Three years ago, Jorn Heringa, longtime head of A&R at Spinnin’ Records, came across Brazilian DJ Alok’s music on SoundCloud. Heringa didn’t know anything about Brazil’s music industry but thought that Alok and Sevenn’s “BYOB,” with its techno-infused deep house beat, just might be the start of a new subgenre: Brazilian bass.
After signing Alok (born Alok Petrillo) in 2016, Spinnin’ helped develop him into Brazil’s first global EDM star. For Spinnin’, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Alok is the latest example of the Dutch label’s trend-setting history in dance music. Co-founder Roger de Graaf attributes its success to one thing: “Even when we have a big hit, the first impulse is to immediately look for the next new kid on the block.”
A disco connoisseur, de Graaf, 47, started Spinnin’ Records in 1999 with music publisher Eelko van Kooten. They first focused on trance and house music, which were crossing over into mainstream pop, by targeting the Dutch and European club scenes. Once Heringa, now 41, joined in 2002, the trio built the label into a global powerhouse that issued its 1,000th release in 2015. Today, Spinnin’ also distributes several sublabels: Tiësto’s Musical Freedom, Oliver Heldens’ Heldeep and KSHMR’s Dharma.
Spinnin’ has launched the careers of Heldens, Afrojack, Bingo Players, Don Diablo, Fedde Le Grand and Martin Garrix (who was just 16 when he joined). Since signing Alok, Spinnin’ has focused more on Brazil, working with Dubdogz and adding Vintage Culture to its roster; Heringa wants Alok to collaborate with the latter act. Last year, Spinnin’ signed Mariana BO, a Mexican DJ known for combining a violin with electronic music. And after adding its first Chinese DJ, Carta, in 2016, Spinnin’ signed Japanese DJ Pharien in June.
Dutch trance group 4 Strings scored the first major hit for Spinnin’ with its 2002 track “Take Me Away (Into the Night),” which went to No. 39 on Billboard’s Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart. Meanwhile, Alok had his first hit since signing to the label: “Hear Me Now,” a collaboration with Brazillian artists Bruno Martini and Zeeba that reached No. 20 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs list. Most recently, Sam Feldt’s global hit “Post Malone,” with soul-pop singer Rani, made the top 10 of the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs tally.
Following its acquisition by Warner Music in 2017 for what was reported to be over $100 million (a deal that resulted in the departure of van Kooten), Spinnin’ is pushing further into Latin America and Asia while building its presence in Brazil. In June, Alok launched his independent imprint, Controversia, under the Spinnin’ umbrella devoted to developing club tracks for Brazilian artists. With Warner, de Graaf sees more opportunity to try new things: “We’re able to get our records to a bigger audience than ever.”