Five Things I Know: Sweetie Zamora, Remote Control Records

In March, Remote Control Records’ head of labels and promotions Sweetie Zamora launched a brand-new imprint, Pointer Recordings, with an artist roster comprising Telenova, Imbi x Slim Set, Ryan Fennis and Voidhood, and Cavallo Nero. NME catches up with her to talk artist branding, getting started in the music industry and the key to a good artist-label relationship

1. Artists need support to stand out from the pack

Gone are the days where you needed to go into a studio because you weren’t able to get microphones or recording software on your computer. If you’re a teenager not living in a metropolitan city, you can totally write and record your own music, do some research and find a distributor – and that music can be out on the internet the next day. I think that’s great, but that accessibility also makes it a really crowded space.

I definitely don’t want to throw shade on digital distributors, but sometimes an artist has recorded a single and they might think, “Alright, I’ll give it to a digital distributor, they’re gonna be super passionate about it too.” But there’s a possibility that you could just be another line on a spreadsheet of 200 priorities that are coming out that week. If you’re not their priority, and you don’t have someone going to bat for you, it can be really hard to cut through.

With Pointer, we wanted to be able to have people come into the Remote Control fold with just a couple of singles under their belt, and be able to work on them. We had said no to artists in the past who had come to us and been like, “I only have these two songs.” We needed to see the broader vision; we needed to see the EP or the album. But sometimes people don’t have an EP or an album in them for a number of reasons and we realised that we shouldn’t discount that.

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We had also found artists who were sitting on incredible material, but just didn’t really know what to do with it – or it was a collaboration where both artists were doing their own thing separately, but had come together to write the songs – like Imbi and Slim Set [whose single ‘Heatsink’ was Pointer’s debut release], and Ryan Fennis and Voidhood. It’s fun to be able to provide a home for those kinds of projects.

“It’s really easy to see the artists that are being really true and authentic to themselves”

2. There’s no surefire way to get signed

It’s not like there are three specific criteria a label is looking for when signing an artist. Even if there were, something could land on your desk and it checks off those three things, but for some unknown reason, it doesn’t resonate or give you that excitable spark. Other times, you can hear something, it ticks absolutely no boxes and it’s gonna be tough to work on, but there’s something in there that is incredible.

For us, it’s about finding and connecting with music and artists that we really care about, and trying to bring them to as big an audience as we can. Obviously, yes, our aims are to make them as successful as possible, but that success is going to mean different things to different people.

3. Labels owe their artists honesty

Open and honest communication is super important within the label, and it’s also with our artists and their teams – or artists who are unmanaged. We always want to do right by the artist, I don’t think we’re ever going to ask them to do something they’re not comfortable with.

It’s really important to remind ourselves that, yes, we’re in the music business, but most of the reason we’re all here is because we care about music. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the business side of it, and how to market stuff and squeeze every single inch out of everything that we possibly can, that we lose sight of why we’re all here in the first place. Which is because we care about music, we care about artists and music is fucking fantastic and can change people’s lives.

Sweetie Zamora, Remote Control Records
Sweetie Zamora, Remote Control Records. Credit: Press

4. Music first, branding second

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For artists developing an image, it’s totally about utilising your other skill sets. In the case of Imbi and Slim Set, they knew coding a video game was something they wanted to do, and they had the technical know-how to work it out. With Telenova, Angeline [Armstrong, vocalist] is an incredible director. So of course, that cinematic experience flows through the music, because she has this dual creative side, which is so visually driven.

Trying to start a brand or market yourself – it all sounds super businessy. Where they all kind of started from in the beginning was just being able to create music and art that was true to them. I don’t think they would be able to get to those extra steps unless they were being really honest, and true to their creative vision and the music that they wanted to make. It would all just kind of feel a bit… meh.

It’s really easy to see the artists that are being really true and authentic to themselves. And I know we throw this ‘authentic’ word around a lot but it’s true. When someone’s trying to act a part or write a song they think people are going to like, you’ll listen to it and think, “this is kind of soulless.”

“Sometimes we get so caught up in the business side of it that we lose sight of why we’re all here in the first place”

5. Want to work in the industry? Be ambitious

To break into the music industry, you need some level of courage, determination, and ambition. I think about what I was doing when I was like 19, and I was working part time for a PR agency, executive producing a radio show at FBi and hosting a radio show there, too. I was playing in a band. I was going out and taking social photos. That’s like five things that were taking up so much of my time.

I don’t think I could be doing all of those things now as a – oh my god – 33-year-old who wants to just take a nap sometimes. But I was definitely hustling. I was trying to meet as many people as I could, volunteer and do as many things as possible. I met so many people, and I fostered relationships. I just tried to do my best.

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