Afrojack is living the dream. The dance superstar’s discography is decorated with awards and platinum certifications, he’s adored across the globe and sells out huge shows wherever he tours, and he’s regularly in the studio working alongside other musical greats. Now, he’s turning his attention to other people’s dreams, and working to turn them into reality.
To achieve this, Afrojack is partnering with Japan’s leading entertainment brand LDH (Love Dream Happiness) to seek out fresh talents and foster their path to greatness. Together they will launch Vocal Battle Auditions, an international search for young, unsigned vocalists who have the potential to reach the top. Afrojack will adjudicate auditions held in eight cities across five countries, and the winners will make up a brand new international group which will be produced by Afrojack and debut in 2019.
Applications open on Monday, May 14, at globalvba.com for unsigned singers and rappers aged between 15 to 25 years old. Auditions will be held in London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Osaka and Taipei, with the final round taking place in Tokyo in August.
Vocal Battle Auditions is “just the beginning of the whole story”, with Afrojack the newly appointed CEO of LDH Europe. He has big plans to forge a legacy by further boosting LDH’s significant success and oversee a company that will change the world’s musical landscape, maintain fair and respectful relationships with its signees, and create an environment in which creative freedom is limitless. We caught up with Afrojack to find out more, read the Q+A below.
You're working with LDH, how did you get involved with them?
I met some of the people from LDH when I came to Japan for the first time; it was very eye-opening for me to see that I wasn't the only one trying to sign artists before they are actually artists. On my own label I signed R3hab, Quintino and a lot of other people that are now touring as successful DJs. Two years ago I signed Fais and he had a couple of platinum songs. Management companies want to jump on whatever's hot. We actually want to jump on whoever has passion and dreams, and make them hot. It's not the easiest thing of course, but it's definitely the most fun thing and the most rewarding thing to do.
As part of Vocal Battle Auditions you’ll be heading to eight cities across five countries, do you think hitting these locations help you find a roster of unique and diverse talent?
That's the idea! I'm hoping for it. But for me, the most important thing is I want people to be unafraid to come out. We're not looking for people that are super trained, who have already being doing it for years and years. We're looking for the raw talent, before all the training, before all the craziness. We're looking for the freshest of the fresh, the sprouts that can grow into flowers.
What qualities are you looking for in the artists you’re seeking?
I'm looking for passion; my main priority is passion. I've always said 'talent' is a very broad word. I think my talent is that I love making music, and that's how I became good at it. If you listen to the music I made when I started, I did not sound talented at all! So the thing I'm looking for the most is someone with the passion to make their dream come true, and the belief that it's possible.
You said you want to take a different approach to major labels, focusing on the long term. Do you think major labels push artists into burnout in the short term?
Absolutely not, we all love what major labels do. They provide a lot of music, set up a very professional system of putting it out. But nine out of 10 times, the label is focused solely on the music, not the artist. What we're doing is to try and create the artist from the beginning, but also partner with them in everything. This allows us to apply our expertise on every front. Major labels say: 'We'll sell your record, but when you've got to do a show, you figure it out'. I've seen this a lot. Labels help where they make money, they don't care if someone is happy or sad, they don't care about dreams or passion. You can't blame them, it's a company, of course they need to make money. We're in a place - at least I'm personally in a place - where I don't need to directly make money off it. When I was a kid, I just wanted to become a DJ and producer, and then the success came with that. Success follows the dream.
Of course we will have a lot of people working in the company who will know how to financially also make that successful. That's why I'm so excited I get to work with LDH, because they're so professional in the industries they operate in. They broke all the records you can imagine in Japan, they've done very crazy stuff. I'm now backed up by people who have been managing full-on artist careers, from the show to the production to the video to the styling to every little aspect you can imagine around the artist. The only thing we have to do when we find talent is train them, figure out what their dreams are, throw their dreams into the LDH machine, and out comes a superstar.
How will the approach you take protect the artists from being pushed too hard?
Well it's kind of difficult to push an artist too hard if you agree on certain things on advance. That's why it's so important to work with people that still have the dreams, and want to go a certain direction. Working as separate parties, you have different priorities. That's how it goes wrong a lot of the time. With us, starting from the beginning we both have the same priorities. It also makes a big difference that we are not a company that's dependent on making money off these new artists. LDH is already wildly successful back in Japan, and I'm also doing ok as a DJ, so it's a passion project to start off with.
Ensuring the artist is healthy and happy is the most important thing. You have to be there for your artist and guide them, teach them what you know. We're getting teachers that have been in the industry for a very long time, so whatever happens to you as a young artist, we've seen it already, we've been there, we know how to handle it. All of us, including me, had to fail a bunch of times to understand how this industry works.
The biggest artist in Japan right now is Hiroomi, he's part of the J Soul Brothers. They sold 1.8 million tickets on one tour just in Japan. That's like 10 Creamfields or something? One act, in one country, on one tour. Everything he drops will become number one; he's on fire. I've met him a lot of times; he's not one of those 'look at me' types. He's successful, humble, happy, still working to become bigger and still passionate about growing. That's like the complete opposite of what you see in Europe when someone gets shot to superstardom. They start misbehaving, drinking, they're like 'I made it!'. While at LDH, one of the mindsets is that you've always made it from the beginning. That was also my mindset when I started. When I was a DJ, I already made it. When I was growing up and I got booked, my first booking, that was my dream. Everything that comes on top of that won't change it.
Any final thoughts to share on the partnership?
This is not just some fluke or sponsor deal. I'm not saying this shit for fun. We partnered up, Wall is part of LDH, all the artists that I've ever signed and am still working with are sub-part of LDH in some way. This is my next dream. First my dream was to be a DJ, now my dream is to make other dreams come true.