Graziano Raffa on managing Sudbeat, balancing life, and why music makes people better

Lauren Krieger

Graziano Raffa provides fresh insight on evolving, working, and the power of music.

Only one who has limitless passion for the music will find a way to balance between working for the business side of the industry, and living life as an artist. Graziano Raffa is one of those people, able to spend the time, effort, and enthusiasm to take on the job of label manager for Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat Music, while also continuing to excel at his own career as a DJ and producer. Since his beginnings in the Italian techno scene, where he was able to experience the underground electronic music business from the inside out, Graziano has combined his knowledge and experience of the industry with his desire for sharing the music that he loves.

The balance found in Graziano Raffa’s career can also be heard in his music, his FRISKY show Southside features a dynamic blend of Progressive and Tech, with combinations of style and sound that unite in a coherent and distinctive message.

It was truly great to catch up with Graziano, to find out what it’s like to be in charge of such a hard working label, and to learn about his personal perspectives and philosophies. I think you will enjoy it too:

What was your introduction into the “industry” side of the electronic music scene like?

Hi and thanks for having me here! My first steps into this amazing side of the job were made around DSC_2040smfour years ago, when Hernan asked me if I was interested in giving him an help running the label. He has an amazing family and a pretty busy agenda, so back then he felt he might have needed some help.

We were knowing each other already, I was lucky enough to have my music played by him regularly and our personal relationship was pretty good!

But honestly I didn’t expect to be suitable for that place, I felt the responsibility was too big and my experience in this field was close to zero. I didn’t want to slow down Hernan and Sudbeat. But Hernan chilled me out, saying that he felt it could have worked if we were standing side by side in a gradual learning process. And after few days I decided to take the chance, as in life it is always better to try and fail than having regrets for not having tried.

What are the greatest challenges and rewards as label manager for Sudbeat Music?

They always change, and this, I think, depends on the fact that the label has been constantly evolving during the last years. In a first phase I was more focused on me. Being there and doing what I had to do was the challenge, and the reward was doing it right. Simple as that.

sudbeatThen it became more oriented to the music: apart of all the paperworks and the graphics and the emails, we get of course an impressive amount of music from all around the world. I was filtering some for Hernan but he never felt that impressed about my choices. So then I understood that a new challenge was coming, I had to try to get closer to his taste. Very hard mission if you consider the outstanding experience that he has and how that affects your choices when it comes to listen and select your records. Luckily it was natural for me to learn with the days passing by. I always like to say that what I learnt in four years working with Hernan it was ten times more than what I did on my own for the previous ten years. Therefore, a big reward is feeling now his full trust on the A/R, we work a lot together selecting the music to release and it hardly happens that we disagree on the final choice. And eventually, the best reward is seeing that this alchemy that we have built is reflected on our fan base that grow day by day and is very connected to our sound. Seeing people talking about the “Sudbeat sound” is amazing and I feel truly lucky to be part of the growing process of the label.

What is an unexpected role of label manager that most people wouldn’t think of?

I think it’s a pretty well defined job actually. Maybe in my own position is a bit different as I’m a multifunctional label manager, so I take care of many aspects that usually a label manager delegates to others. Someone for instance, gets surprised when he realizes that I am also the graphic designer, but that is the profession I studied for and I like to be able not to lose the grip on it. So it’s nice to use Sudbeat to stay in touch with design tools.

Another very unexpected role was inflating and dropping the big balloons at some of the last year label showcases. I was traveling around Europe with a lot of big balloons and an electric pump along with the headhpones, the laptop and the usb sticks! Luckily I found in Lonya a solid partner to complete that task and it was very unexpected for both of us but we ended having lots of fun with those balloons! 🙂

Do you find it challenging to balance between work and your own creative endeavors? Do you ever feel burnt out from dealing with the business side of the industry?

It can happen sometimes that you feel overwhelmed, especially when deadlines are getting close or when some problems shows up and it has to be solved as soon as you can. I think that only experience can get you at the point where you are able to divide your time in a functional way.

I want to be updated on the music that I have to play, trying to listen to every single promo that I get for example. It’s a lot of time but you have to do it, first to show some respect to all the labels and artists that consider your opinion important and second to have full control on your tracks collection and to try to shape my style and express my taste. Then you have to work in the studio, and this activity is even more intense than listening to promos because you can’t do it all the time. You need to feel inspired and fresh!

So, especially when all of this started and the amount of work started to increase, I had some moments when I didn’t manage my time in the right way. At the end, the fact that you live doing what you love doesn’t mean that you can do it for endless hours. It’s important to have some parallel activities and get out from the “cave” every now and then. And for me it was almost all about the music, in a negative way I would say. I was wasting much more time in thinking how to to do all the things that I had to do instead than starting doing them without thinking about time and pressure. It took some time to better learn this concept. Finally in the last year I have got much better in organizing my own time. Doing sport and trying to change some daily habits helped me a lot in facing stress and therefore, improving the quantity and the quality of all my activities.

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Do you have a philosophy that you carry with you throughout your work and play?

This music world is beautiful and it looks filled with gold. But most of it is fake stones and the only way to recognize it, is standing with your feet on the ground! Staying close to the people and to yourself.

I try not to get any distance from my roots. Evolving is important, but you never have to forget where you come from. I try to keep this in mind when I play music, when I’m answering emails for a licensing, when I’m having a pizza with a friend or when people around the world ask you for a picture after a show. And after all I have met some of my best friend in the last years, so I assume that this approach about work is good to keep.

What do you think are the most valuable qualities of music?

I think that music trains the chords of one’s soul.

It just makes people better. I feel music made me a man, the man that I’m now. And thanks to it I could travel, discovering habits and beliefs, feeling close to other cultures and meeting a lot of people. The common trait that I found in all those people who have the music as a firm presence in their life is that they are just better people. They smile more, they are more friendly, they still feel emotional in front of easy things of life that are very underestimated from the rest of people, too busy to build their careers and social statuses but not interested in using these 70/80 years of life trying to answer to the several “who”, “why”, “what”, “where” and “when” that life put in front of us everyday. In such advanced yet divided world, things like music are keeping us closer to our original essence. It shows us love. It is love.

Thank you Graziano! That is one of my new favorite quotes about music.

The next episode of Southside airs on August 17th @ 2PM EST [convert timezone]. Get ready by diving into the back catalog now!

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