I had a chance to talk with German DJ/producer duo Jewelz and Sparks. Here’s a paraphrased version of our conversation where we discuss label deals, key career advice, and new music projects.
Joey: How did Jewelz and Sparks start?
Jewelz and Sparks: We were both attending the same school and were involved in the dance business, like releasing on similar labels such as Spinnin’ and Ministry of Sound. We just started exchanging knowledge, and one day decided to start a collaboration. Our first track, Toxic Rush, was signed to Fede le Grand’s Flamingo Records and became popular; Fede was playing it in every set.
Joey: Why do you think the track was so successful?
Jewelz and Sparks: The record was stripped down to its essence. At the time, it was 2012, so Swedish House Mafia and Avicii were so big, and a lot of people were making this progressive melodic sound. We wanted to tone it down again. It was just very refreshing because DJ sets were full of these progressive anthems, and a lot of DJ’s played our tracks in between.
Joey: Where did you guys take it from the success of your first track?
Jewelz and Sparks: It was a long trial and error from there because we had no master plan. The booking agency became key in the end. They heard the song, signed us, and that was the start of international touring. Our first shows were already outside Germany, so Belgium, Czech Republic, and even Asia like Singapore. Within the first five shows, we were already playing at ridiculous top 30 DJ mag clubs. The music side was a bit different. At the same time, we reached out to other labels like Revealed and Spinnin, but we often got turned down.
Joey: How many of your tracks were turned down?
Jewelz and Sparks: It’s more that our tracks were released on second or third choice labels. For example, we had a track titled MYNC, which was released on CR2 Records. It wasn’t our first choice, but it turned out pretty good. It was quite easy to sign the tracks. Maybe not always to the favorite label, but there was so much interest at the time. Obviously, it’s much harder since there are so many producers now.
Another challenge is that you have to guess what labels are looking for; their preferences are always changing. For example, Revealed or Spinnin’ stands for a particular sound. You have no idea what they’re looking for. Sometimes we thought we had a perfect Spinnin release, and they would say no. We thought, “what the fuck? How is that possible?” But in the end, you’re in control, so you can make your own decision like releasing the track for free and sending other genres to labels.
The same also applies to collaborations. At first, we thought we should approach artists with tracks that sound like their style. You have no idea. We had a folder with music that we presented to Hardwell, and it was always the last option. Now we send everything, and let people choose.
The thing is, it’s tough to see the bigger picture. When you send it to someone else, they’re listening to it for the first time and have a different perspective. Another important tip is to listen to your production with someone else in the room. It’s weird, but whenever there’s someone else listening to it, I hear different details.
Joey: If you look back at your career, what would be something you would change?
Jewelz and Sparks: One word: patience. At the start, we always wanted a deal and tracks to be released right away. This would lead to a lot of complications in release schedules; for example, we would have two releases in a month, and then not have another track until three months later. We didn’t know better. We also recommend setting everything up “in-house,” meaning take your friends and close surroundings into your circle instead of approaching big companies. For example, our manager is from our high school. It’s just better to work with people on a personal level and have them come up with you from the very beginning.
Joey: How are you managing Corona?
Jewelz and Sparks: Our primary market was Asia and China, so we knew pretty early about the disease, but that also meant we were pretty early to stop shows. I’m not stressed out so much because I think there’s always solutions. As long as we still have some money left, that’s okay. But it’s a bigger problem for people who do parties and events; it’s really stressful since the costs are high.
It’s also interesting from a psychological perspective. It’s hard to switch from a pure touring life to staying at home. We see some positive health effects from this period of getting better sleep and having a healthy schedule.
Joey: Are you working on something special while touring has stopped?
Jewelz and Sparks: We picked up our radio show again! So we’re prioritizing that, and also working on a lot of club records and pop tracks. One of our creative goals is to create listener-friendly Jewelz and Sparks music that’s not just festival tracks. Streaming music has also obviously gotten very big.
Joey: How many hours a week do you spend right now in the studio?
Jewelz and Sparks: At least four or six days. We enjoy it because we’re used to traveling and jet lag.
Joey: Well, it’s great to hear that you guys are doing well during these times, and I think it’s inspiring for a lot of starving artists to hear about your story.
Jewelz and Sparks: Thanks for the invite! Everyone can get in touch with us on our social media. Also, producers can send demos to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can now continue supporting new talent on our radio show, and we’re always listening to new music.