warner case launches Top Right Records — The Interview

Photo: Jess Licata

A personal favourite musician of mine and hands down one of the most intelligent individuals I’ve interviewed at Sound Sniffer – warner case – is launching his own record label ‘Top Right Records’ on July 28th.

A few years ago myself and warner chatted over zoom when the world was at a standstill – it was a conversation that resinated and inspired so when word came through that he was starting his own label this summer, we just had to have another chin-wag.

The creator of ‘doyouwannabemine?‘, ‘summer on the inside‘ and ‘feel it yah‘ shares insight into his new label, the reasoning behind it, the ethos and long-term aims envisioned for this exciting new venture.

The Interview:

((Lets delve right into it shall we))

Where has the idea for the label has come from?

Over the last few years, I was taking the advice of a bunch of people around me — all of the people and advice were well-intentioned, but slowly I noticed the creative decisions didn’t feel right to me.

When we pitched tracks to labels, often the tracks that excited me most would get overlooked, and the labels would choose tracks that “would stream best”. Sometimes they were right, sure, and i’m not mad at that… but it did mean a large amount of music that i thought was the most interesting and impactful just sat on my laptop, collecting dust. Many of my artist friends, large and small, say the same thing: the music THEY love the most just sits and waits.

Top Right Records evolved from this — we should be releasing what we’re most proud of and excited for… that’s the point of being an artist.

Why don’t the labels generally release the artist’s picks?

Labels have to make money to survive, I get that; but that means that their thought when signing records is simply “which songs will get the most streams / money”, instead of “which songs excite us”. Multiply that industry-wide, and then everything on Spotify etc. is simply made for playlists, not humans looking for inspiration and joy.

Many of my favorite songs by artists aren’t the singles. Don’t get me wrong, I love Radiohead’s ‘Creep”. But if they were following the “bangers-only” release style that dominates today, we’d miss out on some of the finest songs ever written.

In general, if we, the artists, release the music that we’re most excited about, hopefully that’ll connect with our audiences the most. Maybe not every track gets a billion streams… but I’d rather one thousands streams where each one represents a mind blown than one billion where no was even paying attention. I’m not here to make music for a Study Playlist.

What are your main aims with the label?

Top Right’s aim will be to release quality dance music, no matter the genre or stream-worthiness, while giving artist-focused and fair contracts. It means a lot to me that, other than being dance music, we’ll follow no genre. As long as it strikes me and I move to it, I’ll sign it.

No matter how big the label gets, I’ll be the sole A&R decider — not to be a control freak, but to keep it from becoming the classic “A&R room full of opinions” that labels normally have, which leads to no risks being taken, and distilled and boring signings.

So essentially, Top Right Records this where warner case will compartmentalise the actual favourite tracks that warner case has made, and the favourites of your peers aswell? Will you reach out to your friends in music and get their favourite demos too. It sounds like it could be like a juicy selection-box of the finest tracks from the finest musicians! 

That’s not how I meant to do it, but it’s a good way of looking at it. If my artist friends send me their favourite tracks for TRR, i’ll certainly listen to them, but that doesn’t mean I’ll sign it — I have to keep my integrity, after all. I don’t care how big the artist is either… everyone who makes something truly interesting is considered for Top Right. I just signed three records from fans of mine through my discord — they’re some of the best dance songs i’ve heard in a while, and these artists are basically brand new.

I think too much of the industry focuses on big numbers and not *quality* numbers. I know artists with 10,000 monthly listeners who pack a room full of rabid fans, and also ones with 1,000,000 monthlies who can barely sell 50 tickets. “bigger” isn’t always “bigger” OR “better”.

Who is lined up to release on the label so far?

Some songs are mine, and others are from artists like Effemar – they have an amazing album worth of material that others passed on… and when it got sent to me I thought “Ho-ly shit.” One of those songs is coming out in September, and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it. 

Another one is Besso, a very fresh artist from LA (currently in Madrid) who sent one of his demos via a livestream feedback session that I was doing on discord. I DM’d him immediately after and offered to sign it.

I’ve got a few others I can’t discuss quite yet, but trust me that you’ll enjoy their stuff!

I’m excited to give a platform to artists I think are amazing, no matter how new or established they are. If their music stops me in my tracks, I’m confident others will feel the same way.

Making a label sustainable for everyone involved is the key to success, what will you be doing to support the artists you sign?

One of the main elements is that Top Right Records it is artist-fair, artist-focused and artist-run. The artists keep way more royalties than the standard (and more than I’ve gotten on my own deals in the past), and they’ll always keep ownership of their masters, something that’s surprisingly rare these days. Labels owning your masters is how they control you as the artist, but without us, they’d be nothing.

How will you use your experience in music to market the releases?

Many labels spend a ton on marketing, which may sound good, but in practice it’s often wasted on social media ads that don’t work, album art that you don’t like, social media clips that aren’t that interesting… and then the tab is put on you, the artist. So if your song earns $5K but the label spent $6K on marketing, you’re still $1K in debt to the label: so far you’ve been paid literally nothing. Hard to pay rent with hopes and dreams.

Top Right Records will be financially streamlined: we won’t run costly, ineffective PR campaigns, spend big money on art + promo materials… For example, our album art is clean, simple, and template-based without any text on it — it will cost $0 to make (not the usual $300-500 for a graphic designer), and will creatively turn the listener’s focus to the song, not the shiny artwork. Our PR will be aimed toward results, not just throwing dollars at TikTok hoping for a viral dance.

In my opinion, keeping costs low and effective is the key to the modern, sustainable label so that artists can actually earn a living wage from their art.

On July 28, Top Right Records launches with its founder’s own single “unbound promise”, a euphoric, undefinable dance energizer with African rhythms, Indian percussion, choir vocals, church bells, house roots, and much more. Listen to that song above.

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