“It All Starts with Good Music“
This is the motto of Spinnin Records, the Dutch independent record label founded by Eelko van Kooten and Roger de Graaf in 1999. Basing their sounds on the music coming out of the Netherlands at the time, the pair pushed out their EDM house beats and riffs as DJs and reached out to the world with their comedic overtones.
It is difficult to conceive that, Kooten, a young real estate broker, and Graaf, a record store manager would create one of the top EDM labels in the world. Kooten’s father was a famous Dutch DJ in his own right during the 1960s and 1970s, and when he travelled to New York he met Bruce Springsteen and Donna Summer. Following in his fathers’ footsteps, Kooten started a publishing company, MusicAllStars, with Armin Van Buuren as his first published client. Graff, who also has an MBA in Economics, had a keen ear for music, which was cultivated by his early experiences as the Artists and repertoire (A&R) man for Holland Rhythm Import and Work/ Rhythm/Fresh Fruit. Together they are a force of nature behind the Spinnin Records label and a hot spot for new talent.
The Spinnin Records motto is based on the philosophy of catching and releasing the best talent in the genre of EDM, house, trance, progressive house, electro house, and big room house. The duo started slowly cultivating new talent, signing and releasing artists from around the world. At first, they adhered to vinyl releases, but if an artist had enough success in a club, they released their singles on CDs and promoted them on radio. According to Spinnin’ “We look for talented producer/artists and then we focus on the 5 T’s; talent, timing, tigering (going all the way), team work and toewijding (dedication)” (Conte. 2012).
Kooten and Graff wanted to solve the problem of too many demos coming in, no time to listen, and even less time to provide feedback to the creators. Yet they understood the hard work, devotion, and energy artists go through. Dance music, often accused of a mere commercial identity, limited in creativity, and prone to mediocrity, is still a source of innovative musicians, artists, and at the heart of the DJs who play the music.
The Talent Pool and Spinnin’ Sessions
Core to Spinnin’s business success are three factors: finding and signing new artists, using their underground labels, and licensing hits that are radio ready. One of Spinnin Records innovative solutions to the hundreds of demos they get weekly was their platform, Talent Pool, a way to benefit from social media and networking, allowing for peers to vote and rank tracks, get some attention for new sounds, and establish fairness across the board. In addition, the Spinnin’ Sessions, conceived by the pair and based on their motto ‘It All Starts with Good Music’, Spinnin’ invited the world’s best DJs to perform live on their weekly radio show in Amsterdam and then in Miami through the yearly spring highlight at Miami Music Week. Their newest collaborations and partnerships with E&A Events and ID&T are proving an avenue to reach out to countries around the world.
New Frontiers and Digitally Accommodating
The independent label has had major successes such as Martin Garrix’s ‘Animals’. In addition, Spinnin’ has produced other major hits through Beatport, the world leader in digital and online records, including Nicky Romero’s hit ‘My Friend’, ‘Gotta Move’ by Koen Groeneveld & Addy van der Zwan, ‘Take Over Control’ by Afrojack featuring Eva Simons, and ‘Blessed’ by Avicii. Besides starting the MusicAllStars Management company, the label now hosts numerous sub-labels:- Doorn Records, Wall Recordings, Musical Freedom, Hysteria Records, Rock the Houze, Showland, 2 Play Records, Abzolut, Barong Family, Confidence Recordings, and Dark Beatz are examples of their successful progressive house and electro house recordings and labels.