Insomniac Records Has Built a Culturally Minded Ecosystem for Emerging Artists
Courtesy Insomniac

Insomniac Records Has Built a Culturally Minded Ecosystem for Emerging Artists

Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas (May 18-20), the eighth gathering of EDM tribes in the desert metropolis organized by Pasquale Rotella's Insomniac, will be preceded May 11 by the third EDC Las Vegas compilation from Insomniac's homegrown Insomniac Records. Clocking in at more than 30 tracks, EDC Las Vegas 2018 highlights EDC's eight stages by featuring a range of electronic artists including Kaskade, Chris Lake, Tiësto, Slander, 12th Planet and Chris Lorenzo..

The compilation is the 44th release for the label since it relaunched in 2016. "We formed Insomniac Records because we saw the need for a label that fosters the unique talents of dance music artists while also giving them a powerful platform to share their music with fans around the world," Rotella says. 

Since reinventing itself two years ago and effectively wiping the slate clean, the label has doubled down on its mission statement, establishing itself as a one-stop shop for emerging artists in all facets of the EDM scene. "We wanted the label to represent the artists that Insomniac was supporting on our stages," label general manager Greg Mateo says of the creative vision.

Label manager Joe Wiseman adds, "We wanted to establish ourselves not as a competitor but as an equal to a lot of other L.A.-based labels pushing out cool, local artists that have a buzz here. We really tried to make it an L.A.-based label the first year; then we started to move beyond that and collaborate with more globally recognized acts like Slander or Chris Lake. That first year with the relaunch, it was important for us to reaffirm Insomniac Records as a trusted curator."

One way Insomniac Records distinguished itself was by re-emerging as a nimble, digital brand with a diversified suite of genre-based sublabels capable of distributing music quickly and widely. At present, Insomniac Records includes four sublabels: IN / ROTATION, Bassrush Records, Dreamstate Records and Discovery Project.

"Discovery is the base for new talent that we want to get into the system, while IN / ROTATION is more for acts that are starting to get bookings and have some history within the scene," Mateo explains. IN / ROTATION debuted with "Technikal," a deep bass house cut from France's Dombresky, a regular on Tchami's Confession label. More recent highlights for the imprint include the ethereal and almost romantic EP Bloom by Texas professor and producer Left/Right, and the House Philosophy/Ladies Man EP by LA Riots, who started out on an indie/electro tip but have been leaning toward more tech/house–flavored grooves lately. For Left/Right and LA Riots, IN / ROTATION provides a supportive environment in which they can push themselves and stalwart genres such as house in new directions.

Discovery Project's mission is to support newer artists of any style; it was born out of Insomniac's contests and competitions.

"The contests that we run for most of the festivals where new artists submit their tracks and the winner gets to play the actual show — we flipped that into a record label for Discovery Project," Wiseman says. "We also have an imprint for Bassrush that focuses on dubstep, trap and a range of bass subgenres, while Dreamstate covers the trance end of the spectrum."

Recent releases on Bassrush include the cheeky wobbler "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" by Colorado's Dirt Monkey, the blistering low-end monster "Project 9" by New York duo Yookie and the dark and rumbling Ghost Town EP by London's Caspa, one of dubstep's more seasoned and respected names.

Dreamstate kicked things off with "Wake Up," a turbocharged stomper by Swiss producer Liquid Soul in October 2017, and most recently released "Energy," a melodic slice of psytrance by Static Movement in late April.

Another way Insomniac Records sets itself apart is by offering artists access to its event stages. This year, kineticFIELD is where you'll find names like A-Trak, Afrojack, Diplo, Kaskade, Marshmello and Tiësto. New this year is the stereoBLOOM stage, curated by Insomniac Records.

Among those featured at stereoBLOOM are MK, Jack Beats, Redlight, Fisher, Dr. Fresch and Caspa. "Curating [the stage] is more genre-based," Wiseman explains. "Our first day is more house-oriented, our second day is more mixed, and Sunday is all bass. People go to our stage to discover new sounds or if they're fans of the label. For us, it's about highlighting who we're signing, and we sign such a wide array of sounds." 

Naturally, being under the umbrella of a major brand like Insomniac has its perks. In addition to built-in trust, you also have more freedom to take risks because you have the resources of a large parent company behind you. "Every label has that kind of hook; what makes them different," Mateo says. "In this day of digital distribution, it's not hard for anyone to get a deal and get their music out there, but how do you differentiate yourself? For us, our biggest way is through our stages and that synergy with our festivals."

This holistic sensibility gives Insomniac Records the confidence to look forward optimistically, and its robust release schedule — about one release every two weeks — is set to back that up. Perhaps more important, unlike many imprints that pop up daily in our digital world, Insomniac has been immersed in the culture from day one and is therefore not perceived as a carpetbagger out to make a quick buck off a trendy scene. Many of its staff members are veterans in the music industry or have been into dance music as fans for much of their lives.

From its early days as a party in Pacoima in the 1990s through its emergence as a power player in the early 2000s, up to its present state as a multifaceted conglomerate, Insomniac has been a catalyst in the development of electronic dance music culture in Southern California and the world at large. Insomniac Records aims to be a trustworthy place where aspiring artists can launch their careers.

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