Moses Mawila: In Your System

    We meet the man behind a slew of influential and forward thinking creative entities that include Fresh Tunez, LowMoneyMusicLove, Sundowner Berlin, and of course System Error. Here we take a deep breath for a super deep dive into the world of possibly the busiest man on the planet – Moses Mawila. Over the following pages he tells an enthralling tale of career highs and lows and an obscene amount of amazing music in between. Being a supporter of ours, we are certain that almost all of you reading these words will have been touched by his work in some way, shape, or form. Step into the world of Moses…

    I guess everyone is confused on what exactly you’re doing?

    I’m an entrepreneur and I run several businesses, ranging from record labels to event management and more recently artist coaching.

    It started ten years ago with the label LowMoneyMusicLove. We were 4 people in that company: Tjeerd Wijffels aka DJ Tjizza (Co-Founder of Mood Waves), Alexander Einetter aka V.N.N.(Founder of Childhood Intelligence), Roderick Merkx and me, Moses Mawila.

    From the beginning me and my partners decided to do it in the right way.

    We registered the company together, and we had a contract between the four of us. So everything was clear and we can do business and hopefully stay friends without having issues to fight about, we still fought about things in ten years obviously. <laugh>

    That’s where it started.

    With LMML, we were doing releases and events in Frankfurt and Amsterdam at the time. And showcases when we got invited elsewhere. But at the same time, I had my own business, where I was organizing events in different locations in Frankfurt(Main).

    I was running a small hidden club at some point in the basement of my Stepdad’s restaurant. I also did a lot of off-location parties in empty buildings and for this I was collaborating with partners and friends that I had in Frankfurt at the time, like Maximillian Reggianini, who is still very active in Frankfurt to this day. So from the beginning, it was basically my business plus LMML. Then I moved to Berlin in 2016 and started working freelance as a booking agent and assistant for Alex Lindblad at Backroom Entertainment, one of the most prominent booking agencies at the time.

    For a short time after that I even had my own booking agency, but it didn’t really work out as I had envisioned it at the time. After that I took a bit of time off to reorientate myself and find out what to do next.

    I then started studying social and economic communication in the Winter of 2018 at the University of arts but I didn’t finish University because I was having too many events at the time. At one point I was hosting 15 Open Airs in one year at Else plus parties at Hoppetosse, CDV and Renate. So I decided to concentrate on the events and the labels since that was what I had been working towards the previous years. And then Corona hit.

    And how many labels did you have by that time?

    I started ‘System Error’ as a record label and party, so we actually launched it not with the releases but with the event series. From the beginning we had already had a residence in Renate from the end of 2019 on. So basically it was only ‘System Error’ releases that I started planning later and we were also still running LMML for seven years by that time already.

    And when Corona started I was mostly working on collecting music for the labels and there was more and more music of different styles and moods, like hundreds of tracks. And I decided to launch more labels/sub-labels to release as much different music as I can. Six new labels were started like this during the covid lockdowns.

    I was looking for a lot of music and for example, for me with LMML, we had always received a lot of demos and often very good music that I really liked. And that was maybe even more on my taste at the time, but it was not fitting for the label. So at some point I wanted to do something like a sub-label to follow my music love, but then I realized that I need to do something by myself where I can make the decisions on my own.

    The ‘ERROR100’ series is mostly concentrating on the rave sound and some electro, then there is the ‘ERROR300’ series, which is for proper drum and bass and breakbeat. And then we have ‘Futuristic Architecture’, which is a bit more separated sub-label from ‘System Error’, which is gonna be really concentrating on techno and trance, in different facets, and cover this kind of sound that I also really like.

    Then the next is ‘FRESH TUNEZ’ that is divided into ‘TUNEZ SERIES’ and ‘FRESH SERIES’. There I’m trying to showcase a bit more newcomer artists that maybe have their first release, ever on the label or second release and are not so well known so far. Or showcase the wide range of productions an artist has to offer besides just the music that people expect from them. So exactly some fresh stuff. The name is really, really explaining it <laugh>

    And then we also have, ‘FUNFUNFUN’ ’which is kind of a bit for a more playful, gritty, more underground-ish sound. Like not being so strict with what is gonna be on there. If I like something and don’t know where to put it, it will probably come out on ‘FUNFUNFUN’. And not in a ridiculous funny way, but fun music — nice. From my perspective <laugh>

    And then we have, ‘System Error Cyberspace’, which is gonna be the digital only series.

    And of course ‘PARTY BOMBS’ —  the various artists series. The idea of the label is bangers — dance floor bombs from friends and new artists. Pretty clear also with the name <laugh>.

    I just didn’t want to put everything in one box.

    I mean, if an artist has that range of production It’s cool to show the full range of music he/she is doing. For example, we looked up Luca Piermattei who had a lot of releases that were a certain sound and that sound was working for him very well. And that was hyped at the moment and just like going really well. Djs were playing this, people wanted to hear this but at the same time he had much more music in different directions that he maybe didn’t think was so interesting for people.

    So it took us a really long time to make his release, but we really were showing the full range of productions in different genres that he’s doing. And it’s also really nice because in the end you have a record with five tracks, for example — where you have something for every kind of situation from ambient track to techno track to something like super sunny housey.

    The ‘COLLAB’ series — is also one of the projects I am working on. We are going to release label collaborations with other labels. The first one was with Tresydos from Madrid where we do a split Various Artists EP one side ‘System Error’, one side Tresydos. And the second one is gonna be with EYA Records from London. This Collaborative series is always going to be between ‘System Error’ and other labels from friends or labels that we really like and appreciate what they’re doing.

    Is it a popular thing to collaborate between labels?

    I wouldn’t say in particular I guess it really depends on the concept and vision someone has for their projects. I already have my projects where I do everything alone, I also have LMML where we did everything together for nearly 10 Years so it’s really interesting and nice for me to work on a project with different people without having to invest too much time and energy for a long period of time since we just do one record together and you never know what can come out of that in the long run but for sure I enjoy to exchange and share music also with other labels and get a glimpse of how they work. It helps me to expand my horizons both musically and business wise.

    And you made a charity compilation?

    Yes, we did the charity compilation for Ukraine. It went pretty good. By now we made over 2000,00€ which will be donated to different charities who are active in Ukraine or provide services and help for Ukrainians. We are in the process of selecting said charities right now.

    The charity compilation — is also something I would love to do at least once a year.

    I find it a really nice thing to do for a record label for music, for the artist. To do something positive for a good cause or for helping people in need, in different contexts, in different countries.

    Can you say in your words what your idea of the ‘System Error’?

    I think in ‘System Error’, as in pretty much all my projects, the parties, the labels, the podcasts, one big goal for me has always been — to provide platforms for newcomers and upcoming artists, also people of minorities. Someone would say that it’s a risk, but I think it’s important because otherwise you have always the same thing happening, same artists playing.

    As a mixed person and as a person who knows so many talented artists that represent minority groups, like LGBTQIA+ and other people of color — I was always interested in giving opportunities to people, as well as for women and newcomers in general.

    I wanted to use this access that I have now, that I worked hard for, to also make it easier for other people for whom it is sometimes much more difficult to get into the scene, to get into lineups of big parties and big clubs, and to release on labels. 

    And also use the platform that I built and use the possibilities I have to make that easier and try in the long run to give support, and give opportunities for minorities, marginalized people to be represented. In that context for me it’s really important to also support more women in the industry, invite them to do podcasts and interviews like we are doing with ‘Sundowner’ for example.

    It’s not something I’m trying to fix by myself. It’s something that just happened naturally.

    The other thing is that it has always been a big goal of mine to provide a platform not just to make releases and parties for money, but also to build a community, with people who play at our parties who are being released on our labels, and try to connect them with each other as well. And not just having all the threads connected to me, but really trying to match people up with each other and see like, okay, well maybe this day we go in the studio together and something will happen. Or maybe I will have them together in a party at some point to introduce people to each other.

    At some point I realized also that I have to take a different approach to make female artists interested in releasing on the label. I learned I often had to approach them in a much different way than I would approach a male artist because they were often for example much more reserved and more careful of who they would even send their music to. Because usually the criticism for female artists is much, much higher than, if some guy sends something. If I want to request tracks from a guy, I would say: “Hey man, I really like your music, it would fit really nicely on the label. Can you send something?”

    When I send something like this to a woman, I never got a response. I realized that I need to explain more. Women want to know what is the idea behind the label? What are the values that we stand for? And I needed to first make them feel comfortable even to just share some music with me because they are so much more careful to not, being ridiculed or bashed because of bad experiences they probably already had in the past, of people just not taking them serious or, making fun of them probably just because those people are jealous or afraid because there’s a lot of talented women out here.

    I realised if I want to have them on the label I have to take a different approach and this goes into everything, in having a label that has certain values that it stands for, having a certain diversity in the lineups and also putting that effort in when looking for artists to explain and take this time for the people to make them feel comfortable and respect that.

    Is it worth it? $$$

    I invested a lot of money into this, for the first releases and everything and in the label in general, but for me, I know I want to do this, and this is what I’m gonna do for the next 20 years. So yes it is definitely worth every €$£ for me.

    Everything that I put in now will come back at some point in some way. And I know that the music is good. I know it’s talented artists, so sometimes it just needs time to catch on, or you need to develop your strategies, communication and marketing further. And it’s a whole journey and also part of my evolution as a business owner, as a label owner, working as an event manager, trying to really step up now as this is not just a hobby anymore.

    10 labels is a huge responsibility.

    And I trust in myself, in the experience that I have now after doing this for like 10 years, I trust in my taste that I developed over this time that I know. And then, I will work on it as long as it takes until people who are gonna like the new records, the new labels, will get to hear it. And maybe for some other people also we can open and widen their horizons. Someone who had been already following ‘ERROR100’ will get to listen to the ‘ERROR300’ series and perhaps it will be his/her first touch with a completely new sound that they never thought they would be interested in: “Oh wait, do I actually like drum and bass?”

    And then you listen to the techno one and you’re like, “Yeah, well we wanna go to a techno party again.” or “This is actually pretty cool. Okay, maybe I wanna do a podcast a little harder.” So I think if you’re interested in electronic music, usually you’re not just interested in one genre. And I think that’s what I’m trying to do is just express all the different kinds of music that I like.  But when it doesn’t fit on any of the labels I have so far — I’m just gonna make a new label probably.

    Okay. And does it go by plan right now?

    Yes, for sure. It’s going according to plan now, Corona was a big hit and challenge in general though. But it gave me a lot of time to actually make plans and work on more labels and ideas because I basically didn’t have any events to organise. At the same time, obviously it was very challenging as well as for everybody, but now we are having events again, earning money again, so we are able to master records on a monthly basis and finally get them out. We have, as of today, 54 new artists confirmed across the labels. So there is a lot of new music coming.

    Do you start releasing more digital?

    As for ‘System Error’ we will definitely do both: vinyl and digital releases. With some vinyl-only exceptions.

    We have to adapt to the times. And also manage to deal with rising prices for shipping and production across the industry as well as economic conditions getting more difficult in general and changing faster and faster like now with the raise of AI.

    Also electronic music is such a global phenomenon. Once I went to Myanmar, I played there two times, the scene there is very small. And I realized that no one could afford buying records over there. The club didn’t even have turntables, we had to bring them from my friends’ place. But at the same time everybody has CDJs there, or controllers, or whatever, and people want to play the music.

    And in the end I was thinking like, okay, what is the goal? Is the overall goal with music to make it for people who can afford to buy records? Who can buy a €14 record? And then pay €12,50 shipping on top? This is crazy. Or is the goal to reach as many people as possible with the music to have the music being played by hundreds or thousands of people instead of only 300, 400, 500, 600 or 1000 people that can buy the record.

    Maybe if 10,000 people at some point buy the music, the record is not gonna be underground anymore, but in the end we are trying to share this music with as many people as possible. Not with the smallest group of people as possible to keep it secret. We’re trying to make a living as people in the music industry, as DJs, as producers, as artists. So we want to be able to pay the artists for the music. We want to be able to pay people on the team.

    However, buying a record is still nice for the people who want to play it at home, who want to hold it in their hands the ones who are collectors or who are already or want to learn the craft of a vinyl DJ.

    Yeah. This looks like the concept of ‘System Error’.  I am curious about the community you’re building. There are two sides: people who’re coming to parties and following the socials and also all the producers, DJs, friends, and so on.

    But also maybe someone was coming to your party as a visitor and then they got invited to dj or to release on the label, I guess this is a very common situation with ‘System Error’

    We do have a lot of regulars and I’m always at the parties and when I recognize someone who I’ve already seen a couple of times I usually also try to go up to them and have a conversation at some point. And I met a lot of my friends like this at my and at their own events. And I have a lot of friends who told me that they met all their close friends that they have now at my events in Berlin. That’s just something really nice that makes me smile and warms my heart because it goes beyond, now there is an actual community that was created around and during these events. And they have become real groups of friends, come to the events and also follow the label.

    Now we have one community channel on Telegram for ‘System Error’. where we inform and keep people updated about the different events. Because there’s ‘System Error’, there’s LMML, there’s Sundowner’s interview series, there’s different podcasts. So we just try to keep them informed about what’s going on in one place. And also about other parties of friends or just events that we like, to give people our recommendations and information about our own events and content that we’re doing, when we have releases and so on.

    That’s the thing that catches people from all over. Someone came from this label, someone from that party, and then you bring them all together. This also explains the concept that someone who came from our let’s say techno label might find something else in this channel, something that he was never listening to before. We don’t separate people, we bring them together.

    We try to broaden people’s horizons and also bring them in contact with other things that they will probably like. And the same also with our lineups — we always try to bring new people, some people from this crew, some people from that crew. Because I think they will actually like each other, they actually listen to very similar kinds of music that works very well together. So why not invite someone from there, someone from there, someone from there and, and see what happens.

    So for System Error, how do you build the lineups for big parties?

    I try to mix it up between more known people, but also giving space for newcomers who maybe have their debut in this club or in a proper bigger club in general. And I think it’s something important. I just think that someone has to do it and as I like doing it so I’m gonna keep on doing it. And it also brings very strong communities often, and new people, usually if a dj is having a debut their friends will all show up to the gig to support. So even if they’re doing a warm up at 11pm, there’s gonna be like 20-30 people from the beginning and they are gonna bring an amazing vibe, cheering on their friend. And everybody who comes in then is like, wow, okay, the vibe is really nice. And the artists are always showing their appreciation, being happy to get this chance and giving this energy back to us. And that is just something that brings me a lot of joy. And that also makes the parties often very special. Because you have to have this vibe.

    I know there are a lot of people who played for the first time at our parties, and are doing very well now. And, it’s nice to see that we have been a part of this journey of giving them an opportunity to play in a proper club, to invite the audience and maybe being a part of this push that they needed to get gigs outside of Berlin and play more and kick start their careers.

    Now we also do have some residents, so usually I try to have at least one of the residents play as well.

    We also invite artists who probably never played publicly together. Maybe because I’ve seen them play back to back in an afterparty or at some private event or hangout and would want to bring this to a bigger group of people and try to recreate that special moment that had happened again and share it with a wider audience. And so far that has always worked really well, which is really nice because sometimes you can also be wrong with something like this and maybe something that worked for 10 people is not gonna work for 500 people.

    Our line ups are full of experiments.

    I want to know more about showcases and when they started? Which was your favorite so far?

    We didn’t have so many showcases outside of Berlin yet, mainly because of Corona, but we had a few very nice ones. For example with LMML in Valencia. Ines Cartas was also there, she’s a resident of ‘System Error’ now and that was the first one that we did in a long time with the old LMML team all back together. Then we did Kyiv in Summer 2021, which was very nice and where we made a lot of new friends, new team members and new residents(Travis).

    It was a very special time. We were there two times with only like four weeks in-between and made a lot of new friends in Ukraine in general, I also played in Kharkiv in January 2021 just 2 weeks before the war started. I was just feeling very connected with the community there and with the energy and the drive that people have there and feeling this bit more raw energy of people, having the necessity to have this freedom, to have this space, to go to dance, to express themselves, to forget about what’s happening around you.

    Because the reality there was already a different one since 2014. And a drastic one compared to being in Berlin, where everybody has a very easy life and can be partying every weekend.

    And they know much more existential threats to life or to their standard of life, so the energy and the attitude was a very different one. And that really caught me, and many other people I know as well, when I came to Kyiv for the first time. So that was a very special showcase for me.

    Last year we also had one very nice showcase of ‘System Error’ in Paris where we got  invited to play for Radio Pirate, the vibe there was just amazing. And we are definitely working on more showcases outside of Berlin for the near future.

    Is System Error a company or more like a project between friends?

    ‘System Error’ is a properly registered limited liability company(GmbH). At the same time, a lot of the projects we are doing are evolving around friends but it’s a proper startup business now. Right now there are three of us: me, Ines Cartas and Alisa Mullen (aka Travis), we are doing a lot together like making decisions on line-ups and events, but we are also good friends and of course residents of ‘System Error’.

    But obviously the goal in the future is to have more people properly employed and having more freelancers who work regularly for and with us, which is already the case with mastering engineers like Marco Pellegrino and Alberto Pretto and designers like Diogo Lacerda and Adam Lynch, that we already work or worked with for many years. That’s why we are slowly step by step improving our business formula. Obviously the goal is to make this a sustainable business in the long run.

    You also play as a DJ and even produce music. Tell me a bit more about your music career, what’s going on right now?

    My main focus was always on providing platforms for other artists to be seen and not to promote myself. There were some moments when I stepped more out of the “shadows” and where I had to overcome insecurities like when I started to be the MC during the first few in person live events of the Mudd Show, announcing the artists on stage in front of a packed room of people. Now fast forward to 2022, that year has been a very important year for my own artistic and musical expression and development. I started digging again and contrary to my previous plans started to put myself on the line-ups for our showcases at Renate and also some other events at Club der Visionäre or Plötzensee. This was a side of myself I had been neglecting for many years while I had been concentrating on managing LowMoneyMusicLove, Sundowner, System Error and other projects.

    I had played a few gigs at CDV or at a friend’s fundraiser but never poured much energy and time into it compared to my other projects. That changed last year, I started playing monthly at Renate while also curating the room line-ups I was playing in, giving me the opportunity to invite friends and artists I admire while being able to concentrate on my own set and what I wanted to play and less on the organizational aspects of an event. And man was that fun for a change… I rediscovered my own taste and the music I had been collecting up to that point and started to dig deeper, recognizing again that my taste in music was very broad as long as it was good music from my point of view. The monthly label residency gave me the opportunity to really explore that for myself and at the same time directly test it out in front of an audience.

    I started out in more familiar waters playing house but also experimented with playing a drum & bass set at Plötzensee on a packed beach in the middle of the day and most recently I played a full 3,5h Techno set in the black room at Renate which took me into a complete different direction but also somehow back again to the very beginning of hearing Techno, Trance, Gabber & Schranz being played at U60311 in Frankfurt. So DJing wise I look forward to further exploring all the music I like without any boundaries or restrictions and to have more opportunities to share that side of me with a wider audience.

    Production wise releasing the track “Ocean Of Existence” I did together with DJ Tjizza on his label Mood Waves was definitely another highlight for me and definitely pushes me to try to get more into the Studio with my friends and put more time into broadening my production knowledge again, but this has been quite hard the last year. At the same time there is also no pressure and I’m sure we’ll be cooking up some new funky stuff for you again soon.

    Renate residency for System Error — what is the concept for this collaboration?

    I have a long history with Renate & Else, I used to work at both venues at the bar for some time and met a lot of amazing people through that. So both venues have always been close to my heart and I can say I really feel at home there because I know them so well. So after 2 summer seasons of Sundowner events at ELSE I started my monthly event residency with my then new label System Error at the end of 2019. But then just 1 week after our March Showcase the pandemic hit. And during “The great lockdown” as I like to call it, the team and owners of Renate & Else changed so when things started to open up again it took a bit until I reconnected and got acquainted with the new team and who was still left from the people I knew there. Once that was done we resumed the residency we had started pre-pandemic. Now since April 2023 things evolved again further with me becoming one of the new official residents at Renate.

    Which workshop and business school have you been visiting recently, what can you recommend to beginners in electronic music events to upgrade their skills. And for label owners too?

    Last Fall I’ve been in Hamburg for a week to participate in the “Hamburg Music Business Summer School: Record Music” to advance my knowledge of the business and work on further professionalizing myself, my label and my other projects. Earlier in that year I also attended the “International Music Business Summer School: Live Entertainment”.
    In general I think the best starting point both for people who have labels but also for artists and DJs or anyone working or who wants to work in the music industry are yearly events like “Most Wanted: Music” which is a conference covering everything related to those topics. I have been attending MWM for the last 3 years and I keep learning a lot everytime I go, plus you get to meet a lot of industry professionals and can get in touch with them directly which in this industry is probably the most valuable asset no matter which level you are on.

    What three pieces of advices or three main mistakes can you give to label owners / event organisers?

    Believe in yourself and that there are enough other people out there who will also like what you like. Pour your heart into it, people will notice that sooner or later and it will set you apart. Make sure from the start to account for all your expenses and taxes, otherwise you never really know where the money is going and taxes because we are in Germany and Finanzamt will be on your ass. But if you ever get a letter from them just call them, they are very nice and helpful contrary to public belief. And maybe lastly just stay on it, I made so many mistakes over the years and successful and not successful events but as long as you make sure that you learn your lessons(sooner or later) it will always be a win for you in the end.

    Here are the next 10 records that are coming out in the near future:

    1. ERROR104 – Komponente & Kurilo – Trance Pandemic EP / 12” & Digital / (House, Rave)
    2. ERROR302 – Sanandreas – Lun EP / 12” & Digital / (Breakbeat, Drum & Bass, Ambient)
    3. TUNEZ005 –  Obsidian – Childhood Odyssey EP / 12” & Digital / (House, Deep House)
    4. FRESH002 – – Stay Gold EP / 12” & Digital / (House)
    5. ARCHITECTURE001 – Deluka –  Heroes EP / 12” & Digital (Techno, Dub Techno)
    6. CYBERSPACE001 – Various Artists (Troy, Heimyl, Melgar, Mace) / Digital Only (House, Tech House, Breakbeat, Electro)
    7. FUN001 – Tae Kwon Douglas (aka Terje Bakke) – Chess On K EP / 12” & Digital / (House, Minimal)
    8. BOMBS02 – Various Artists (Andy Kas, Sonic Resistance, Virtual Reality, Outer Order) / 12” & Digital / (House, Acid)
    9. COLLAB02 – Various Artists – System Error x EYA Records / 12” & Digital / (House, Breakbeat, Electro)
    10. LMML23 – Kawaii San – Covert Operation EP 12” & Digital / (House, Breakbeat)

    special credits: Lui Orduño Cazares

    More info on Moses Mawilla / System Error / LowMoneyMusicLove
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