D E R E K K A N E K O
NYU Steinhardt '15
Interview by Henry Lyons
Photography by Natalie Sereda
In an industry that's changing so rapidly, there's only one thing we can count on: the leaders of tomorrow's music business are the people in entry-level jobs today. Being a young person in the industry, I am fascinated to see who is coming up with me. My assignment is to find out more from three other kids in the city, who are at the beginning of their careers in music. I am hoping to learn more on what surprised and interested them about their respective fields.
The Manifesto: You’ve interned around a lot.
Derek Kaneko: Yeah, I started out at this really small publication, Turntable Magazine. From there, I started interning at Cool Managers, and then I started helping out with some Boiler Room stuff. Just really minor things. And then I started writing at Accelerator, which is essentially just an electronic music blog. I quit Accelerator to start interning at Warp, and while I was both there and with Cool Managers, I took on an internship with MOMA PS1 for the summer.
TM: And now Le Poission Rouge?
DK: Now LPR, and my boss from Warp, Charles who does A&R there, has his own label called Uno. This other guy from Cool Managers also works with him on Uno. It’s like their little passion project. I got brought on to that just to do manufacturing and distribution.
I also got a job from one of my old bosses at MOMA PS1, doing content and updating his personal projects on his website.
TM: Aside from money and scale, are there any unique things you’ve noticed about working at an independent label as opposed to a major?
DK: I was reading about how major labels rarely do physical record pressings because it’s so expensive. Warp does a vinyl version for every release they do, which is really not cheap. Usually they sell pretty well because Warp appeals to that sort of audiophile-ish group, so it ends up being worthwhile. That is another part of manufacturing and distribution that’s much more complicated than digital.
At Uno, we will decide to do vinyl pressings for select records. But it has to be so much more of a costly and time consuming process than just the digital. We have to get it mastered differently and we have to pay more for that, we have to pay designers to do the artwork for the sleeves, and then we have to physically press the records. And then there are tons of little but important details that we have to deal with as well.
It does make me appreciate the physical record more. Rather than just buying it off iTunes and having this little square on my computer, it’s this whole thing where every little detail of it really had to be thought out because so much money was going into it.
TM: I think physical records cover a different need than a digital release would.
DK: Yeah, there’s sort of an event aspect to it as well. There are times when I’ll run into friends, and they’ll be like, “hey, I just bought this record. Do you want to come over and listen to it?”
That usually isn't the case with a digital release. You’d never say hey, I just bought the new Taylor Swift, want to come over to my house and listen to it?
It’s weird. It’s interesting how vinyl collecting is becoming this shared hobby that works differently from just regular music listening. It’s fun to go over to people’s places and flip through their vinyl collection, rather than just scrolling through someone’s iTunes library or Spotify playlist.
TM: What music are you listening to lately?
DK: Two records that I’ve really been enjoying are Jlin’s last record and Holly Herndon’s new record. I think it’s great because they’re both making really abstract electronic music. Holly Herndon’s music is sort of academic sounding. They’re also both female and it’s interesting to see this really powerful female voice happening through their music now, and from electronic music right now on a broader scale. It’s a really male-oriented scene, so it’s really nice to see female voices becoming more important. I read more and more articles saying, “this is so stupid, why are all these headliners exclusively white males.” I think it’s always good to bring in diversity because it’s such a big part of this type of music.
TM: I think that’s really true. I think that’s also changing on the business side of things. I’ve met so many successful and powerful women working in music, which I can only think is a big difference compared to the industry not so long ago.
DK: I also see that, but it’s also dangerous. I don’t think it’s necessarily great if some publication publishes an article that says “check out these five awesome girl-rock bands,” or whatever. A lot of bands that do have all-female members don’t want to be branded that way. They don’t want their gender to be some sort of marketing tool or the appeal to their music. I want to see diversity happen without it having to be a branding thing or a gimmick. Being female shouldn’t have to be a gimmick.
I understand that it’s important to have the conversation to try to bring out more queer artists, or transgender artists, or female artists, or artists of different races. It’s important just to even out the landscape, and to have a broader spectrum of what’s available. But I don’t think it’s ideal to be using that as a marketing gimmick, which a lot of press inevitably does.
I don’t want to classify Jlin’s music or Holly Herndon’s music as female, I just thought it was interesting that they’re two powerful female voices in this field full of men.