A Talk With Farah Syed [Beatport]

A Talk With Farah Syed [Beatport]

A Talk With Farah Syed [Beatport] 150 150 Artist Coaching

This interview has been paraphrased for consistency and clarity.

Let’s take a few steps back. Tell us a bit more about yourself and which company you currently work for. 

I’ve been working at Beatport for almost two years now at their Berlin office. I’ve had different roles at Beatport: I originally started in label management, then in marketing, and now I’m the partnerships manager. As the partnerships manager, I’m mainly dealing with outside relationships, working with brands, charity organizations, collectives focusing on diversity, and business development. Many of those partnerships encompass other departments, so I like having the freedom to work with the editorial team, the artist relations team, label management, and articles for Beatportal. 

How did you end up in the music industry, and eventually Beatport?

This is my 12th year in the industry now. Before Beatport, I lived in Los Angeles, where I worked for five years at WME, a talent agency, and focused on brand partnerships. This was also when electronic music was rising in the US around 2008-2009, and it was amazing to work in those teams and see that explode. We worked on Avicii’s Ralph Lauren deal and some other projects like Swedish House Mafia. After that, I got into artist management, but I missed being on the business side of things. I wanted to move away from LA and get creatively inspired again. I eventually moved to Berlin and got connected to Beatport. The rest is history!

Going back to your job at WME, why do big brands invest in artists?

Brands want to do something innovative and connect with their key audience in a more meaningful way. For example, 7UP knew that electronic music was booming, so they did a deal with Martin Garrix. They also knew that electronic music would be more attractive to their younger demographic, which consumes their drink. 

What could be the value for the artist – is it just money? 

For a lot of the artists, you get a massive paycheck for only a couple of days of production work. So you can make a good amount of money for two days of work, which would typically take five or six months. Sometimes brands pay for full tours, like Virgin Mobile and Lady Gaga. But also, it’s kind of cool if Nike or Red Bull wants to work with you. It means your fan base probably will grow, you’ll get a whole new audience; it’s also kind of flattering.

You mentioned living in LA, and later Berlin. One of the questions I get from artists is that they feel the need to move to places like LA or Berlin to get more involved in the industry. Is that valuable?

I think it’s smart to move somewhere where there’s a key scene from a business perspective. I’m not an artist, but I’ve worked with artists from different locations and would say it’s great to live in places like Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, New York, where it’s pumping in the veins of the city. In that way, you become part of a community, and  your network and ties become stronger. If you’re somewhere like Hawaii, you could definitely get your music heard, and I’m sure you can focus and stay productive, but then the networking side of things maybe get lost. If you’re producing, I think you can be anywhere in the world, but I think it’s also essential to live in a thriving place because you’re really plugged in. People end up building collectives, communities, labels – networking is a big part of your career. Human connections provide a lot more opportunities. 

What was the main thing you learned from your time at an artist agency and as a manager?

Artists are always overthinking their music, and they can be tough on themselves when the music is really good.

How did you deal with that?

I think it has to do with trust. A lot of artists overthink their music even though it’s already finished. As a manager, we can pitch the song to labels now, and the artist needs to trust us. 

It’s about having a relationship with the client and telling them that the music is good enough. 

What would you need as a manager to make an artist bigger?

I would say releases under your belt, and maybe a secret stash to show that there’s something to work with. The manager should know what you sound like and what you’re capable of. Having a pipeline of gigs or a booking agent also helps a manager because they have something to work with then.

You mentioned the importance of having releases under your belt. I often see that artists are ashamed of their previous releases, which leads them to delete their earlier tracks. I always tell them not to do that since it’s kind of like a resume. It tells something about where you came from and where you’re going. Do you agree?

Yeah, I think you should never be ashamed of where you came from. I think it’s fair to be proud of what you’ve made because it probably got you to where you are now. It helps you evolve as an artist. 

We met each other on the same panel in Munich about mental health. How do you think that mental health has affected the music industry in the last couple of years?

I think it’s amazing that people have talked more openly about the topic, and there’s less stigma. Unfortunately, people have had to pass away for this to happen, but there are some conversations you could have never had ten years ago, and now we can. Instead of a DJ being on the front of DJ Mag, the main topic is now about mental health. As a platform like Beatport, we must make this a global point to discuss. 

In addition to mental health, I think it’s also Beatport’s responsibility to educate people on other priorities like diversity and sustainability. With Beatportal, we can also highlight more of these topics; recently, we’ve been highlighting female and LGBTQ artists. It’s essential for us also to portray diversity and mental health in everything we do even on the store with things like feature charts, content, and editorials. 

Switching gears, how do you think that Beatport has been affected by the rise in streaming services? 

We recently introduced Beatport-Link, which is a subscription service and allows direct access to our entire catalog. For someone like me who’s wanting to learn how to DJ, it’s cool that I can get any track at my fingertips. We’ve also had some fantastic charity live streams recently with artists from around the world. Beatport is still thriving!

Thank you again for taking the time to tell us more about your work at Beatport and your experiences in the industry!