Remixes have been an integral part of Electronic music since the very beginning. Today, remix competitions offer a fun way for new producers to try their hand at breaking in, and also as a way for an established artist to promote their music to a new group of people. If you’re a music producer, chances are you’ve tried to win a remix contest at one point or another. Today, we’re discussing our top tips for crushing the competition in a remix contest.
First off, let’s start off by refreshing you on what exactly goes on in a remix contest.
Typically, remixes are commissioned out to a few producers to top off a release.
Sometimes, a House tune needs to be reinterpreted as a nice Tech roller. Other times, a darker tune can be made into an Ibiza summer jam.
Sometimes, an artist might even want a DnB take on on their latest single, and as longtime fans of the UK’s diverse music culture, there’s nothing wrong with that.
While this is usually done for creative collaboration, there is also a huge element of marketing involved here as well. Think about it: what better way to get exposed to a specific artist’s fans than to have them remix a track of yours?
Remix competitions, however, flip the script on this arrangement.
In a remix competition, an artist publicly releases each individual component of a song or their ‘stems’, they’ve produced to their fanbase. Amateur producers can then have a go at revamping the song in their own, unique style.
Remix competitions offer a great way to showcase your skills and get heard in today’s music world. Better yet, some artists will even release their session file as well. This allows you to reverse engineer their process and get inside the mind of some of your favourite producers.
What’s not to love?
Unfortunately, we’ve watched countless producers totally blunder their chances of scoring a solid, early in their career with a remix competition.
The first and most common mistake that prevents you from remix contest glory up is one that every producer has been guilty of at one point or another.
The last thing that any record label wants is to get demos that sound like carbon copies of whatever is charting on Beatport.
Don’t do this! Seriously.
If you truly want to breakthrough in today’s music industry, you must stand out.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping your sound current and grabbing elements that you like from popular tracks. But, you must do so with credibility and taste.
Now, that does not mean that you should go straight off into left field and make a remix that wouldn’t fit into the sets of the artists you like. If you’re remixing in the style of House or Tech House, there is still a formula that applies.
In other words: don’t go too crazy and crank the BPM up to 130, unless you’re making Techno.
All in all, standing out is all about conforming just enough to fit, but adding enough of your own personal flair to make a product that is undeniably your own.
Think of it as being the sharpest dressed lad (or lass) at a wedding. While you’re probably going to leave your pinstripes at home, it’s those few subtle touches on an otherwise standard outfit that really make you really stand out.
Music is, by and large, the same thing.
Assuming you’ve got the fundamentals of remixing nailed, it’s time to make sure that your sound quality is up to snuff.
And the best way to do that is to invest in quality mastering services.
If you are presenting one of your first ever work to a world-class A+R team, why would it be anything less than your absolute best?
Sometimes, when it comes to a process as complicated as mastering, you’d be smart to outsource part of your process to a seasoned professional with 15+ years in the game.
There’s a reason that we request that every track released on Toolroom not be mastered by the track’s producer, but instead our very own team.
We’ll be the first to admit: most of our artists don’t master their own music. This is a completely common practice, and should not be frowned on whatsoever.
Fortunately for you, our in-house mastering team is now accepting orders from producers of all levels. While you can certainly have a go at it yourself, we always suggest that any professional work that’s going to be released get the treatment from a skilled professional.
I have sad, but true news for you: some of the most skilled producers will never see the success they so desperately chase after, simply because they haven’t put themselves out there enough.
The dream scenario would be a label that you’ve already put in a significant amount of time networking with opens up a remix competition. Once you submit your entry, follow up with everyone you know at the label and let them know that you’ve submitted an entry.
This will, most likely, earn you a bit more favour when it comes time to judge. At the very least, it will probably result in a second listen when there otherwise might not have been one.
Make no mistake, this is not cheating. Instead, it’s simply playing the game. As Mark Knight always says, “What you are entering into here is a business.” And, in business, you have to be a skilled networker.
We’re all humans here. An absolutely huge portion of your success is going to depend on your ability to network.
Curious about how to properly network with record labels that you want to release on?
Check out this article with Toolroom senior A&R Pete Griffiths that discusses how to do just that!
Better yet: every Toolroom Academy student gets to work with Pete 1 on 1 during their time in the course. It’s connections such as this that are literally worth their weight in gold when trying to make it in the music industry.
You would be amazed, but the industry itself is rather small. Open one door, and countless others follow.
Trust us when we say there’s nothing quite like good, old fashioned networking.
Here’s a sneaky trick that nobody in the music industry will ever tell you.
Keep a sharp eye out for when remix competitions pop up throughout the year. When they do, make sure to enter and to download the stems immediately. These links usually expire after some time, so you must strike when the iron is hot.
Whether or not you submit a remix or not is irrelevant. What matters is that you now have the stems to set aside for your own use.
Go ahead and make a folder in your production files called “Remix Contest.”
Other than the Toolroom Academy samples that we carefully curate and handpick to turbo-charge your productions, the stems you collect from remix competitions are some of the finest samples you can get your hands on. You know they work, after all. They’re being used in popular, commercially released music.
Be careful, though! When you download stems for a remix competition, there’s usually a stipulation that you cannot use them for your original productions. Doing so will almost certainly violate copyright law, especially recognizable elements such as vocal stems. Plus, if you use too many recognizable elements of a released track, you’ll end up with a bootleg, not an original.
But, once you have them, they’re yours. What you do with them at that point is your business. Just be aware that, technically, you might be breaking a rule or two.
Plus, just with any stem, you’d want to make it your own by chopping it up, using creative FX, and even detuning it. The possibilities are endless.
In either case, it pays to have folders of stems sitting around for days whenever your creativity just isn’t flowing.
But, if you’ve hit a severe standstill in your productions, chances are you need something a little more involved than a few quality stems.
And we can help with that.
The truth is, most remix competitions are lost due to a lack of skill. And if you want to learn how to win a remix contest, you’re going to need some serious talent.
Improperly mixed basses, lackluster drum arrangement, and poor sound choices are the three most common reasons that we’ve had to bin the 99% of the submissions to the remix competitions we’ve held in the past.
The issue goes beyond remix competitions alone. It involves your capabilities as a producer.
Let’s face it. Learning production on your own can be a daunting task that can take years on end to get a solid grasp on.
This is one of the reasons we developed Toolroom Academy, the educational branch of Toolroom Records. With courses specifically designed to turbocharge your production abilities and breakthrough any creative plateau that stands in your way, Toolroom Academy is here to help.
Many producers need a solid refresher on the foundations of making House, Tech House, and Techno. As such, we offer a 12 Week Production Certificate Program where we take you through the step by step process of building a credible, relevant track to professional standards.
Are you suffering from a severe creative block? Our 16 Week Creativity Unlocked Program teaches you a series of industry-standard creative techniques to make your tracks stand out from the crowd.
And, for those who are truly dedicated to making it in the industry today, our 1-1 Masterclass Program offers a unique experience in Electronic music education. A customized plan is created for each student, helping them get to where they want to go as quickly as possible.
So, what are you waiting for? Become the best producer you can be, and smash your next remix competition with the help of Toolroom Academy.