Saturday Night Session 048: Chill Out with Armada Music’s CEO Maykel Piron as he discusses his ‘Chill Executive Officer’ series and gives advice to up-and-comers
Armada Music‘s co-founder and CEO Maykel Piron has what many would refer to as ‘the golden touch’ in dance music. Piron has had a storied career building multiple successful businesses, and the industry’s monumental growth can be credited in part to his vision and dedication to commercializing dance music just as one would with pop or hip hop. He is credited with signing Above & Beyond to their first major record deal at Warner/Chappell, and as CEO of the largest independent dance music label in the world, he continues to discover and grow the careers of countless artists.
While he knows how to successfully build and run a company, Piron is not a traditional music executive. His business acumen is second to his passion for music, which he credits as the reason he wakes up every day excited to work. He remains an active contributor when it comes to deciding which artists to sign, and he has become a tastemaker in his own right. For him, “work” has always been about the music, which is why he is constantly looking for the next artist to sign. This is also why he is a firm believer that a true passion for music as opposed to enjoying the perks of the music industry must be the driving force for a person wanting a successful and sustainable career.
Piron approaches his work with an open-minded attitude, which he believes is vital. He shares, “I think you’ve got to be open-minded. The music industry changes every time you blink, so you can’t keep doing things a certain way simply because it’s how you’ve always done things. You need to be able to adapt in an instant, and that requires you to be open-minded.”
Piron’s open-mindedness translates to his musical preferences, and he does not discriminate when it comes to genre. If it falls into dance music, Piron will be open to signing an artist or a release as long as he feels that the sound is unique. His personal musical preferences are expansive, but he has gravitated towards downtempo electronic music because it provides him with tangible relief from the stresses of work and life. When the pandemic hit and resulted in widespread lockdowns in 2020, Piron became inspired to share his own musical inspirations with the world, believing that his affinity for downtempo music was exactly what many needed after the drastic shift in life.
He shares, “I’ve always been a fan of chill music. I’ve been creating my own playlists for decades, to listen to at home during our dinners, when you wake up, when we’re on holiday on Ibiza and so on. I simply love playing some downtempo tunes in the office to wind down.” He continues, “When the pandemic took on global proportions, I was listening even more to the music. At a certain point, I simply thought: ‘Why not create a series out of it?’ Listening to downtempo tunes is all about curation, and I can now finally share my personal taste with more people.”
This was the inspiration behind Piron and Armada Music’s new ‘Chill Executive Officer’ series. The ‘CEO’ picks his favorite chill and deep house releases and compiles them into playlists, giving listeners a calming change of pace.
In addition the curating his own playlists and albums, Piron truly does it all. Armada’s chief executive has assembled his own hour-long Saturday Night Session to celebrate the launch of his new series. When asked what kind of a Saturday Night it would get listeners ready for, he shares, “My Saturday Night Session gives listeners the chance to really prepare for a night out. I can’t wait to go out again in Ibiza. I miss the nightlife there and hope the CEO series get you in the mood even though most of the clubs in the world haven’t yet reopened their doors.”
You have achieved a lot and have many milestone moments throughout your career. Do you have a ‘proudest’ moment?
I think I’m most proud of the company we built together: Armada Music. Every time I step into the office, I am met with such warmth and positivity from so many passionate people it’s hard not to consider every day a milestone. There’s an incredible team there I just love working with, and I’m beaming with pride every time we achieve something great together.
What about this job and working for Armada gets you up every morning? What do you most look forward to?
Every day, I look forward to working with the people I love on the music I love. I’ve been doing this for so many years, and it just doesn’t get old. People with similar career paths will know that it’s the best feeling there is. I love dance music in every shape and form, so I get to do the things I love every single day. How could you not get excited about that? It’s all about finding the music you like and sharing it with the world. I simply love it!
Tell us about your ‘Chill Executive Officer’ series and the inspiration behind doing this project?
I’ve always been a fan of chill music. I’ve been creating my own playlists for decades, to listen to at home during our dinners, when you wake up, when we’re on holiday on Ibiza and so on. I simply love playing some downtempo tunes in the office to wind down. When the pandemic took on global proportions, I was listening even more to the music. At a certain point, I simply thought: “Why not create a series out of it?” Listening to downtempo tunes is all about curation, and I can now finally share my personal taste with more people.
Is what we are listening to on the Chill Executive Officer playlists the main types of music you are currently drawn to? What else is in your personal listening library right now?
It is definitely one of the main types of music I currently listen to at home, yes. It’s not the only one though. I love listening to any type of dance music. I listen a lot to my “demo” playlists that only include new music from our artists or music that has been offered to us. As you know, Armada Music releases music from almost all genres within dance, so those playlists are incredibly diverse. Discovering new talent this way always gives me a rush, and I also frequently listen to our Trance & Melodic Techno Top 1000 and the House Top 1000 playlists.
As someone who has identified some of electronic music’s top talent early (Above & Beyond comes to mind here), what are some of the things you look for as you shape the next generation of acts?
I still believe that you deserve to be heard if your music is good. Opinions can vary of course, but when I really feel a track, I want to sign it. It doesn’t really matter if it’s from an A-list artist or from someone who’s only taking his or her first steps as a producer. One of the things I do look for is a unique sound. Obviously, the artist needs to have a good work ethic too in case we want to go all the way. I am a people person and want to work with nice people who’ve got a good attitude and the drive to succeed.
Tell us something about you that many people don’t know?
I love riding a road bike and making tours of 50 miles or more. Especially in Ibiza! You would think I’d spend all my time in clubs there, but you can also catch me climbing the mountains by bike!
For those looking to get their start in this incredibly competitive industry on more of a corporate level, is there advice you can share after becoming one of the top dance music executives in the world?
In terms of a corporate career in music, I truly think you’ve got to be passionate about music. That seems like a no-brainer, but there are still a lot of people out there who want a career in the music industry because it’s cool rather than because they’d be miserable without music in their lives. This special kind of passion translates to commitment as well as a great attitude in how they go about their work. Now I understand that that’s not really “advice” in the sense that it’s something people can work on, but you’ve got to be in it for the right reasons.
Apart from that, I think you’ve got to be open-minded. The music industry changes every time you blink, so you can’t keep doing things a certain way simply because it’s how you’ve always done things. You need to be able to adapt in an instant, and that requires you to be open-minded. Besides that, it’s a global industry. Traveling helped me develop my network and cultivate a global understanding of our scene. I’ve been doing this from day one, when I started working in the industry.
What kind of a Saturday Night is your ‘Saturday Night Session’ going to get listeners ready for?
My Saturday Night Session gives listeners the chance to really prepare for a night out. I can’t wait to go out again in Ibiza. I miss the nightlife there and hope the CEO series get you in the mood even though most of the clubs in the world haven’t yet reopened their doors.