A major record deal after three years: How did MARGE do it?

The emerging producer’s track, Believe In Me, is the house anthem on the lips of dance music’s elite. But why?

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MARGE by Joe Magowan

MARGE. Image: Joe Magowan

With just three years of experience, no label releases, less than 1,000 SoundCloud followers and no gigs, how did Believe In Me, a piano-centric house track, land MARGE a major record deal with Sony?

The 20-year-old producer, hailing from Hull, UK, picked up music production in 2020 when DJing was put on hold. MARGE wasted no time in conjuring a modest setup, staying up late watching YouTube tutorials, and uploading tracks to SoundCloud. It was this passion and an understanding of “the way you’re feeling” while making a song that made MARGE’s music sound so sweet.

He’s clearly doing something right. Believe In Me has pricked the ears of Roger Sanchez, Chris Lake, TSHA, Oliver Heldens, Martin Garrix, Claptone, and Calvin Harris, who have all been playing the track in their sets.

So, what is it exactly?

Hey, MARGE. Congrats on your first official release, Believe In Me. How do you feel about the support it’s garnered already?

Thank you! The support has been unreal. It feels surreal seeing support from huge names I look up to like Danny Howard, Calvin Harris, MK, Don Diablo, Martin Garrix, Oliver Heldens and so many more. These are names I’ve grown up listening to through the years and I still can’t believe they’re fans of my work!

In addition, hearing my song being played on stations like Kiss FM, TROS FM, Fun Radio and RTE 2FM over the past few weeks has ramped up my motivation and love for producing even more.

This success hasn’t been luck. Why do you think the track has done so well?

Believe in Me was the first track I made not trying to fit in with trends. I let my gut take me through producing the entire song, not second-guessing myself too much, which I think translated perfectly into the final product.

Where was Believe In Me made?

I currently only have a small setup in my room, where Believe in Me and every other track of mine was produced. I love the look of studios on @studiotime and I think the quality of my tracks would definitely benefit from it, but while I’m still capable of performing as I am being a bedroom producer is good enough for me.

MARGE by Joe Magowan
MARGE. Image: Joe Magowan

What’s in this small setup?

I’ve upgraded through the years with helpful bits of hardware (Alesis V Mini MIDI Keyboard, Akai Fire Workpad, Sony monitors and Technics headphones) but nothing overly fancy just yet.

The MIDI keyboard was my first purchase and makes riffing ideas much easier like a mini piano you can have sat on your desk at arms reach. Workflow is super important to me, as I’m often flooded with ideas for a full track at once and it’s a pain forgetting one of those ideas while I’m sketching out another.

The Akai Fire is like a physical workstation that can make producing and mixing a lot easier. I will admit though, it just sits looking pretty on my desk for the most part, as I’ve not put much time into using it to its full capability.

The monitors and headphones are the only actual necessity really. Being able to hear your song at proper quality is super important.

The stock FL processing plugins have been a blessing to have with a beginner budget – as part of the Image-Line FL Studio package, they allow me to customise, clean and tighten my sounds to my liking.

And what about plugins? Any that you’ve really enjoyed using recently?

Xfer‘s Serum can be found in every one of my projects. I can create almost any sound I want or any sound the track needs and I think that plays a huge part in Serum’s quality. The ability to replicate an old-school synthesizer within my DAW is helpful. And it’s fun to play around with the two oscillators, seeing what sound comes out the other end.

Korg M1 is a classic VST that I use for one of my piano layers and can be found in tons of classic dance tracks, perfect for the vibe I was going for with Believe in Me. This VST also has the organ bass preset featured in Robin S – Show Me Love, which I’ve used countless times as a layer or main feature in my other tracks like Falling and Chemistry. It would be wrong not to shout out Korg for the number of times I’ve used it.

I love adding an atmosphere and spacey soundscape to my tracks, and Endless Smile by Dada Life allows me to create these atmospheres with just a single knob. Although it’s not 100 per cent necessary, it’s definitely an effect plugin I’d recommend if you’re trying to achieve a huge washout effect in your track.

The way you’re feeling while producing the track will carry through to the end product, and the listeners will feel it.

Where’s the vocal sample from? How do you source your samples and does it take a lot of digging to find the right one?

I picked this vocal sample up from a royalty-free Splice pack – definitely struck gold with it! After some post-processing to tidy it up, I added strong reverb to enhance the power of the vocal, which I think helped push the emotion through the track.

Vocal samples can be a pain to find. At the moment, this is the issue I’m finding with my tracks. I’m sure this is the same for many new producers – if the sample is good, chances are it’s been used tons already. There are things you can do to make your sample more unique, but nothing will ever beat original vocals – I hope, with time, vocalists will be happy to reach out and work with me, to help me achieve my vision for future tracks.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone hoping to achieve the same sudden success that you have?

Don’t force your music, work off your passion – producing should be fun. The way you’re feeling while producing the track will carry through to the end product, and the listeners will feel it. If you’re truly passionate about producing, you’ll spend every spare second learning and/or creating, while loving every second of it.

What’s the most useful piece of advice you’ve been given, production-wise?

One piece of advice I was given that really stuck with me was: ‘Don’t polish a turd’. This is funny but was super helpful for me – focus on the songwriting and the flow of the track before trying to mix it all in. Trying to mix a badly written track is demotivating and you’ll likely fall out of love with it before you finish it.

Check out MARGE’s tracks and give him a follow on his Soundcloud


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