On both the shores of Ireland and elsewhere across the globe, producers, DJs and general music fans now use YouTube as their primary source of finding and promoting their music. So much so, that in the last few years, a burgeoning new collection of underground house and techno channels have emerged from the online depths to become genuine tastemakers with legitimate influence and clout over the scene today.
What differs with these channels when compared to the ones that came before it, i.e. Majestic Casual and SubSoul, is the welcoming sense of community and belonging they bring to the table, along with an aesthetic that genuinely appeals to us music fans as opposed to a picture of half-naked girl we were so tired of seeing before. The vast majority these channels have their own Facebook groups and the people who run them regularly interact with their fans and artists whose music they upload. They have instilled a sense of belonging with their fans that normally would only be reserved for online forums a few years ago, and sincere friendships have blossomed between like minded people as a result.
This new wave of selectors, normally without being tainted by big money or interests, have provided a platform for both musicians and music nerds to both validate and encourage expression for their passion, and doing, what really is, if a little cliché, the most important thing in the end – keeping it all about the music.
I took some time out to get to know the people behind three of the largest channels in this underground, online scene – Definite Party Material, Slav & Moskalus – and gain some insight into their day-to-day work, their responsibilities, their history and their plans for the future.
Definite Party Material has been uploading house bangers from mostly UK artists since 2013. The channel is run by Ian, based in Bristol, who has capitalised on the channel’s success and embarked on a career as a DJ in recent times, playing out regularly in the city and elsewhere in England, as well as having a label emerging, Scuffed Recordings.
DPM started making serious waves last summer when they were the first to upload Karizma’s gospel-house heater “Work It Out”, which has now amassed nearly 900k views and was also later featured on an ad for Google’s new Chromebook.
How many people work for Definite Party Material?
“Just me. All the graphics etc is all me too. The only thing in the few years I’ve been running it that I didn’t do was physically draw the gunfinger artwork. I don’t get any money from it, it’d be cool to do it as a job – but I just do it for the love of doing it.”
What’s the usual process in your day to day work at DPM?
“I think the nature of it means that generally I can’t have a solid process, good music pops up 24/7 and my emails are going a fair bit these days. That and the fact I work full time and have a life outside of DPM means it’s usually just what I can manage to get done when I’m sat at my computer. Sometimes I’m just listening to submissions & critiquing stuff for people, I also use the same time to sort out stuff for my label, Scuffed Recordings, or other bits. I tend to look for music when I’ve got enough time to fully immerse myself and it’s not always strictly looking for music I wanna upload to the channel.”
How is it dealing with the large flurry of music you receive now that you have a large fan base? Do you listen to every track? Do you have any special deals in place with any labels or artists?
“The selection process is something I don’t think I’ll ever have a proper system for but I try to take it as it comes. I do listen to everything and with smaller producers, if I can’t promote what they’re doing it’s still helpful giving them a word or two of advice/opinion to help them in the future. I do have certain artists/labels that I’ve built relationships with over time but I still judge everything on a track by track basis.”
When you uploaded your first video, were you taking things as serious as you’re doing now?
“I guess so, I really enjoy doing it so the motivation’s always been there. It’s kinda taken on more roles now though so I do have to be more on top of things such as scheduling uploads etc. I still use it as a personal outlet for sharing music I want people to hear but now people look to me to promote their music.”
Did your own DJ career and label come out of a need to diversify the channel at a certain point? Was the label also something you felt was needed to go alongside the channel or do you think you’d be running something similar to it even if DPM didn’t exist?
“The whole idea of the channel came together while looking through YouTube looking for new tunes to play at house parties so there’s always been a connection between the channel and DJing for me. I’d still be DJing in some form if the channel didn’t exist, I’ve been consistently doing radio for almost three years now and for me it’s a nice way of digging deeper than what I post on the channel.
“It’s helpful that I can put my gigs under the DPM umbrella but I’m kinda trying to separate the channel and my DJing in a way, I do both, but they don’t rely on each other. I’m starting to get into clubs a bit more and I guess it’s off the back of DPM, but I still feel like I need to “prove myself” as a DJ because I don’t know how many people get the whole YouTube thing.
“In regard to the label, Scuffed Recordings, High Class Filter (who I co-run the label with) and I got talking because he’d been following my channel from really early on and knew our tastes would work well together but that’s as far as I’d connect it directly to the channel, which is just me. I think I would’ve found my way to starting a label eventually because I’ve basically always wanted to be involved in music in some way or another but having a few years running DPM before starting one has probably sharpened a few skills that come in handy. It’s been fun working more hands on with releases and I’m excited to see where it’s gonna go.”
While DPM definitely has a focus on UK club music, you have uploaded quite a bit of music from Irish based producers here, like SHEE and Hank LW for example. Do you ever feel proud that you hold a bit of responsibility for their success? Are there any other producers that you think deserve a bit of attention?
“I’ve actually seen Definite Party Material mentioned in the copy of a few event descriptions/press releases so I guess it’s a decent look being on the channel & it probably helps with visibility, but I don’t feel like I can take responsibility for anyone’s success. If your work is consistently good enough and you get it to the right peoples ears it’ll get you where you need to be eventually. That being said, I do build relationships with producers that I’m in touch with and it is good to see them moving upwards in the music game.
“I think KETTAMA from Ireland is next up. He’s making real raw, high-energy, thumping house stuff. He sent me over a few upcoming bits and since then I’ve seen one of them on Identification of Music Group getting played out by some pretty big DJ’s and gaining a fair bit of interest so I reckon the next year for him could be big.
“Mark Blair from Belfast is on a similar tip and is churning out bangers at the moment.”
Oskar Koch from Poland is the central figure behind lo-fi house behemoth Slav. Slav is the youngest channel we’re covering, with it only starting only over a year ago, but has seen itself become one of the largest institutions in house music today, with just under 100k subscribers and dozens of videos amassing hundreds of thousands of views regularly. One of, if not the synonymous player in popularising lo-fi house, Slav has almost single-handedly triggered a breakthrough for now household names like DJ Boring, DJ Seinfeld, Subjoi & Baltra, while also serving as a valuable platform for younger producers to get their music out.
How many people work on Slav, do you do it purely for fun or do you treat it like a business?
“Currently it’s a one-man project with a mission to share the most exciting records for those who don’t have much time, but still want to surround themselves with great music. Even though the track selection for YouTube channel is my doing, it’d be way harder without all those artists/labels/listeners sharing and sending their music to me. Not to forget our Slav House Facebook group where fans post their quality house music finds daily, too.
“Slav is a side project which I do for fun. I love discovering new music and I’ve been doing it for years before Slav even existed. The process of e-digging through hundreds of records is like drinking your morning coffee for me.”
What’s the usual process in your day to day work with Slav?
“Listening to a lot of music and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT! I look for new music using sites like Soundcloud, Discogs, Soulseek and Youtube. Afterwards, I carefully inspect my findings and listening to them over and over again as the day goes by. It’s important to experience music in different surroundings: as I wake up, walking outside with the dog or just cleaning the house. I often dance to it too! It helps you get the feel of what others might experience while on the dance floor.”
Considering you only started uploading videos to the channel just over a year ago, were you always taking things as seriously as you are now? One of the key factors to the channels popularity was that it showed up in so many people’s recommended box in YouTube. Was there a knack to the algorithm that you discovered that led to Slav’s success so quickly?
“I wasn’t as careful about what tracks I feature back then, but still what is there to be serious about? I’m just a dude who uploads music to YouTube. I wish I had the inner understanding of how those damn algorithms work. But unfortunately, no, I have no idea. I’d assume they probably change them often too. I like to think that many people are actually enjoying what I publish, but what the hell do I know? It might be just pure luck.”
Now that your channel attracts a considerable viewer base, you obviously have to deal with a flood of new music coming in every day. How do you deal with all of it? Do you listen to every track? Do you have any special deals in place with any labels or artists?
“Yes, it’s an increasingly growing challenge. I adopted the strategy of listening to them all, but responding to few. It works so far. Some labels/artists are awesome enough to share the copy of physical record with me, happens rarely so I appreciate every single one I received so far.”
Do you ever feel the need of diversifying the content your channel? For example, many people in a similar position to you have started running events and DJing in clubs. Is the Top 7 house samples videos and Slav squat sessions series you have uploaded the start of something bigger or are you happy doing what you’re doing?
“I don’t have any strict goals with the Slav brand, it evolves as the months pass and it’s important for me to enjoy making/publishing the content as well as it being enjoyed by others. There has to be this symbiosis going on, you know? I’m very happy with the “Squat Sessions” as well as “7 Samples” series, so they’re both here to stay.”
When you upload music from artists like DJ Seinfeld and DJ Boring, and you see them becoming stars soon after their tracks go viral, do you feel proud knowing you played a role in a great artists success?
I’ve also seen it on a local level here in Ireland, where guys like Bobby Analog have seen a lot more domestic success in terms of things like bookings after their music gets uploaded to a channel like Slav.
“You know how pineapple is super delicious, but when you eat too much of it, your mouth and tongue gets tender? The solution is to share the pineapple with other people and spread that deliciousness or in this case that delicious music. Helping others reach their goals is one of the most pleasant things to do. I’m very grateful for that.”
“Shout out to my Irish boys Long Island Sound. They’re releasing super enjoyable tunes and are very, very underrated in my opinion.”
Moskalus is the project and channel ran by Marek Moskal, from Ostrava, Czech Republic. It was founded in 2014 and Marek has been actively putting tracks on YouTube for 10 years. Moskalus is certainly a channel which can claim it lives exclusively on the internet and isn’t tied to any geographical scene. As such, almost all of the music uploaded is from unknown or upcoming producers that either send him their music or he discovers himself. One of the first to champion lo-fi house, Moskalus has also has recently been dabbling in disco edits you’d see on channels like Doubleu. More so than any other channel, Moskalus has played a particularly important role in putting upcoming Irish producers on the map, with artists like KETTAMA, Lamaj, Matt Finnegan, Sean Meehan & Karl Guest all having some of their biggest tunes being hosted on the channel. For any producer currently coming up, a Moskalus upload is almost seen as a badge of honour, a rite of passage to validate your talent, and as such the channel is and has been for a long while an invaluable institution for our grassroots scene.
Marek is someone who is obviously aware of how much influence and provision he’s done for young artists. What you see is what you get with Moskalus, and it shines through with the unpretentious, honest music he chooses to upload. He also runs a SoundCloud podcast where his favourite producers are given a platform to showcase their DJ skills.
Is Moskalus a project you work on your own or do other people work with you?
“It’s only me. I have some friends that do artwork for the mix series but the channel and everything else is all ran by myself.
“Yes, I still study and go to work. Moskalus is my hobby – at the moment at least.
“Sometimes a few labels want to pay me to upload their music, and this money helps me run the SoundCloud Pro account and goes towards me buying things like DJing software. Every bit of money I earn from Moskalus goes back into Moskalus. I do not have any special deal with labels in terms of money. As far as “special” deals go, I don’t have any relationships where I rely on a label for money, but do have deals in place with labels like Shall Not Fade where I upload their music on a regular basis.”
What’s the selection process like for you? I can imagine you’re constantly swamped with music.
“Yeah, that’s it. I get tons of messages on almost every social media I use. There’s nothing special about my selections. I think I was and still am always lucky to get sent only the finest tracks which I like every time. But yeah, sometimes people send me music that do not really fit the channel, but I always respond, asking them to let me know when they make something that will. I have to say that it is really time consuming but on the other hand this became a part of my everyday life, so I am okay with it.”
Was the SoundCloud podcast a necessary step you felt you needed to take in order to branch out? Any plans branch out further in the future?
“I still feel like I’m just doing my thing and never cared about being famous or successful. I’ve always wanted to share music no matter if there’s no subscribers or loads. With the mixes it was just a rough idea at first, I thought “hey, I know some people who DJ, so why don’t I ask them to do a mix for me.” Now I’ve got loads of requests from people to do mix for me!”
“In terms of branching out for the future, I’m really thinking about launching a label (I think about it in the same way I think about the mixes, so I think it will happen sooner or later) and also trying to be a better producer. I’m now a part of collective running underground parties in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, so I really can’t wait to get some new experiences out of doing this.”
You have uploaded quite a few songs from Ireland’s rising producers, like KETTAMA, Matt Finnegan and and more recently one from Lamaj.
You undeniably have played a really big role in creating a reputation for the scene of producers here, and have definitely influenced them getting shows here in the country and elsewhere, when you hear stories like this do you feel proud? Do you have any other thoughts on what specifically Irish producers are doing now, too?
“KETTAMA is a good lad, I really like his music. I especially feel proud of people that show you some love back when they get signed to a label or something. I really appreciate that, because some people are touring the world now just because of channels like mine. Some people show you love and respect, some don’t. Such is life!
“I have more Irish producers on my radar actually. They’ve been doing really great stuff! For example, Spice, sk9nky ᴅʝ Ů ᴛᴏᴏ or Maddy, been loving their tunes! There’s definitely some more people, but I can’t really remember where every producer comes from!”
Channels like these have a great purpose for fans of house music that’re new to the genre itching to find out more, while also being ‘underground’ enough to serve as a pool for DJs to discover lesser-known tracks. Based off what we’ve heard from the people behind them, we are expecting massive things for each of the respective channels in the future if their plans come full circle.
Pick up Ian DPM’s latest Scuffed Recordings release, Attic Rabble by 95Bones here.
Listen to Slav’s newest “Slav Squat Session” mix here.
Find the most recent episode in Moskalus’ Soundcloud Mix Series, from Birmingham based Tilly, here.