Remix Contest Recap
Posted on Nov 18, 2013
As I sit waiting at the gate for my flight home from Washington DC, with the recording of my set from Echostage on Saturday playing through my headphones, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the whole remix contest experience, as it was definitely an interesting one in many respects.
Now this one is a bit long, but for other budding producers out there who are considering entering contests such as these, I feel it's important to share the whole experience - positives and negatives - so that you can judge for yourself if going to the work of entering one is worth it.
It all started way back in July, while on vacation in Mexico. After coming across a random tweet about the contest, I was initially against the idea. The track, "Romper" by New World Punx (the duo of Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten), was an over the top trance banger, so far off from the deep trance sounds that I'm into that I really had no interest in it whatsoever. Enter Sarah, and her kick in the ass to get me to do it. If was going to enter any contest it should be this one, considering the grand prize was labeled as getting the chance to open for New World Punx for a date on their tour, which tied directly into the history I've had opening shows for Markus in Calgary. So, upon waking up at 4am, I set the laptop to download all the parts before we got on the plane back home from vacation.
Most nights over the next three weeks were spent in the studio working on the remix, which came together fairly quickly. With the first version ready, once again, entered Sarah. Her feedback forced me to do more and work a bit harder at putting more punch into the track, which resulted in the final entry.
With less than a week to go, I had done all I could with it and off to mastering it went, although things didn't turn out as expected unfortunately. I did have a few issues with distortion coming out of the bass line and the mastering job not only didn't correct those issues, but amplified them. So with only a couple of days to go, armed with only a Waves MultiMaximizer for mastering plug-ins, I spent another five hours bouncing the final track, playing it in the studio and the car, then tweaking again. Over and over and over till the bass issue was finally worked out.
Final version uploaded, and submission made to TalentHouse (the company putting the contest on). The first stage of the contest as a vote open to the general public, which pretty much meant whoring myself out to every friend and contact possible through Facebook, Twitter and any other channels deemed relevant. Personally, this was the part about the contest that I was not excited about upon entering. Competitions like these usually are nothing more than popularity contests more focused on generating Likes and Shares than the quality of the music itself. Thankfully, once the voting stage was over, the winner would be hand-picked by Markus and Ferry themselves.
Voting started off big and I was in the top five right out of the gates, with my goal to finish in the top three in voting. Over the week, I got the votes I needed to finish second, and the judging commenced (special mention to my business partner and online marketing expert Brendon Turner for helping the remix get a ton of exposure).
A few weeks went by before out of nowhere, I received an email from TalentHouse during a quiet afternoon in the office. I had to read it about three times before realizing I had actually won, then the standard "holy shit" jump out of the chair reaction followed.
I had won, and with the prizes promised to me - including an interview with Dancing Astronaut, the release being released on Spotify, and opening up a show for New World Punx in the US - I was pretty excited to say the least. However, that's when things only started to get interesting.
A few weeks passed without hearing anything, until a random Global DJ Broadcast listener messaged me saying that he heard my track on Markus's show and that Markus announced that I would be playing at EchoStage in Washington DC on November 16th. Lucky I had no plans or nothing better to do that weekend, lol.
My Facebook and Twitter blew up instantly, which I guess is what happens when your track gets hundreds of thousands of listeners tuning into it. This would be the first of three times the remix would get played on Markus's show, and the same online craziness occurred every time.
So I would be in DC that weekend, and after a few more weeks wondering if it was actually true, Tim Grube (of Grube and Hovsepian) contacted me and booked the flights and hotel, which was almost $2,000 out their pockets (thanks again gentlemen). Immediately my wife booked her flight as well as a few awesome friends who wanted to come along for the ride.
Fast forward to the week before… After spending a couple of weeks sorting out music, I was all ready to go. Ready for a big set of music to lead into Markus and Ferry, in front of 4,000 people. Ready to kill it… but still without an itinerary for the weekend's events and no confirmation on what time and how long I'd be playing for.
Finally Tim relayed the details over to me from the promoter.
9-10pm. One hour. When the doors open. Local guy on for two hours after me, then Markus and Ferry.
At first I didn't believe it, then I was a little shocked, then just completely deflated. It amazed me that I'd be flown across the content and put up in an amazing hotel, just to play for an hour, starting with a completely empty room (and maybe having a couple of hundred people there by the time I finished). Sarah, my 'acting manager' did her best to try and persuade the promoter that this was ridiculous, but to no avail. Hell, I wasn't even listed on the line-up for the event until Saturday evening.
I'm not sure where things went sideways, but I'm sure if the powers that be look back upon this opportunity to boost their own brands through a remix contest and the winner who they paid for have play, they'll have two words for it: Epic Fail.
Personally, I simply had to push my own expectations and disappointment away. I got a free trip to Washington DC where I would get to hang out with friends all weekend, and play a little bit of music for them at the same time. Not bad at all when you look at it that way.
So, with all that sorted out, we made our way to DC on the Friday. After a long flight stopping through Chicago, while my wife and friends were on a different route through Toronto, we all met up again and the weekend was on. A fantastic dinner followed by a great day of walking around the city, seeing all the sites in what is a very beautiful city. Later Saturday evening, it was onto Echostage.
Although the room was empty when we walked in, our group was in awe of 4100 person capacity venue, it was seriously state of the art. Big stage and sound at the front, massive square dance floor and VIP tables on the upper level all the way around (which of course in typical Canadian fashion, we snapped one up right away).
I jumped on right at 9pm and played a deep progressive set as party goers filtered in that went over really well. I ended off with my remix of Romper, which tied things together for everyone who was there, answering the question of who's this "Wes Straub" guy playing right now. Shortly after that, Sarah and I were taken out back to where Markus and Ferry were getting ready for their set.
It was good to briefly catch up and really get the ultimate validation on winning the remix contest. Over 1,000 entries were submitted, and they chose mine because according to Ferry it wasn't over the top, had depth and was trying to be the biggest sounding track out there. Pretty proud moment right there.
Midnight quickly came, and they roared on stage with a bang, starting with their original version of Romper (maybe it was a good thing I didn't play right before them), and banging things out from there, including a massive remix of Eric Prydz's classic "Pjanoo".
Admittedly, things got pretty blurry from there and the next thing I knew I was waking up in the hotel room Sunday afternoon. The blame for that can be put squarely on Steve and Spiros!
So, the adventure is now over. I fly home with a range of emotions when it comes to the whole experience.
Having been in the music scene for a long time, I've seen many things come and go, and have had to learn to really put two things into perspective - expectations and hope. As a DJ, it is so easy to get caught up in what could be, only to be crushed by what actually is. With every gig and every event, you always hope for that perfect setting where everything falls into place, and with this remix contest, the expectations created by the contest itself (the prizes, the hype) really gave me a lot of hope for this one.
What was the centre of my world for the past couple of months appeared to be more like an after-thought for everyone else involved in putting on this contest, especially once the weekend got closer. If you're going to all the work of putting on a contest like this, you think you would ensure that the winner - who you can leverage to boost your own name and brand with - isn't invisible. Unfortunately, invisible is what the whole thing ended up being.
At the end of the day, I've been around long enough to not care or be offended personally by any of it. It's just really too bad that the experience wasn't all it could've been. And there are still a couple of items promised from the contest, including an interview and the release of the remix, that I have nothing to report on as of yet.
But to leave things on a positive note, I have nothing but good things to say about the people I was dealing directly with. First off, Tim from Markus's group was fantastic in booking everything and answering the questions he could. Upon arriving in Washington, Mike, Heather and Ben from Echostage were extremely welcoming and great to deal with. Michell from TalentHouse has also been great, and is currently looking into the other parts of the promised prize. Thank you.
So was the experience worth it? Absolutely, if for no other reason than it was a great eye opener and chance to learn. Will I ever enter another remix contest? Let's see here… no.
For all you producers and artist out there, I was given a great piece of advice from Glen, the label manager at JOOF. When I entered the contest he simply said this:
"There's always a romantic vision of success with remix competitions, but I can't think of anyone that's forged a successful career off the back of one. Just keep your head down doing your thing and keep building your fan base."
Without a doubt, words to live by.
Washington DC Gig Update
Posted on Oct 10, 2013
Just a quick update as the big show with Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten in Washington DC is just over a month away!
The flights and hotel are all booked and everything's set. And, I'm extremely lucky to have my wife, along with a few friends coming down with me. Should be a fantastic weekend.
The show is at Echostage in Washington DC, a state of the art venue that holds 5,000 people. Not sure of the time slot I'll be playing yet - whether if it'll be a long one from when the doors open, or a shorter one right before the heavy hitters get on - no matter what it is, I'm stoked!
More news posted soon! In the meantime it'll be a busy month working on edits and some original material for this once in a lifetime show!
Thanks again to everyone who has supported me throughout this journey!
Posted on Sep 6, 2013
It's still hard to believe, but I've been just picked the winner for the New World Punx "Romper" contest that I had entered back in August. I'm over-joyed, humbled and so thankful for all the support of this remix (especially thankful for the kick in the ass supplied by my wife to put in an entry).
In doing the remix I tried to stay true to the progressive sounds I love so much, taking a track that was a completely different style and making it my own. Amongst many entries that were of the bigger, harder variety I took a chance by going deeper and slower, which in this age was a definite risk, that in the end paid off.
I'm not sure where things will lead, but at minimum, getting to fly down to somewhere in the US and open up what I'm guessing will be a pretty massive show for Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten is pretty freakin' awesome.
Looking back at the whole experience, it was definitely an interesting one - from the type of submissions to the insanity of the voting process. As a partner in a couple of companies that specialize in online marketing, it's very easy to see just how crazy and skewed things can get (ie. the DJMag Top100 poll).
In the end though, whether I finished second or seventeenth in voting, I was happy that the winner was judged and hand-picked - validating the quality of the work submitted.
So once again, huge props to everyone who voted and spread the word about the remix, more huge props to my guys at the office who kickstarted the push to get this thing out there, and the hugest of props to my wife Sarah who not only had a hand in deciding the final arrangement of the remix, but put the bug in my head to enter.
...getting out of bed at 3am on the last night of our Mexico vacation, to download audio stems turned out to be a good idea!
More news coming soon on where this all leads!!