As dance music continues to move through cycles of divergence and subsequent convergence, progressive house is one of the many genres to fall down most producers’ pecking order, with many up-and-coming artists leaning heavily towards Future Bass and Deep House. But according to Nick Rotteveel – one of the spearheading producers behind the Dutch House invasion circa 2010-11- this shift in the production meta is part and parcel of an industry that is “constantly evolving.”
The veteran producer, who remains at the top of his game after a decade, had a humble beginning – as did many of his peers alongside him today. Music had a profound influence on Nicky Romero from a young age. He started off as a drummer in his band as a teenager, before making the decision to forge a career as an electronic music producer.
“I swapped my drums for a computer when I was about 17. My parents were not happy about it, but for me the future was with producing music digitally.”
Ever since dropping his first commercially successful track “My Friend,” back in 2010, Nicky Romero has continued to grow in stature, creating some instantly recognizable electro and progressive house tunes such as “Toulouse,” “Symphonica,” and “I Could Be The One” with Avicii.
His uncanny ability to produce easily marketable chart-toppers has allowed him to consistently headline the most prestigious dance music festivals like Tommorrowland, Ultra Music Festival and Sunburn Festival in India, while simultaneously creating one of the most loyal fan bases known to the dance music world.
His most recent single, “Crossroads,” is a far cry from his immensely popular festival anthems. It is a refreshing digression from the rapidly stagnating big room genre, and is a testament to Nicky’s ability to adapt and stay relevant.
“My latest single called ‘Crossroads’ was a collaboration between Navarra and me. I think it’s a great merge of sounds & styles, vocal chops and a progressive drop, kind of a hybrid.”
Rather than resting on his laurels, Romero dedicates a majority of his time to his cherished label Protocol Recordings, which “has helped [him] create a platform for [himself] and for other young artists that [he] like[s] to support.”
While most labels “shotgun songs into the world with 5 songs at the same time and see if there is a hit in there,” Romero’s vision and motivation is totally different: to create a brand that serves to expose his fan base to quality rather than quantity.
“We carefully release. It’s not always the best strategy financially but it works best for us as the finance side of things was never our motivation to start in first place!”
Initially created by Nicky Romero in May 2012, the label has evolved into one of the world’s leading artist launch pads, featuring prestigious names such as Blasterjaxx, Hardwell, Krewella and NERVO over its five year history, while also striving to discover fresh talent like Arno Cost and Volt & State. To celebrate the label’s fifth anniversary, Romero has lined up a mammoth party that will last until ADE in October.
To kick off the celebration, Nicky will live stream the 250th episode of Protocol Radio featuring the label’s best tracks and unreleased singles saved for the special occasion. This will be followed by a huge five-hour mix, containing the label’s defining sonic imprints. To cap it all, Protocol will release re-worked versions of the label’s greatest hits while “announcing the exciting release of a new single” by the Protocol head honcho himself.
A large part of Nicky Romero’s monumental success is due to his shrewd understanding of the trends prevailing in the dance music industry, where “music comes and goes so fast right now.” The scenario has changed considerably since Romero began, with listeners cycling through music at a much more rapid pace than a few years ago.
“When I started you could have a number one at Beatport and it could be there for a month. Now a song is old 5 days after its release! It creates a lot of space for everyone to drop singles.”
That being said, a large majority of popular DJs credit their success to the very industry Romero talks about, due to its constant state of dynamism, with opportunities being presented to new artists to try and differentiate themselves from an ocean of other producers – a factor which is generally missed by most fans. Romero once fell in this category as well, and believes that “we should appreciate the music that’s being released,” while also understanding the increasing difficulty in making a mark as “people are bored after three days” of songs that may take “a month or longer to finish.”
Another rather overlooked facet of being an electronic music superstar is the emotional difficulty that can plague the very symbols for spreading happiness and “good vibes” through their music. They have to constantly ignore their personal concerns in order to keep the act going. Nicky himself faced his fair share of problems including a chronic anxiety issue that almost ended his career back in the early days.
He has since managed to get his anxiety under control, but highlights the importance of taking regular breaks from his hectic schedule to unwind and relax.
“I still play drums, and really enjoy it!”
Also an avid fan of legendary Dutch soccer team Ajax Amsterdam, he had a few words regarding the Europa League final between Ajax and European giants Manchester United, with the match holding special importance for the English club in light of the recent terror attack in the city.
“I’m kind of tense about it all to be honest, especially after the awful Ariana Grande attack in Manchester. A good match is what I hope for, and of course I hope Ajax wins, but one of my good friends plays at Manchester United, Daley Blind, and I support him also! I think it’s gonna be a very exciting match.”
While Nicky could easily have taken time out of his busy schedule to watch his favorite team in action, he remains laser focused on his duties and obligations towards the entire community, drawing inspiration from Martin Garrix’s tireless endeavors.
“I think there is still a lot to achieve. I’m motivated by what Martijn does right now. He is, at his age, an inspiration to the whole DJ scene. I love to see that he’s opened so many doors for everyone, it’s inspiring!”
His parting statement captures what the person behind Nicky Romero truly stands for – a determined and humble operator, whose undying work ethic and desire to keep improving has helped him climb to the very heights of musical stardom. Adored by fans and respected by peers, Nicky Romero is a fitting role model for any aspiring producer.