[Behind the Beat] Martin Jensen: The Unorthodox Rise Of A Star
You probably know of Martin Jensen from the multiple explosive singles that he has released over the past two years. This in part, is because he has had numerous viral hits that consistently dominate festival mixes across the world. His career as a producer started with “Si”, the Cristiano Ronaldo sampled viral hit, and now two years later is enjoying the massive success of the global anthem “Solo Dance”, a song that shows no sign of slowing in rotation with 340 million streams on Spotify to date.
On the 5th floor terrace of the Kimpton Everly hotel in Hollywood, I took a seat with the rising sensation, ready to find the secret to his success. How does someone take a viral hit and make a career without falling onto the one hit wonder list? How does a producer with one viral hit make a career by following up with more viral hits? His response is simple “Why fix what isn’t broken.”
Martin, an unassuming blonde kid from Denmark with a permanent smile was more than happy to explain how he had made it to the level of success he was at today. His honesty was refreshing. This wasn’t some elite formula to generate worldwide hits like we see a lot of super producers do.
When he released his hook for “Si” it was posted on Facebook as a short clip. It received huge attention and fast, it caught the great phenomenon that the internet has blessed us with and became viral. Instead of signing with a major label and heading into the studio to chase a sound he hadn’t developed yet, he kept his trust with the people that had given him attention in the first place, his Facebook fans.
Two years have passed since “Si” and still today he lets the core fans decide which hooks he should develop into songs. It’s a democratic process and it works. Posting around 50 snippets of hooks, samples, and drops over the last two years, he waited and saw which got the most attention. Martin picks those small parts that get the proverbial thumbs up and takes it back to the studio and creates a hit song.
The process works. Every track he has released gains more and more views, streams and downloads. Like climbing stairs, each song is a step and each has earned him more and more attention. Martin’s technique flips the traditional Music Industry Machine on its head, proving there are options other than signing a 360 deal and giving the final say to the label bigwigs. Hanging with Martin you realize this is simple logic to him, give the fans what they want, let them decide what is best.
When asked about the possibility of a body of work he points back to his success with singles, crediting the routine of picking songs that worked for his fans and only focusing energy on those. “Why take a year to come up with a body of work, holding onto it as you go, just to release it at once when half of the tracks are outdated and only 2 or 3 really catch the audience’s ear.” Martin is smart, he is well spoken and responds with intent, a certain level of professionalism that is rare to find in an industry associated with late nights and partying. As I came to find out this is a result of his previous profession. Up until November last year, around the time he released “Solo Dance,” he was working full time, acting as the sales and marketing manager for his family’s large-scale industrial machinery business.
Yes, you heard that right, for well over a year he was working full time during the week and touring the world full time on the weekends. He recalls, “I was putting 1000% effort into DJ’ing and 1000% effort into my job. I was putting in more than 60 hours a week.” Most normal humans would have folded and quit one job before even attempting to deal with that kind of pressure.
Martin isn’t a normal human though, knowing him for a total of 20 minutes, I can already see he has a hyper-focus on what he wants and he is going to put in whatever it takes to get it. This work ethic can be credited to his family and the work that he was fully dedicated to. He kept everything up until the point that his musical success was unignorable.
Despite his superhuman work ethic, at the core, he is still a human, and around November last year he dropped his full-time job with the family and moved from Sorring to Copenhagen and rented an apartment, making the decision to focus on music full time. “I needed to clear my head, to get a breath of fresh air.” Talking about how the “mental stress from going from playing three shows in three different countries then heading home Monday and sitting with a business owner trying to explain and sell heavy machinery” was just too much in the end.
Music was the right choice. The numbers don’t lie and have proven his talent over and over again. All of his songs have tens of millions of streams, his Facebook videos reflect the same numbers, and his tour schedule continues to grow. The technique he is using is working and he has no intention of changing it.
Despite the success, he still has reservations, “If I can do that once why can’t I do it bigger next time?” He opened the Main Stage at Tomorrowland (every DJ’s dream) and even though he says he loved it, he comments, “I want to do that again, just this time at a better time slot.” This tenacity that drives him is what sets him ahead of the pack. It is the difference between him and the overnight sensations that explode onto the scene only to fizzle out as quickly as they appeared.
Martin has an insanely dedicated fan base through his Facebook, a platform where he mainly uses videos to connect. I ask about the importance of his music videos since there is such a correlation between videos and his success. He answers, “Yes! the importance is huge especially for the Latin countries, Brazil and Mexico in particular. They are huge on YouTube and we want to give them content to absorb and build the following there.” His fan base in Mexico and South America is already massive but the majority of EDM fans there consume their music via YouTube, so delivering excellent visuals is a necessity.
His latest music video for “Solo Dance” was shot in an underground bunker. Despite being negative 6 degrees Celsius (42 degrees Celsius) as he goes on to tell me, the video turned out excellently captivating. Shooting the video took 16 hours, and required professional dancers who were flown in from all over Europe to contribute outstanding choreography. Martin speaks about the skill that the dancers displayed, “They were real professionals, it was amazing to watch them and be able to not only witness that talent but use it for my video.”
The day before I sat down with him here in Hollywood he had just wrapped up three days of shooting his new music video for his latest release “Wait”. One day was spent in the desert with Loote the featured singer on the track. The shooting was done in the heat of the valley desert. Laughing and looking at his manager Martin mentions the ironic contrast between the last two music videos he has shot, “One video was so too cold and now this one was too hot.. When can I shoot one with normal temperature?” The final two days were shot at the famous Four Aces Movie Set, where Beyonce (Lemonade) and countless other famous artists have shot music videos.
The “Wait” video follows friends meeting for a dance party. By the expression that Martin and his team has as they explain the premise of the video, it is clear this is going to be a very, very good piece for the song. Luckily for us fans, he tells me they are editing it this week and it will be screening shortly after. Martin makes a point to express that his videos are visually pleasing and display excellent dance/art, but purposefully avoid the booty shaking, twerk videos that have become widely mainstream. This is clearly important to him. He isn’t giving into the easy “sex sells” route. He wants it to be about the art, about the music and most importantly appropriate for everyone without trying to appeal to something just for the money.
Sticking to his artist morals is something he won’t budge on, but when it comes to sticking to one genre he is willing to go anywhere stylistically. He says it’s about what the fans want and he isn’t going to shy away or say no because something isn’t in the safe zone of what he has done before.
He reviews a few of his tracks to me describing the subtle differences but I can’t help bringing up the massive change from “Si” to “Solo Dance” and ask if this new trend of happy house and tropical house that he has been releasing is something that he is going to gravitate toward from now on with his work. He rightly argues that he isn’t exclusively working in that realm of music, but then settles with the answer, “I am very heavily focused on my melodies, and it does typically end with a pop sound, so I guess you can say the majority is going to be relative to those happy sounds.”
Leaving it at that I deflect to another topic, I ask about new music. Martin excitedly brings up three collaborations he is working on, despite my persistence and different angles of attack, he can’t and won’t tell me who the artists are. Smiling happily he told me, “It will definitely be worth the wait.” In an attempt to rule out some possibilities of who the artists might be I asked him to name three artists he wants to collaborate in the near future. Surprisingly, he answers quickly and deliberately “Astrid S, Martin Garrix, and a Selena Gomez/ Ariana Grande combo.” I realize, these artists aren’t far out of his reach. He is already producing excellent Pop and EDM that is on the same level and receive the same attention as the artists he has just mentioned.
Speaking with Martin for only a half an hour I can tell he is extremely book and street smart with a driven understanding of the in and outs of the Music Industry. He understands the long game that is needed to create a long-term career, he knows the analytics behind his success, he can prove why and what he has done that has worked and has a set plan for the future and knows why it will work.
When you combine his work ethic with his raw talent as a producer and DJ his trajectory of success can’t be ignored. This isn’t just a talented EDM producer, this is a mix of much more than that. Martin isn’t lost in his success, he sees this as a mere stepping stone in the epic journey he is on to becoming one of the worlds EDM legends.
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