by Zac Ingraham
In the spring of 2004, Patrick Moxey, founder and president of Ultra Records, was quoted as saying that he would like his label “to become an authority on the genre of dance music.” Ultra was just beginning to move its products into the global market, and according to Moxey, it was an “exciting time.” Little did he know that the next eight years would see Ultra grow into “one of the most prolific and successful” independent labels, due in part to a strong brand and a world-renowned roster. Having just completed one of its most successful years yet, Ultra is continuing to pursue its goal of becoming an authority on dance music, and with the introduction of the company’s upgraded entity, Ultra Music, it seems ready to do just that.
Ultra Records began in 1995 in New York City as a side project of Moxey’s while he was working as a senior vice president at Virgin Records. He realized that there was a lack of European dance music being released in the United States, so he set about importing those releases here. This led to an exclusive distribution partnership with Ministry of Sound, a London-based independent label, which began in 1999 and lasted until 2008. Ultra’s initial focus was on releasing singles and mixed dance compilation albums, including its own eponymous compilation series, but over time, the label began releasing artist albums. It was around this time in 2003 that Moxey left Atlantic to work full time at Ultra.
Ultra’s growth only continued from there. In 2006, the label partnered with Warner Music Group’s Alternative Distribution Alliance. The Ultra brand has also expanded worldwide. Playing a major role is Ultra’s own compilation series which has become known for featuring beautiful women on the album covers, a strategy that Moxey believes has done “a lot to extend the brand.” The label has also developed an amazing online presence, especially regarding Youtube. Ultra’s channel has 230,000 Youtube subscribers and over 780 million views. Those numbers make it the 49th most subscribed to, as well as the 8th most viewed, channel on Youtube.
Throughout the years, more and more top producers/DJs have signed with Ultra Records. Today, Ultra’s roster includes eight of DJ Magazine’s Top Ten DJs of 2010: Armin van Buuren (#1), Tiësto (#3), Deadmau5 (#4), Above & Beyond (#5), Paul van Dyk (#6), Markus Schulz (#8), Ferry Corsten (#9), and Axwell (#10). When the rest of the list is considered, this number only increases.
The results of DJ Magazine’s poll were just another example of Ultra’s success in 2010. That year, the label had two major hits: “Stereo Love” by Edward Maya featuring Vika Jigulina and “We No Speak Americano” by Yolanda Be Cool vs. DCUP. “Stereo Love” sold over 1 million copies, going platinum in both Canada and the United States. The song also reached #1 on Billboard’s Dance Airplay chart, and the video earned more than 150 million views on Youtube. If that wasn’t enough, the song also played on Top 40 stations in every major market. Ultra’s other hit, “We No Speak Americano,” has currently sold over 800,000 copies and is expected to reach platinum status as well.
“Stereo Love” by Edward Maya featuring Vika Jigulina
“We No Speak Americano” by Yolanda Be Cool vs. DCUP
Ultra also had successful album releases in 2010, with three of its albums debuting in the iTunes Top 10 Overall chart: Ultra Dance 11 (mixed by DJ Enferno), Dynasty by Kaskade, and 4×4=12 by Deadmau5. Kaskade’s Dynasty, which debuted at #5 on the chart on April 27, earned the highest chart position for an artist album in Ultra Records history. Interestingly, that record was broken by Deadmau5 later that year on December 8 when his album, 4×4=12, debuted at #4.
Accomplishments such as these have not only thrust Ultra Records into the eyes of the public, but into the eyes of the industry as well. Billboard named Ultra the #1 Dance Airplay Imprint and #1 Dance Airplay Label. Ultra also earned Billboard’s title of Top 10 Dance/Electronic Album Imprint and Top 5 Dance/Electronic Album Label. The majority of Ultra’s praise, however, came from the 2010 International Dance Music Awards, where the label took home 9 awards:
- “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” by Pitbull won for “Best Latin Track”
- “Leave The World Behind” by Axwell, Angello, Ingrosso, and Laidback Luke featuring Deborah Cox won for “Best House/Garage Track”
- “Ghosts N Stuff” by Deadmau5 won for “Best Electro Track”
- “I Will Be Here” by Tiësto and Sneaky Sound System won for “Best Trance Track”
- Deadmau5 earned the titles of “Best Artist (Solo)” and “Best American DJ”
- Kaskade earned the title of “Best Remixer”
- Armin van Buuren earned the title of “Best Global DJ”
- And perhaps most importantly, Ultra Records was awarded the title of “Best American Record Label”
Ultra’s undisputed dominance in the dance music industry shows that the label is well on its way to accomplishing the goals that Patrick Moxey set for it eight years ago, but a recent interview with Moxey at MIDEM 2011 seems to suggest that Ultra’s story is just beginning. In reaction to the changing music industry, Ultra Records has, over time, evolved into Ultra Music. Through affiliations with Ultra International Music Publishing and Empire Artist Management (both of which are owned by Moxey), the company now handles publishing, management, and merchandise on top of records, and, according to Moxey, “encompasses everything around music.”
Ultra Music’s publishing arm, Ultra International Music Publishing, is a “rapidly growing, independent music publishing company representing artists, songwriters, producers, and agents from around the world.” The company works to place artists in film, television, gaming, and branding, and represents artists such as Akon, Beenie Man, and Nicki Minaj, along with artists on Ultra Records’ roster, including Armin van Buuren, Kaskade, and Tiësto. The company recently celebrated success with two number one singles: “Firework” by Katy Perry and “Only Girl In The World” by Rihanna.
Empire Artist Management, Ultra Music’s management arm, handles remix management and artist management for a number of artists, including Above & Beyond, Dan Saenz, EDX, Bloody Beetroots, Benny Benassi, Crookers, and more. Merchandise for Ultra Records, Benny Benassi, Crookers, GRUM, and Wolfgang Gartner can now be purchased directly through the Ultra Records website.
Ultra Music’s growth over the years is nothing short of incredible. What started as a side project of a major label executive has become a powerhouse not only within the dance music industry, but within the independent music industry as well. Ultra Music has never followed any kind of formula, something found so often in the music industry. Instead, they have simply stayed passionate about the music. In Moxey’s mind, the explanation for Ultra’s evolution is simple; “We do a lot of different types of things now because that’s where the music is. You stand close to music and then you work with it in every format.”
Armed with a philosophy such as this, Ultra Music is ready to build upon its success in 2010 and continue to grow. Commenting on the future, Patrick Moxey said, “I’m looking forward to making 2011 our best yet. It’s an honor and privilege to work with the amazing talent on the label’s roster and its staff, and we’ve grown as a team and as a family over the past year. We’ve got our sights set on an even more amazing 2011 together!”
The future is certainly bright for Ultra Music, and as electronic music plays an ever increasing role in the music industry as a whole, it is comforting to know that Ultra is there leading the way. Ultra knows that the music is what’s important, and their determination to support it and pave the way for its future is a sure sign that things will only get better for this independent label. At this rate, it won’t be long before Ultra reaches its goal of becoming an authority on the genre of dance music, but by then, the company will surely be hard at work achieving new goals that will improve not only dance music, but the entire music industry as well.
For more information, visit Ultra Music on these social networking sites:
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