Morgan Page talks the key to long term success in the ever-changing dance music industry [Interview]

It’s 2008, and the Deadmau5
remix of “The Longest Road” has just been nominated for a
Grammy. Legends like Tiësto,
Armin
van Buuren,
and Above &
Beyond
are leading the European fervor for Trance, but the
dance scene in the United States is still very much a niche
interest. Ultra
isn’t a three day festival yet, and the US music tastes are at
a crossroads.

Britney Spears is being awarded “Best Dance Track”
nominations, and rap, pop, and punk rock are all at a stand
still with no clear vector to the forefront of the millennial
generation’s ever multiplying interests. Meanwhile, a 27 year
old from Vermont named Morgan Page
is navigating a hit single that will be the beginning of a
long, career—hard won through persistence, talent, and the
impending explosion of electronic music in the US.

morgan page strut

 

If you ask Morgan Page when his career started, he would
tell you that it was in the back room of the University of
Vermont’s student run radio station, all the way back in
’96.

At 16, he’d discovered the channel thumbing through the
jam bands, classic rock, and hip hop that cluttered the FM dial
in his hometown, a suburb of Burlington, Vermont. Before
long,
Page was filling in as a host and DJ for
students too hungover to make their shifts.
After
a stint managing a channel in Boston, Page scored a summer
internship at a hot New York record label where his job duties
included taking out executives’ garbage.

It wasn’t until Page released “The Longest
Road
” in 2008 that Page had his ‘breakthrough moment’ as an
artist. After years of effort behind getting a club residency,
he enlisted Deadmau5 to do a
remix for his new single, hiring the superstar producer
outright. This decision would earn Deadmau5’s first Grammy
nomination, and produced the song that could be heard in every
club and radio station nationwide.

“That was before [Deadmau5] had the mousehead and was
at the earlier stages in his career arc. His stuff was just
starting to blow up on Beatport, and Beatport was a real
outlet and a real tastemaker then. I remember that remix
being played when you went to any club in Miami. Every shop
that you walked into, even the pizza store, was playing that
song. But that was a different time where one song would
really just plaster the continent.”

But the world in which Page first became a household name
in the electronic community is so starkly different than the
landscape of electronic music in the US now. Ultra has careened
into a 3-day two weekend event, superstar DJs are filling
arenas on the merit of their own productions, and the
electronic music industry was
valued at approximately $7.1 billion
. It’s an evolution
that hasn’t escaped Page’s scrutiny.

“My first reaction is what took so long? (For EDM
to explode). There were three waves, and a lot of politics
got in the way of that. There was this rave act that took all
of these huge festivals that were happening and squashed
them. No one could be a part of these for several years. That
was like this false start for a lot of festivals, and I
wasn’t DJing at that point, but I was starting to get into
music then in the late 90s and early 2000s.

“It took several tries, and then major labels started
putting in a lot of money and investment into Daft
Punk,
The Prodigy, Crystal
Method,
and all of these sort of electronica artists.
It’s really humbling and great to see that it blew up. I
think now it is all about maintaining that, and now it has
matured and it is still doing great, but now we look into
where does it evolve now? Does it just turn into hip hop?
Where does it go next? That’s what it feels a little bit like
now- that it is reverting to hip hop.”

Unlike other artists in the industry, Page has found a
way to experiment with his sound as electronic has turned
commercial without compromising the core of what makes him
unique as a producer. He has not caved to the trends, pivoting
to pop/rap collaborations that are sure fire radio hits.
Instead, he’s has managed to stay not only relevant, but
popular, despite a staunch disinterest in infusing hip hop into
his music.

“As you have heard, my music has been been pretty
diverse. ‘
Other
Girl
‘ was a little more tropical focused, and “Fight
My Way” is a little more my usual style of Progressive House.
I think this is the time to really try different BPM’s, so
that is the biggest difference you will see with future
releases.
To me, it’s not so much about teaming up with 2 Chainz. I
like to surprise people, and I’m talking to guys like
Kaskade
about teaming up for a song, but for me it’s more about
changing the framework rather than just famous guest
appearances. There won’t be any DJ Khaled on
there, and making songs that have strong vocals that last is
the backbone of songs that will stick around a little
longer.”  

Another dynamic of the evolving music industry that has
affected Page’s decision making not stylistically, but
strategically, is the evolution of how to successfully release
music to fans. Page has shifted his focus from album releases
to singles, with the acknowledgement that singles can be missed
when stand alone. Contrastingly, releasing a full album all at
once puts the songs at risk for having one hit single on the
album overshadow other great releases that may have made more
of an impact if not released alongside other songs.

Despite changing his release strategy, Page
has remained consistent in his approach to making his
music. He discusses at length how he has managed to
diversify his production process through collaborations as well
as what goes into making a hit in the world of modern day dance
music.

“My main criteria when I make music in the studio is
goosebumps. How do you get that serotonin rush and the
endorphins from making the music? And when that wears off
 from hearing the song too many times, is it still a
good song? That’s the challenge- still staying objective with
a song after you have heard it a lot. A big thing about what
I am doing now is teaming up with a lot of younger producers
to have that extra ear in the studio. I would just be very
stubborn and work by myself, but you can see like the remix
with Deadmau5, the collaboration adds so much. It just pushes
you because you can’t work in your own vacuum.

“I think the hardest part is that I think every song is
going to be amazing and be a hit record. Sometimes that is
not the case, and other times some songs have done better
than I thought it would. When you release a song, you’re
hoping that all of the variables line up because a hit record
is a million things going right. The bar for a platinum
record is so high now- it is 150 million streams, and that’s
crazy. Success depends on things like the good placement on a
playlist because not everyone has access to the music. That’s
something that has been really nice with Armada. They are
important and really come through in these situations in an
oversaturated market through making you a priority when it
needs to be and pulling back where it’s good to do
that.”

Page was unique in that he remained on a smaller label for
years before joining electronic giant Armada
in November of 2016. Armada was not his first run in with big
record labels, however.  Page and his team had a slight
mishap with Atlantic when the label created electronic
imprint Big Beat Records and tried to get him on board as
the first artist to join.

“I was going to be the first artist with [the] new
electronic label. A lot of people don’t know that, but
creatively it just didn’t pan out with what we wanted to do.
But it was funny, Craig Kallman, one of the heads of
Atlantic, was all excited and we actually flew to this hotel
and had a big meeting. This was before ‘In
the Air
,’ and they didn’t even know ‘The Longest Road,’
which was funny. It was just one of those things where you
were like, that doesn’t add up- that’s a red flag. They liked
“Call My Name.” It’s strange if they don’t know your body of
work.”

morgan page live

 

As Morgan has navigated record labels, an evolving production
and release process, and staying popular amidst changing fan
desires and genre popularity, he attributes his success to a
variety of factors. He also has definitive opinions on his
place in the electronic community. He wraps up our
conversation by talking about the challenges that many artists
don’t publicly confront, along with how he has been able to not
only survive, but thrive in the ever-changing journey of being
an electronic producer in this day and age.

“It is very easy to get lost. I see a lot of guys do a
2-year thing where they blow up and then disappear. It’s a
lot of work. I’ve never been an artist who has done that
hockey stick exponential growth thing and been like the hot
current artist of the moment. It has always been a slow burn,
and I feel as if my strength is in my consistency. I think
it’s good for people to have perspective because there are
some artists who have never worked a day job before. I hope
they don’t take this life for granted. The hard part isn’t
blowing up. The hard part is sustaining it, and keeping that
fire going.”

Photos courtesy of Morgan Page.

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Morgan Page talks the key to long term success in the ever-changing dance music industry [Interview]