Quick Fire Q&A: Nicky Wain

Nicky Wain, Head of International at Ninja Tune records, gives us his quick fire answers


Hi Nicky, to those who don’t know, could you sum up what Ninja Tune are and how they reach an international audience?

Ninja Tune is an independent record label that was formed in London in 1990 by DJ/producer duo called Coldcut.

Now almost 30 years old the The Ninja Tune family has grown to encompass a number of labels including Big Dada, Counter, Technicolour as well as Flying Lotus’ label Brainfeeder, all committed to releasing boundary pushing music of a variety of genres. 

We reach an international audience through a large global network of music distribution companies and publicity teams as well as various social media platforms, media outlets, show promoters and retailers.  But at the core you always need good quality music to do the talking.

Where, outside the UK, is the biggest following and why is that?

Probably the U.S where Ninja Tune has an office based in L.A. But we’ve always had a good following key European markets such as Germany, France, Netherlands, and further a field in Japan and Australia. 

On the whole these territories tend to have the most commercial potential for us so more time and money is generally invested in terms of marketing, promotion and touring.

Who are the biggest and most popular acts that fall under the Ninja Tune umbrella?

We’ve released music from hundreds of artists over the years and many would be considered to be pretty underground but some of the more well know names include the likes of Bonobo, The Cinematic Orchestra, Roots Manuva, Mr Scruff, Wiley, Kelis, Diplo, Run The Jewels, Bicep, Young Fathers, ODESZA, Maribou State, Thundercat.

Is there anyone you particularly like working with? And Why?

I always enjoy working on Bonobo albums. it’s been interesting to watch his profile grow and grow and with each of his album campaigns getting bigger and more ambitious.

It’s been a while since we’ve released music of his, but Wiley was always great fun to work with, he’s a big character and always keeps you on your toes. 

The beauty of working at a label like Ninja Tune is that on the whole you’re working with interesting artists and like-minded people who all share a similar passion for music so that generally makes for a fun working environment.

Is EDM the specific genre you stick to?

No not at all, I wouldn’t really consider pretty much most of our output at Ninja Tune as EDM. Across all the various labels we work wide spectrum of genres. 

From techno, house, electro, experimental, hip-hop, grime, jungle, to Jazz, soul, indie, we do a lot! 

Much of the music we release is hard to pigeon hole into specific genres and many of our artists tend to incorporate influences from a wide variety of musical styles. 

What is your role at Ninja Tune?

I manage the international department, so essentially oversee the promotion and distribution of our records in territories outside the UK. Over the years we’ve built up quite an extensive network of international partners that we work with throughout the world, whether they be distributing physical records, promoting music to press, radio or digital stores like Spotify or Apple.

In a nutshell I essentially work with these partners to try and achieve the best exposure and sales for our artists on a global scale. 

What are the biggest challenges facing the music industry at the moment?

I think, now more than ever, all areas of the music industry are in a state of rapid evolution fueled by the onset of new technologies like music streaming and social media, which are changing the way people consume, value and interact with music. 

Although it’s exciting to work in an industry that is so susceptible to technological innovation, I think that one of the main challenges from a label perspective is making sure that you’re constantly adapting to these changes, maximising the new ways to market and monetise music in this new digital environment. 

What is the track you are most listening to at the moment?

This probably changes daily but I’m currently enjoying DJ Koze ‘Pick Up’, that’s a nice tune for the summer. 

Charlotte Day Wilson ‘Nothing New”, she’s a great female singer/songwriter from Canada. And for something a bit darker from the UK rap/grime world which I always have a soft spot for, slowthai ‘North Nights’.

Where in Kent are you from? Is there one thing you most enjoy about the county when you head back?

I lived in Whitstable until I was around 10 years old but then moved to Canterbury which is where I went to school. It’s defiantly the countryside or the beach I enjoy the most when I come back, you really grow to appreciate those environments when you spend most of your time in a city like London.