Westwood Recordings Marks its 10th Anniversary With a Month-Long Celebration and a Complete Label Makeover

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Westwood Recordings Marks its 10th Anniversary With a Month-Long Celebration and a Complete Label Makeover

THE 10 Qs SERIES

As Westwood Recordings celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, the label’s journey is nothing short of remarkable. From a small, independent music label founded by Nick Middleton, it has grown into a dynamic force in the music industry, evolving in artistic direction, business strategy, and pushing the boundaries of genres. In our exclusive interview, Nick Middleton shares insights into the label’s growth, its community-focused approach, and its aspirations for the future.

Celebrating 10 Years with Style

To mark its 10-year milestone, Westwood Recordings gave itself a fresh makeover. In the spring of 2023, the label introduced a brand-new online identity, website, and branding. This transformation infused renewed energy into the label, setting the stage for a year full of celebrations.

Throughout the summer, Westwood hosted a month-long celebration of releases featuring some artists who have played pivotal roles in the label’s journey. These artists, some of whom have been with Westwood since the beginning, were at the heart of the label’s success. “We threw a bunch of parties. The most memorable so far this year was our Saturday night stage takeover at the Rifflandia festival. It was an incredible night and has capped off what’s been an amazing year for us,” the founder recalled.

Evolution of Westwood Recordings

Over the past decade, Westwood Recordings has significantly changed its artistic direction and business strategy. In the early days, founder Nick Middleton was running the label single-handedly while on tour, but as the label grew, a dedicated team was assembled, which now spans across Canada and the USA. This organic growth has been a testament to the label’s commitment to its artists and the art of music.

The label’s sound has also evolved from electronic music to genres like hip-hop and pop. “I would almost say we are genre-agnostic today, so that brings a lot of freedom to our decisions on who to work with and what music to get behind,” Middleton elaborated, adding that Westwood focuses on unique artists with a vision they can help elevate.

Pushing the Boundaries of Genres

One of Westwood’s notable contributions to the music industry is its early support of mid-tempo bass music, a relatively niche genre at the time. This genre has now gained prominence in the music scene, with artists from various backgrounds incorporating elements of mid-tempo bass music into their work. “It’s something we’ve continued to put out, and some of our biggest releases ever on the label have all been Midtempo tunes.”

Westwood Recordings has also ventured into sync licensing, helping to place its music in film, TV, and video games. The label’s mid-tempo catalog, in particular, has found its way into various media projects. This forward-thinking approach has not only benefited the label but has also influenced how artists approach their music’s commercial potential.

Adapting to the Digital Era

In a music industry dominated by streaming services and digital distribution, Westwood Recordings has adeptly adapted to these changes. The label recognizes that distribution is no longer enough and must provide substantial value to the label and the artist. “Today, we focus on syncs and music licensing, live events, touring, and growing new revenue streams for artists through our other divisions,” Nick Middleton believes this adaptability sets Westwood apart from traditional labels and reflects their commitment to their artists’ long-term success.

Community and Collaboration

Westwood Recordings places a strong emphasis on community, fostering collaboration among its artists and engaging its dedicated listeners. The label’s community has been instrumental in its growth, with artists and fans acting as champions who spread the word about Westwood. Many artists have remained with the label since its inception, testifying to the sense of belonging and support that Westwood offers.

Moreover, the label has achieved several notable highlights during its 10-year journey. One standout achievement is the collaboration with Chali 2na, a founding member of Jurassic 5. This partnership has resulted in worldwide tours, collaborations, and new music production. Notably, the label organized a tribute to Chali’s seminal solo work, creating new recordings and music videos for his career-defining singles.

Looking Ahead to the Next Decade

As Westwood Recordings enters its second decade, its aspirations are to dream bigger, challenge the industry’s status quo, and continue evolving.

In conclusion, Westwood Recordings’ 10-year journey has been a testament to adaptability, community, and artistic exploration. “I love the mission we are on, and hitting a decade is a big milestone; that kind of staying power in such a difficult and volatile industry is something worth celebrating,” Nick Middleton added. With a bright future on the horizon, the label remains dedicated to empowering artists and pushing the boundaries of music genres. As they enter their second decade, it is clear that Westwood Recordings is a label that continues to shape the music industry in exciting and innovative ways.

Q: How does Westwood Recordings plan to celebrate its 10th anniversary in a way that honors its journey, engages its community, and sets the stage for its future endeavors?

At the start of this year, we worked on a whole new re-brand for the label. We launched a new look for 2023 – a whole new online identity, branding, website, and more – this spring to celebrate hitting 10 years. It gave us some renewed energy to refresh the look of the label and has helped carry us through this milestone moment. Then we curated a month-long celebration of releases this summer to celebrate the decade that featured some of the artists that have been most pivotal to our journey as a label, many that have been with us since the very beginning. We also threw a bunch of parties, the most memorable so far this year was our Saturday night stage takeover at Rifflandia festival, it was an incredible night and has capped off what’s been an amazing year for us.

Q: How has Westwood Recordings evolved over the past ten years regarding its artistic direction and business strategy?

The label – and business – has evolved a lot over the past decade. When I first started Westwood I was literally running the entire company myself from my laptop on the road while on tour. Eventually, as things got busier I started to grow the team, so in that sense, it’s had some real organic growth which is always the dream to see it progress naturally and we’ve had steady growth year over year since we started. Today I have an amazing team spread out across Canada and the USA working for the company. My life has changed a lot too, I’m not on the road nearly as much and work in the office more regularly on developing new business for the company, signing new artists, and continuing to help oversee all A&R efforts. Our sound has evolved too, today we are releasing all styles of electronic music as well as hip-hop, pop, and more. We’re focused on finding unique artists whose vision we believe in and think we can help elevate. It’s all about creating a team around the artists and their music for us and that’s an exciting place for us to be in. I would almost say we are genre-agnostic today so that brings a lot of freedom to our decisions on who to work with and what music to get behind. I love discovering new artists and encouraging them to get creative and not be pigeonholed into any one sound. And then lastly, the nature of the business has changed so much, it’s not just about offering distribution to artists anymore like it was in the early days, it’s about so much more for us today. We need to see that we can come in and add real value to the release for it to make sense for both us and the artist, so in that sense, the partnership between the label and the artist has been strengthened as we’ve adapted to changes across the industry and become more thoughtful about which artists and releases, we will put the entire team behind. I’d say our thinking is a lot more long-term today in everything we do. We must believe in the artist and the music to get involved, and that’s a benefit to both parties. We enter into a partnership, one that’s transparent where we are all incentivized with the same goals. I think that’s a stark difference from how things felt in the early days, where labels controlled all the keys to distribution, they were focused on quantity over quality, and accounting and contracts felt very cloudy.

Q: In what ways has Westwood Recordings pushed the boundaries of music genres and subgenres, and how has this influenced the industry?

One of the genres we championed early on was mid-tempo bass music. It was a big part of our culture here in Western Canada in our early days, something a lot of our artists produced and played at big festivals like Shambhala, but it hadn’t caught on in America yet. At the time it was hard to classify the genres on stores or charts, it was often listed under Glitch Hop and so that was the genre we started with on paper. Fast forward to today and it’s been incredible to see big names in the house, drum & bass, and dubstep worlds producing Midtempo bass music. It’s something we’ve continued to put out and some of our biggest releases ever on the label have all been Midtempo tunes. We’ve also synced a ton of our mid-tempo catalog to some big film and TV spots over the years too. So, although we work with all styles of music today, funky mid-tempo music will always be something I love (and still love to DJ too!).

Q: In light of the rise of streaming services and digital distribution, how has Westwood Recordings spent its 10th year in business adapting to these changes?

One exercise we do a lot in our team meetings is to try and objectively analyze the role of an indie label in today’s landscape. In decades past, labels really controlled all the keys to distribution, but today those gates have come down, and pretty well anyone can get their songs onto digital streaming platforms. Realizing this early on as the label was growing in our formative years helped define how we could add value to artists’ careers and elevate their music. What could we do that other labels weren’t doing? What other non-streaming or sales royalties could we help our artists generate? Could we get their music on TV? Help get them on tours etc? So today we have a big focus on syncs and music licensing, live events, and touring, and growing new revenue streams for artists through our other divisions. In addition to licensing, we also run our own sample pack company called Westwood Sounds which is distributed on Splice. It’s another good example of offering new revenue streams to our roster. On the live touring business side, we produce a lot of stages take over and pop-up events showcasing Westwood artists at some incredible festivals and clubs. And on the licensing side, we are constantly pitching our catalog for film, TV, and video game opportunities. I think that sets us and our team apart from other labels and it’s something I’m proud of when I look back at all the non-traditional label work we’ve done in the past decade.

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Q: What are the notable highlights from artists or releases associated with Westwood Recordings during its 10-year run?

Working with Chali 2na, one of the founding members of Jurassic 5, over the last decade has been a standout for me. I’m such a huge fan going back as long as I can remember so when the opportunity came about to start making music with him it was a pinch-me moment for sure. Over the years we’ve not only toured the world together from Burning Man to Coachella, Europe to Australia, all over, but we’ve worked on a ton of music with Chali on Westwood. Originals, collaborations, remixes, and more. And right now Chali 2na and Cut Chemist have just started work on a new project that you will start to hear more about in 2024, so that’s exciting too. And I think the work we’ve done with Chali is a good example of how Westwood has stepped outside the confines of just an electronic-focused label. Most memorably we helped put together an incredible remix project with Chali as a tribute to his seminal solo work on Fish Outta Water, our team created some incredible new music videos for that project that capture the significance of those songs for Chali and being career-defining singles, all re-created with new recordings and new instrumentation, with “Comin Thru” being a big fan favorite.

Q: How has Westwood Recordings fostered community and collaboration among its artists and listeners over the past ten years?

Community has been the single biggest contributor to Westwood’s growth over the last decade. It’s something we are hyper-aware of. There’s no better marketing than word of mouth and our fans and artists have been the real champions of spreading the word about Westwood. We’re fortunate to have a close-knit community of artists and fans, many whom have been with the label since the beginning. I think that’s a real testament to the way we’ve grown, to see artists continue releasing with us year after year, for them to feel like they’ve found a real home for their music, a place they can grow and feel empowered and supported, both professionally and creatively. Our artists also collaborate on releases, features, remixes, and supporting each other on tours. I love seeing Westwood be the conduit for those collaborations, we’ve all become super close friends along the way, it’s really about bringing each other up along the way and honestly, it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. It reminds me why we got into running a label to begin with, it was always about building a community around the music and artists we loved.

Q: What significant accomplishments and milestones have Westwood Recordings achieved throughout its decade in the business?

I mentioned this earlier but something I’m proud of is the non-traditional label offerings we’ve been able to provide to our artists over the years. Westwood stages and lineups at festivals like Shambhala and Rifflandia come to mind. And then also the big strides we’ve made in sync licensing. One of our first big wins in that space was landing the Spiderman Trailer for Sony Pictures years ago, it showed us what was possible and set us on a more determined path to help our artists land new sync opportunities. Today we see our catalog being used by top shows on Netflix, HBO, Amazon, and in advertisements for globally recognized brands like Peloton, NHL, NFL etc.

Q: Looking ahead, what are the future aspirations and goals of Westwood Recordings as it enters its second decade?

My biggest goal is just to continue to challenge myself and my team to keep dreaming bigger. I’m always thinking about what’s next, where the industry is heading, and how we can continue to evolve and adapt. I love the mission we are on and I think hitting a decade is a big milestone, that kind of staying power in such a difficult and volatile industry is something worth celebrating. It’s also a nice reminder to set our sights on the next decade. We have a clear path to sustainability ahead with an amazing roster and catalog on the core label, so one thing I’d like us to do is move towards building our distribution offering so that we can help even more artists outside of just the label. It’s something we are actively working on right now and I hope to have news ready to share publicly in early 2024!

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