Vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. This is Oxford dictionary definition of Riotvan Records or is the definition of music? Either way, Riotvan embodies music in its purest form. The label was formed back in 2012 and has since grown into a tight-knit family unit, with releases spanning across the full creative spectrum. In an ever more consumer-driven world, Riotvan appears to go against the grain. They choose to swim upstream, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. The label, the parties, the agency all epitomise a singular belief. The shared creativity between a small but cohesive unit will produce forward-thinking artistic mastery. As part of our label watch series, we sat with (one of) Riotvan’s label bosses Peter Invasion to discuss the label’s success.

Riotvan is a label born out of the German town of Leipzig. For those that might not know can you tell us a bit more about the scene and how it compares to other German cities for electronic music?

Leipzig has a strong scene for music and especially for electronic music. You’ll find many motivated people working as artists, running labels or clubs or organizing open airs. Compared to Berlin, Leipzig is a much smaller city, but with a similar open-mindedness. So the scene is well connected. Recently, the scene has become much stronger, as a lot of people are moving to Leipzig. This brings new influences and (wo)manpower to the scene.

On top of this, there has been a palpable impact through the opening of clubs like Institut fuer Zukunft or Mjut. They are operating a modern and high-quality approach to club culture with strategies like a no photo policy, safer clubbing and last but not least deliberate bookings. We have the general feeling that all the clubs and artists are helping each other out more than back in the days. It feels more communal and synergies are created and utilized more often.

Originally, Riotvan was a series of small parties in the city. Why did you decide to start releasing records and have you seen any benefits from growing out of a party?

Riotvan started in 2006 as a series of parties mostly in Leipzig, as you already said. I (Peter) did it to create gigs for the indie band I was playing in back then, but it was also to connect with like-minded people. Musically, our roots weren’t purely electronic. Since I was in a band, Riotvan always had that band aspect. Over time this evolved to a whole crew of people. Eventually, Riotvan also grew into a booking agency for the artists that had been a part of the parties since day one: Good Guy Mikesh, Lake People etc. One of the main reasons we started a label was the music by Here Is Why. This was the new wave and synth-pop band I was in with Good Guy Mikesh, my girlfriend Linda and Flo. We wanted to have full control over every aspect of the release. The only way to ensure that was to start our own label. At that point, it sure was beneficial to already have built a network through all the parties and people who were involved in this time. 

Three years after I started the imprint, Panthera Krause was releasing his first solo EP on Riotvan. We got closer over the years, especially around 2017. He had a really big impact on the label and since then, we began to run the label together. We realized that we were not just getting along great, but that we were sharing similar ideas about club music and music in general. It felt natural to work together more closely.

Since you first started releasing records. How has club culture changed and has this affected the way people buy your records?

We are an independent label that evolved in a constantly changing club and music scene, we’re trying to stay open-minded and aware of changes while making the best of it. Nowadays it’s easier to distribute your music and to work together with blogs, online radios, to get plays on streaming platforms or to stay in contact with fans and other artists. Sure there are tons of releases every day and sometimes it’s difficult to gain attention on a release, but over the last years, more people found out about Riotvan and started buying our records. And we’re really grateful for the trust of all our listeners. Thanks for the continuous support! 🙂

What is the hardest part of running an independent label?

Definitely the financial side! Sometimes it’s tough to release music. You do not know if people will buy the record and if you can recover the investments. As a small label, we always try to find strategies that allow us to also release music that isn’t primarily designated for the dance floor. Take Jennifer Touch as an example. When choosing remixes we look at how we can refinance it. And you need a lot of ambition and endurance, but the passion for the music we are releasing keeps us motivated.

Coronavirus is now bedding itself down in Europe. How do you think it will affect the global electronic scene as well as you as a label specifically?

At the moment it’s hard to say what the future brings. The struggle is real, and for sure it will affect the scene. But still, I hope it’ll also be changed in a good way. As artists and owners of small labels, we are living from hand to mouth – like many people active in the creative scene. And by shutting down all the clubs and cancelling festivals, it brings up the necessity of thinking about new strategies to handle it. When the clubs will re-open again, they will have to compensate the loss they’ve made and so they might book more local artists, reduce fees for the gigs and with it all artists want to make up for the gigs that they’ve lost. During the shutdown, we’ll sell fewer records, as many of our customers are DJs. Their income is drying up. Right now they don’t even need new records for playing. However, we will keep on and think about ways to get the label through this nightmare. We try to be positive and hopefully we’ll find a solution that will work for all of us. Together we will get through this, stronger and more united. 

Riotvan has quite a family or collective approach to the music it releases. Do you think this resonates with your audience better than labels that move from artist to artist hunting the next big track?

It depends! We can only speak for ourselves, but we feel more comfortable with people we know. So why look elsewhere when it’s right at your doorstep. We don’t want Riotvan to become this machine that puts out release after release and we want to give each release enough time to breathe. At the end of the day, we are working with a small number of friends and we don’t want to change that. This idea of a tight-knit community as the heart of the label is very important to us. We won’t start signing artists we have no connection with and that we don’t know personally.

Is there a Riotvan release that stands out above any other for you?

Every single release is unique and a masterpiece. 🙂 

What advice would you give to any producers trying to get their music signed?

Show appreciation for the label, try to understand the philosophy, sound, aesthetics etc. Be personal! It makes no sense to send out random, copy-pasted stuff and hope there is someone who’s going to release it. Sure.. sometimes it works – fair enough – but is this the way you want to bring your stuff to the rest of world? Just our 2 cents. Build your own network, don’t get caught up, stay on the ball and keep it real. Authenticity and quality are always affordable and there are always new paths. When one door closes, another one opens!

Finally, what do the next 6 months hold for the label?

At the moment it’s hard to say because of the Corona-situation. But we’re working on interesting collaborations with other labels (more to come)! We will release a special repress of all Llewellyn EPs on Riotvan. As well as a new release coming next week. The third instalment of our ‘Familiar Faces’ series with outstanding artists like Zombies in Miami, Good Guy Mikesh and Reznik, Paulor, New Hook, Llewellyn and Jennifer Touch.

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