Strength In Numbers: The Krafted progressive house collective
No DJ, artist or label is an island. The best things in this game happen when we join forces and share resources. The same can be said for any game we choose to play in life for that matter, but in the competitive, and often volatile, music industry, it seems even more poignant. It’s why so many events, labels, lyrics and song titles are based around themes of unity.
It’s also why Paul Sawyer and Darren Braddick came together to host an event at the first Brighton Music Conference in 2014. With a shared taste in high quality house, prog and techno and a huge amount of experience – Paul as an artist, DJ, label owner, promoter and music journalist, Darren as multiple label owner, promoter, manager and radio – they knew they could achieve even better together.
Not long after the event the five labels they owned – Endemic Digital, Endemic Music, Sounds Of Juan, Unrivaled and EJ Underground – were galvanised under the all new Krafted brand. All labels, bar Unrivaled enjoyed a remix to include the Krafted branding but one thing remained consistent: Paul and Darren’s shared insistence on championing new talent, production quality and creative innovation and beautiful, emotive dance music.
Peace, Unity, Love ‘n Having Fun!
Less than five years later Krafted has become a tour de force in deep, majestic and emotional house, prog and techno. Their releases are regularly played on Radio 1 and have been championed by the likes of Carl Cox, Pete Tong and Don Diablo (to name but a few) and last December they hosted a truly one-of-a-kind event in Popham airfield among a fleet of classic planes. With all DJ’s playing on the Prime Series gear, it streamed to over 100,000 viewers around the world, had prog godfather Dave Seaman headlining and was even sponsored by Porsche. (link to Facebook video HERE)
Now, complete with recent addition to the collective label partner and accomplished producer Simon Sinfield, they’ve just launched a new streaming event concept and magazine style Krafted video show and have stacks more to come. We caught up with all three main Krafted bossmen to discuss their journey so far, why joining forces has been so successful for the label… And what they have in store for the rest of 2019.
Let’s go back to the start of the Krafted story. This all began at Brighton Music Conference in 2014…
Paul: Yeah that’s right. I was running my label EJ Underground, Darren was running three labels at the time. Endemic Digital, Sounds Of Juan and Unrivaled Music. He asked if I wanted to collaborate with him on a party at the event and, after the success of that, we decided to work together and bring our labels together under Krafted.
The best things happen when you work together!
Paul: Absolutely. Beyond the three of us, too. We’re a team of people. Many people are involved at every level; the artists, people who’ve helped us make connections, the teams at events, DJs and fans who support our music.
That first event must have been a success to have triggered such a strong collaboration?
Paul: It was! BMC had only just started and was finding its feet, but we had good numbers and a lot of DJs associated with our labels came to play. It was great.
Listen to the voice
I guess you identified something in each other’s labels and sounds to collaborate in the first place?
Darren: We used to send each other tracks for our artists to remix. So we’d established a good connection there and I knew Paul’s tastes were similar to mine. When we did that event we realised how we got on.
Bringing together resources is one thing, but setting up a whole new brand to bring them altogether under is a big leap!
Paul: Definitely. We’d had feedback from a distributor that while we had a strong collection of labels, they were disparate and confusing to find and that we’d be better off having one main brand and main page and socials that everyone could find. So, all our labels have Krafted as part of the name, besides Unrivaled.
Darren: At the time Unrivaled had over 200 releases so it had too much of a reputation and a discography. It would have been too confusing.
Two become three
It had its own reputation. So Simon, you’re the final piece in the puzzle. How did you come to be involved?
Simon: I met Paul through a commercial specialist radio show, which I did for 10 years. I’d been doing my own label thing and had been a music producer for many years. I got involved with various remixes and it all just slotted together. Joining as a label partner has been a natural progression.
What was the first thing you collaborated with them on?
Simon: I did a remix for them really early on under my own name, but I also have a house alias under the name The Cloudshapers which I’d had some success with. Paul and I started working on a track idea he had and that was the first of many collaborations and it did really well. We had Toolroom behind it and had some great results.
Paul: Yeah, Kiss, Capital FM and a few other stations were really supportive of it.
Simon: It was a key moment where we realised how well we work together.
Another example of strength in numbers! Tell us about more key moments of support…
Paul: There’s been a few! Pete Tong playing a couple of tracks we’ve had. We’ve been lucky enough to bring on other well-known acts like Doorly, Ben Remember, Made By Pete. All of the releases they were involved in had Radio 1 plays. Capital and Kiss and all the other stations have been amazing helping us get out to as many ears as possible. We’ve also had tracks on a few Essential Mixes.
Darren: Carl Cox has played a few, Don Diablo was playing some of the tracks. One video had a few million views in a few weeks. It’s nice to see 50,000 or so people going crazy to music you’ve signed and released and helped get out into the world.
That must be the best buzz of running a label!
Simon: I love it. There’s been a couple of tracks I’ve picked up on. ‘Be Strong’, in particular, was one last year that features Angie Brown. It was a massive summer track and it came about through a connection I had with a talented producer Marc Barnes. He’d made this track and sent it too me for personal feedback and said he might give it away on Soundcloud! I wasn’t working with the label at the time, but I contacted Paul and told him I’d found a house smash. Within an hour he’d signed it. It was a brilliant track so to help Marc, out who’s super talented but not had the breaks yet, was an amazing reward.
Working with new talent has been a strong thread for Krafted, right?
Paul: Definitely. That’s what we’re about. We’re not just about established names. Like the streams we do. We want to support as much up-and-coming acts on the platform. Like Lorraine Roar, a young female DJ from Spain. She’s on the rise and got 10,000 views on that video. That’s great exposure and it’s great for us to be the people to provide that platform. We want to help people.
Keep it live!
The streams and video shows are the latest in a long line of endeavours…
Simon: We knew we were going to do live streams, but it was a case of how we did them and how we launched it. Paul and Darren had smashed the stream from the event in Popham airfield so we thought ‘how can we keep this going?’ The video show tapped into what I’d been doing before, like a magazine style radio show. It’s great to show behind the scenes things, create stories. There’s an expectation of artists and labels to do this now. Fans expect a lot and you need it to stand out from the rest.
You’re right about fan expectations…
Paul: Yeah who’s interested in a graphic and a buy link? The artist who made the track, maybe a few other people connected to the label? It’s not very engaging. But a video, whether it’s 30 seconds, five minutes or half an hour, offers much more to fans and the artists. And people do get involved a lot more. They can see you’ve put the effort into making something special.
Let’s talk about that Popham show!
Paul: It was fantastic. We managed to get Porsche involved, which was amazing. And of course, we got Denon DJ involved too, as well as a long list of media partners.
Simon: Associating with the right brands is key. Popham is an incredible venue, it had all the planes there, it was prestigious. We aligned ourselves with that. That’s the Krafted signature; quality. We do aim high! But when it ended, the lorries rolled out and the crew were all down the pub, we were like ‘wow, so what do we do next? How do we raise our own personal bar again?’ We had plenty of ideas for venues, sponsors, line ups. But we also have to be sensible, not rush in and invest our time wisely.
Did you have any connections with Popham airfield?
Paul: We didn’t! We knew it needed to be a decent sized venue to have the cars in and have space to film. We didn’t want to cram things into a small space. I didn’t think they’d be interested but met the guys, they were into and it worked it from there. We couldn’t have picked the worst nights to do it. It was freezing, tipping it down with rain, we were in this hangar which was about minus 10 degrees. We hired this gas heater with an open flame and then realised ‘Christ! We’ve got an open flame here and the hanger is full of aeroplane fuel!’ But we had no explosions thankfully ha ha!
Darren: Considering the value of some of those planes it’s mad we were able to do that. All credit to the team at Popham. They’re not music people but they understood what we wanted to do. They didn’t have kittens, they rolled with it…
Paul: It’s really inspiring. We want to do more events of that kind and make them really special.
What makes you stronger
Let’s wrap up with some tips for any aspiring label owners out there…
Simon: You learn along the way, it’s important that you do. I’ve been signed to various labels under various capacities and they’ve all had their plus and minuses. The most important thing is even if it’s a terrible part of your journey, you’ll learn from it. You need to take a deep breath and find the positive.
Paul: Like any business, you’ve got to be prepared to invest a lot of time and money to establish the business. Sometimes you don’t see the results instantly but if you work with the right people you will eventually see the benefits. Like getting onto Radio 1 and linking up with Toolroom. These came about through working with the right people. But you learn all the time with everything you do. You never stop learning.
Amen. That’s not just a tip for label owners, that’s a life hack. So what can we expect from Krafted in the future?
Paul: Quivver played at our event recently and the stream is out now, which is great. We’ve got a whole load of releases… Simon’s got a new track called Insight. I’ve also got a new collaboration on its way that celebrates Krafted Underground’s 200th release and comes with Nick Muir and Blue Amazon remixes which I’m really happy with. And loads more after that, this is just the beginning…