Pezzner plays the Savoy Room at MUTEK. Photo (CC) basic_sounds.

Remix contests are all the rage lately, but quality is another thing altogether. I’m happy CDM is involved in a new contest with Dancetracks, however, because the ingredients of a contest that’s worth your time all all there.

First off, Seattle-based [Dave] Pezzner on freefrange is an artist worth noting. He’s a talented producer, has a great sense of sound, as has moved from commercial and television sound and music into being a breakout dance artist – something to which many CDM readers may aspire. He’s assembled just the kind of smart track we like:

Valldemossa was inspired initially by a tape recording I found of a boys choir recorded circa 1982, which was piped through an analog tape delay. The ending result of this tape recording was outstanding and left me with a gold mine of sounds to pick from. I built this song using a handful of my favorite tools, FL Studio, Ableton Live, Native Instruments Battery, Reaktor, D16 Phocyon, some sounds from the Mellotron M400 tape banks, Klanglabs Stompbud collection and Mixed in Key (as well as some keen direction from master and chief, Jimpster). Feel free to let loose and let your inner artist speak loudly. We’re excited to hear what you do!

Dancetracks Pezzner Valldemossa Remix Contest

Many contests claim they get you exposure, of course; it’s another thing to deliver. The winner of the Dirtybird Records Dancetracks contest last year, as covered on CDM, managed to net a deal for an EP with that Claude VonStroke-run label.

Of course, dangling promises of exposure and record deals is one thing – let’s talk loot. In this contest, the winning release (ultimately determined by the label) is a sure thing, along with other goodies:

Winning remix released digitally on Freerange, featured on Dancetracks
Dubspot NYC Professional Mixing & Mastering session ($1095) with private mixdown session*
Ableton Live 8
M-Audio CX5 Studiophile monitors
M-Audio Pro Tools M-Powerd 8
M-Audio Torque Conectiv
Glyph Technologies PortaGig 800 professional harddrive
Cluster Sound 20 Gigabytes of sounds
MONO Producer bag
$100 download credit on Dancetracks
Freerange t-shirt
Dancetracks t-shirt

Nor is Dancetracks just using this as an easy way to cash in — pre-warped stems for Ableton Live (or plain audio for everything else) are a free download.

The contest ends August 31.

Pezzner Valldemossa Remix

Help Us Choose CDM’s Pick

If you do happen to enter, let us know here on CDM, as I’ll also offer a CDM Editor’s Choice Award to my favorite track. I know this musical genre is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I’ll be listening for something really unique and further out, and will make sure your work gets properly exposed. I sadly can’t offer lavish prizes, but I will have a dancetracks shirt and $50 certificate for you – plus coverage we like to think is priceless.

If you’ve entered something already, just send us a link. If not, let us know when you have.

Pezzner at MUTEK, also by basic_sounds. Does anyone know who did the lovely visuals for this set?

When Remix Contests Go Bad

So, I’m just here pimping dancetracks, right? No, I went through those points carefully only to emphasize that most remix contests get this formula horribly, horribly wrong. And that’s a shame – this shouldn’t be rocket science. Cool track and artist + free download of stems + rich prize package + actual exposure = working remix contest. This should be a doable thing.

So, how is it that the formula often becomes variations of random track you want to shill + paid stem download as a quick cash earner + cheap prizes + exposure that’s anyone’s guess? As our friend Dave Dri – himself both a successful recorded (and performing) artist and musical journalist — puts it:

What is disappointing is the increasing frequency of major labels and their “independent” imprints in creating prize-less or obscene remix competitions, under the premise of “helping up-and-comers”. The fact is that a remixer can simply message or email another producer or label and offer their services with a great deal of success.

So where is the appeal of remix competitions that offer little in the way of an actual prize? Or having to purchase the remix parts from Beatport? Just where does “up-and-coming” translate to “exploitable”?

Check out the whole article for a no-BS take on remixing in general – remixing as business, and not just supposed remix culture.

Life at The Terminal with Dave Dri [Time Off, Australia]

I’m sure some will disagree with his take, so feel free to debate the merits of the argument in comments. But it is worth asking – maybe even about dancetracks’ contest, too; I’m happy to hear constructive criticism.

A thing for the sake of the thing tends to be useless. Remix contests can be a total waste of time – or they can be a powerful tool. But then, you can’t blame labels alone. It’s up to artists, too, to make the right call.

  • throw in a cdm t-shirt and I'm in!

  • Ha, we'll have to make one first. Maybe it can be the prototype. 🙂

  • interesting views, thanks for the post! I have been experimenting with related concepts for some time. Just recently i´ve launched the latest experiment, crashroots (

    Its a opensource music (osm) community where samim, miguel toro, argenis brito and a growing community of established recording artists get together to share amazing songs, musical ideas, samples, etc. as free download under a creative commons license. We invite anybody to participate in the creative process at a early stage and give feedback. Hope you like the music and find our approach interesting!

  • while i agree it's a bit anal to charge people to grab the parts to enter a contest, on a few occassions i have heard people use the remix parts in new tracks that got released as paid downloads, most likely with no permission.

    so it's almost as if charging for the stems covered the costs of people going ahead and using the parts anyways in their tracks.

    of course, it depends on how you view remix culture though. to some people, those parts should be reused as often as possible without having to pay anything back

  • Oh, I'm definitely not making any hard and fast rules. You can make the argument to charge for stems. (Heck, in a lot of cases we'd be glad to *have* the stems.) This week, it was David Bowie / Major Tom. But it's, like, David Bowie. That's a prize. And there are open-licensed contests that maybe don't have a stash of sponsors behind them, but the artists are willing to share.

    To me, the major sin of, let's face it, a whole lot of PR in general is Epic Boredom. It's your right to go and create Epic Boredom with what you're doing, but equally our right to just move on – and that could be a missed opportunity for, like, Not Boredom. Okay, it's Friday night. That's all I've got.

  • Ugress (of the brilliant "Makina Fifth" and "Manhattan Sapphire" tunes — see the videos on YouTube too) is doing an experiment with selling remix stems for a low price:

    SHAME ON BOREDOM, THERE'S A SURPLUS OF THAT… and not enough hyperfocus.

  • I found this article interesting as I run a site completely dedicated to remix competitions. While I agree somewhat with what you're saying. I think you're missing the point as you seem to think that people are just entering remix contests for their own profiteering.

    Many do this for fun, to learn how tracks are put together, to improve their remixing skills and to increase their own portfolio of remixes done among many other reasons.

    So therefore I would say that you're algorithm for a good remix contest wrong as I think…

    A good track + free download of stems + a prize + a properly run contest = a good contest.

    The one thing I do agree with though is the paid for remix stems thing. There is approximately around 70 to 100 remix contest running at any one time and so there is no need to pay for stems as there is always a good track to remix for everyone without paying for stems.

    It's funny that the bands that tend to charge for stems are the more popular bands (such as Depeche Mode and Ace of Base) rather than lesser known bands.

  • Armando C

    Edward, thanks for your post, great site man!

  • Simon Lacelle

    This kind of contest is great for the artist, the remixer, AND the record company/online stor/whatever. Hell, I didn't even know about Pezzner or Dancetracks before this contest 😛

  • I absolutely agree that a remix competition that makes you pay for stems is a bad contest. It's a cheap, dishonest revenue generation ploy. The recent contest on Beatportal left a particularly bad taste in the mouth – over 1000 entries and a particularly dodgy voting system – and then 10 established remixers making it into the final entries. Then the winners announcement over a month late…..

    However, I would have no problem purchasing stems in general – i wish more bands did it. It aids remix culture in general, It's interesting to put a track back together from it's component parts and definitely helps learning the mechanics of mixing…. Just not under the pretence of a contest.

  • interesting discussion here. yeah i think this remix for PR thing is being beaten to death. there has to be something new that can be tried.

    anyways i do recommend visiting samim's crashroots site that he linked to above.

    i contributed a few keyboard loops and they were very appreciative. i'm like "oh no sweat that just took me 2 minutes". it was actually fun which is what this stuff is supposed to be about

  • Damian

    Indeed, very interesting. Let's not forget a remixer's portfolio of original work as well. It would be refreshing to see a contest based on exposing two things at once. 1. A solid remix and 2. An original work by the same remixer. Hell, while we're at it, how about breaking things into classes such as unsigned, established, and neophyte?

  • Justin Brown
  • Justin Reed

    hey – Does anyone on this thread still have the original ableton project file? I skrewed up and deleted the samples…if anyone is feeling he4roic i'd love to get the stems again…

    I know the contest is over but i've been refining my mix and would like to finalize it for personal playback

    if you've got the hookup


  • Hey Justin, I think I could help you! Will contact you asap 😉