It’s not obvious from the outside but inside a modest apartment in Asheville, North Carolina, Clearwater Hawes runs America’s longest continually operating Drum & Bass record label, Force Recordings. It’s part of his larger business, Straylight Music Group, which he’s been running for nearly 30 years. Hawes also produces music and shares his home-office with partner Cheney Smith, who together are better known by their artist names, A1-Voodoo & SenseNet. Despite being a small operation, the two have big dreams: to make music for the rest of their lives and leave a mark on music history. They aspire to build out the next generation of Drum & Bass legends.
As a team of two juggling many roles, they rely on tools that streamline their workflows. Prior to living together and using Dropbox, Hawes and Smith were mailing CDs and USBs with audio files to each other for review. Days would pass between rounds of edits and feedback. Now, they can collaborate on and access the same files at the same time no matter where they are. They can also better organize the thousands of files they work with.
“In the creative process, any single thing that slows down your momentum snowballs,” says Hawes. “We wouldn't get nearly as much done, and it wouldn't be nearly as fun to do it—the speed is what Dropbox has given us.”
Hawes and Smith not only use Dropbox for improving their workflows between each other, but also as a way to share their music with their fans and the larger music community. Dropbox Shop, a platform that allows creators to sell digital content directly to their customers, was instrumental in getting their songs out.
“People wanted to buy our entire record label catalogs all at once, all in one purchase,” says Hawes. “The system that we used on our website didn’t provide a simple way to do that. We put the catalogs on Dropbox Shop and right off the bat people were buying the whole catalogs. It made it easy for me to make it easy for them.”
For Hawes and Smith, being able to connect with their community has always been a priority.
“The community influences what we do,” says Hawes. “We’ve found out that people who started following us were also DJs and producers and we’ve done special remix competitions and collabs with them. So it really is like a community art project in a way. Without this community, what we do wouldn't even exist.”
The duo also recently purchased an old Prevost tour bus that they’re fixing up with funds raised from their fans. Within a few years, they hope to tour North America with the bus, meet some of the people who helped make it possible, and spread the gospel of Drum & Bass to new regions.
“I would hope the people we meet become some of the new creators and that they are the next crop of music producers and record label owners,” says Hawes. “In my mind, I've got this kind of like nebulous history book. And I hope that somebody goes and reads that book one day and listens to what we did. Long after we are gone, our music will live on beyond us.”
Watch the video to hear more from Hawes and Smith.