Sam Lee, Music Editor at Deezer UK
interviewed by Anthony Francis, 22 January 2016
On our hunt to find and question the world's most inspirational men, QH spoke to Music Editor of Deezer UK, Sam Lee, to chat finding talent and what makes a music star...
Tell us more about your time at Deezer and what your role is...
As Deezer Editor for UK & Ireland, I'm responsible for making sure that our users are the first to hear the best new music from both big names and upcoming artists. I create and curate playlists and highlight new releases on the Deezer platform, and work closely with record labels and distributors to come up with campaigns to promote artists.
How do you even begin to try to find the next big thing in music?
There are lots of ways - my relationship with labels means that I often get told about new releases before they are publicly announced, and I'm lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of my time reading music blogs and websites, which helps me keep up to speed with things. But the best way is still through word of mouth, whether that's having a colleague share a track with me on Deezer or stumbling across a friend-of-a-friend's band in the back of a pub.
Where have been your favourite places to travel for work?
I spent some time in Berlin last year and would highly recommend a stroll along the Landwehrkanal on a sunny Saturday, followed by some incredible Turkish food (the tiny Superhahn kebab shack on Oranienstrasse is life-changing) and a beer in one of the city's many drinking holes. Then, if you're feeling brave, try your luck in the line at the notorious Berghain club (or give Tresor a go for a more relaxed door policy).
Where are the best places in London QH readers to see up-and-coming talent?
People in London are spoilt with the number of great music venues here. A few of my favourite smaller venues are The Lexington, Oslo, The Sebright Arms and the gorgeous Wilton's Music Hall. Sadly a number of great venues have closed down in recent years due to noise issues and pressure from developers, so hopefully this trend doesn't continue or we could lose some more of the city's cultural landmarks.
What makes Deezer stand out above its competitors?
What sets Deezer apart from other streaming services is that it is 100% personalised. Our mix of algorithmic and editorial recommendations mean that no two Deezer profiles are the same, so when you log in to Deezer you'll find a service that is tailored to you and your tastes. Plus our team of dedicated music editors around the world mean that wherever you live you'll be served great local content from somebody who knows the music scene like the back of their hand.
What makes a music star?
Somebody who bridges the gap between superhumans and mortals. Look at Adele, David Bowie, Ed Sheeran - they are all unbelievably talented but have something that ordinary people can hold on to. Of course, Kanye West disproves that theory somewhat, but he's in a world of his own.
Who are you most excited about at the minute?
I think NAO is one of the most exciting new artists right now. She calls her sound "wonky funk" - it's really well produced, super funky and packs a real groove, but there's enough of a pop edge there for it to appeal to the general public. She's already featured on tracks by Disclosure and Mura Masa, and I think she could be this year's big crossover success.
How has alternative and indie music developed in the last two decades?
One of the main changes is that it is more popular than ever. Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, Foals, The National, The Strokes - some of the biggest names in modern music are 'indie' bands. There's not such a divide between 'alternative' music and 'pop' music nowadays - and I think the same is true for most genres.