Industry Talks: Darren & Jacques from UFO Recordz on loving EDM and supporting artists…

Two guys from two completely different parts of the world. One from Durban, South Africa, and one from Helsingborg, Sweden. Friends, teammates, and business partners, Darren and Jacques have been walking down a tumultuous, yet thrilling path — the one of entrepreneurship. And we are here to pick their brains!

Devotion to electronic music is what crossed the paths of Jacques and Darren, the founders of UFO Recordz & UFO Network.

Since 2015, they’ve jumpstarted the careers of over 300 artists and have participated in dozens of projects within the music industry.

Motivation to support creators every step of the way is what drives UFO to be an all-encompassing organization. This mindset gave birth to their news and media company, record label, and music publisher, all passionately focused on the world of EDM.


1. Pretty cool name! Can you tell us a bit more about the idea behind the abbreviation “UFO”?

Jacques: UFO was originally intended to mean “Unidentified Flying Object” back in the beginning as the project was founded. However, with time our goals and aspirations changed, and with that the brand’s name and meaning changed too. Today it means “Us For Others” because we put ourselves out there for others in the beloved EDM Industry. We do all the hard work for you!

Darren: So UFO stands for “Us For Others”, not to be confused with alien invaders [laughs]. Although that might have been where our aim was originally. “Us For Others” means we will work hard for you. Our label strives to put all the artists and producers first, no matter what. Communication and building relationships are very important to us. That’s a missing key aspect between labels and artists today.

2. How did your love affair with electronic music start?

Darren: Well, I started off as a DJ and music producer making electronic music. I actually listened to a lot of rock and rap growing up, but made the transition to EDM and house music when I took a music production course in 2013. I’d say Deadmau5 and Tiesto were big musical influences for me at the time.

Jacques: I grew up on EDM with bangers like “Show Me Love” and many more in the mid-’90s. My love for the scene started with my love for house music which has made a name for itself here in South Africa where I come from. The electronic dance music culture and all the memories that go with it are what have kept me coming back for more year after year!

3. So one of you is from Sweden and one from South Africa! How did you meet and what is the story behind embarking on this big journey together?

Jacques: Darren reached out to me, though he will say I reached out, back in 2015 [laughs]. I was a “fanboy” so to speak, and a supporter of Darren’s production under the trio’s alias “Striptek”. So I jumped on board with their promotional campaigns and assisted in getting their releases charting on our local radio station 5FM and East Coast Radio.

We got to chatting and from the get-go, we clicked! Both myself and Darren have a strong love and passion for all things EDM, and we work well together and make a great team. No matter what the task might be, we give 1000%. The journey so far has been amazing, and I could not ask for a better business partner!

Darren: Jacques reached out to me after listening to some of my music with Striptek. Striptek is a duo consisting of myself and my production partner Victor Wright. Jacques and I hit it off from day one and so we started collaborating. We both had a love for the music industry and the business aspect of it all, and that’s how we started our own label.

Striptek

4. How, in your opinion, are the music and nightlife scenes in South Africa and Sweden different from one another? And how are they alike?

Darren: I think a big difference is because of South Africa’s multicultural demographic. We have various music scenes and genres as a result. Dance music or EDM as a genre is actually not that popular in comparison to some other music styles that do very well here in SA. With regards to clubs and nightlife, our major cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg could possibly compete with the European scene.

Jacques: Darren pretty much nailed it and I agree with that! Sweden is a lot more up-to-date with EDM and the EDM culture with homegrown stars like Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, Rebecca & Fiona, Eric Prydz, Basshunter, and many more. Amsterdam is just 2 hours away, and it’s kind of like the motherland of where it all began, so with that said, the gap is a big one. Comparing countries is hard as EDM is more of a lifestyle and a movement that’s shared globally. Love and unity is what it boils down to.

5. What experience did you have during the pandemic as business owners in this space?

Darren: We have had our ups and downs. As a label, we have seen an increase in quantity and quality in demo submissions, as a result of producers spending more time in the studio. However, we have also struggled with our day-to-day communication due to the lockdowns and restrictions. It’s been tough but we have made it through!

Jacques: Definitely very difficult times. The upside is that during the pandemic we were able to shift our focus, and so we actually started our own music publishing company under the UFO Network. It’s called UFO Network Publishing.

With so many labels not being fully honest with their artists regarding publishing, we wanted to do something! And so we started a company that incorporates publishing into our label. This, in turn, allows us to reach for new heights on our artists’ behalf while encouraging them to compete with mainstream artists on a whole new level.

“Overall, the workload has been insane but “Welcome to the music industry”, I guess!“— Jacques Julie

6. Give us the spice about your music blog and media company UFO Network.

Darren: Jacques and I have always enjoyed networking and building relationships within the industry. The blog has helped us form solid alliances with record labels, PR companies, and influential artists. As passionate music lovers, we love sharing new music and exciting news with the world!

Jacques: As Darren said, we have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people in the industry thanks to our news publication. The UFO Network is unique in so many ways as we are not simply a blog. We are a music publisher and a record label all at the same time!

We openly invite all mainstream artists and producers, and we guarantee them that with UFO, you have a voice and are no longer just a statistic or another addition to a label catalog. We communicate with our artists on a daily basis, and we are also very well linked with DSPs like Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, Tidal, and Apple Music. Our Release Fridays are always exciting because editorials are knocking on our door! Come see what all the hype is about!

7. What in the EDM world are you currently most excited about?

Jacques: We’ve observed a major shift in EDM music due to the pandemic. I would say that a huge genre shift and change of focus have occurred in the scene, and have paved a different future for EDM. Many artists have switched their focus to a more subtle sound and have geared down. With restrictions easing and the pandemic coming, hopefully, to an end, I am excited for the future of EDM gigs and festivals! Big things are coming!

Darren: Well, besides the live music industry slowly getting back on track, I’d have to say digital technology is something I’m excited about. The streaming generation has arrived and artists have found themselves becoming more independent because of it.

“NFT and blockchain have also opened up a pool of endless possibilities.” — Darren Bezuidenhout

8. What’s UFO cooking at the moment?

Darren: So much has happened in one year for us at UFO! We have recently opened our own publishing company (UFO Network Publishing), as well as an imprint label by the name of Soundrive. We have also formed label partnerships with LFTD Global and Luna Rising Music.

Jacques: For UFO the growth never stops! We are always looking for ways to better our brand image and grow as a company, and with that, we have had some very exciting changes take place over the past year and a half like Darren just mentioned.

We do aim and intend to be the next high-ranking competitor in the music industry. We have set ourselves out to prove that any label or brand can be a big player and receive global recognition if you work hard and never give up! Opportunities come and go, so grab every opportunity as if it were the only one and give it your all!


You can find UFO here: UFO Network, UFO Recordz & UFO Network Publishing.


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