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Berlin based Tartelet Records’ co-owner Emil Nyholm talks indie labels with Ben Romberg

A few weeks ago, London hosted the Independent Label Market for its second Easter in a row. A gathering of some of Europe’s most acclaimed independent labels, giving a glimpse of how the scene is burgeoning and the appetite for rare, upcoming and new talent has become a mainstay.

After the event, we caught up with Emil Nyholm, one of the owners of Tartelet Records co-founded in Copenhagen in 2007. Now based in Berlin, the label has become well known for uncovering new talent and has over the years introduced acts such as Brandt Brauer Frick, Kenton Slash Demon, Max Graef & Wayne Snow.

Ben Romberg: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Emil. Can you tell us a bit about how you first started Tartelet Records? 

Emil Nyholm: The label was founded after a string of successful parties. At the time, the “scene” in Copenhagen was going through a vibrant phase with new venues opening and lots of people going out. This was shortly before the financial crisis set in. Tomas and Frederik started the label with the intention of releasing their own and friends’ music with little regard to running the business side of things. It was a beautiful amateur operation and completely out of control for a while. The first couple of releases were well received and got played by a few “it” DJs at the time. This generated hype around the label and got us on the map. Frederik was in charge of A&R back then, he was (still is) an inspiring, visionary character that people gather around and this definitely helped push the label in the beginning.

Ben: What made you decide to move from Copenhagen to Berlin?

Emil: It is difficult to survive as a record label in Copenhagen unless you are making mainstream radio music. Berlin has much more to offer when it comes to music and people tend to gather there making it easier to connect with artists from around the globe. In retrospect, I guess the move to Berlin changed our focus from local to global.

Ben: How do you go about working with new or emerging artists?

Emil: It depends; sometimes it’s pure luck. For instance I met Max Graef when we were having an in-store session at OYE Records. Most signings come through friends; someone will forward a demo or tell me about “this guy”. We do receive lots of demos from artists unknown to us but still haven’t found one suitable for the label.

As for working with new artists, it’s the one thing I enjoy most about running the label. We don’t have a specific formula, it depends, but I will work closely with the artist. For albums, in particular, it’s a long process with several rounds of discussion and feedback. We start with the overall concept and then work from there. Sometimes I’m involved all the way through to mixing down the album.

Ben: Do you feel responsible for promoting the Danish electronic music scene and getting visibility for lesser known artists?

Emil: No not at all. I love pushing new artists but I’m not concerned with where they are from. Promoting someone just because they are Danish would be silly. That said, I love my hometown and it would be nice to see more Danish artists on the international scene.

Ben: How has the scene changed for independent labels like yours over the past few years?

Emil: The whole industry has undergone a major transformation and is now coming to terms with it. From understanding the world of digital and streaming, to vinyl making a big comeback. Overall, I think the climate has improved for independent labels. Obviously there are now issues such as major labels clotting up pressing plants, but I welcome that compared to the slow years we had before.

Ben: What do you think makes vinyl so sought after in this day and age?

Emil: That’s a good question but hard to answer. Several factors are in play - obviously there is the retro trend, old is cool, melancholy and so on. It has become a way for young people to stand out and show off their musical taste. Besides from that, I think, the fact that our lives are becoming increasingly digitalised has a lot to do with it. Most music and film is available to us 24/7 on demand. Nothing is exclusive or hard to find. The physical manifestation of the vinyl record has suddenly become a sensation in and of itself.

Ben: Are there any artists or projects you'd like to give a special shout out to?

Emil: Yes! I’m very excited about the two albums we are releasing in autumn. Uffe’s second album is absolutely amazing, I can’t wait for people to hear it. Wayne Snow’s debut album will follow, we are still working on it but I can reveal that it is being produced in collaboration with Max Graef, Nu Guinea and Neue Grafik.

Finally a big shout out to the Tartelet family: Alex Seidel, BBF, Fredski, IMYRMIND, James Braun, Julius Conrad, Glenn Astro, Kenton Slash Demon, Kickflip Mike, Max Graef, Nu Guinea, Vivian International, Wayne Snow, Uffe and Queen V.

Ben: Lastly, what's the one track would you suggest we all go out and buy (preferably on vinyl)?

Emil: I would just urge people to go dig, there are so many great records to be found. Here are a few records I picked up in New York last week: