Dance Music Northwest sat down with Arkana, one of the co-founders of local PNW label, New Dawn Collective. Since 2015, they’ve worked hard in response to the grain of the mainstream music landscape to provide a space for the blend of bass and cinematic music. Arkana, real name Sam Finn, took some time to chat about his upcoming debut album and what it’s been like running a label in this day and age. Read the full interview below:
DMNW: So how did the New Dawn Collective label come to be?
A: New Dawn Collective was started in 2015 as a platform for people making hybrid melodic bass mixed with cinematic sounds. At the time, there wasn’t really a platform for this kind of music. It was important to us to make a collective space that we could all create our own sounds for. We kind of started all promoting each other’s music and from there I was investing so much time into it, we made the switch to be a label and fund some more ambitious projects. Now we have over 50 artists who have released with us, including Crystal Skies, AU5, and Last Heroes.
It’s also important to us to include visual elements with releases, especially given our focus on cinematic music. To provide listeners with the opportunity for an immersive experience with a project is a huge focus of ours.
DMNW: Can you walk me through what that narrative storytelling piece looks like for your label?
A: Our ultimate goal is to consider every artist like a “mini franchise.” We want every project to have a narrative storyline accompaniment. One of our artists, Elv, has a great example of this on his Nightland EP. Every track has a paragraph depiction of a mystical story wrapped up in the overall EP storyline. This year has been a lot of stepping up and pushing boundaries both aurally and visually. In a sense, we want to build universes within our brand.
DMNW: What are some of the ways NDC pushes back on the traditional music industry?
A: Aside from running a platform for artists who release a pretty specifically focused subgenre of music, we also just really encourage artist creativity. So much of the current music landscape is focused on pushing content especially when streaming platforms like Spotify pay artists based around an algorithm that supports that model. That creates a lot of saturation in the music landscape, which is another thing we work hard to pivot from.
We want to encourage artists to just slow down and take their time to make something they can be proud of. To make something you feel like is really you and push some boundaries on the way.
This is something that’s been a big takeaway for me too. I’m a pretty impatient person, always rushing to the next thing. But I recognize how important stepping back and taking time to create music can be. Since I’m a co-founder of the label, I want to be an example for other artists too and remove some of that pressure.
DMNW: What is it like wearing two hats—being both a producer and a label sounds stressful?
A: [Laughs]. It’s really overwhelming but fun at the same time. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to see both sides of the same coin in the music industry. It’s not realistic anymore to only focus on creating because you won’t ever get enough exposure for what you want. By learning both sides of the business and creativity aspects, I have a big opportunity to experiment a lot with marketing.
There’s been a big shift in the music industry over the last decade too. It used to be like, music—you’d either fail at or sign to a big record label. But that’s really not the case anymore which is another reason I enjoy getting to do both things. With streaming, there’s a whole other side of musicians who don’t have to engage their whole career with music. A kind of “middle class musician,” which makes a career in music that much more attainable for people.
DMNW: Let’s talk a bit about your album! What’s the reception been like on the first couple of releases from your upcoming debut album?
A: It’s been great so far! So far, Murthdeep and Einvik’s Curse have been released over the past few weeks. I can’t say much just yet, but I’m so excited to unveil the rest of the album to fans. I have a surprise that I can’t wait for people to see. It’s been so fun to hear what listeners imagine while hearing some of the tracks. They’ve even come up with narratives that I would have never thought of! It’s great to engage with fans that way and hear what they take away from it.
I’m really proud of this album. I spent a long time digging through classical composers and introducing their styles into more of a dance music context. It felt important to make it a free-flowing expression of story through the composition. I want to give each song its proper space and time, and ultimately my hope for this album is to puncture a big hole in the music industry.
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