Previously being one half of world famous House duo Jazz ’N’ Groove as well as running the highly successful Soulfuric Records imperium, Miami resident Brian Tappert started the online shop platform Traxsource 10 years ago, which he still leads as CEO. Mannix caught up with him to chat about decisions in life, the work behind Traxsource and the future of music…
Brian, I remember clearly when you put Soulful house imperium Soulfuric with all its offshoots aside to start Traxsource. Have you ever thought about doing the wrong decision in this case?
There have been periods when I thought about if we did the right thing but 10 years on I am absolutely sure we did. I think the contribution that Traxsource can make to the whole industry is much bigger than we did with any of our labels. We support an entire scene with it, and with a record label you got to ask yourself how many records you can release? Also there are a lot of labels out there, who probably couldn’t live without Traxsource as their releases wouldn’t sell properly anywhere else! So I think it was the right decision.
Traxsource started out as a platform to buy music mainly from Soulful House and Disco influenced House Music. Nowadays it has a much wider spectrum of music to offer. Is it necessary to cover more different styles or is it just a natural progression?
I think it is actually a bit of both. When we started out, we did what we knew best. The original thought of us was to offer it for Soulfuric Records and its distributed labels. So we called up some industry friends and talked to them about the idea. Actually it was Grant Nelson who said “Why would you stop with your friends? Make a whole store!” So we changed the name and went on. In its beginning the store of course featured our trademark sound mostly as Soulfuric was a very hot label. As time went on the natural progression was to expand from the centre. Nowadays a great soulful record can be as big as a deeper one, it is all there.
Obviously piracy is one of the biggest problems the music industry faces. Can platforms like Traxsource do anything to solve this problem or is this a hill that is not to climb?
Actually, there is a movement going on right now. When piracy popped up first many people were moaning about it or just gave up. So I guess it has taken some time for many industry heads to see that we have to do something against it. For instance we have a deal with Audiolock. They do take down more illegal links than anybody else. There are also aims to work with other big organisations, which are working on that problem as well. So in fact I think there will be a change very soon, there is something happening right now. These people have to know, that they will get into serious trouble when they share music for free. It will not happen tomorrow but it is moving in a very positive direction.
When we started out (well you probably started even before myself) it wasn’t so easy to produce a song. Nowadays anybody can come up with a track quite fast. Good or bad?
I think technology is the greatest thing that has ever happened to music and it’s the worst as well. It’s great because every kid with a laptop can do something that we did in the studio back in the days but it’s the worst for the same reason-everybody with a laptop can make a track these days and that’s what you can hear in a lot of productions. So we have quite some garbage around but nobody knows if some kid will come up with something great?!
How can we imagine work at Traxsource? If I have a decent track for instance and it’s my first release, how do I get it to you or how do you filter out the tracks that fit for your shop?
We do it the old fashioned way – we listen to everything that comes in. We have genre managers, guys who are responsible for each genre we offer on the site. They the rate the track and based on that rating the track is positioned on the site.
Concerning signing, it has to be said, that we don’t sign individual producers, we sign labels. Key to our work still is, that we listen to everything. We are a music store with the attitude of an independent record label. It’s quite the same work we used to do back in the day when we did A&R for our labels. There are more bits and pieces today, but the work is quite similar. What we want to do is to discover a new act first. It’s not that hard to work with established producers but the aim has always been to find unknown artists, who are very good in what they do. That’s what we did at Soulfuric with guys like Axwell to Copyright, well the list is long! Traxsource has that very same premise.
What are the challenges Traxsource will face in the future?
Of course still piracy which has something to do with education for me. Then we need to solve problems like publishing so that every producer, writer, singer or artist gets something out of the track she or he works on.
Behind such a big shop there must be a very impressive technical background. How do you handle this technically?
Well the challenge to be a serious online platform that is able to sell music very fast, of course has something to do with advanced technology. So we have invested quite something in servers, storage, computers and so on. Marc Pomeroy (who used to be one half of Jazz ’N’ Groove alongside Brian Tappert) is my partner with Traxsource and he is the technical genius behind the store. So he used to be locked in the studio in previous times and now he is locked in the office now to set up this high level technology we need to keep the shop fresh.
We have experienced the times, when real songs with big vocals were dominating floors and people were singing to a track in big clubs. Do you think real songs are gone in House Music?
I think the song-writing is getting more important again these days. Those talked about kids probably don’t know about song-writing, but how should they? I still I think there are enough superb songs with vocals out there, you just have to see that much more music is flying around these days!
A question that is on my mind for quite some time: Will we ever see a new release or even a remix form Jazz ‘N’ Groove?
Well I might have some old DATs somewhere but to be honest with you, I don’t think so. Traxsource is a fulltime job that we all focus on. I started DJing again recently, though!
How do you see the future of Traxsource personally?
Many things go in the right direction right now and as long as the music is good there will always be a place for us. We focus on DJs and DJs will always need to buy some music, the average person has other ways to get to music (Spotify etc…). So the direction we went for seems to be the right one and the future looks bright!