Interview: Alex Esser (Founder – HMWL)

As the music industry tries to pace with modern world digital sales, one label is taking a deep breath and trying something different – House Music With Love. HMWL is a Swedish outlet that houses a series of techno-inspired sub-labels. Taking on an interesting approach, they are prospecting in the field of ‘providing sales-figure support’ for artists.

Similar to Soundcloud, everyone who releases on the label receives their own personal login that allows them to easily track each stream and download generated by their tracks. The back end offers a further breakdown of territory and services and this is the first offering of its kind, as far as we can tell, by any independent label.

This new bit of transparency will help artists track the commercial progress, their revenue, and will lower the opportunity costs of chasing such numbers from the label. As such we created an open dialogue with the team behind the label,  in order to uncover the initiative surrounding their concept.

“Basically – we release House Music With Love, but our vision is to work according to seven additional principles”

Who is behind HMWL? When did it start?
HMWL started off as a music blog and club night concept in southern Sweden in 2008. In 2014, we transformed it into a proper digital and vinyl record label. HMWL is run by Alex Esser, Paul Sonkamble, Jesper Aubin and Björn Widmark, all with diverse backgrounds. One comes from the underground techno scene, another is a web­-developer, a third comes from a major record label, and another works as a journalist. We all love good electronic music: it’s a dream team!

What is the label’s musical mission and outlook?
Basically – we release House Music With Love, but our vision is to work according to seven additional principles:

  1. We release top quality electronic music
  2. Our artists are real people, not just facebook pages
  3. We put artists before profit
  4. We are a small boutique label with a personal touch
  5. Our blog is our trust spiral: we promote other good artists and expect nothing in return
  6. Every release is a story told
  7. We go an extra mile

Tell us about the various different sub labels you have ­ what is the difference between them all?
HMWL is the mothership releasing strictly dance-­floor oriented house music. With Love Recordings hosts a more broad variety of electronica, future soul and chillwave including artists like CANVAS, Neeco Delaf, and Swim. HMWL Presents is a singles label for up­-and-­coming electronic producers. Finally Heartbreak Records completes the circle releasing dark techno cuts on vinyl format.

What brought you to the decision to offer sales insight for artists?
Many artists we meet report that sales insight seems like a rule, rather than seeing it as an exception for labels to not bother sending quarterly reports to the artists. Most label bosses – especially in the techno and house scene – seem too preoccupied to do that; stating that the artist should rather be happy to get released and focus more on live gig revenues.

Did you always find yourself being chased for this info by artists? How did you deal with it in the past?
Not really, we’ve been sending royalty statements to all our artists since day one regardless of how much profit they generate. But the new artist login provides the artists some visualization tools to track every single stream and download generated by their tracks. This is sorted by different territories and services, which give the artist a full overview of how their productions are generating income over time.

How have artists reacted to it? Are they pleased?
The artists are very pleased, and confirm they’ve been looking for more transparency when releasing on other labels. As one of our artists said, “It’s not about if your music makes you €6 or €6000, it’s about the concept of having full insight on where your tracks are being played or downloaded, and how they recoup over time”.

Is there much money in music sales these these days (excluding promotion, artwork, and so on)
It varies with every release. However, our goal is to display only positive figures in our catalogue. Some tracks generate quite a good amount of recurring revenues, especially if you stack the releases or license the music to another label. We are in for a long-run win-­win, as we split royalties 50/50 with our artists once the tracks recoup.

Do you pay artists up front or just give them a % share of sales?
We do not pay in advance, instead we pay for all the costs like mastering, mixing, artwork, video and invest heavily in promotion. Once the costs are covered we pay 50% to original artists and 20% to remix artists.

Will you make decision on whether an artist releases more music with you based on how their music sells?
We are always looking for high quality tracks. Sales history is irrelevant, although we are well aware that releasing several singles from the same artist typically generates additional revenue for the previous singles.

What has the label got coming up – what are you working on?
We’ve got a bunch of releases we are looking forward to. First off, a Swim remix package which includes new remixes by Rivet and Franskild. Second, an EP by Simina Grigoriu – which we think is great, and another fantastic house EP by Drumcode artists John H & M.E.E.O. Through our ‘With Love Recordings’ label, we have new stuff by Neeco Delaf, and finally we are soon to sign a very talented Swedish Electro-­pop artist who goes by the moniker – Mountain Bird.

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