Inside Label Wars: A Festival Squad Exclusive Interview

Featured images courtesy of Graham Berry

By now, it’s fair to say we’ve all become accustomed to the major shift from physical events to virtual events. Artists, event producers and companies have all done a fantastic job providing a source of entertainment for the fans at home. Although I’m sure we’re all missing the rush of excitement from festivals and events, we’ve been lucky to still get some form of entertainment from our favorite artists and event producers. As we see real life events held off until the foreseeable future, we still get to see some extremely creative ideas being put to action such as artists live streaming from their homes, virtual festivals, production streams, etc. Recently, we got the chance to interview one of the creative leaders who brought something entirely new and different to the dance music community. If you’re a Warzone fan, you may have already know what I’m talking about… Meet Cody Harvey, the creative founder & producer behind the one of the biggest “dance music meets e-gaming” events there is: Label Wars.

Jordan w/ FS: Where did the idea of Label Wars come from?

Cody Harvey: My partners are pretty avid gamers and both of them are in the music industry. They realized that people were playing Call of Duty with artists as artists were streaming on Twitch. I previously worked with a few gaming companies and I had connections to some gamers and thought it would be cool if we could merge the two. Andrew and (name) came up with the idea we could compile a quad (teams of 4) in CoD Warzone and did a bot race. It’s based on the tournament style that’s hosted every week. Prize money usually ranges from 20k-50k a week. It’s very successful. A lot of professional gamers and content creators get together to put this on. We kind of just merged the two ideas and brought along DJ’s & professional gamers. We did it for charity because it kind of felt relevant.

FS: What charities have you donated to previously and which ones will you donate to for the next competition?

Cody: The first one went to The Boys & Girls Club of America and this next one will go to the NAACP’s Freedom Fund.

FS: How many artists/labels will be included and what’s the selection process?

Cody: Each label is its own team. Ideally we like to have a label head, and all artists, but they can choose one employee. Last Label Wars we had 68 artists, 24 content creators, and 8 label employees. The label employees had to have some sort of notoriety, like a well known manager or something like that. As for team selection, my partner Andrew was at Circus (Circus Records) and fielded two Circus teams. Then other artists and labels started reaching out to us. The next thing I know, JAUZ reached out, so did Kayzo and Welcome Records, Zeds Dead heard about it and it just kind of blew up from there. We had Nicky Romero, Steve Aoki’s Dim Make label, Astroworks, etc. Everyone just wanted to be a part of it.

FS: What style tournament is it and how is a winner decided?

Cody: So the first tournament was done in what’s called a “bot race.” Essentially it’s all robot AI players and it’s a kill count race. So you get points for every kill and you get points for where your quad places in that tournament. It’s your team of four vs. several bot teams of four. We ran about 3 hours and 20 minutes of in-play games, which was about 8 games and we took the points from their best 5 games. This next tournament is going to be a best of 3 elimination and possibly a double elimination for a loser bracket so they have a chance to get back in at the end. It makes it a little easier on the artist, but it’ll be more competitive and a lot more fun to watch.

FS: What was your favorite part about Label Wars? Was it putting the idea to fruition? Getting to watch everyone compete against each other?

Cody: I think the most fun part for me was getting the chance to do something cool with all the homies. We were able to mesh work and fun and everyone had a great time. Immediately after we finished I got a bunch of texts from people saying “that was awesome, let me know when the next one is.” So the end product was the best part.

FS: Do you guys have a goal in terms of donations? A certain amount you’d like to hit?

Cody: I would love to hit $20k in donations. Or something like double the viewer count. At the end of the day it’s a charity event so we’re grateful with whatever we’re able to raise and just drawing more awareness. Given the current political state, we would just like to draw more awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s a really big goal.

FS: What was the most challenging part of setting all of this up?

Cody: Coordination. When you have something this big, and it being done virtually with that many people, it’s hard to coordinate efficiently. We had a very small team of like 4-5 people and once the tournament starts it’s just me and the person running the production to do the whole stream. You have to make sure you have a small enough team to where if you have to make decisions you can make them very quickly, but also a big enough team that if, let’s say 100 things go wrong, we have enough people to cover all of that.

FS: How do you guys see the fundraising aspect evolving in the future and the evolution of Label Wars in general? Are there any other issues you guys want to raise awareness to? Any specific fundraising plans for future streams?

Cody: With this sort of fundraising, you just have to pay attention to what’s going on currently. So it’s whatever the current matter is, that’s probably what we’ll be focusing on. As for the evolution of Label Wars, the model is already there and there are already major league gaming tournaments crossing over with dance music already. The only difference is we’re for charity and the others are for profit. I think the next logical step would possibly be to partner with Activision and get some help from them with production as well as giving that validation that gaming and music really do go hand in hand.

FS: That bridges into this next question of where do you see the future of Label Wars heading? Will it stay exclusively for CoD, or will you guys eventually branch out to different video games?

Cody: I think we’ll probably branch out to different video games. That’s the fun part about it. It’s more-so about the charity and using celebrities and star-power to do good. Combining the MLG crowd and the artists crowd, which are two very different crowds, just getting together and having fun and doing something good at the end of the day.

FS: What would you say was the biggest surprise from the last competition?

Cody: So I didn’t know this until we started the stream, but Steve Aoki’s team had Waka Flocka on it and that was just so cool. Also over at EDM.com, we fielded a team. We also got someone from David Dobrik’s vlog squad to play. Also, Wooli is incredibly good with a sniper rifle. It’s also super funny to see how massive the skill gap is between hobbyists and professional gamers.

The second tournament of Label Wars is set to kick off this Friday, the 24th. It’s sure to be even bigger and better than the first one so be sure to tune into the stream. You can catch the action on the EDM.com Twitch channel here. See you in the chat (hopefully not the gulag)!

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