There are only two weeks that we ever rest at Sample Magic each year. That’s the two weeks over Christmas and New Year. (And even then we don’t really rest – we’re still shipping books and looking after customers who contact us). But these two weeks give us a chance to think about the year that’s passed.
It has been a big year for dance music; the world we live and breathe. For better or worse, its explosion into the mainstream has given many whose interest is mainly financial some cause for much-needed optimism after years of concern about the erosive (corrosive) effects of freesumerism.
And almost immediately after the nasayers proclaimed that big money (let’s call it the Sillerman effect) would have equally corrosive effects, the feeling on the underground felt more positive than it had in years; a headstrong confidence returning, fostered by a whole new generation of producers falling in love with all things analogue and vintage and genres which had been waiting patiently in the wings for their eventual rebirth. Step forward UK Garage and Bass.
The day you get too cynical about our industry is the day you should quit it, but in many ways ’13 has been a golden year, a melting pot of styles and approaches in heady flux. There’s something happening on those dancefloors that we’ve been missing. And we’ve been delighted to play our part in it.
Kicking off with Minimal – an exploration of the new wave of minimal techno – our still relatively new-born White Label imprint went on to deliver a string of underground packs, from Future Garage in Feb to East Coast House and Trap in March. Our main imprint delivered Dance Vocals and did something few vocal sample packs seem to manage: avoided clichés all the way.
Running in tandem with the two main labels, the SM101 line delivered a string of patches for Sylenth and Massive as well as glitched vocals, tuned kicks and trance melodics. Ever more popular was our all-new MIDI Elements series, showing that increasing numbers of producers want the added production and compositional freedom that MIDI offers. 30 years since its inception, the resurgence felt particularly fitting.
March saw the launch of a new imprint; SM Studio, a new label dedicated to high-end studio recordings of wonderful instruments by some of the best session players in the business; Disco & Funk Guitars kicked it all off, with Tribal Percussion and Chillwave Guitarsfollowing. Of course, A-grade recordings have been part of the lifeblood of Sample Magic since our first release eight years ago, but to be able to dedicate the studio time and resources needed for much more ambitious recordings has been great fun; we got to fall in love with a host of awesome mics, pre’s and compressors all over again.
2013 was also the year SM decided to open itself up, to share as much of our knowledge of music making, production, marketing and, pivotally, selling to as many people as we could reach.
So April saw SM present the second London Electronic Music Event, the closest we get to a roadshow, with more than 300 visitors and 50 guests – including Goldie, Radio Slave and our very own Sharooz – revealing everything from how to make bigger beats to how to get your demos heard by the right labels.
Meeting those who use our sounds is one of the biggest pleasures of operating a company like SM, and aside from the fantastic energy of the weekend, loaded with so much insight into our industry it was difficult to cram it all in, the main pleasure was spending time with producers at so many points in their careers and hearing their stories and experiences.
LEME will be back in 2014 with more venues, more speakers, more sessions – but at a no-brainer price of £60 for the weekend. If you haven’t been yet, I can almost guarantee it’ll be the best £60 you spend all year. If you *have* been before… we’ll see you in April!
Sharing knowledge to 200-strong theatres is about as good as it gets, but there’s a different kind of pleasure to be had from sharing the week with a small group of absolutely dedicated dance music makers and discussing everything from how to arrange a dancefloor hit to how to build your online presence to get the labels interested in your output. And that’s whatSummer School is all about: learning, sharing and networking across an intensive week with like-minded people. It’s always a blast, with the SM team being joined by stalwart Bruce Aisher and mastering engineer of the year Matt Colton for a course that sells out within weeks of going on sale. Last year we put on one; this year there were two. Next year we’ll be unveiling a range of new courses – including Summer School. So watch this space.
Elsewhere, our mission to give musicians and producers the tools and inspiration to make better music has been fostered by the release of Paul White’s Producer’s Manual, ported now to the iPad in a slick, video-heavy App, and the relentless growth of Attack Magazine, now reaching more dance music makers and listeners than many of the mainstream music production mags. With features like Beats Dissected and the Breakdown featuring content from some of SM’s finest sound designers, we hope we’re offering not just the raw sounds for impeccable productions, but also the know-how to exploit them.
In a year of firsts, the biggest was Magic AB, our debut plugin and – we hope – a worthy first outing. When we first posted an image of it on Facebook the speculation was of a synth or sampler or some as-yet-unimagined effect. Maybe they’re in the pipeline – we couldn’t possibly say – but in the end it was a utility designed to make the referencing process – so integral to high calibre mixing – a breeze. It was launched to universal acclaim – “ingenious”, “essential”, “stunning” – pick your superlative from the many reviews – and it has since become a part of the mixing process in thousands of studios worldwide. Dave Pensado (Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey) gave Magic AB his seal of approval in September, adding to a growing list of A-list engineer fans. And that’s just the start for AB…
Our sample highlights of the year? Live Hi-Hats: probably the most intuitive way of bringing life and groove to programmed beats we’ve come across and a true labour of engineering love from producer Hal Ritson; Slo-Mo House – gorgeous; Glitch Hop – wonky, slightly leftfield and damn good fun; Ambient & Chill – lo-fi downtempo bliss; East Coast House – jackin’ goodness; those are just some of the collections that have made 2013 so special for us.
So, another year down.
And if you’ve read this far, use the code IREADITALL at checkout for 20% off your next order.
Thanks for the support,
Dave, Sharooz, Barry, Lukas and Zara – Your SM Team.