10 years in, the firsts keep coming for Vancouver music label Monstercat

The company's annual block party is set for this weekend.

Monstercat Compound is set to welcome in fans once again this year

The company’s annual block party is set for this weekend

“I feel good about it,” Mike Darlington says about throwing a massive block party this weekend (Saturday, September 18).

Monstercat Compound started five years ago as a bash in the eponymous electronic music label’s Vancouver parking lot. It’s grown into what is essentially a one-day music festival, complete with art, video games and educational panels, that welcomes several thousand fans free of charge.

Darlington, co-founder and CEO of Monstercat, has been working directly with the City of Vancouver and Blueprint to throw the event. “We’ve done everything we possibly can do from a safety perspective and are making sure that the event happens in a way that people are comfortable with,” he says. “We’re the first one to really return to Vancouver with a live music event in the city. And it’ll be our biggest, most diverse lineup to date, something else to look forward to.”

It shouldn’t be too much of a shock that Darlington and Monstercat have come out of COVID-19 optimistic. Founded 10 years ago, the business has long innovated its way through a tough industry. 

That began from Monstercat’s inception with its belief in non-exclusive record deals, which give artists flexibility and creative freedom. And it’s continued with the company’s more recent efforts in gaming and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“Innovation is a core element of our business; it’s something that we strive for all the time,” says Darlington, noting that Monstercat left the pandemic relatively unscathed. “We’re always trying new business models that will give us sustainability for moments like COVID. If we didn’t make those steps in the past, we would have found COVID to be a lot more of a struggle than it was. The biggest struggle was COVID’s impact on our fans and staff—it wasn’t so much the business side that took a hit.”

Monstercat’s 65 employees seem to be doing just fine these days, as the company they work for experiments and succeeds with new ventures. Besides acquiring L.A.-based Silk Music (which Darlington says has been “completely exceeding expectations”) this year, it released Lost Civilization, the first music label–centred game of its kind, on online platform Roblox.

And while Darlington can’t say too much about an NFT project slated to go live this fall—except that he “loved stepping into an emerging industry”—he does allow that the company is gearing up for a big play in the space.

“We believe music can be collectible again,” Darlington says. “When I grew up, it was very collectible with CDs and vinyl—vinyl still is; don’t get me wrong. But having that personal collection was a big deal. And we’re bridging the gap of digital collectibles, music and the metaverse.”