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Student Success: October 2021 (FLORENTIA, Lar3n & LAB-909)

Welcome back to another edition of Point Blank Student Success. This month, we spoke to Defected Records’ FLORENTIA, the Head of Product at Beatport, Lar3n, and the scientist turned electronic musician, LAB-909.

We compile these every month, showcasing students that have studied with us for any length of time at any of our locations: LondonLos AngelesChinaIbizaMumbai, and Online. Read on below to learn about these musicians’ previous experiences at Point Blank and the exciting projects they’ve been working on.

If you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of music with Point Blank, we’re currently offering 25% off our online diplomas, as well as 10% off our Los Angeles courses until 31st October using the codes DIP25 and LA10 – so there’s no better time to sign up than now.

FLORENTIA (Defected Records) – BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering Degree

FLORENTIA is a London-based DJ who specialises in house, tech house, minimal and more. Determined and talented, the young artist recently joined the Defected Records team, following an internship, and currently ranks as a finalist in the elrow Up & Coming Talent competition. Follow on below to hear more about how she hooked up with the Defected team and what the next steps are in her music career.

Hey FLORENTIA, for those who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hey guys, so my name is Florentia Stassi, but I’m known as just ‘FLORENTIA’; I’m a 22-year-old Producer and DJ from London/ Essex and of Greek Cypriot descent. I did the 3-year ‘Music Production & Sound Engineering’ BA Honours Degree course at Point Blank and finished my journey with the school at the end of 2020. Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. After my degree during winter lockdown last year, I took up Point Blank’s free module offer (as my third year was all online due to COVID) and chose the ‘Complete DJ’ course. I’m into the house, tech house, deep-tech/minimal and deep house scenes – labels like Defected, Hot Creations, Cuttin’ Headz, Solid Grooves, Fuse – the list goes on, you get the gist.

We saw that you recently started working with the mighty Defected Records – congratulations! What’s the story here?

Thank you so much! Honestly I’m still pinching myself as Defected was a massive influence for me, my love for house music early on and wanting to be a producer/DJ in this industry. I’ve been a big follower of what they do for many years, so to be a part of them now is mind-blowing.

When my Point Blank journey ended, there was a listing for a position at a record label in January. I applied and had an interview, but even though I was unsuccessful, it’s what triggered me to just go big and shoot my shot at Defected. I reached out to PB’s student services, asking if they could help me – they eventually got back to me and forwarded me onto Tijan – PB’s Career Advisor. With a lot of persistence, Tijan finally had a zoom call with me. I expressed my goals, visions and strong desire to get my foot in the door at Defected and Tijan put me in contact with the Managing Director, Wez Saunders. A couple of weeks later, I had a zoom meeting with Wez. After the call, he asked me to do a task demonstrating my A&R skills and gather any relevant material from PB (this is where all the Music Industry and Entrepreneur assignments/modules on my degree really showed what I was capable of doing). Wez called me offering me an internship at Defected and invited me to come down to their new office to meet Simon Dunmore. You could imagine how nervous and excited I was, it was all very surreal walking into that building as this was a huge goal of mine – it was like all the years of dreaming had finally manifested!

You must be quite busy with your new role in the industry! How do you balance your own creativity with your career?

You’re not wrong! Personally, I’m still trying to master it and find a new routine that allows me to keep on top of my own creativity. It has taken a step back these past few months, as there’s a lot going on and I’m still adjusting but at the same time, I’ve been so inspired. You just need to find spare time wherever possible; in the evenings/on weekends and try to not lose track and stay motivated. At the moment, I sometimes feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. It’s tough but if it’s what you want to do you’ll make it work and it’ll fall into place.

What advice would you give to a Point Blank student looking to find work in the industry?

Firstly, I feel that if you are still studying at Point Blank, work hard and don’t underestimate your studies. I never had a music industry job before Defected; I prioritised my learning and made sure I did well, as I was then able to show the work I produced at PB to Defected. My advice is to be a sponge and absorb all the info you can. Be aware of what’s going on in the industry and within the sector/place you want to be in – read articles, watch interviews, follow artists/labels/DJs/blogs and stay clued up on what is happening. Go to conferences and events and immerse yourself in this world you want to be a part of.

Secondly, network! Everyone says this – and they say it because it’s so important. You never know who you could be talking to at an event, or where your classmates could be in 5 years time. For example, in 2019 at the IMS Ibiza, I met someone that worked at Defected (and still does) and it was the networking from 2 years ago that was able to benefit me when joining the team. Lastly, I go by the phrase “if you don’t ask, you don’t get ”. You can’t hold back and be shy in this industry, you really need to take risks and be bold. So, don’t be afraid to send an email or go to the organisation you want to be a part of and introduce yourself. Dig deep on social media or LinkedIn to find out who’s who in the industry. When things do knock you back, just remember “everything happens for a reason”. Stay positive and be persistent, because passion, hunger and belief always shine through and these people will be able to see that.

These were all the things I was doing and still do today! “Stop waiting for an opportunity to knock and start kicking down doors” – get out there to create and find opportunities for yourself and stay focused on the end goal.

You mentioned you entered the elrow Up & Coming Talent competition and are amongst the remaining 150 artists in the competition. How’s this going?

So far, it’s going really well… I’m in the Final! I’m so grateful a brand as big as elrow have recognised me as an Up & Coming Talent! 3,700+ artists worldwide entered the programme at the start of the year and only 150 artists got picked. I’ve been sending mixes, original productions, demos and videos throughout the year and soon 150 went down to 75. In August, I went through to the penultimate round, with only 25 of us left and only 4 from the UK (one being me). It was this week I got the email from elrow saying I’m in the final top 10. My set for the final will be streamed live at 8 pm GMT (9 pm CET) next Thursday, 21st October along with a live interview with elrow at 3 pm (GMT) on the same day. I’d be so grateful if you guys could tune in! On 30th October, there will be a general post where the public can vote for their favourite – I’d love and appreciate everyone’s vote on this, as it really means a lot to me. After the public and judges’ votes, the 2 winners will be announced on 4th Nov and be presented at elrow Barcelona in December. It’s an unbelievable opportunity – getting to release on the label, become an elrow Resident and play at venues like Ushuaïa and Amnesia as well as in different countries all around the world. I’m extremely grateful to the elrow Family for choosing me for every stage of the competition this year and I can’t wait for the final!

elrow Up & Coming Talent / elrow InstagramFinalists Post / FLORENTIA Instagram post

How did you discover Point Blank?

It was my mum that actually discovered it and saw that PB had started degree courses – this was back in 2016 when I was doing my A-Levels. She came across PB from searching the internet and after I saw the school’s alumni, student successes, guest speakers and tutors etc. this was where I wanted to go. I read up on the modules and what I’d learn on the course, I was so excited to study here that it was the only place I applied for in sixth form. My teachers at sixth form were encouraging me to apply to other Uni’s/music schools (just in case) but Point Blank fit my world and direction perfectly. Once we went to the open day, I was sold!

Were there any things in particular that really stood out in your memory from studying here?

I think one of the main ones for me was not actually getting onto the degree course when I first applied. I had to go through quite a lengthy entry process and right at the end, I didn’t make it. I was so determined to study here and knew I could do it – I even sent an email around because I was not giving up. I got a phone call from the Admissions Manager, offering me a place on the degree for showing passion to learn at PB. However, I had to take the ‘Intro to Logic Pro’ online course and pass, in order to prep me before starting the degree. Fast forward 3 years and I got a First-Class Honours degree. I’m so grateful PB gave me that chance and believed in me.

The tutors were a big part of my experience here – ask questions and ask for help and advice. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the modules that I was initially least interested in/looking forward to doing (Composition for Film/TV, Audio for Games). The tutors and their passion made it interesting and enjoyable. I loved the modules on Music Industry and Entrepreneur; it was great learning about how to work with labels, promoters, agents, building yourself as a brand/artist and work professionally in the industry. Mastering, Sound Engineering, Art of Mixing, Sound Design and Remixing is where you can really develop your knowledge and grow as a producer with all the tips, tricks and practise you learn from your tutors.

Due to how much I learnt in my time at PB, it’s the development of the person that I am now and what I know, compared to when I first started. That also stands out for me personally.

What’s in the pipeline? Are there any other interesting projects you’re working on you can tell us about?

Now that the clubs have finally opened, bookings have been coming in, which I’m super excited about, and I’ll be supporting some big artists (TBA) in and out of London. Getting bookings means I can also road test new material in the clubs, which is a massive plus. I have a few projects and EPs that need finishing and have been working with some vocalists making as much music as possible, racking up a catalogue to start sending round to DJs and labels. Alongside all of this, I’m working hard and embracing being at Defected Records (it still hasn’t sunk in yet) and hopefully I’ll have some amazing news to share at the end of this month about being an elrow Resident for 2022 (don’t forget to tune in and vote!) The hard work is most definitely paying off and I’m just going to keep at it.

Socials: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / SoundCloud / RA

Lar3n (Beatport) – BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering Degree

Laren Agius aka Lar3n is a Malta-native who studied Point Blank’s BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering degree. Recently appointed Beatport’s Head of Product, Laren splits his time between his busy DJ schedule, at clubs and on the radio, alongside his work with the music heavyweights. Learn more about life working with Beatport, his creativity and much more below.

Hey Laren, how’s it going? For those who aren’t familiar with what you do could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I started my journey in the music industry in the early 2000s as a DJ. Being from the sunny island of Malta during that time, it was a very important hub for the electronic music event scene. We had events almost daily, especially during the spring and summer days. The energy that this culture radiated has inspired me to get behind the decks and I haven’t stopped since then. Over the years, I have explored a wealth of musical styles, spanning across progressive house, minimal, dub, drum & bass, electro and techno. This defines my present-day sound, which I showcase monthly on my Frisky Show. Fast forward to the present day and I am the Head of Product at Beatport, where I am working with an incredible team to lay the foundations for the future of DJing and creating an ecosystem that completes an artists creative journey.

You were recently appointed the Head of Product at Beatport –  congratulations! How you secured this opportunity?

Thanks! I secured this position while I was undergoing the 2nd year of the Point Blank BA (Hons) degree. Prior to joining Beatport, I worked in various Product Manager roles within the FinTech and Telecomms industry. During the Point Blank degree, I learnt that I could make a living 100% from the music industry, the same way I did in the early 2000s. This motivated me to start looking for opportunities within the space and attended various networking events across Europe to build my network. When the Product Manager position was open at Beatport I pursued the opportunity. I have to admit, the interview process was not an easy one but by combining my passion for the DJ culture and products, I was able to cut through the competition and secure the role.

Could you tell us a bit about what working in this role entails?

My role is to define and implement the vision of the Beatport Group, which also includes Beatsource, Loopmasters, Plugin Boutique and Producer Tech as part of the family. As part of my day to day activities, I maintain a healthy relationship with users, artists and labels so that we can better understand their needs and focus on developing and improving our products to better their experience. Furthermore, I also work collaboratively with the product teams, analysts and other business units to maintain a product roadmap that will guide the journey of business for the years to come.

On the community aspect of my role, I have participated in numerous workshops, masterclasses and panels where I share knowledge on topics such as “how to get started as a DJ with Beatport LINK”, “how to Dig and prepare a DJ Set” and many more topics focused on developing creativity. 

What advice would you give to a Point Blank student looking to secure a job in the music industry?

It is very important to network with people that work within the scene. The best way to do this is by attending conferences or being part of online forums. In addition, always keep an open eye on what opportunities are on the market within the music industry and don’t be shy to apply and reach out to the hiring person. This shows that you have the passion and dedication to be part of an exciting community.

You mentioned you recently had an EP out in September. What’s the story here?
The EP was released on 24th September on Subordinate Dubwaves – a project that I composed for my final project. INERTIA is a dub-inspired EP, distilling inspiration from artists that have influenced my musical journey, including Mortiz Von Oswald, Richie Hawtin, Max Cooper, Pablo Bolivar and Mad Professor, to name a few.

Being passionate about sound design and granular synthesis, I decided to create a three-track EP that moves backwards on the circle of fifths. Each of the sounds within the EP has been created from sounds recorded within 100 meters outside of my apartment in Berlin. Furthermore, I have backed the EP with minimalistic video footage to better give the tracks an audiovisual presence on social media. You can check out the updates on my Instagram page from the release day.

Do you have any go-to techniques when writing a new track?
My go-to techniques are simple but very effective for my productivity. I tackle each part of the journey separately and when I am in a creative mood, I focus my energy on jamming and composing. During this phase, I open Ableton Live, power up my controllers and synths and start writing ideas down. To save time and avoid distraction, I save different ideas into groups within the session, rather than have a separate project.

On other days where I am not in a creative mood, I dedicate time to listen back to the jam sessions, pick up the best grooves and start producing the track to further develop it as part of an EP or a single. When the production of the track(s) is ready, I bounce out all the stems and focus solely on the mixdown process. This is usually what I do first thing in the morning before work when my ears are fresh and my mind clean. 

Could you tell me how you discovered Point Blank?

I discovered Point Blank through the music production tutorial I pursued on YouTube, The content was always of high quality and I have built loyalty and trust in the brand. When I  decided to pursue a degree, I was looking for an online course and Point Blank was the natural path forward.

Were there any things in particular that really stood out in your memory from studying here?

I loved every moment at Point Blank, especially that the degree gives you the opportunity to explore new areas within the music industry world. Despite doing the degree online, the tutors, who are professional within the space, always provided their undivided attention and advice on how you can grow and develop your dreams.

One area that really lit up my creative side and sent me on a new path was the Sound Design modules. this opened up a new world for my creative growth and allowed me to gain confidence to pursue side hustle gigs with marketing agencies to help develop impactful music for social media ads. 

What’s in the pipeline? Are there any other interesting projects you’re working on you can tell us about?

For the coming 12-months, my focus is on composing an album that will be complemented with an audiovisual experience. The goal of the album is to showcase the sounds which make a city the diverse environment it is by using a mixture of field recordings, sound design and custom-built Max4Live instruments and effect units, creating a minimal listening experience.

Socials: Instagram / Facebook / SoundCloud / Radio Show

LAB-909 (Blanco y Negro) – Music Production Master Diploma

LAB-909 is a scientist and musician, who merges these two worlds by sampling audio from the chemistry laboratory. He recently signed an EP with his favourite childhood record label, Blanco y Negro, and currently works as one half of the theatrical duo Otra Vez El Maldito Kraken.

Hey Gimi, how’s it going? For those who aren’t familiar with what you do could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello there! All is well, thanks! Happy to finally be able to play and attend some gigs this summer. I’m a Barcelona-born scientist who is obsessed with electronic music. In my project, LAB-909, I sample chemistry laboratory noises and transform them into songs. I also like involving members of the local queer and liberal scenes in my work. These are communities that I absolutely adore which never cease to inspire me – so I take every chance to spend time with them. 

You recently signed a brand new EP with Blanco y Negro – that’s awesome! How did you hook up with the label?

Thanks! I grew up listening to Blanco y Negro’s compilations as a kid and the label is from my hometown as well, so releasing my latest single with them has been very special.

Blanco y Negro use this portal called labelradar to receive demos. Every time I finished a track that I thought could be a good fit for the label, I would be sure to submit it. I had four demos rejected by them over the previous year and on my fifth attempt… voilà! They got back to me showing interest in ‘Dure Pakken’ and we’ve kept in touch since then.

I know this is not the most wowing story but hopefully, it encourages a fellow up and coming artist to keep pushing after a rejection. It’s not you they are rejecting – it’s just that one track at that particular time.

Could you tell us how the EP came together?

Rewind to January 2020. My bestie Andrea was about to leave Spain to embark on a semester abroad to study in the Netherlands (not the best timing). On our goodbye date, I recorded her vocals in Dutch over a rough chord progression. At the time, it was just a fun hangout playing around with Ableton, but it quickly turned into this fun, melodic breakbeat song with wild effects on her voice. With Andrea’s Dutch student lifestyle dreams being crushed by a full lockdown, working on ‘Dure Pakken’ became our new way of spending time together. First with the song and later working on the music video. The months we spent 1000 km apart ultimately allowed us to grow closer together.

What advice would you give to a Point Blank student looking to sign music to a label?

Something I find very helpful is to keep in mind, during the production process, where and how you want the song to be experienced. Would you really like to release on X label? Do you have a super fun music video idea? Is this a song you want to do particularly well on the radio? Would you like it to be fun to use on TikTok? Keeping aspects like these present during the creation process can put you in a better position to achieve a song that is a good fit.

When I “just freely created”, I produced a few absolutely unplayable tracks. Even though the idea of putting boundaries can, at first, seem to defeat the whole point of the creative process, it certainly helped gain clarity on where I wanted to take the songs. It helped me produce songs that better matched the style of the label I had in mind. If you know where you’re going, it’s easier to get where you want to be.

You’re also one half of the theatrical performance duo Otra Vez El Maldito Kraken. Could you tell us a little bit about this project?

Otra Vez El Maldito Kraken is an experimental duo that unites Artis’ spectral drag and my glitchier musical creations in live shows inspired by gender, community and personal growth narratives.

We are blessed to count on wonderful queer artists that help us make each show unique, lending us stunning costumes, shifting lighting, projections, fog etc., presenting the audience with our characteristic fantasy/mythological vibe. Our shows usually have parts of acting, backed up by matching musical intros or interludes, sound effects, and of course, we also perform our songs.

It’s such a fun project to be part of and I find myself doing completely new things at every show. On the last one, we performed at an actual theatre (the first time for me!). We had my Push2 inside a spellbook, to make it look like I was summoning Artis, the sounds and the lights. There are no limits when you’re making cinematic sounds. I get to play with all the weird noises, effects and tools that never would make it into a radio edit.

Could you tell me how you discovered Point Blank?

When I decided to pursue music production at higher education level, it was important for me to find a school that, on top of excelling at teaching, could give me the chance to interact with international students with diverse backgrounds. After a great deal of searching online and comparing, I felt that PB had a strong community of alumni and that would allow for this – and it did!

Were there any things in particular that really stood out in your memory from studying here?

I particularly liked that, for each course, we had different students in the classroom and, as the course progressed, we’d built a mini-community where we shared our latest projects. I very much enjoyed working one-on-one with the instructors, building a relationship with them and then sharing the results I got from following their advice. I made a couple of really good friends during my time at PB and we had good fun participating in the forum collaborations and contests. 

What’s in the pipeline? Are there any other interesting projects you’re working on you can tell us about?

Yes, indeed! After Andrea and I produced the music video for ‘Dure Pakken’ with a mobile phone camera and a £30 light ring, upping our videography game has been pretty high on our priority list. I want the visuals and storytelling to be an important part of my upcoming music releases.

My next single release will be ‘No Elevensomes Pls’, which pokes some fun at how social interaction restrictions affected a polyamorous group of friends.

My friends and I spent a weekend filming the music video for this track, now equipped with better gear and the end result turned out really well. It is cute, it is sexy, it is silly and fun. I can’t wait to share it with everyone in the next couple of months!

Socials: Instagram / Website

Successes such as these are common among our students and alumni. We can teach you how to DJ like the best of them at any of our schools. If you’d like to learn how to produce, then we can build your skills from the ground up with our range of degree programmes. For more information, you can contact us here.

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