps. While some work a little better than others, they all help to expand our audience.
We create all of our own promotional content such as artwork, graphics, and videos in-house.
DIY culture is another form of investing in your music
Any piece of advice you’d give to artists going about finding a home for their track(s)?
Consistency is key. Most labels want more than one track. They want to know you have more music ready to go. This is important: only send music to one label at a time. There’s nothing more irritating for a label [to agree] signing a track or an EP and then being told it’s just been signed to some other label. Avoid the confusion. Wait a little in between sending your music to multiple labels. Submit with intention. Think about the music on the label and if it fits their sound. Also, be willing to wait for your release. Most successful labels have releases scheduled out six months to a year. Your release will likely not be the next one on the schedule. Finally, be willing to hear rejection, but don’t let it knock you down. Maintain your focus and drive. Get your music up to par with what your favorite labels are looking for, and then submit more music in the future — don’t give up.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We have few upcoming releases we are excited to share! This month (January) we have SW005: Deadtime Stories EP from Italian artist Egomorph. This release is a psytech monster and comes with two original tracks and six remixes. In February comes SW006: Hornet’s Nest EP from San Diego-based artist Dylan Andrew. It’s two original dark minimal / techno tracks.
Our final words to all of you: keep it fun, keep it focused, and keep it consistent! We look forward to hearing music from all of you and all of our releases to come.