Mark Lawrence Understands House Music
Mark Lawrence is a multi talented, passionate man leading a very dynamic life. We got the rare opportunity to sit down with him and discuss the “motion” label group, his history and how he balances driving the labels with his role as the CEO of Electronic Music power-house AFEM. Read on…
Jakk “BeatNickEd” is the latest deep motion release out on Traxsource.
Hi Mark, thanks for chatting with us, Where are you and how are you feeling right now?
I am sat in sunny Brighton in the UK, feeling incredibly positive!
There’s a lot going on in the motion world, Can you tell us a little bit of background on how your group of labels came into existence?
About a year ago I was talking on the phone to Steve Mac (my business partner in Black Rock Records) about a promo from ATFC. The track wasn’t right for Black Rock but I knew instinctively that I should find a way to say ‘yes’ to the track. I asked Steve to give me an hour or so and by the time I had finished walking up the street I had the label name and ‘look’ in my head. I called ATFC, signed the track and the label was born.
6 months later I had been getting some amazing tech driven tracks and ‘deep motion’ followed to allow me to go darker. By now I had also built up a great relationship with Jared G in Zambia and Rudy Adams in South Africa – so we set up ‘afrika motion’, releasing incredible music from amazing African artists.
Why 3 separate labels, can you define each label for us?
In some ways, they reflect my love of all things House – ‘motion’ is straight-up piano, vocal, uplifting. ‘deep motion’ is its angrier, deeper brother moving into Tech House territory and ‘afrika motion’ is the African cousin filled with lush deep, tech and tribal sounds.
How do you go about choosing a record for your labels? Describe the A&R process – what are you listening for?
I listen to every promo I receive. I am passionate about giving young and first-time producers their break, as well as making sure the House Heads and Heroes get an outlet for their amazing music. I really try not to follow trends although there are obviously labels and artists I respect immensely.
What I definitely don’t do is sign on the basis of SoundCloud plays, followers and likes – it’s all about the quality of the music.
What have you learned by being an independent group of labels in 2015?
Be strong, be agile, focus on the basics, focus on your artists, let tracks breathe and allow artists to develop their sound and their audience. Don’t be afraid to fail, take risks but also make sure you get partners to help you do what you can’t do yourself – and make sure your business covers every income stream.
What’s it like running a Record Label day to day – and what do you want to accomplish w/ your imprints?
It’s ‘positively relentless’ – dreams come true for people and hitting high chart positions validates creative and commercial decisions almost every day – It’s an amazing buzz.
In terms of what I want to accomplish – it really is more about making sure that our artists achieve their goals. Because off the back of that, we get a loyal family of producers pulling together to make amazing music.
Some people may not realize this, but you are the CEO of AFEM (Association for Electronic Music). That seems like a pretty important and demanding role. Can you explain how you manage to change hats to make both the labels and the AFEM work on a daily basis? (I mean…do you simply not sleep?)
I simply do not sleep! and yes – AFEM is the single most important thing I have done in my career, with the potential to make incredible changes within the music industry and society as a whole – it’s a privilege to start the day knowing that is what we can achieve.
The 2 roles are a perfect marriage. I understand the fight for sales, rights and royalties at a label and artist level, while at the same time working on the big picture changes needed to make a difference to our industry across the world. I am very proud and very honoured to do both.
It’s not often people leading Industry bodies like ours have previous or current music industry experience at the sharp end. I wonder how different the industry would be if, for example, CEOs of Performing Rights Organisations spent a year at an indie label, running a club or managing an Artist.
What keeps you up at night ?
Nothing – I sleep like a baby because whatever problems exist, we can fix it.
Is it true that not everyone understands house music? And if so…how can you tell?
Everyone can understand it if they want to and everyone should be welcome to try. Unity and acceptance all the way.
What’s your opinion on the current state of house music?
The music is healthy but the grass roots are unhealthy. There is an imbalance of power and earnings between music, tech and the organisations we trust to represent our rights. To many it seems like they don’t look after the interests of the vast majority and those who need the money most. The cards are stacked in favour of companies with giant catalogues or who own streaming services. That’s the business today so we have to accept and adapt, but it’s time to bring the dance music family together to understand the strength we have in numbers.
Where does a music media store like Traxsource fit into your musical agenda?
We always felt that Traxsource was like an organic food store. We know we are not a mass market label and we want our music purchased by connoisseurs and passionate consumers.
Any advice for someone thinking about starting a label of their own?
Do it – but take your time, understand everything by getting a mentor or some work experience. Don’t jump in without a plan because it’s a tough game.
Any forthcoming releases we need to look out for? Plug away!
I hate this bit because I want to give you a list of every release we have penciled in, but here’s what’s up next.
• Hoi! ‘B-You’
• D-Tention & Axel Doorman ‘Ayvissa’
• Angel Johnson ‘Salvation’ ft Tammy Cartwright
• Whey Baq ‘Tickly Cough’
• BeatNicked ‘Jakk’
• DjaimZ ‘The Raw Sessions #1’
• Lance Kearns ‘Expression’
• Jack Slab ‘Soul Kitchen’