Who are you?
Sarah Stam, artist manager and label consultant within the (electronic) music scene under SET THE TONE . I’m also co-founder of shesaidso.ams, the Dutch chapter of the international organisation shesaid.so, a global initiative to achieve more diversity and equality within the music industry.
Where are you based?
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Where do you work? What do you do?
I am very fortunate to work as an independent artist manager and label consultant for over 2 years now, having the best time of my life really. After working for several other music companies and record labels in the past I’ve launched SET THE TONE as my own umbrella company, focussing mainly on artist management, release marketing, branding and international relations. You make the music, we set the tone. It’s really great working from both the artist perspective as well as the staying up to date with all the label developments, through my work with new indie labels like NoCopyrightSounds, Future House Music and Frequency. On a daily basis I feel blessed working with kind, talented and creative people and brands, being able to do what makes me smile and experiencing room to have that creative freedom I like to have when working on projects. When I started my career I never imagined I could achieve a lifestyle in which I could combine my passion for music, culture and travelling like this. Happy times!
What are you listening to?
Quite honestly, my taste is a bit all over the place, really depending on mood and setting. From Jazz to Hiphop, Classical and R&B, but also electronic and pop tunes or nostalgic stuff like Billie Holiday.
More recently been having Lophiile on repeat, his latest track ‘One Hand’ with Sophie Faith is pure fire. Quite a lot of hiphop, R&B and urban playlists in my Spotify atm, including Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone or Anderson .Paak. When I’m at home I can put on more classical stuff like Keith Jarrett or chilled vibes with Volcano Choir or Laura Mvula. My mum and I are big fans of Charles Aznavour, but I would never admit that to any music friends in the scene 😉 Love indie electronic acts like Zero7, Pablo Nouvelle or Bonobo, and legends like Justice and Daft Punk are definitely the reason I’m working in the electronic / house scene atm. Oh, and a nice new Dutch talent on the rise is Sarita Lorena!
How do you find new music?
Many different ways, I guess mainly through my friends and social network. I love when a friend or colleague tips you that new gem you would have otherwise never discovered. But of course Spotify serves me the right new jewel every now and then too. Through series or films I can sometimes also really stumble upon a beautiful record, bless the power of Shazam! Furthermore, I’d say Soundcloud used to be my main source of discovery, especially back in the days when I had time to get lost in mixes and bootlegs and what not. I have this one music friend with whom I always go to concerts, we decided years ago to stop giving each other birthday presents and instead always take one another to an exciting new concert or gig, absolute source of music discovery, Nowadays, I’m lucky to travel to different countries and discover local talent too, like the other day in Estonia when I met the lovely Lepatriinu and Daniel Levi, two very talented Estonian singer-songwriters.
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services and why?
The main platform for me atm is definitely Spotify. The algorithm and interface simply stands out to me as a user when it comes to all streaming services available today. I’m also starting to have quite a Vinyl collection, I just love the sound and ritual of it and it’s simply fantastic to own a little physical piece of art of those records that are in your heart. Through working with a few YouTube based record labels over the past few years I have discovered that YouTube can be an amazing platform for music discovery, the opportunities on that platform are endless with it being a User Generated Content environment, but I have to admit I feel I’m too old to fully stay on track with it all.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
Always and everywhere. I literally always have music on except when in a social interactive situation or the cinema haha. From the gym, to working, on a holiday, driving, travelling or even when cooking, doing groceries or reading a book. For my work I also listen to a lot of masters and WIPs from my artists, so sometimes I can have tune on repeat for an hour on so, Testing it through my laptop, phone, then through my portable speaker and finally on headphones to see how it sounds through different devices. Always happy to put some vinyl on when relaxing or chilling with friends and I’m happiest when listening at a live concert or festival, being so very in the moment enjoying this form of art with hundreds of others is so special every single time again. I’m happy to be in walking distance from the nicest music temple in the Netherlands: Paradiso, with it being located in an old church it has such a special touch to it!
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
Mainly send to me by artists and/or managers or friends working at labels, Dropbox links and Soundcloud links mainly. I have to say most days I’m so busy I don’t keep track of all demos sent to me, but try to work on the pre releases of the labels and artists I work with. Love when you get all hyped about a release that’s due to come out in 8 weeks or so, and you have it on repeat in the office of the label, and the whole team gets excited working towards release day!
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
Not many frustrations to be fair. I feel Soundcloud used to be better back in the day, as it was such a unique platform and so suitable for mixes and DJs. I totally understand they had to change some stuff around to keep up with the alternative platforms but as a user I sometimes miss the old days where Soundcloud did its own thing. As a professional the trends and recent playlist changes at Spotify can be challenging, with skip-rates becoming increasingly important for playlisting, unique and stand-alone acts or sounds are less likely to be playlisted. However, the power of discover weekly and radio radar make up for that as organic growth is rewarded.
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
Haha, I struggle. Just the other day, a very-hung-over-Sunday, I took it upon myself to order and rearrange my 75 (or so) personally made playlists in Spotify. Got so stuck in re-discovering hidden gems in there that I’m not even close to being finished. There used to be this Dutch music brand in the Netherlands titled 22-tracks, they brought the best playlists to you across all genres, existing out of exactly 22 tracks per playlist. They believed that the perfect playlists consisted out of 22 tracks exactly, no more no less. I tried to cling on to that philosophy for a while but there’s simply too much music out there..
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
Hm I’m not too good on the social platforms, so it’s mainly sending it personally to some fellow music lovers by WhatsApp or Instagram.
Anything you want to “promote”?
For any electronic fans out there, keep an eye out on my boy Ellis. Talented kid from the UK, we’re slowly but steadily building his sound and presence, but a lot of talent and joy to share together with that one! And my beautiful friend and singer-songwriter Bobbie Wall is going to release a special EP in May titled ‘The Hurricane’, a very personal and special creative tale about parenting and pregnancy when working as an artist/music professional. I can’t wait to see that one being released, we’re also hosting a special event around this theme with shesaidso.ams in May, with Bobbie Wall performing. Very proud of her balancing music, life and the care for her newborn, she’s such a star!