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Songtrust Spotlight: Todd Terry

Grammy Award-nominated DJ/Producer Todd Terry has been engulfed in dance music since he first started listening to European dance music records while growing up in Brooklyn. Already devoted to turntables, he heard something different in those tracks, and he “went for the difference. I never got a break in New York, but England happened right away, so I catered to them.” In any event, the Todd Terry sound was born.

By 1988, Todd Terry hit big in England and Europe, and his notoriety was making its way back to the U.S. In addition to DJ appearances, Todd was cutting his classic underground tracks "A Day In The Life," "Weekend," and "Can You Party," released under monikers such as the Todd Terry Project, House Of Gypsies, and Royal House, all considered essential and groundbreaking.

In the mid-’90s, the Ministry of Sound’s eponymous U.K. label released "A Day In The Life," a collection of Todd Terry tracks that had been causing dance floor panic. That then led the way to a deal with Mercury Records allowing him to set up a context in which to work with his favourite singers and performers. The first release, "Keep On Jumpin’" featured a vocal workout from super-divas Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown, together for the first time ever. The song became a top 10 U.K. crossover pop hit and worldwide smash.  Todd followed with the anthem "Somethin Going On," a top 5 U.K. crossover pop hit.

All the while, Todd continued to break new ground as a Producer/Remixer. From SNAP to Annie Lennox to George Michael to Bjork, Todd’s mixes bridge the ground between club cool and commercial accessibility. In 1995, his remix for "Everything But The Girl’s Missing" became a worldwide smash, giving the British duo their first-ever hit. He then rode the charts with mixes for Garbage (Stupid Girl), The Cardigans (Love Fool), Everything But The Girl (Wrong), 10,000 Maniacs (More Than This), Jamiroquai (Alright), The Cardigans (Been It), and The Lightning Seeds (You Showed Me), among others. He also produced a Robin S track (Givin’ You All That I’ve Got) for the multi-platinum Space Jam soundtrack.

Todd is one of the world’s most celebrated figures in dance music. With almost two decades of dance floor domination under his belt, the quality of his productions goes from strength to strength. Todd Terry


WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MUSIC?

The music production of Quincy Jones and the performer known as James Brown inspires what I write, produce, and perform.  Now, in the future, and at the start of my career, it all comes from there. 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND STYLE AS AN ARTIST?

I'm known as a house music artist, producer, writer, and DJ. As a live performer, I play/DJ house, funk, soul, hip-hop, and rock in my sets.  But the reality is I'm known for "house music" which is the dominant style that I DJ in. That said I'm heavily influenced by hip-hop and rock. I have produced hip-hop and Freestyle, and really I have remixed every possible style of music. So how I describe my style and how others describe are two very different things. You add it all up and that's the Todd Terry sound.

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO CREATE, AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF IN MUSIC?

That fact that fans care about what I'm doing 30-ish years into my career, that they still buy and stream my music both new and old. The fact that people come out to hear me spin records at clubs and festivals is what drives me. That defines success to me. 

THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST WITH DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT?

I have had great managers, lawyers, and agents that have guided the business side, too many names but my current team is the best -- Dan Ross and Neil Petricone at XMIX guide the live booking and business side. My record labels InHouse, Freeze, and Terminator and publishing are managed by my longtime partner Bill Klatt.  

SOMETIMES BEING IN THIS BUSINESS CAN BE OVERWHELMING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF?

It's tough, with many more demands these days. I came up making records and the industry took care of the rest, but the industry also took 85% or more of the money back in the day.  Now artists can be in control of everything, but now you need to how to do everything, just being an artist or a songwriter is not enough. You need to know how to be the label, the publisher, your own marketing and PR team. Find people you trust and build your own team. Learn the business and never stop the hustle. 

WHAT CAN OR SHOULD THE NEWER GENERATION OF MUSIC CREATORS, AND MORE SPECIFICALLY BLACK MUSIC CREATORS, FOCUS ON AS THEY ENVISION A NEW MUSIC FUTURE?

Stay true to your vision.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY DO TO TRULY BE A REFLECTION OF THE CULTURE AND COMMUNITY IN WHICH IT CREATES?

I think it does. The quality rises to the top, be great and people will notice.

BLACK ARTISTS, SONGWRITERS, AND CREATORS HEAVILY INFLUENCE MOST TRENDS IN MUSIC, ENTERTAINMENT, AND SOCIAL MEDIA - BUT THEY OFTEN DON'T RECEIVE THE RECOGNITION THEY DESERVE. DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR DEVELOPING CREATORS WHEN IT COMES TO PROTECTING THEIR WORK?

Don't sign your art away, hold on to your copyright, for both the masters and for the composition. If you don't know what that means, find out quickly, before you lose control of your art. You can gain distribution and support without giving up ownership of your creations.  

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS JUST STARTING THEIR CAREERS, BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?

Learn, absorb, experience, then make it your own. Never stop creating.  

WHAT DO YOU HAVE COMING UP IN 2022?

Growing my audience and fans, releasing four singles a month on my labels, remixes for other artists, collaborations in the works for other labels, more NFT drops are coming on RCRDSHP, and I'm back out touring like it's 1999. 2022 is gonna be big.

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