The Saunders era looks a lot like the Dunmore era at Defected…

Over the weekend, we got pondering at Ears To The House HQ about what’s going to happen with Defected, now they’re under new leadership. Will the label be going in a more commercial direction than before? Does the Wez Saunders takeover increase the odds a larger company could be interested in acquiring Defected? That’s a question we’ll come back to later this week.

In the meantime on this Monday morning, let’s have a closer look at whether the company’s strategy will change. Initial signs from the social media outlets – Defected’s main way of communicating with the world – confirm our previous reports that Saunders wasn’t planning on ousting half the management to make his mark.

And so far, very little has actually changed. This makes some sense – the festival season is almost at an end and changing strategies now would serve no useful purpose. But Saunders would not have gone to the extent of organising a buyout of the company in order to do everything the way it’s being done now. So what is he likely to start doing differently?

Let’s get a misconception out of the way before we continue – Defected is not just a record label anymore. It’s a full-on music company, with an events business, publishing arm, a back catalogue, and a record label attached. The company has always done events, with their earliest being held at Ministry of Sound around the turn of the millennium, but it’s grown exponentially since.

The focus on events is unlikely to change – an event in Malta is coming next month, with Australia, New Zealand and even Indonesia across October and November. Indeed, our sources tell us Saunders isn’t ruling out the possibility of expanding the Defected events “season” even further – although given none of the big events organisers have treaded into this territory before, there might be limits on the potential for expansion in this area.

But one thing likely to be expanded upon is the company’s use of the cross-pollination strategy – the idea that everything somehow benefits everything else in the business. For example, a DJ plays a new release at a gig. They record it and put it on social media, prompting lots of people to ask what it is. The track soon premieres on Defected’s radio show, creating a further buzz before it gets a full release.

Depending on how it goes, this artist might then be asked to remix a future release – this could be for a new song or something from their archive. David Penn appears to be a recent favourite for this, recently reworking “La Danza” by John Summit. This means they get to promote a new song and plug some older ones at the same time – this time for the benefit of the streaming crowd, whom have been shown to prefer older material.

The label has been known to pursue this strategy to extremes in the past – some years ago, Australian DJ Sonny Fodera was appearing on so many Defected releases that jokes were even being made on the subject. But recently, the strategy hasn’t been utilised as well as in the past. Let’s take just one example to demonstrate this.

Earlier this year, Defected signed a publishing deal with the aforementioned John Summit – one of few new rising talents in a season dominated by older names jostling for position after two years of pandemic restrictions. Why is the company not making more capital out of their association with him? He’s only appearing at a few of their events, and the recent David Penn remix of “La Danza” was barely promoted by the company – which suggests to us the recent takeover has been something of a distraction inside the company.

In some ways, the Saunders takeover has come at the right time – the winter is quieter for Defected than the main party season. But planning for the 2023 season will already be well underway, so it remains to be seen what will be different in the future…

Ears To The House Team

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