Myth-busting the music industry with Slow Dance’s Maddy O’Keefe

Slow Dance on running an indie label, and other music industry insights

Made up of Marco Pini, Darius Williams, and Maddy O’Keefe Slow Dance has morphed from a zine and art collective into a respected independent record label. The team are well-versed in championing new and alternative talent from the very best that underground music has to offer. We sat down with Maddy O’Keefe to chat about Slow Dance’s origins, exciting upcoming projects and advice for breaking into the business side of the music industry.  

How did Slow Dance Start? 
Marco formed the collective with some college friends, initially as a zine and as an art collective, they would put on basement shows and t-shirt launches and just put out any creative stuff. Most of these events would have a blend of art and music. Slow Dance fell into being a label and promotions output as it feels like music can be a great way to represent both the audio and visual in a public sphere. 

Have there been any obstacles that you've had to overcome to get to where you are?  
There have been lots of times when I’ve been rejected or patronised by people who work for bigger labels, booking agents and management companies when looking for a job or seeking advice. I’ve found many people I’ve had to deal with, who often have more experience and authority than me, to be cynical, negative and unprofessional. I don’t want to say it’s because I’m a girl but all of these people have been men who are a fair bit older than me. 

What piece of advice would you give to someone aiming to break into the label side of the music industry? 
Be as proactive as you can and meet as many people as possible. Unfortunately, you do have to be willing to put a lot of effort in for very little or no pay but if you work hard it won’t go unnoticed. 

What would you say are the most rewarding and the trickiest parts of running the label? 
The most rewarding part is when you get to see the artists you work with grow and get recognition and praise. We work with a lot of artists from the very start, so it’s the best thing ever going through that journey with them! The trickiest parts are definitely financial strains. There isn’t much money in labels nowadays and people don’t buy records in the same way that they used to, and streaming generates so little income. Something has to change here!

How do you all work together and collaborate to make Slow Dance happen? What does a typical day look like? 
We all do different things within the label. Marco does all of the design work, Darius and I do a variety of things and he manages a few artists including Fran Lobo, Khazali and PVA with me. I also spend my time managing Tiña, Platonica Erotica and comfort. Marco and I also work on running the events side of the label. We all have other jobs and Slow Dance work is sort of done around that. We go into our London Fields office as much as possible but a lot of work is done remotely.

Why is it important to support independent artists?
If artists don’t receive any help, the industry remains unfairly favouring those who can support themselves or whose families can support them. There’s so much talent that just hasn’t been given the right opportunities or platform that some are immediately granted due to the connections they have or how much time and money they are able to put into their art.

What are your plans for the future? Are you working on any exciting projects?
We’ve taken on a band called comfort on the management side of the label which we are really excited about! We also have some pending new releases and live shows coming up. 

Check out Slow Dance here, and keep an eye on their upcoming events.

Words: Grace Goslin

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