Vancouver EDM label is expanding globally in 2023


A variety of label artists spin for the annual Monstercat street party.

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Compound is the day-long free party hosted by Vancouver-based electronic music label Monstercat.

Taking place outside company HQ and the immediate environs, the party has grown from a parking lot to a block party, complete with art installations, food trucks, merch booths, beer gardens, gaming action and — obviously — pulsing beats.

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Monstercat Compound
Monstercat Compound 2020 outdoor dance party in East Vancouver. Photo by Brandon Artis Photography /PNG

This year, the two stages showcase Blanke, Nostalgix, Godlands, CHYL, Ace Aura, Punctual, Warner Case, Kelland, Yurie, Keepsix, and more. The international roster includes artists from Vancouver, Los Angeles, Australia and elsewhere.

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Co-founded by Mike Darlington and Ari Paunonen in 2011, the label has become a global leader in EDM in its many variations. Through its Uncaged, Instinct and Silk brands, Monstercat is involved in gaming partnerships, with such well-known firms as Fortnite creators Epic/Psyonix, Roblox, Hi-Rez Studios, Amanotes, osu! and Beat Games, among others.

Where many music labels were battered the past few years, Monstercat expanded its scope and celebrated over 4 billion streams across various platforms in 2021, averaging six releases a week.

“We have staffed offices in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Singapore and a growing number in Toronto and elsewhere,” said label head of events Max Nied. “This is my second Compound and it really is a unique event of its kind giving free admission to 90 per cent of attendees. It’s pretty cool that it still breaks even over the years, which is a pretty cool testament to what Monstercat has been able to build over the years.”

Producing a great party is never a bad idea. But doing its without profit maximization as the end goal is downright bizarre in any business. As anyone who has emptied their savings accounts to get a single ticket to an arena show knows, it’s unheard of in the music biz.

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In the case of Compound, the spin-off benefits of building community has considerable online benefits down the road. For a digitally-based enterprise, there isn’t really a downside to the kind of promotion that comes out of an event like this. Plus, they sell a lot of beer.

“When I was being trained by my predecessor — who conceived of the Compound — one of the things he told me was that they sold out of beer every year,” said Nied. “So I made not running out a condition of producing the event because it was one of the key ways we could avoid some of the major inflationary pressures that have occurred in the last two years. We came out of the pandemic expecting an unusually high level of inflation, but were completely unprepared by increases that were sometimes 70 to 80 per cent more.”

“Fortunately, we have some really fantastic private and government sponsors who were OK with us wanting to increase our ask to keep the event free and we’ve been able to do that.”

There is an adage that you get what you pay for, and plenty of free events that deliver on that promise by being less than spectacular. Compound has never compromised on the talent rolled out to keep crowds dancing. For 2023 event, it’s the first time the curated lineup for both stages will reflect artists that have, or are, involved with Monstercat.

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Vancouver’s Nostalgix plays her first Compound this year.

Now L.A.-based, the Persian-Canadian DJ/rapper behind popular tracks such as Spice Girl and Famous has been profiled in everything from fanzines to such staid mainstream media as Forbes.

“One of my first times I ever went to a studio was back in 2017, when I was still in university and playing at UBC,” said Nostalgix, who’s name is Negar Hamidzadeh. “It was a walk-through of what was then Monstercat’s space, so this is kind of like coming around full circle. While I can’t talk about it specifically, we are working on something special together.”

Having built up her brand since producing her first tracks in 2018, Nostalgix says the coming 12 months are going to be bigger than anything that has come before. Fans of her house-inflected, ’90s hip-hop style may be seeing her for the last time in 2023 as the calendar is filling up.

“Right before COVID, I was supposed to head out on my first big tour with AC Slater doing America, and we got in one show before shutdown.” she said. “During the next few years, I just put my head down and concentrated on making music 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, at Vancouver’s Village Studios. I think long term that was perfect timing for me to home in on my craft before the next stage.”

From campus to downtown clubs, Nostalgix developed a distinct flavour in releasing singles that showcased her musical style. Looking back, she thinks Locked and Loaded, featuring Danny Time was the first tune to really bear her fully realized vision.

“It came out on Accession, which is an incredible label I’ve looked up to for so long,” she said. “After that came my first EP on AC Slater’s label and, from there, it’s been a steady organic growth.”

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Nostalgix will be showcasing “a ton of new music” at her Compound set. Expect high-energy house and EDM blended with classic old-school hip-hop.

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