Ghostly International – Spotify for artists

In this ongoing series, we take a closer look at some of the many labels carving their own niche.

In the last 20 years, electronic music – in particular US Electronic music has seen its ups and downs. Style, subgenre, even the whole scene has come and gone, and all comes back again. A strong vinyl market has paved the way for digital downloads, while streaming clubs have brought music home to listeners unimaginably in the CD era. Ann Arbor, Michigan Ghostly International The label has washed everything away শুধু not just endurance, enriched positively, from a humble, underground garment to a respectable impression with a 12-inch white label with a catalog hundreds of releases deep. Now based in New York City and Los Angeles, its roster now includes some of the most respected artists in the world, from longtime chiefs. Matthew Dear And Dabry More like the recent signatories Tel Aviv phone And Mary Latimore.

What may be most significant is the way the record labels have changed but the way the ghosts have improved. Labels once made a name for themselves as taste buds, and the groundwater taste was none of that – both expected major changes in the boundary mapping and listening habits of contemporary electronic music. But, founder Sam Valenti IV says the role of his label has changed fundamentally over the past two decades.

“Today, when artists have the ability to self-distribute, self-release যা which is great, a huge boon একটি a label is important because it’s a team. It’s a group of people trying to improve the signal-to-sound ratio to better understand your music, your art, “says Valenti.” I think of it more as a service business. I don’t want to turn Ghostley into a white-label company that takes on that project, puts it out, and moves on to the next. But I want to build a team around the art so that it can work and ultimately help, and make it financially ethical for the artist. A good label is an engine that helps promote interesting art in interesting places.

Valenti explained to us how the ghost has become what it is today.

In the beginning

Valenti grew up miles0 miles outside of Detroit, where, in the 180’s, the city’s rich dance-music culture reached even suburban high school kids, thanks to adventurous radio DJs like Electric Mojo. “I realized that a lot of the electronic music I fell in love with came from the area,” Valenti recalls. “You go to the record store in Detroit and you see shelves with labels like Planet E and Transmet and they all had local addresses. The idea was that you could make something real by entering the radio and the club. It seemed very democratic. ”Another interesting thing is the valence which is otherwise called the“ world-building ”aspect of homespan, DIY output. “These labels had a myth and an aesthetic, e.g. Underground resistance“She says.” I liked that you can communicate a lot through a 12-inch record. “

In high school, Valentine DZ danced in school and did internships with a few local labels, unsure how to enter the music business. Then, in the first week of college in 1998, he met Matthew Deere, who was playing a live set at a student party, and they began planning to launch a label the following year. Via Ann Arbor Local Todd Osborne, Another signer of the future, he met Tad Mullinx, Who gave Valenti a demo tape that contained songs that Mullinix would eventually release with his real name and nickname. James T. Cotton, Charles Manier, And Dabry, One of the label’s first major successes. From low-fi techno to gilli instrumental hip-hop to running gamut, Mullinix’s range of spectral sounds was one of the most important reasons for launching Gostley’s club-centric sub-label.

“I knew the ghost had to be free-rein and free range to keep up with an artist like Taste,” Valenti said. “Ghost / Spectral Split Mind / Body Yin-Young, Experimental / Effective: Spectral as DJ-centric labels and ghost as open conversation. It seemed like these things had to happen for it to work.

Picture of Matthew Dear by Chad Kamenshine

Picture of Matthew Dear by Chad Kamenshine

Increasing pain

By 2002, Ghost began to take big steps, with a handful of singles under their belts, including Mullinx and Dabry’s albums. There was one Sensitive 2002: New Disco, A groundbreaking collection of analog-flavored electro. It was a curveball compared to the label’s previous output, but it didn’t hurt that it matched the growing electrocluster scene and the widespread appetite for retro dance music. This proves Bhootli’s ability to see bigger pictures. After all, Valenti says, “Part of the desire to create a label is to make a statement, isn’t it?”

The same year, the spectrum unfolded Union State EP, a compilation of titles highlighting Bhutali’s curative intent. Valenti felt that American electronic dance music was often overlooked. “A lot of American producers were making really important music that was borrowed from European tradition, but in the best sense of the word, it was also very strongly American.”

By the middle of the decade, they had successfully run that point home. “Face to face, ”A peak-time music by Matthew Deere under him Audio The nickname track was ubiquitous in clubs across Europe এটি it still lit up the dance floor around the world more than a decade later এবং and confirmed that the crew brought a new school twist on the classic Midwestern Techno.

Yet, if the goal was to be “impressive enough to count and not get a pigeon,” as Valenti said, not all groundwork was welcomed with equal appreciation. At about the same time, the ghostly pushes a huge chunk of the chip into a radically different kind of sound: indie-leaning electronic pop work, often by voice, e.g. Mobius band. “There were a lot of people who weren’t worried about this,” Valenti recalled. “I think our distributors, like, ‘What are you doing?’ Maybe we could cut through those ideas better, or bake them slowly, but as a label, you have to keep pushing against expectations. Otherwise, you’re probably failing to some degree. “

Nowadays, this kind of diversity is one of the best resources on the surface. It says that one of their greatest artists, Matthew Deere, has two parallel careers: still recording as an audio, club-shaking techno, and distinct singer-songwriter music under his own name.


Founded in 1998, when many young people first came online, the ghostly digital music industry grew in many ways, which could help explain how they managed the changing weather – musical styles, distribution platforms and even cultural values ​​- so efficiently. .

“It’s not just the medium, or becoming the waveform object,” Valenti says. “How music is promoted, how images are promoted, social media, file sharing. We deliberately tried our best to navigate all these turns. In the beginning my biggest concern was delivering to stores. It has obviously changed a lot. So okay, how do we communicate with people without real products? It makes you think about what you actually think about, what the ultimate goal is and I think North Star is always there: do what is best for the artists.

Which form it takes depends on the artist. Valenti’s A&R method abnormally shuts down when determining the final shape of the record. “We have always been freedom-centric,” he said. “I never sent an artist back to the drawing board to do something different. I could be, ‘Hey, I think it’s the best song,’ or ‘I think it should be longer.’ But we don’t engineer our artists; We try to do something for them. We try to fulfill their ambitions. ”

Ghost artists have come from all over Dear, there are those who are dear, who have been with the label since day one, and if recorded for someone else, very rarely. Then there are works like the Dark Synth-Pop Act HTRK, Who finally bounced from label to label before the ghostly landing; They recently left them The second album For labels.

Valenti admits, “I’ve never been great at a cold-blooded demo.” “I admire and appreciate labels that can only open mailbags. That’s the only way our music has come about. Usually it comes through other artists – like Shigeto Say, ‘Hey, check out Ali Berger. ‘If one of our artists is willing to share the table, that’s a good sign, because there are interests out there, too. You know, they don’t want to be on the walk label!

Dabry photo by Brett Carlson

Dabry photo by Brett Carlson

The future

Today, Spooky enjoys a rare position in electronic music, a notoriously fragile world: it boasts underground credibility with a roster of uncompromising DJs and producers, yet it has gained affection from a wide section of the audience who have little interest in clubbing. (It certainly helps that Surface’s enduring emphasis on surroundings and downtempo coincides with the evolution of winter as one of the most popular categories of streaming music.)

Valenti admits, “In many ways, we’re in the middle.” “I am not a Generation X at all and not even a millennium. I’ve always felt, emotionally and by taste, that we’re not a clear story. I like that it’s a bit difficult to pin Gostly, though it’s probably not the best business strategy. But it is a step towards independence. So we have a new one Gallery chandelier The album is coming out this fall – it’s very jazz, very downmepo. And then we have a compilation with Emily A. Sprague And Sara Davachi, Who are really interesting composers. And we can do more face-forward vocal music. It depends on the trust that the audience has in us. ”

The presence of ghosts on Spotify is perfect for label identification: unique, unpredictable and interestingly low key. “We try to use the platform to its best potential,” Valenti said. “We’re adding canvas videos – Telephone Tel Aviv and HTR have great new videos. I like the idea that the music is more visual, so any opportunity to expand that direction is exciting to us. And Gostley is particularly active on the playlist front, curating playlists starting with Celebrating the 20th anniversary Per Ghostly: At work, A roundup of listening to the label’s office, and Ghost: At rest, Which is focused on deep listening. “It’s a great way to share playlists তারা they remind me of the early days of sharing files, giving me a sneak peek at someone’s taste,” says Valenti. In fact, most of the music on Gostley’s playlist came from Other Labels. “I just try to watch streaming like a fan, unlike a sales ship,” he admits. “Spooky is less like a push company and more of a pull. I don’t like the idea of ​​hard cell. ”

– Philip Sherburn

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