Grammy winner Afrojack has long been established as one of the dominant forces in the contemporary music scape – having sculpted smashes for the likes of Nicki Minaj and the Black Eyed Peas.
Now, after being named the European CEO of Japanese force LDH (Love, Dream, Happiness), the star is looking to birth the music’s next big thing.
In an innovative move, he’s launching the Global Vocal Battle Auditions.
With applications open from today, the search will welcome entrants worldwide and stage physical open calls in five cities – these being London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, New York, Los Angeles, Taipei, Tokyo and Osaka.
The goal? To uncover young unsigned vocal talent for a brand new international group, which will be produced by Afrojack himself and make its debut in 2019.
We caught up with both Afrojack and Verbal in Amsterdam this week to talk about the venture and much more.
Check out the inspiring chat below…
That Grape Juice (Sam): Congratulations on being named the European CEO of LDH! Tell us a little about how that development came about?
Afrojack: I went to Japan couple of years ago I did a show, met Verbal (Executive Creative Director of LDH). He showed me a lot. it’s a different world out there. I loved what I was seeing, but was most excited when he showed me a video of Exile, one of the LDH groups and the insane live production behind them. It’s like unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s like bigger than a Justin Bieber show. It’s a Japanese Pop group, the production is insane. So I asked him, “Who are these people, what’s going on here?” he told me about LDH, introduced me to the head of LDH Mr Hiro.
We just started creating music and the like, but the more we worked the more I started figuring out about the artist development side of LDH – which was almost working in the sort of opposite way compared to the rest of the world. And it was very similar to my ideology of doing successful business. That really made me feel like “Yo, these people get me!” They’re like my Japanese family.
They have the same ideology: which is that dreams and passion come first and success will follow. So prioritize your vision, follow your vision and then the booming business will follow.
When we started speaking about collaborating more on that front, I explained to them that I’ve been developing younger artists, so why not do it together?” and that’s how we came to LDH Europe. And that’s been a long time in the making, I think like one and a half years to set everything up. And now we’re finally at a point where we have the team in place, we have the strategy in place, we have the training in place, and everything is in place. Now all we need to do is find the talent! [Laughs]
That Grape Juice: Together you’re looking for the “next Pop superstar” and are mounting the Vocal Battle Auditions. Having worked with some of music’s top names: what are some of the ingredients you feel make a superstar?
Afrojack: There’s a lot of things you can say that they’re “supposed” to have, like they need to have the aura – so when they walk into a room they make an impression. But all that stuff can be taught. I feel like a great voice can be taught, a great mind for rapping can be taught, it just requires a lot of practice.
What we’re looking for as a first priority is the willpower and the passion. That’s by far the most important thing. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to keep you doing what you love to do for 16 hours in a row. If you don’t love to do it you can’t do a 16-hour day. If someone tells you, “You’ve got a 16-hour day tomorrow of doing something you don’t love” you’re going to be like, “Yo I can’t do this” but when it’s like, “Yo you can do 16 hours of your favorite thing in the world” you’re like, “Let’s go” everyday.
So that’s the number one priority and then of course it would help if you have a great voice and know how to sing.
You really have to want “it” at all costs too. Not one foot in, one foot out. You can’t do a little bit of both, it can’t be like, “Yeah I’m going to become a pop star” but also sell bananas.
That Grape Juice: The competition is unique in that it’s taking place in eight cities across the globe. Why was this important for you?
Afrojack: I think the component that’s really important about having the auditions beamed worldwide is because we wanted to show that we are scouring for talent anywhere, we want to give everyone the opportunity. And that’s also the most important reason we’re doing all these interviews because we want people to know we’re not like (American Idol’s_, we’re not going to broadcast your audition, we’re not here to make entertainment out of the audition process.
We’re actually doing auditions to find people that are able to do this and they are willing to do this. And that’s the thing, usually when you see auditions made for entertainment… you already know what you’re going to get if you get through the auditions.
For us, we have some serious, serious songwriters that are ready to work, some serious producers that are ready to mold the next star. It’s a very real and involved process.
That Grape Juice: Delving into the process, what can participants expect from the competition?
Afrojack: From the process? The best training you can imagine.. Our own network, my network in the sense of music production and songwriting, Verbal’s network in the sense of fashion and most importantly LDH network.
We also have world-renowned choreographers who’ve been part of major videos.
So we have everything in place for the training, as well as everything in place to set up the product – the songs, to the distribution, to the press training. It’s all in place. So much so that everything that would happen if “Afrojack” dropped a single that’s exactly the same thing that will happen when the globalvba.com winners come out with their music.
This is a very long vision, it’s a lot of steps but that’s the most important thing. You get major treatment, you get major training and all you need to do is be humble, be loyal and be driven for your passion. So many people miss out because they don’t follow-through on what they want.
That Grape Juice: So Verbal, with you gearing up to commence the search for the next star what’s it like been working with Afrojack?
Verbal: Well it’s been enlightening because first of all– well to say the least because LDH has been a very domestic company, we’ve been doing our own thing in Japan and we know how to work Japan in the market….
That Grape Juice: Very successfully….
Verbal: We do a lot of shows and we’re an artist management live company and we have like a hundred artists on our roster.
Afrojack: They sold 2.9 million tickets in 2016.
Verbal: Within Japan–
Afrojack: — Japanese people are humble, I’ve got to say that [laughs].
Verbal: Well within Japan we know what we’re doing but then it wasn’t until Afrojack came and as he was mentioning earlier, met Mr. Hiro [that the ball got rolling]. He is successful in his own right and he was feeling the whole philosophy behind LDH and thought he could implement that on a worldwide level. That’s when a lot of ideas popped up and like he was saying it’s been a year and a half in the making. And so yeah it’s been a very good process in terms of getting our dreams out and he’s been really spearheading that.
That Grape Juice: Afrojack, you’ve worked with everyone from Madonna to Nicki Minaj to Snoop Dogg to Sting. Who do you want to work with next? Dream collabo’s if you will?
Afrojack: Like this is the change that’s happening for me and it’s going to be very funny if anyone ever asked me this question again because I just figured this out: I want to create the next Beyonce, I want to create the next Diplo, I want to create the next Black Eyed Peas.
I’m not saying I want to be the guy that created them (verbatim). I want to actually put the people in the place they want to be. It’s one crossroad, it’s one tiny pebble that can change your whole life. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Global Vocal Battle auditions; we’re trying to be the pebble that makes the difference.
That Grape Juice: This venture sees you expand your empire while helping others kick start theirs. What are some of your broad goals moving forward?
Afrojack: I think my main goal is to be the change for someone. Help them bring their dream to reality instead of living a life he thinks he’s supposed to live.
And I think also for myself to inspire people and let them know that you can actually become successful by doing what you love and having the correct ethics.
I was saying earlier to someone once you start learning, the music industry is very tough and hard but it’s not just music industry, any industry is tough and hard. Life is tough and hard, that does not mean “you” have to be tough and hard.
I can be tough and hard. But by way of how you handle tough and hard without necessarily being the same way. You don’t need to mirror a certain behavior to deal with it. That’s the most important thing I want to try and eventually teach the society like, “Yo we’re all fighting too much, it’s very pointless to fight so much”. If you actually sit down and you studied and you think and you paid attention you can learn so much. Yeah, that’s also one of the most important things for us is we’re going to have to teach our talent, less talking more listening.
I think that’s the most important thing I ever learned from going to Japan, how everyone is so ears open, paying attention to what you’re saying and using that to feedback information to you and implement it towards the betterment of their craft.