Spinnin' Records' Secret to Success

Inside the label that launched Martin Garrix, Afrojack, Cedric Gervais and 15 years of dance-floor fillers

Martin Garrix performs in Glasgow, Scotland.
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images
June 23, 2014 9:20 AM ET

Today's ravers might prefer harder sounds than their Y2K forebearers did, but whether they realize it or not, both generations have peaked to heavy pulse of tracks released by Spinnin' Records, a label founded in 1999 by a publisher and an A&R rep, Eelko van Kooten and Roger de Graf, who were craving new roles. In the early days, Spinnin's trance 12-inches only crossed the Atlantic when they became as popular as 4 Strings' "Take Me Away," but now the label is now at the top of the global food chain, releasing festival killers like Martin Garrix's "Animals," DVBBS & Bourgeous' "Tsunami" and Cedric Gervais' "Summertime Sadness" remix all in the last year.

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"Spinnin' Records has meant a lot for my career," says Garrix, the 18-year-old who signed to the label after its bosses learned that he contributed uncredited production to a track they had recently released. "I think they’re the best at giving young producers good guidance"

Years earlier, around the time Garrix was celebrating his 10th birthday, Spinnin's attention to young talent kept the label it on top even as trance fell off. "Trance was very popular in the early 2000s, and we released big records from artists like Ron van den Beuken, Floyd, Clokx and 4 Strings mainly on our label Liquid Recordings," recalls van Kooten. "But eventually the popularity of trance started fading  people were waiting for something fresh."

That something turned out to be a new "dirty" house sound, one characterized by pogoing synths and drumline snares. When it emerged from the Netherlands in the mid-Aughts, the label was prepared, forming a subsidiary, Sneakerz Muzik, that launched tunes from new stars like Afrojack ("Polkadots") and Sidney Samson ("Riverside"). This time around, MP3s allowed the music to travel the world, and Spinnin's independent status meant that its bosses could negotiate different distribution deals suited for different markets. "We want to stay independent," says van Kooten. "That way we control of our catalog and use the right partner for the right record in the right territory."

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