Breaking the Mold: Record Label & Sync A&R

May Mahmoudi

Big Dada / Ninja Tune

Breaking the Mold: Record Label & Sync A&R

Episode Notes

“Sometimes I feel like smaller labels are often better because they can help you without you having to do things you don’t want to do. When you sign to a big label, you need to play the game if you want to get the max benefit.”

Our guest on this episode is May Mahmoudi, A&R at Ninja Tune’s Big Dada Records, as well as working in the sync department of Ninja Tune’s Just Isn’t Music. This episode is an insightful introduction to publishing and record label deals. How to get your music synched and what are the expectations from artists at the various levels of the music ecosystem? May was brought on to do A&R when Big Dada decided to do a big relaunch in early 2021. The label put a new focus on where they wanted to go and who was going to take them there. They are now actively working to amplify Black, POC and racialised voices. Big Dada Records looks to shift the narrative around this music, bypassing stereotypes to allow and encourage the freedom to express oneself for who they are and want to be. The goal: supporting and offering resources to a new generation of artists. May approaches music first by relating the vibe and the artist’s community. Then it is the nitty-gritty of how the music might be properly promoted and what the artist’s vision is, who they are and what they want. Having someone who works both the publishing side as well as the label side of the music ecosystem in for a conversation brought up a lot of new strategies. May is also very interested in having artists develop their music and career, being ready for their next step, whatever level that might be. 

Show Notes:

#HowWeListen Live: In Conversation

Ninja Tune

Big Dada Records

May Mahmoudi reviewed by Pitchfork

00:10 – Byta.com

03:36 – Virginia TechBeach FossilsWild Nothings

05:00 – Me and my friends all moved to LA, I got a job at Universal Music

06:23 – How  got my job at Ninja Tune

08:36 – The difference between the publishing world and the record label world

10:00 – What don’t artists know about publishing

10:35 – Just DM Beck…

11:24 – What does May’s day-to-day look like

12:51 – What are publishers looking for in an artist

14:42 – Chicken and Egg, how do artists get synchs?

15:28 – What does synch-able mean exactly?

17:03 – Bid Dada is looking for people pushing boundaries

18:11 – How do most indie labels approach new signings these days?

19:18 – The luxury of being Big Dada Records, under Ninja Tune.

20:42 – What are publishers looking for in an artist

21:10 – Why would anyone sign a record deal?

23:25 – Bandcamp is your best option

25:22 – May’s back story and her music career

27:50 – Byta.com

29:00 – You need to be ready for the level of label you sign to

31:16 – Music pollution

34:45 – Technology has changed everything & made music more accessible

38:09 – The importance of giving back to your community

40:00 – HowWeListen Live: In Conversation

41:18 – How does May find new music and artists

43:41 – How does A&R work inside the label

46:12 – What makes a great songwriter

47:30 – Byta.com

Music by Fin Productions and Oliver Lyu

Show Contributors

May Mahmoudi
Jen Pomphry
Fin Productions
Colin MacKenzie
Jamie Ford
Oliver Lyu
Marc Brown