Do You Want to Kickstart Your DJ Career with Tomorrowland?
When it comes to international dance music festivals, few are bigger and more anticipated than Tomorrowland. The annual Belgian festival has hosted hundreds of revered DJs and performs for the hundreds of thousands of attendees who descend upon the festival each year. Among them is Dutch house hero Fedde Le Grand, a frequent headliner of the event and mentor of The Sound of Tomorrow.
In collaboration with Pepsi MAX, both Tomorrowland and Fedde Le Grand are hosting a competition to give a young up-and-coming DJ the chance to perform in front of thousands of ravers at one of the world’s largest dance music festivals. Four finalists will square off behind the decks on Tomorrowland’s social media channels for a panel of legendary DJs to show off their chops and fight for the crown.
While the Tomorrowland 2020 event remains canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, the winner of the competition will be awarded a slot at the festival’s 2021 edition, and be able to release a remix on Fedde Le Grand’s label, Darklight Recordings.
Ahead of this year’s competition, we sat down with last year’s winner, Empra, who offers a few tips on what it takes to come out on top, the boost that winning the competition has given his career, and the lessons he’s learned as a result.
As a follow-up, we also spoke to Fedde Le Grand about this golden opportunity for budding DJs, his musical background, what makes an artist stand out, and what he’s looking for during the search for The Sound Of Tomorrow finalists.
Head to the Sound of Tomorrow website for full details on how to enter.
Q&A with Empra: Winner of The Sound Of Tomorrow (2019)
What was it like to win The Sound of Tomorrow?
It still feels unreal to this day. Performing at Tomorrowland was one of my biggest dreams for a long time, and remixing a track by none other than Fedde Le Grand, one of dance music’s biggest artists, was an honor. I am glad I participated; it was the best decision of my career so far.
What did you learn from taking part in The Sound of Tomorrow?
The Masterclasses in Ibiza were great. Fedde and all the other Industry people taught us many things, and we were able to ask pretty much anything we had on our minds. They shared some tips and tricks within the industry and made it very clear to us that the most important thing is to be yourself when making music. Authenticity is key! Of course, we got taught some technical stuff, but I would say that the talk about pursuing a career path was (at least for me) a bit more interesting.
How has your life changed and career taken off since winning the competition?
I mean, I’m not quite able to live off my music just yet, but it certainly got me some exposure. I played some more festivals and club shows and also got some solid streaming numbers on Spotify, which makes me super happy! Knowing that my music is heard around the world, and been streamed more than 250,000 times, is insane. But I don’t want to rest now and slow down just because I won the competition. I want to push through. I already signed another track on Fedde’s label. I sent it to him as a demo, and he liked it. So I have got that going for me.
Have you and Fedde worked together since The Sound of Tomorrow?
Since he has a pretty tight schedule, there is not much time to spend together. We still are in contact though, as mentioned above, he already signed a new track of mine to Darklight Recordings, and I also went to his ADE Label Party in October. I had the chance to catch up with Fedde earlier this year; we talked about how amazing last year’s Sound of Tomorrow competition was and how the experience has helped to elevate my career. You can watch our conversation here.
What are the most important things you have learned from Fedde?
Honestly, be real, and just enjoy the process. It seems I have the potential to grow If I keep on pushing and creating more music. Another thing he taught me is to be humble. We didn’t actually discuss this, but he is such a down to earth guy, and I admire him for that. You have to respect how much he just acts like a regular guy, given how much he has achieved throughout his career.
What advice would you give to those thinking about entering?
A: Since you can only submit 20-30 minutes in your first mix, you should think about what makes you and your sound unique. In my case, it’s future house, mixed with some more commercial tracks and sometimes hard-hitting drops. I created mashups and even included my original productions. If you add your own productions, they should be at a decent quality, though!
Just make sure you create a mix that tells a story for 20-30 minutes and keeps the listener engaged! If you want to mix genres: go for it! As long as it is cohesive, and you should feel hyped about listening to your own mix.
Also, having a social media presence can make your life a bit easier. Still, I had around 500-600 followers on Instagram when I entered the competition, so don’t be scared if you don’t have a considerable following. It’s about raw talent and skill, not the looks and the followers!
What’s next for you outside of the Sound of Tomorrow?
I’m constantly working on new music, and I’m trying to get it out there. I try to keep my signature sound, but I also want to keep it fresh, so expect me to get creative from time to time. I plan to have some upcoming shows here and there, and I will also launch my merchandise soon!
I would also love to collab with Fedde on a track. That’s still on my bucket list, and I would be super happy if he wants to team up with me for an original track! I could also see myself producing a collab with the winner of this year’s competition.
What is exciting about this year’s Sound of Tomorrow as it moves online?
As all music events understandably take a pause this year, upcoming DJ talent still needs a platform, and this live stream competition event is precisely that. It is excellent that Pepsi MAX and Tomorrowland are bringing the stage to people’s living rooms with an epic live stream, where this year’s Sound of Tomorrow winner will be crowned with an even bigger audience across Europe!
Q&A with Fedde Le Grand
What has changed in the world of EDM since last year’s The Sound of Tomorrow?
I think the sound has become even more housey. I think all genres, tech house, future house, and bass house have all gained more ground. As you need less and less equipment, the floodgates have also been opened, and there is now a vast variety of music and producers – it’s gotten harder to stand out with a track. That’s why I love to use my voice to help promote and give a platform to emerging talent.
Beyond that, we’re now living in a time where live music events have all had to stop for the greater good. While it’s an essential move, it does mean opportunities for both up and coming, and established artists have diminished – which is why chances like ‘The Sound of Tomorrow’ are even more important.
Tell us about your experience of being involved with the Sound of Tomorrow last year
For me, it was absolutely amazing, and I was pleasantly surprised by the high caliber of all the participants. It was also great to see that several bonds were formed among the candidates, and they were and are still helping each other furthering their careers. A sense of community is a great thing to have within the industry – it fosters collaboration as we lift each other up and support one another.
What was the highlight of working with Pepsi MAX on The Sound of Tomorrow?
There were so many highlights – the whole experience was incredible, to be honest. Getting to know the finalists, hearing the top three give their final DJ sets, and getting to share the experience of performing at Tomorrowland. It’s also been cool to continue collaborating with EMPRA on Like We Do. Since then, we have collaborated several times.
This is the second edition of The Sound of Tomorrow, why are you getting involved again?
There was no question around the continuation of the project as The Sound of Tomorrow is such an incredible platform to search for aspiring DJs. Seeing last year’s winner EMPRA light up the Tomorrowland stage was incredibly inspiring. It’s an honor to be involved, meeting talented DJs and collaborating with them on what could be the Sound of Tomorrow! This year, we’re taking things online, which is very exciting as even more people will be able to enjoy the live stream finale. I’m really excited to be able to showcase the talent of tomorrow to homes across Europe.
What does tomorrow/the future (of music) sound like to you?
If I knew that, my life would be so very boring! The main thing I love about dance music, in particular, is the continuous evolvement and growth. When it comes to producing, I never let my creativity be limited or boxed too much for the same reason. I love a challenge. I love new inspiration. Right now, the industry is ready for some new sounds, and I, for one, am very excited to see which new artists or tracks are going to inspire yet another generation!
How did you get your big break in the music industry?
Many will contribute my big breakthrough to “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit,” and on an international level, that’s where it started for me. Back then, you really had to earn your stripes before being accepted on any level (even more so than nowadays), which I think for me came mainly with “Let Me Think About It” and other follow-up records.
What advice do you give to aspiring DJs who want to get involved in the competition?
What I’ll be saying to everyone this year is not to give up, and don’t be afraid to put YOURSELF out there. Last year, the tenacity of the previous year’s finalists and commitment shone through – which is why they made it to the masterclass and beyond. Be creative, dare to show who YOU are as an artist. Without innovation, the best you can be is a very great copycat but never the real deal. Never forget that new things are never always met by positive response only, you’ll have to deal with the negatives and not let any disappointment break you but rather let it ignite your growth further. This year also poses a new challenge — how to make your personality shine on a live stream — you don’t have the audience to push you through, but you also don’t have the same distractions/nerves, so that you can use that to your advantage.
What did you enjoy doing last year at Tomorrowland when you were off-stage?
I don’t get a chance to often, but I do try and make an effort to walk around the entire grounds. It’s great to see the details and energy of the production of the festival. I can’t wait to be back at Tomorrowland as soon as it’s safe to do so!
What are you and Pepsi MAX doing together for ‘The Sound of Tomorrow’?
After the success of last year, Pepsi Max is embarking on the second edition of The Sound of Tomorrow – a quest to find the next exciting talent out there in partnership with Tomorrowland festival. The competition will be coming to homes across Europe this year as it is live-streamed through Tomorrowland and Pepsi MAX channels. With music events across the world taking a pause, DJ talent needs a platform more than ever, and we want to bring great music into people’s homes!
What makes an artist stand out in the house/EDM genre?
Having your own sound, but especially not being afraid to show your personality in your music and your sets. It’s good to let yourself be influenced and inspired by others, but when it comes to being an artist of your own, it really all has to do with your creative vision and urges. Trying to imitate what’s already hot is trying to fill a taken seat.
What are you going to be looking for during the search for the The Sound of Tomorrow finalist?
As was the case last year, it is always about quality and skill level but also creativity and guts. We want to see personality in each artist, and although it’s scary, it’s also great to see courage and inspiration in someone and their craft. After the launch last year, I’m very excited for everyone to show us what they’ve got. To help the DJs perfect their mixes, I’ve created some videos with Pepsi MAX on track selection, mixing techniques, and the importance of artist branding of self-promotion. Keep an eye on www.soundoftomorrow.com for these exclusive tips!
What is your creative process? How do you come up with a new track?
That’s always different. Sometimes I first stumble upon this amazing vocal that gets me all inspired, and I start creating the track from there. Sometimes I start with a specific groove or idea I want as a tool for my sets and start building from there. There’s no set procedure, nor is there a specific amount of hours needed to go into a record. Some of the most challenging productions turn out to be the most special to me; some may have proven difficult for a reason! The most important thing is that you keep going, keep making music that you believe in, and hopefully, that will spark something in others likewise.
What inspires you? Where do you go to spark inspiration?
Literally everything. Inspiration can come from different songs or artists, from amazing shows that get you all hyped up, personal circumstances, the weather… I think it’s part of your journey as an artist to figure out where your personal inspiration lies. Most importantly, don’t get put off by less inspiring times, just sit down in your studio and see what comes out of you, or give it a break and try again on the next day.
What is new for The Sound of Tomorrow this year?
This year, The Sound of Tomorrow will take place exclusively online, which means an even wider audience will have the opportunity to experience the competition. It will be great to have EDM fans from around the world tune in as we present an exciting live stream event for everyone, with performances, and of course, some tips and tricks straight from the decks.