Music Blog and Record Label: Killing Moon Interview

Killing Moon Records on Fluence


Killing Moon began as a new music blog in 2011 and was founded by Achal Dhillon, formerly of Mercury Records, Columbia Records and Quest Management. Known for being one of the first to break amazing artists such as Alt-J, Foxes, and Royal Blood, Killing Moon has since evolved into a record label, artist management company and concert promotion hub.

We had a chance to interview founder Achal Dhillon and learn more about what it takes to run a respected music blog and record label.


You founded Killing Moon in 2011 – how did it all start?Killing Moon Founder Achal Dhillon

Killing Moon started as a blog which I launched having just left a job at Almost Gold Recordings/Quest Management. In one respect it isn’t much different from a lot of blogs already out there – I’d spend a lot of time looking at new artists via the various mediums of social networks, working out which one’s I liked with the slightly surreptitious purpose of bigging up those which I thought were objectively good.

In another it is very different from other blogs – each track has to have a degree of emotional significance for me as I am constructing the ostensible soundtrack to my life. The blog now reaches to most if not all of the UK A&R community at large, as well as in Europe and North America and is cited as the blog that helped launched careers for artists such as Royal Blood, The Family Rain, Alt-J, Clean Bandit, and a bunch of others. At some point in the same year I had the idiot idea of putting on live nights, putting out some records and managing some artists despite the fact I could barely afford rent each month (and this is me living with my parents…). It’s now become my livelihood and that of several others, and we’re still doing the same sort of stuff, just on a much larger scale.


Advice for musicians and artists in the digital age?

Make the music you like, as opposed to the music you think people want to hear. Unless of course you don’t write music and simply want to perform, in which case be everything everyone else wants you to be. Digital distribution has never been easier to gain, and we now have this wonderful thing called the internet which means you have a platform to market your stuff to a lot of people for not much money at all. Generally just concentrate on being a musician or an artist; if you’re good, people will find you. When you do have a “team” around you – management, label, publisher, agent, lawyer, whatever – do ask questions, do criticize and critique and learn as much as you can; but if you feel that you know better than your team, you should probably do everything or that specific function yourself.

Also, don’t measure your success or where you are generally as an artist by comparing yourself to others. They’re not you, and ultimately it’ll just leave you wishing for something more all the time rather than just existing as an artist. If stats are that important to you, work in the industry instead.


Favorite artists right now?

Unashamedly the artists that we manage under Killing Moon are my favorites – otherwise I wouldn’t be managing them! We’re looking after the careers of Draper, Rogue, Remi Miles, Washington Irving and Draper’s new live project called CHIMES.


We’ve put our records for artists such as Fickle Friends, Sons & Lovers, John J Presley, Looks, Honours, Racing Glaciers, Duologue, Malpas (who have an album coming up very soon), Dems, Carnival Kids, Verses and a whole bunch more. Our New Moons compilation series (which we curate with our chum and former BBC Radio 1 DJ Ally McCrae) has meant we’ve put out early releases for artists like Laurel, Slaves, Youth Man, Hector Bizerk, One Bit, St. South, Model Aeroplanes, Jack + Eliza, Daniel Wilson, GRRL PAL, Ambassadeurs….far too many to mention really, but I guess I have already.



I’m a huge fan of several artists we have ended up working with in a label capacity (as in we have put out records for them via imprints created under Killing Moon), such as Jack Garratt, Laurel and Racing Glaciers. Fickle Friends are a pleasure to work with and make the kind of pop music I adore. Other than that I am a huge rock/indie fan, which ranges across the spectrum.

On the heavy side I’m into bands like Slipknot, Bring Me The Horizon, Poison The Well; then getting more into UK indie I love bands like We Were Promised Jetpacks, Idlewild, Tall Ships. Alkaline Trio are and always have been my favorite band. On the dance music front, people like Draper, Rogue, Pegboard Nerds and Haywyre are all doing great things. I’m also an avid hip-hop – Jay Z, DMX, Childish Gambino, Action Bronson, Mos Def, that kind of thing. I’m really getting into a new guy from Chicago called Matty Rico who straddles a line between feel-good party hip hop, and a more emotive poetic side.


What’s new and upcoming for yourself and Killing Moon?

We’re expanding our label by quite some way in 2015 – although I’ll be told off by the powers that be if I spill the proverbial beans right now. We’ve got our second Killing Moon tour coming up which will also touch down at a bunch of UK festivals, and a lot of exciting news coming up for our management roster as well. Wonderful stuff.

Keep updated with Killing Moon here on Fluence and Twitter.


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It’s Music Blogger Pioneer, Travis Keller!

Travis KellerTravis Keller has always been slightly ahead of the curve; a true DIY music industry tastemaker (and fan). He created his blog,, in 1998 which has since become a record label releasing over 40 records since 2001. And now he’s taken to Fluence to find fresh music discoveries and help artists with advice.


So, Travis, how’d you get started in music?
When I moved to Los Angeles at 17 my first friends were a band called, the Kanker Sores (they later became the Icarus Line) who were on Recess Records and ingrained into the punk scene. So I just kinda landed in the middle of everything; my best friends were always promoting shows and playing shows with their band. I picked up the slack in the areas of photography, ‘zine (later webzine) and started pressing 7 inch vinyls of extra songs they had.


Why did you initially create Buddyhead?
It all just kind of happened, it wasn’t something that was planned. Coming out of the punk DIY scene it just seemed like what you did. You got involved in whatever way you could and wanted to. I’ve always loved music and been around it, but never really planned on running a business around it. It was after Buddyhead’s fourth record release that we started getting demos from bands we didn’t know and it was like “Oh man! I guess I run a label now.” But the idea of BUDDYHEAD and still the motivation behind it is to shine a light on art or music that normally wouldn’t be seen or heard… And make myself and my friends laugh from time to time too.

The label side started because we were promoting a Valentine’s Day show in 2001 at The Smell (first show at that venue ever) and the Icarus Line had an extra song, so we pressed up a thousand 7″ vinyls and gave 214 of them away (to the first 214 people at the show). Get it 214 = February 14th. Sold the rest. Then our friends in Ink and Daggers singer died and they didn’t have a label for their last album so we released that. From there things just kept popping up that needed homes like At The Drive-In and Murder City Devils.


What artists are you currently listening to? Any new artist predictions for 2015?
This week I’ve been listening to that YG record a lot. Also, Kendrick Lamar, Rowland S. Howard and The Wytches. I predict 2015 won’t suck as bad as 2014 because I just don’t think that’s possible.


Tell us about your Fluence experience thus far.
I enjoy it because Fluence is different than reviewing an album, I try to look at it like parenting a bit. My version of Rock N Roll’s older brother I guess.


What types of artists would you like to hear from on Fluence?
All kinds… Maybe people that were inspired by the same records I was to do this and keep doing this. And people who are in music because they have to be because there’s no other choice… It’s something you have to do and be around (AKA no posers).

Visit Travis Keller on Fluence to submit your music today.

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Meet Founder of New Artist Model: Dave Kusek

New Artist Model - Dave Kusek

Dave Kusek is the Artist Development Manager at New Artist Model and Senior Partner at Digital Cowboys Consulting. He was Vice President at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he created Berklee Online, the world’s largest music school reaching over 30,000 students in 170 countries.

In 2013 he founded the New Artist Model as an alternative music business program for independent musicians, songwriters, and Dave Kusek on Fluenceproducers.

He was one of the people who helped develop the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), was co-inventor of the first electronic drums called “Synare”, and founded the first music software company Passport Music Software; producer of Master Tracks, Encore, and MusicTime software.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Dave to hear his insights on the streaming music landscape, predictions for industry shifts to come, and advice for artists to prepare and engage their fanbase.

Join Dave Kusek and Fluence CoFounder Shamal Ranasinghe in a free webinar to learn more about Fluence and engaging your fans here.

Fluence - New Artist Model


In your 2005 best selling music business book “The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution” you correctly predicted the more than a few technological advances such as the iPhone, Apple’s SIRI, and marketplace shifts including the decline of the recording industry and the rise of streaming. What shifts and innovations do you see occurring in the next decade?

Streaming has a long way to go to be economically viable for the creators, however, the consumers have embraced it. The trend is clear that people are going to move in that direction, especially when you can more-or-less access any song at any time. That makes it so convenient and easy, that from a fan perspective everybody’s going to begin to move in that direction. That shift is well under way.

The economic part of that hasn’t really happened yet, in the sense that as an artist it may even be worse than your regular deal for your record depending on the kind of contract that you get.

People bitch and moan about Spotify and not being paid royalties, but really the problem is with the labels, publishers and the deals that have been cut and are being interpreted.

I think a big shift is yet to come as artists either go directly to the services and keep the majority of the money that a Spotify or a Pandora generates for themselves rather than a mere fraction of it, or that the nature of the deals change either proactively or through some soft of legislation.

When we wrote the book we thought that there would be changes in copyright law by now, and that streaming and downloads would be treated similarly to a license of music rather than a copy of a track, which is largely how they’re being interpreted now.

I think that has to happen; whether rather artists go direct or whether there’s a shift from the artist and writer community in order to get the deals changed or to get some legislation in place.

Even if the money was split; let’s say Spotify gets a third, the label gets a third, and the artist/writer gets a third, that would be way better than it is now.


Other predictions?

I expect streaming of live events to become more everyday, and potentially a way for artists to make more money by engaging directly with their fans. Whether it’s a more formal behind-the-scenes VIP access, some sort of digital meet-n-greet, or if it’s a show (whether it’s small or big), or if it’s an interactive show where the audience is invited to engage with the performers during the event.

Everyone is walking around with a supercomputer in their pocket and there’s no reason why that can’t be used to create richer experiences for fans and ways for artists to communicate and monetize.


With this in mind, which areas of expertise should artists focus on developing?

If distribution is a commodity then your problems are really promotion and awareness as Fluence is addressing. You’re looking at the first-mile problem of “How do I get more fans?”

So getting better at fan acquisition, developing relationships, and nurturing those relationships is a very important skill for artists and writers whether you’re going to work with a label, production, or management company – you don’t want to delegate that task necessarily without participating yourself.

Whether you’re completely doing it on your own like great tools like Fluence or other direct-to-fan and fan engagement options, or you’re working with your team; you need to develop the skills of having a conversation with people, sharing your life and what you’re about, trying to get people to notice you, remember you, like you, and talk about you.

There are good communication skills that I think are more important these days because you don’t necessarily have a machine in the form of a label promoting for you and monetizing that audience. You’ve got that front-end side of collecting people, growing your fanbase, engaging with them, getting them excited, talking about you, and then you’ve got the main part: “how do I turn that attention into money or some other currency that I can eventually turn into money?”

Being able to sell direct, getting people to come to events (whether virtual or physical), and getting them to spread the word about your music are very important skills.

It’s more important than ever to be able to understand the business of music and really how it works; there’s no fairy godmother to take care of you, and you’ve got to take care of yourself. I think understanding the business and the marketing of music and how that all works is more important than ever for artists and writers.

Artists and writers go about it differently, but they still need to do the promotion and the monetization.


What essential skills and areas do you cover in The New Artist Model online music business course?

Helping people take the next step in their career, no matter where they are. That’s an important part of our program.

People are at different points of their career: some are just starting out, some have been at it for a while, some are coming back to it. Some are later in life and they’re trying to make money as a writer, producer, or some form of creative artists.New Artist Model

What we try to do is help people where they’re at, and what they’re trying to accomplish, and then help them put a plan together to accomplish their goal. That’s the essence of the program.

There are aspects that include goal-setting, team building, recording and distribution strategy, live strategy, merchandise, licensing, publishing, and sponsorship strategy. How you put a marketing plan together. How you finance your career – whether it’s through crowdsourcing or a more traditional ways as a business or finding investors. How to organize and manage your money. Those are all the building blocks that we help people with.

So understanding that you’re in a business and how to set that business up and how to operate it so that you can be a creative person.

That’s usually the struggle; there’s the creative side saying “I want to bang on the drum all day”, and then there’s  the “I have to work” side, and if you can combine the two as a musician; you can have a career.


What are your thoughts on the Fluence model and platform? What was your reaction when you first heard about it?

I think people need to be ready to receive feedback and exposure before they start engaging with that activity.

With Fluence, and other ways to to gain exposure, I think people try it before they are ready. I think its important to prepare and put your best presentation forward.

If you’re using SoundCloud, then make sure you have really great tracks up there, and a decent-looking web presence somewhere; even if it’s a Facebook page or if you’re using SoundCloud as your calling card. I think people need to be prepared first before they start going out and trying to build their fanbase and get exposure.

If you’re doing it on a very private level, then that’s one thing: you may be testing a track to a handful of people, but if you’re trying to really leverage someone’s social following, you need to be ready for that. You don’t want to be getting ready while you’re getting the feedback because you may only get one shot at it.

So I think that it’s really important for people using the Fluence platform to be ready and prepared before submitting and seeking exposure and feedback.

The converse of that, is that you want to be able to capitalize on whatever happens; whether it’s good or bad.

You want to be able to immediately capitalize, because time is so fleeting and people’s attention spans are so short that if you do get some sort of uptick or some exposure, or people are passing your stuff along – you want to be able to deal with that.

Are you capturing emails? Are you prepared to sell music? Are you prepared to sell tickets, merch, and do you have a way of collecting the feedback that you’re going to get and acting on it?

It’s part of being prepared, but if you get something great to happen, you better be ready for that and have a plan in mind for what you’re going to do. Even if it’s bad feedback; how can you change what you’re going to do?

I think Fluence is a wonderful platform, and a great idea of leveraging the power of social media. It’s always been a pay-to-play game in radio, and so it’s not a great leap of faith or a black mark on anyone to pay a little bit for a lot; to get some exposure and feedback. It’s always been that way.

What I love about what Fluence does is that it’s a self-regulating market that, as a curator, you can decide what your threshold is, and you can decide what your attention and time is worth, and I think that’s great – rather than imposing that.

From the artist perspective you can also decide what you can afford, how much risk you want to take, and who you want to get feedback from. You can stage your attempt over time and ratchet up your activity based on the feedback you get.

I love that it’s a market-driven platform mapping the tried-and-true method of getting feedback and exposure onto what’s really happening with the modern social web.


New and upcoming for you in 2015?

I’m looking at taking the momentum we have with New Artist Model and beginning to broaden the curriculum, so maybe a year from now we won’t be just completely business and marketing focused; we may get into some production and songwriting areas, because we’re getting a lot of feedback from people who’d like help in those areas.

My thinking with starting the New Artist Model was to try and make something that was very affordable and accessible for people, and we’re finding ways to make that work, and also finding that this is very much an “on-the-street” effort. We’re learning a lot from our students about what’s working for them, and what different patterns and trends in the global market are, because not all markets are the same. If you’re in North America and think that “this is the way the world works” – it’s really not true. It’s the way this market works, but other places in the world things can be really really different. It’s fun to learn about that because sometimes you can take a strategy that’s working someplace and apply it elsewhere.

The other thing is that students are learning from one another in the private community we’ve created. They’re able to borrow strategies, work on projects together, and it’s a great collaboration that’s happening. So far so good!

New Artist Model Webinar - Dave Kusek


Join this free webinar with Dave Kusek and Shamal Ranasinghe to learn how to use Fluence and engage with new fans here,

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Meet music curator, blogger, and Spotify playlister SD Hox

Music curation can be craft all its own, which is why we crave human-curated playlists. Music services such as 8tracks, Beats, Songza, and Spotify build their communities and products around human curators who are passionate about sharing amazing music.

SD Hox is one such music curator who has become recognized in the Spotify and communities for sharing his exceptional stream of selections. SD Hox ranked #1 in 2014 on and received millions of listens for his playlists overall. Fluence is thrilled to share our interview where we dive into his inspiration, curation process, and special favorites.



What inspired you to start collecting and sharing your playlists?SD Hox on Fluence

Music has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started making mixtapes in high school for friends and family. I still have many of these mixes somewhere in my garage just waiting to be digitized. I began to take mixes more seriously when I was living in New Orleans and working as a bartender. I would make the mixtapes for the bar and I would love to watch the crowd just grooving to my selections. A few years later, I was running a nightclub in Colorado and I would put together the music played in the club before the live acts would come on stage. The club featured a diverse array of music and I would have to tailor my mixes to the band and the event. I learned a lot about motivating a crowd and building the excitement in the room as show time approached.

Now, in the digital age, I have the whole world of music at my fingertips and it is exciting to be able to share my mixes with a truly global audience. I still marvel at how many people that I have been able to reach through my playlists using this new technology. Many of my mixes are available on Spotify and through my blog ( and I am about to start a curation project with Rdio that I hope will further broaden my exposure and open up a whole new forum for my work. has been a great supporter of my efforts and they have consistently featured and reviewed my playlists, which has really helped to build an audience of hundreds of thousands of listeners. Check it out!


Tell us a little bit about your music curation process.

I am constantly thinking about music and music curation. I can be walking through a neighborhood in London and hear a song and think “I need to do a playlist that captures the feel of this neighborhood,” (which is how I came up with The Bermondsey Beat playlist on Spotify). Similarly, I was having dinner one night in Shanghai when the amazing Afrolicious and Rob Garza remix of “Vampires” by Thievery Corporation started to play in the restaurant. It was one of those moments when you realize how great music connects the whole world. I went back to my hotel that night and immediately began working on a mix building around that song.

Other times, I will read an article or hear an interview about an event and then I’ll be compelled to create a playlist documenting the occasion. For example, two of my favorite creations center around the birth and death of Studio 54 in New York City.

The first mix is called “The Night That Changed Everything” and it captures the music played by DJ Nicky Siano at Bianca Jagger’s 32rd birthday at the club on May 2, 1977. At the time, Studio 54 had been open just one week but on that night the nightclub scene….and the music scene…were forever transformed. Siano’s mix included soul, funk, reggae and rock. This event really triggered the disco movement in the 70s and I love this playlist because it captures the songs that were the foundation for a sea change in both music and culture.


The second mix is called “The End of Modern-Day Gomorrah” and it chronicles the music played at the closing party at Studio 54 which came less than three years after Bianca Jagger’s birthday celebration. The disco era was being replaced by the grittier punk and new wave scenes. Studio 54, the epicenter of disco, closed with one final party which they called “The End of Modern-day Gomorrah”. The club’s owners were about to be imprisoned for tax evasion (right after the nightclub’s closing, cocaine and money were found in its walls). On this last night, however, Studio 54 was still the place to be. Through this playlist, you can recapture the final scene.


I am a bit of an obsessive researcher and crate digger (both digitally and real world). Once I come up with a theme for a playlist I can spend days researching the music to make sure that the lists are as authentic and comprehensive as possible. Some of my most followed lists are compilation lists featuring every number one song—each week—from the 1950’s to the present in both the U.K. and the U.S. These lists took weeks to properly compile, but they have turned out to be great collections capturing the history and development of pop music.


What are your top 3 favorite playlists right now?

Our motto at The Tasty Turntable blog is that music has no rules. New, old, slow, fast. Anything goes. With that in mind, one of my current favorite series of playlists is the monthly version of “The Tasty Turntable.” This playlist is the starting point for what I’m listening to at the moment. When I hear a song that I like, it goes into this list. Because I have a pretty diverse range of musical genres that I’m listening to, this playlist mirrors our motto. You will always find a mix of new discoveries and old favorites across many different genres.

Another list is “Unsigned Finds: The Next New Thing.” I recently published volume 20 of the series and, as the name suggests, the list focuses on new, unsigned and DIY bands. It is my chance to play A&R man for a while. We get a lot of submissions from new bands and it is always a challenge to narrow the list down. These lists have been some of the first to feature acts such as Bastille, Gotye, Rhye and The Neighborhood before they broke out.


My other favorite right now is “Groovin’ Cuban.” I love the soundtrack to the movie Chef and I walked out of the screening knowing that I needed to hear more like that. This mix let me expand on the already great soundtrack.


Best thing you’ve discovered on Fluence so far?

I love the focus on music curation and networking within the music business. I particularly like the way that the community encompasses virtually every aspect of music production, curation and consumption.


What’s new and upcoming for you in 2015?

More playlists…always more playlists.



Listen to the latest music selections here, and send music or videos to SD Hox here on Fluence.

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