Remember the excitement of bagging a sought-after white label? Well, combining a ‘white label’ ethos with cutting-edge technology, new DJ download site SetFreaks is putting exclusivity back into music. The brainchild of Onnik Tavitian, a former DJ/producer turned full-time entrepreneur in everything music and IP related, SetFreaks allows DJs to level up their sets with limited-edition tracks.
The Netherlands-based platform is also placing value back on music, with artists generously – and speedily – compensated for their creativity. Founder Onnik tells us more…
Photos by: Unsplash/Redd F
Tell us about your background in the electronic music industry?
I’ve DJed under two different aliases. Under the name Onnik I focused on house and progressive music, and as Billy Mason I delved into the world of techno. I’ve also dedicated several years to music production, releasing approximately 60 tracks over ten years across both aliases.
In 2014, I ventured into the entrepreneurial side of the industry and founded House of Tracks, which specialises in providing exclusive rights-free music for a variety of purposes, including adverts, media, gaming and to DJs. Celebrating its 10-year anniversary next year, House of Tracks has become a significant player in the industry.
SetFreaks founder Onnik Tavitian
The best inventions solve problems. What problems did you identify within the industry that sparked the idea for SetFreaks?
First of all, I’m all for progress and there have been amazing technological advances made across the whole music industry in recent decades. It’s incredible to think about the amount of music available at our fingertips these days. But have we reached the point where music is too accessible to everyone? Have we reached a saturation point and has this devalued the music itself?
It’s estimated that over 100,000 tracks are uploaded to digital platforms every day. That’s a staggering figure. But it also means tracks get lost. For example, 38 million tracks on streaming services weren’t played even once last year. So much creativity is going undiscovered. And yet despite the vast amount of choice out there, it’s not unusual to hear several DJs playing the same tracks in their sets at the same event because everyone has access to the same music.
I wanted to create a DJ download platform that puts exclusivity – and therefore value – back into music by offering exclusive limited-edition tracks.
Can you explain the ‘white label’ concept behind the site and what it means for DJs?
“It harks back to the vinyl-only era when we were carrying heavy record boxes full of the hottest vinyl records to gigs. DJs of that time will remember the thrill and satisfaction of getting their hands on a great white label or limited-edition test pressing and playing it in their sets. These tunes made a DJ’s set unique. There was often a fair bit of competition and friendly rivalry among DJs to play the hottest new white labels – some of them were like gold dust.
Along with regular releases on SetFreaks, we also offer special white label releases where the original producer is unknown. Both take an element from the white label concept of yesteryear. By limiting each track available through SetFreaks to between 25 and 250 downloads, we’re recreating that exclusivity in digital format. Once a track is sold out on SetFreaks it’s gone forever. This brings the art and display of curative talent back into focus and also gives each track an elongated life – the music stays fresher for longer.
From your own DJing days, which white labels were you particularly proud of owning?
One of my favourite white label records I own is ‘Take Me Away’ by Haji & Emanuel, later released on Big Love Music. I’ve obtained a massive amount of white label vinyl throughout the years, most of them without any artist or title information.
Take Me Away (Haji & Emanuel Vox)
The exclusivity of tracks is central to SetFreaks’ USP. How can you be sure tracks won’t be copied and shared?
Using bespoke technology, each SetFreaks’ download is individually encrypted with a watermark. We’ve worked with the best in the business to deploy the best anti-piracy technology out there. In the unlikely event of someone sharing a file, which is not allowed, we can trace the culprit and take action. SetFreaks is a place to find unique and exclusive music to make your own sets stand out, so the question is why would you share it?
Robert Babicz by Andrž M. Hÿnseler
Tell us about the artists signing up.
We have a great mix of established and up-and-coming producers. Robert Babicz, Cristian Varela, Filterheadz, Skober and Agent Orange DJ have already released music through the platform. And amongst the up-and-coming producers were really excited about the music from NoNameLeft, Tømas Sinn & Subgate and Drumsauw.
So, you’re actively championing new artists?
Yes. It’s difficult for new artists to break through these days. And both established and newcomers often have to endure the same headache associated with labels – the long wait time between signing a track to a label and its eventual release. Quite often – in fact, too often – an artist can wait six months or longer before their track is released. From receiving demos, our A&R team will give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer within a matter of days. When an artist signs the contract, the track is featured almost immediately and once a track sells out, the artist receives payment just days later.
At SetFreaks it’s the music that does the talking. Our limited-edition downloads are putting the value back into music by making sure the tracks on offer receive the unencumbered promotional attention they deserve, whether created by an established artist or a new face.
What genres are available through the platform?
At the moment, we’re releasing techno, tech-house, house, deep house and melodic house, with plans to expand into other genres.
What’s the demo submission process?
It’s really simple. Artists can upload their demos through the SetFreaks site and, like I said, we’ll get back to them in a few days. No-one likes to hear their music has been rejected but we’ll give an honest answer as soon as possible rather than leaving artists wondering if their music has reached the right ears or even been listened to.
What can producers do to make their demo stand out to SetFreaks’ A&R team? Any tips or words of advice?
We’re just looking for quality music so send your best work, fully finished, mixed and mastered. It’s all about the music and we welcome both established artists and newcomers alike, regardless of your social media following.
What can you tell us about artist earnings through SetFreaks?
Because of the limited-edition nature of the tracks, customers are willing to pay more for the music offered through SetFreaks. But downloads are just a part of the income you can generate from a release; it doesn’t stop there. With a SetFreaks release you also earn revenue from publishing and streaming, of course. Think about when a DJ starts playing your SetFreaks’ release at big venues or festivals. Also, streaming revenue is generated when the release hits streaming services – sometime after the initial release. The streaming version of any track is never the same as the original SetFreaks’ release – protecting that all-important exclusivity.
What do you think the future holds for music distribution platforms and what is SetFreaks’ role in the bigger picture?
We can’t predict how other platforms will approach music distribution in the future but SetFreaks is committed to continuous innovation and staying at the forefront of the industry. Our goal is to create excitement and hype around artists and their releases, focusing on delivering a unique product that guarantees exclusivity. With our limited-edition releases, we hope DJs will rediscover the fun in finding music for their sets.
Watch the SetFreaks video to discover more and drop your demos here…