Interview with Monte La Rue: “Corporate is no longer part of my world”
Amsterdam-based lounge deejay and producer Monte La Rue (born in Antwerp as Jan van den Bergh) has an impressive track record, both as producer/artist and record industry professional. He has worked as Artist & Repertoire manager for, among others, USA Import (handling releases by Sven van Hees, Miss Moneypenny and Ludovic Navarre a.k.a. St. Germain), Indisc (handling the DJ International, Tommy Boy and Gee Street labels) and Arcade (supervising the European releases of The KLF, Derrick May and Rozalla). He has initiated a string of labels, including Buzz for Arcade, Apollo for R&S and Cinq Etoiles for ID&T.
His recording artist portfolio includes releases as Wet (That’s The Game, 1983), Atmosphere (At-Moz-Phere, Top 10 Germany in 1990) and Fabergé. In 1999, he established the Monte La Rue moniker as an outlet for his instrumental downtempo and mood productions, releasing the albums Interludia (2002) and The End Of The Rainbow (2008), as well as masterminding various series of lounge compilations. Currently, he is preparing for release a Best Of Monte La Rue album, tentatively titled Mood Mode.
You have extensive experience in the international record business, however since a couple of years you operate strictly ‘do-it-yourself’. Why is that?
Record labels don’t add any value to the process initiated by me as an artist. I’ve confined myself to working with independent musicians, producers and distributors. That works best for me. I want to operate on a more human, non-corporate level. The corporate world is no longer part of my world. Been there, done that. Not for me, thank you.
What channels do you use to distribute your music?
I use a so-called aggregator, a service that distributes my productions via channels I select myself, like Beatport or iTunes. For every new release I decide what is the best distribution partner or channel.
That implies you have an insider’s knowledge of the music industry. What are the criteria to select the right distributor for your product?
The distributor cares about your release and will follow-up with sales reports, suggestions and various kinds of feedback; it is not somebody that offloads a couple of boxes of cd’s into the shops and that’s it. Distribution is an ongoing process, it involves an ongoing dialogue. Do not aim for a sales peak shortly after release, but invest in a two-year sales route.
For your creative projects, you work with a pool of creative people. How about the business side of things?
On that count, I do all the work myself. I am knowledgeable about contracts and deals. I keep track of developments in studio technology. I keep the pulse of the music industry. It is an ongoing, everyday process.
You are a part-time teacher at the Hanze Hogeschool in Groningen, The Netherlands. What do you teach your students?
Since 2010, I teach in the EMP (Electronics, Media and Production) curriculum. I explain the basics of the music industry to entry-level students. I coach students in their final year how to execute and successfully complete a creative project, including the business side of bringing the project to fruition. My message to them is: doing business is as much fun as being creative. The business side of things is not an obstacle, it is part of the process.
What is the single largest problem facing the music industry today?
Too much output, too many average and sub-standard releases. A&R has been all but eliminated and labels as well as producers clutter the market with a tsunami of sub-par releases. It is my policy to release one product per year tops. I fail to see how three releases a week will establish a fan-base. That’s thinking in short-term peaks, which are unsustainable. That’s working on impulse and it will drain your creativity. I prefer the long run.
Quality control has slipped. How can that issue be resolved?
Music2Deal is part of the solution. It’s a community of music professionals of many stripes, producers as well as business types, which offers an opportunity to garner feedback before you release your music to the public. In general, your music benefits from professional feedback. You break out of the confinement of working by yourself in the studio and profit from professional feedback. It outstrips likes by Facebook friends who do not have a clue since they like everything their friends post.
What is Music2Deal’s role in the current music industry?
Music2Deal enables you to test your music and what it can mean in your corner of the international music market. What are the opportunities? Are there more ways of exploitation than a release per se, like can it be used as sync music? Moreover, I like to see Music2Deal as a bridge to work with musicians and producers outside my local talent pool; it enables me to broaden my horizon. A professional environment is crucial to filter out the noise and stem the chaos. In that respect, Music2Deal offers a helping hand.