Matt Colon is a big "name to know" in the dance music industry. Online mag In The Mix named Colon as the forty second most influential person in dance music, along with his partner Lawrence Vitra who together founded the dance music management powerhouse Deckstar. Deckstar represents some of the biggest names and artists in the industry with a focus on giving their artists guidance and structure in order to have a long and fulfilling career. Deckstar has played a vital role in the explosion of dance music in the United States and abroad, boasting a roster that encompasses a broad of A-listers that include Steve Aoki, NERVO, Joachim Garrud, Autoerotique, Anger Dimas, Infected Mushroom, and Holy Ghost. Colon is most notable for his role as Steve Aoki's manager, and has played a vital part in Aoki's growth as a DJ and producer. We sat down with the music mogul very insightful interview that we couldn't wait to share with our readers.
Earmilk: Matt, can you tell you us what sparked your interest in the music industry?
Matt Colon: I've always loved music of course, but it wasn't until college that I realized I wanted to work in music. While going to UCLA I knew early on that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but I leaned towards the film industry. I did a few internships, the biggest being interning for film director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Tower Heist, X-Men). However he had made his name originally doing music videos for acts like Wu Tang Clan and Mariah Carey so he still had a lot of relationships in that industry. As one of his interns, I often got sent to run errands and I realized that I was MUCH more excited to drop off a script at Def Jam's office than I was to actually read that script. So that led me to interning for a year at Def Jam and when I graduated I used Def Jam's reputation for big hip hop street teams to get a job as Street Promotions Manager at the largest dance label at the time, Moonshine Music (not that I had EVER had anything to do with street promo at Def Jam!).
EM: Everyone wants to know the Steve Aoki story. How did the relationship between you and Steve first start? What has the journey been like in seeing him transform the industry?
MC: I was working with BPM Magazine at the time and had gotten to know him a bit as a promoter, label owner and local DJ. He had started to gain some notoriety in music and fashion circles and was DJing a lot of the cooler parties around town (usually for clothing brands, fashion magazines, etc). After discovering Bloc Party and releasing their first EP in the US, his profile started to grow and his party in LA became a go-to destination to break bands in LA. He essentially became the poster child for the hipster movement at the time. We decided to put him on the cover of BPM and that came with a series of magazine release parties around the country that he agreed to DJ to promote the issue, which I organized and promoted. One of those nights we were sitting at dinner and I asked him how he found time to book his shows and run his label and promote his parties at the same time. He said he couldn't really which is why it took him weeks and weeks to get back to anyone. So I volunteered for the job. I already knew all the clubs and owners he wanted to play at from my experience doing events for the magazine. I figured if I could one day make an extra $1,000 a month I could pay my rent AND have money to eat out (previously it was either / or). In my eyes, I'D BE RICH! As far as the rest, that's just a testament to Steve's relentless hard work and strive to improve himself both as a DJ, performer and eventually as a producer. I've just guided him along through the process and done my best to make sure as many people as possible know about it.
EM: What are your thoughts on the current state of the industry? Do you believe there will be a bubble as some speculate? Or will the industry evolve in something more unique and incredible
MC: It's definitely a bubble but that doesn't mean it's going to go away. The housing market was a bubble, but that doesn't mean people aren't still buying houses. It's just over inflated. The current rate of attendance and DJ fees can't continue to grow forever. Eventually it will plateau but I do believe that dance music as we know it is FINALLY accepted as a commercially viable pop music art form. Moms, Dads, Grandparents and cousins now hear a dance song on the radio and know it is a pop song. Before it was just "techno." We are where hip hop was in the 90s. Eventually the fervor dies down but that doesn't mean that Eminem or Jay-Z can't drop an album today and still dominate the charts. It will not always rule the kingdom but it now has a permanent seat at the king's table.
EM: Management teams are often overlooked when it comes to the success of their artists. What would you say makes an effective management team, and what contributors were intricate in your success as a manager?
MC: This is true. You look at most great artists and there is a great manager behind them. That is not to take credit for the artist, but for the artist to truly be successful he needs to focus on his art which means someone needs to do everything else, and do it well. There are a lot of artists out there who stumble and fall just due to poor decision making (badly routed tour, wrong release date, no marketing or promo, etc) and behind the scenes we all look at each other and go "bad management." That said, some artists are simply unmanageable. Whether it is because they don't want to be managed or their personalities are just too abrasive to deal with on a daily basis. Those artists tend to not last. Eventually they make too many mistakes or burn too many bridges to continue on.
As far as an effective management team, 90% of it is just being a responsible, hard working and reliable person. Being there to answer the phone, answer an email, deal with problems as they arise and proactively see things coming. The other 10% though is the most important part though. It's a manager's ability to think like an artist and translate their thoughts, ideas and goals into real world terms that everyone else can understand and vice versa. Mediating that relationship between the artist and everyone else is what separates the men from the boys in this career. As far as my own success, I'd like to think I have all of those skills but the truth is that I, like many other managers I know, always wanted to be an artist. However, I realized very early on that I wasn't so much an artist as someone who can recognize great art. I just don't have that level of creativity that true artists display. So I did the next best thing, surround myself with people who do.
EM: When you are identifying talent what are some of the indicators that you are looking for, beyond the musical aspect?
MC: That's a great question. Bottom line is music is subjective. One man's trash is another man's treasure. If you played me a dubstep track 15 years ago I would not have called it music but here we are with Skrillex dominating the music world (and I can't think of a person who deserves it more or handles the success so well). So as much as you look for great music out there, when trying to find the next big thing you can't base it solely on your personal taste. You have to look at other indicators. Luckily we live in a world with social media which has really democratized music and given fans direct access to up & coming artists. So instead of picking a needle out of a haystack (sifting through hundreds of demos like the major label guys in the 90s) you can check out an artist's Soundcloud plays, their Facebook likes and "talking about this", their Youtube plays, their success in the blogosphere (thank Hype Machine for making that easier) and even their Twitter and Instagram following (though those are less musically driven). Sometimes you find an anomaly. Love him or hate him, DJ Bl3nd was discovered by his fans on Youtube, not by some great manager or label guy. They propelled him to where he is now and he has the hard ticket sales to prove it.
EM: Can you give us a heads up for whats in store in the near future for your Deckstar artists in regards to music, residencies, shows, and any other pertinent information?
MC: Oh cool…this s the part where I just self-promote! Honestly, there's so much going on that it's hard to not just rattle off a bunch of random plugs for artists but I'll do my best to whittle it down to big stuff. For Steve it's a both a big and quiet year for him. Music release wise it's a bit slower as we just came off of a year of promoting his last album Wonderland but there are still huge singles on schedule plus his new Vegas residency at Hakkasan, touring incessantly and headlining major festivals around the world and working on his follow up album, Neon Future, for 2014. NERVO is out promoting their latest single, "Hold On", while touring, writing/producing their debut album and planning to take over the world alongside Covergirl. Classixx has their long awaited debut album coming out on May 14 and have just debuted their live show on tour with The Presets &Dragonette. Holy Ghost is putting the finishing touches on their follow up album while hitting some festivals over the spring/Summer as well as touring with New Order in July. Autoerotique has what is easily their best single and best music video since "Turn Up The Volume" a couple of years ago set for release at the end of the month. And RAC has a lot of remixes on the way (shocker!) but what I'm most excited about is is his original material. He's signed with Cherry Tree / Interscope and we are prepping the release of his first full length EP and album for the very near future. Wait til you hear it!