Industry Insider: How To Land a Pop Remix with Rachel Strassberger (Black Eyed Peas)

Industry Insider: How To Land a Pop Remix with Rachel Strassberger (Black Eyed Peas)

For many electronic producers, bagging remix duties on a major pop single can be an instant jettison to the upper echelons of the music industry. The planet’s biggest stars and most iconic groups regularly use dance remixes to forge avenues into the ‘cooler’, underground genres. From heritage acts like David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, CJ Mackintosh, E Smoove, Roger Sanchez, and Peter Rauhoffer, to the latest crop of up-and-coming artists, it’s management who decide which producers make the cut. But how do you get on their radar, and what are they actually looking for in a remix?


During ADE 2023 I House U was lucky enough to sit down with Rachel Strassberger, one-third of the Black Eyed Peas management team, and the woman responsible for lining up the iconic supergroup’s official remix packages. Here she gives us some unique insider advice on how to get your name on the desks of the people who make the big decisions, the kind that could change the entire course of your career…


IHU – Rachel, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you give us a quick bit of background on your career path to working with the Black Eyed Peas?


Thanks for having me! So I guess I got started in the music industry almost by accident. I was asked by a guy I was seeing back in 1998 to take on a side job as part-time art director of a club. I’d already fallen in love with dance music after living in Germany a few years earlier, experiencing the whole scene blowing up there from the Love Parade in Berlin to the techno events that were happening in Munich.


After four years working at that club I moved to Zurich and started working for a label, and then carried on working in different aspects of the label world, consulting with the likes of Spinnin’ Records, Sony, Warner, a mix of the big labels and the smaller, more independent ones. I was also managing a couple of artists, putting together international tour diaries, looking after global strategies, running major release campaigns – basically every aspect of the music industry!


In 2016 I met Polo Molina, one of the Black Eyed Peas’ manager, and started working with him on an electronic artist. In 2017 I started my consultancy company Strassberger, and in 2020 Polo reached back out to see if we could work together again. And so here I am three and a half years later, working as part of Polo’s company Grassroots Music, working as *part of the management team of the Peas* and helping Polo with his incredible roster of artists.


IHU – You work with the Black Eyed Peas across many different areas but the one we’d like to find more about is your work commissioning remixes. How do you go about commissioning remixes – what’s your criteria for remix artists?


I think everything really depends on the original track. On a strategic level, we assess what our targets are, what type of audience we want to reach, and where. On a creative level it’s more about understanding which remix genres will best fit the original track musically. Then it’s merging both factors to deliver the best results. The more specific criteria of the remix artist will depend on many things – timing on delivery, genre, artist reach, budget, and of course also the label can weigh in on some of the criteria, if for example they have an artist who they want to put forward themselves.


IHU – How far in advance do you begin to speak to remix artists?


Everything depends on whether the original single is a stand-alone track that comes out before the album, or if the track is part of the album release, in which case we’d define the ‘release date’ as when the video comes out. In the second scenario we have a lot more time to set things up, working the track into radio, press, on the DSPs, and of course getting the remix packages and strategies set up. If we’re dealing with the first scenario, and it’s a stand-alone release, we usually have a much shorter timeframe to get all aspects of the release done, including the remixes. Even a band like the Peas can sometimes want to release music quickly, which means we have a super short time to get our planning done, especially for remixes.


IHU – Do you always take a remix if a producer sends it in?


Not always, no. We sometimes ask for a remix on specs (speculation), but we always make sure that expectations are defined in advance. It’s really essential to have a clear and open communication and understanding of exactly what we’re looking for, and what may happen. We don’t want to disappoint anyone but of course, we’ll only take remixes that are of the highest quality and represent the Peas’ standard of sound.


IHU – For you, what’s the role of a remix?


A remix fulfils a multitude of roles. Firstly, of course, it’s a way to reach new audiences outside of the mainstream ‘pop’ one. Sometimes it’s also a way of reaching different countries or even different media. For example an original version might not be radio-friendly, or particularly fit with the specialist dance/DJ radio shows, but we can deliver a remix that is. And the most common example, the original might be too mainstream to drop in the clubs but the remix is much more club-friendly. It’s about maximising the life and reach of the track as a whole.


IHU – Obviously for many smaller producers, the idea of remixing an artist the size of the Black Eyed Peas seems impossible. What advice would you give to them to help them get to that stage?


Music producers ‘blow up’ every day. Today a producer might be ‘small’ and not on our radar, and then tomorrow they could have ‘the track’ that breaks them out and gets them in front of people like me, producing the biggest pop-acts. So I think the advice would be to continue producing with passion, believe in yourself, and when the time is right, the right people will come knocking on your door asking to work with you.


IHU – What’s been your favourite remix of a Black Eyed Peas track and why?


That’s difficult to say because we’ve had to many great ones! I really enjoyed all the remixes we choose for the Bailar Contigo single. Each one brought something very special, whether you’re listening to Gianluca Vacchi’s Latino-Electro commercial touch, Drenchill’s straight up club production, or Boniface’s Amapiano remix. We’re actually working on a new remix pack right now and I’m discussing with an extremely talented remixer’s management team so really hope that will be confirmed soon. I’ll keep you posted on that one… I have a feeling that one might end up being my favourite remix 😉


IHU – What artist hasn’t done a remix for the Black Eyed Peas yet that you’d like to have, and why?


As I mentioned above we’re working on a special remix pack due for release at the beginning of next year. We’re working really closely with the amazing Head of International at UMusic France, Guenael Gaey, and I’ve given him my wishlist of preferred remixers. So you’ll need to check in with me at some point in the future so I can let you know the answer to this question. For now I’m still hoping and dreaming…


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