How Tribal Trap Went from Curator to Record Label to Champion Rising Producers
Founder Stan Wittenberg talks about working with artists like MEMBA, plus becoming a platform for Indian acts such as Alpha Hex, Zeus & Crona and SubSpace
The world at large acknowledged trap music (some did so reluctantly) as an offshoot of EDM around 2012, when producer Baauer dropped “Harlem Shake,” giving rise to a meme format that swept the internet. It even took the song to the top of the Billboard charts, arguably stoking a fire that’s burning bright and chaotically even today, from every dizzying drop to bass meltdowns and glitch experiments.
Part of the trap movement early on was Netherlands-bred Stan Wittenberg, who set up a curatorial YouTube channel called Tribal Trap in 2013. It was among the first alongside pages like Trap Nation and Trap City, diving into the growing electronic movement. About eight years and just over a billion cumulative cross-platform streams later, Tribal Trap and Wittenberg remain ever excited about the genre. He says, “Back in the day, it was really simple and minimalist […] Now, often I’ll find it exciting because an artist really figures out his own sound and place within the genre.”
Soon enough, Tribal Trap went from a YouTube channel to a record label. Where Wittenberg would previously curate music by frontrunners such as TroyBoi, MEMBA and SKAN, Tribal Trap was now reaching out to them to release their music. “With SKAN, in 2015 I showcased a remix he made and got in touch with him later, resulting in the partnership that’s still going to this day,” Wittenberg says. The label presently runs on a streaming-focused business model, which he describes as “definitely enough to sustain a label.”
They’ve also found a way to tap into India’s trap producer circles. Artists like Alpha Hex, Zeus & Crona, Astera, SubSpace, Heuse, 32Stitches and more released music via the label. Among the hundreds of submissions that Tribal Trap receives weekly, Wittenberg says at least 70 to 100 songs are sent in by Indian producers. “One thing we noticed is that India caught on to trap a bit later than some countries like the U.S., but the fanbase is really dedicated. Every time we upload something from an Indian artist we’ll also see dozens of comments from Indian accounts, the fans are definitely super dedicated to promoting fellow Indian artists,” he adds.
While Wittenberg has a soft spot for electronic music “with Middle Eastern, Indian or Asian influences,” he’s firmly of the notion that electronic music can get “bland or soulless if people don’t add their own little twist to it.” He adds, “I think integrating some cultural influences is a great way to keep things interesting.”
With expansions in the team – hires in Wittenberg’s native Netherlands as well in South Asia – there are plans to widen the scope of Tribal Trap this year. In addition to releases, there may be inroads in publishing, NFTs and live events. “Running Tribal Trap (or any label) can be pretty hectic, but also really fun. No two days are exactly the same, with so many artists and releases there’s always stuff happening and it really takes your constant attention to have everything run smoothly,” Wittenberg says.
Listen to the ‘Tribal Trap’ playlist on Spotify.