Yoshitoshi’s Label Manager Reveals All

Yoshitoshi Recordings was founded by Sharam back in 1994 and quickly became one of the most influential labels in dance music. More recently it’s been nominated as one of Mixmag’s labels of the decade. We caught up Sharam’s label/A&R Manager Nick Garcia for a quick chat about all things Yoshitoshi.

Hi Nick, great of you to join us.  When did you take on the role at Yoshitoshi and what skills made you suitable for it? 

I’ve been with Yoshitoshi Recordings for almost three years.  My background is actually in audio engineering, and I originally started working for Sharam as his studio assistant. As time progressed I took on more and more responsibilities on the label side, and ended up taking the label manager role when my predecessor left last year to pursue music full time. I had co-run a little Bandcamp label in college, so I had some experience working with A&R and music marketing.

What is an average day like and what jobs do you constantly have to deal with?

There isn’t really an average day, things kind of jump out at me constantly based on the events we’re planning, upcoming releases, etc.  But a few consistent jobs are your standard A to Z of releasing records, which includes things like scheduling, marketing, and A&R. Also the whole planning and execution process of our Yoshitoshi showcase parties comes up a few times a year.

What are the best and worst bits of your job?

Best part would have to be Sharam’s studio. He and I spend a lot of time in there coming up with ideas or jamming, and he’s got tons of toys so we always have a good time.

I’m struggling to think of a worst bit because I pretty much enjoy everything I do, even the back end busy work like royalty and licensing stuff.

Does Yoshitoshi have its own sound or any sort of mission?

Yoshitoshi kind of has a reputation for releasing whatever we feel like, whether that be house, techno, tech house, progressive, deep house, or whatever. Our motto is “its a soul thing.” As long as the music is groovy, emotional, and well produced, it can find a home at Yoshi. The big prerequisite to releasing a record on Yoshitoshi is that Sharam has to enjoy playing it out.

How do you know if something is right for the label? 

I recently touched on this in another interview. There’s a lot of difficult choices in signing records, because of course you want to support good music, but in the end it also has to be a viable investment for the label. With so much great music coming out, an ‘unknown’ artist might get lost in the shuffle so we take both into account. If an artist makes a really hot track but they don’t have much of a profile, we’ll probably release their track on a compilation rather than as a single, but there have definitely been times when we’ve thrown caution to the wind, pushed a great track by an up-and-comer as a single and then commissioned a remix from someone with a bit of a name. At the end of the day, we really do enjoy developing acts and guiding them.

Where do you look for new music? Online, via demos, via people you already know?

Everyone who works at Yoshitoshi is a DJ, so we’re always listening to new tunes and keeping our ears to the ground for who’s coming up and what trends are developing in the global scene. A lot of times we reach out to the artist directly. We get tons of demos and listen to all of them, but predictably sign very few.

How much do you get involved with the final sounds that are released? Do you get involved and ask for edits and tweaks?

We try not to impede on what the artist is doing too much. We try to keep the artistic integrity of the track intact and will advise the artist within those parameters on things like track length and mixdown quality. We don’t dictate too much what should be done with the music. If we liked it enough to consider it for release, obviously we are dealing with something special, so our job is to market it and my job is to ensure that we execute on that on all fronts.

How long does it take to get a release out there from when you first sign it?

Our backlog is now at 6 months, so it depends on how busy our schedule is and what we have coming up, but typically 3-6 months. Sometimes longer. We’ll send it around to close friends, press and select DJ’s early, then do a full industry mailout 4-6 weeks out from release.

How do you decide on remixes and where do you look? Does it depend on the original? What is the aim of getting remixers involved?

It’s a complicated process actually. It sometimes involves names that Sharam has suggested to me based on his DJ sets, names he thinks have a bright future and a unique sound that is in line with our core musical values. He’s usually spot on with those picks. We’ve had some of the biggest names in dance music make an early pit stop at Yoshitoshi before going on to bigger things. We also puzzle things together based on the direction we want the remixes to go, and sometimes we go after more established artists. We like to pair our iconic records with iconic remixers.

We also like to give some of our new signings an opportunity to reach a greater audience by remixing either a classic Yoshitoshi track or something new. Usually we pick remixers who we think a) will do well with the track and b) who can get the release to a different audience. Take our recent Dakar EP for example, which featured Sacha Robotti as a remixer. Now while their styles are somewhat similar, Sacha’s audience is mainly in the US and Europe while Dakar’s is mainly in South America. I knew Sacha would make a fun, strong mix of the record and his name would help us get it to a wider reach of people, and in turn he would get some traction in Brazil and other new markets.

What legal jobs do you have – do you make artists sign contracts, agree to deals, sort payment upfront and things?

We have a legal department that deals with all the legal stuff. Its important to be by the book and get all the paperwork and legal stuff done right.

Yoshitoshi’s next release is Trent Cantrelle – ‘Transmit That Style’ and is out on 19th May

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