For the latest industry spotlight, we got a chance to catch up with Sharra Duggan, Label Manager at Firepower Records. Over the years, she has grown Firepower into the bass music powerhouse that it is today, featuring some of the most reputable bass acts in the world. Nearing their 100th release, we got to speak with Sharra about Firepower’s beginnings, what she looks for when signing new artists, and what the future holds for bass music within the dance music scene.
As Firepower’s Label Manager, you’ve had tons of music sent to you from all over the world. When signing new releases, what stands out about music or artists you want to sign? What seperates it from the music you pass on?
We do get a ton of submissions daily and I make sure we go through them all because you never know when you’re going to find a gem. Overall we are looking for quality music that stands out. We get a lot of submissions that just sound the same as everything else out there or are re-using sounds from other artists (i.e.: Skrillex). We want to find music that sounds different and unique, a new flavor. Another method of selection we use to determine sign-able material is if Datsik includes the track(s) in his sets when he plays out and if it sounds good and gets a good response then it usually passes the test and we will be interested in signing it.
What has been the biggest mistake you’ve seen up and coming artists make over the years? How could they improve on this?
I think the biggest mistake I’ve seen from new artists is when they try to copy other more successful artists’ sounds or to follow a fad. At the end of the day copying someone else is never going to be as good as the real thing. The best thing an artist can do is work on their own sound and direction. It will be the most satisfying artistically and no one can be better at doing you than you.
You’ve travelled across the globe representing one of the most distinguished bass labels in the world. What is your favorite place to visit when touring? Do you have a favorite fesitval or show?
I’ve been very lucky to get to travel all over the world for my job. Some of my favorite places I’ve been while touring is Europe and Australia. Ibiza was incredible and we actually got to see more of the island than just the airport and club which is actually pretty rare when traveling for shows. Australia is home to Stereosonic which is an awesome ‘traveling’ festival. Being able to go from city to city with the whole team of artists and staff made the whole journey really fun.
My all time favorite festival has to be Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo, BC (Canada) though. No other festival quite compares. Some other favorites are Tomorrowland (Belgium) and EDC Vegas. The stage productions on both of these are incredible and make for a very special experience.
Which artists have made the greatest impact on your life? Favorite up and coming acts right now? Why?
That’s a bit of a tough question since we have over 40 artists on our label and I have to say so many of them have made an impact on my life. Working with new artists is incredibly rewarding. Giving them a platform (sometimes the first one they have) to showcase their art is a wonderful experience. Some of my favorite up and coming Firepower acts right now are Truth, PhaseOne and Fox Stevenson. They all have very different and innovative sounds in my opinion. I’m always excited to see where they will venture next musically.
In the ever evolving landscape of electronic music, new trends are always coming and going. Where do you see Firepower and bass music going in the next few years?
People keep saying that certain types of music are dying out (i.e.:dubstep) but I just see it evolving. I dont think it’s going anywhere but I do think that it will forever be changing and adjusting to the current trends/fans. Music has to change and grow just like everything else. I can’t imagine a more boring life than if everything remained static forever. I will never understand people who harass artists for changing their styles – why would you want to listen to the same thing over and over again?
With regard to Firepower specifically we are working on expanding out catalogue and would love to grow beyond just being recognized as a Dubstep label. I always encourage people to send us music of all genres because you never know what we might pick up as the next thing. I would love to eventually have a place on the label for all types of music and an equally open and supportive fan base.
Tell us more about the Firepower team. What are important qualities that help build a strong team like Firepower to make an impact in dance music?
The Firepower team is pretty tight. Our main priority is quality music and ensuring that the artist is being taken care of. I think a lot of labels forget all about the artist and just focus on making money. That’s never been our priority and never will. We are fortunate that we have been able to run a successful business off of doing what we love but we will never change our focus from the music.
We call ourselves the Firepower family and we treat our artists accordingly. I think having that sense of community and support is really beneficial in this industry where there’s a lot of loss of self and responsibility. I also think that having a small tight knit team holds everyone accountable which ensures that things get done in a timely matter and people take every task seriously because it is personal to them. In the bigger corporations there are so many people working there that half the time they don’t even know the artist they are working for. We also ensure that our quality of music will never waver by having every single release go through Datsik for final approval. Since our whole musical direction was started by him we want that same quality to be maintained no matter how big we get. We work closely with each of our artists and do our absolute personal and company best for each and every one. I think that’s what set’s us apart from the other labels out there.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give people aspiring to work in the dance music industry?
I would say work hard, keep your head on straight and don’t forget the real backbone of the industry -ie: music. Balance between the business side and the fun side of this industry can be hard for some people to grasp but it’s very important if you want to succeed in it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from people more established – there are so many awesome people in this industry who are very happy to help people just starting out. I was lucky enough to have Saad Al-jadir (Deckstar) as a mentor and sounding board and I still go to him for questions and it’s been almost 3 years now. Lastly, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, that’s the best way to learn something new.