A New Kind of Record Label: Eddie Sanchez and the Rise of Tropical House Music

Co-written by Zach Alden.

As every good (and bad) start-up musician knows, topping the charts isn’t exactly easy. There’s the difficulty of getting your music out there, gaining recognition, and finding an audience willing to click “Follow”—and that’s assuming your music is good. Upload your music to YouTube, SoundCloud, or Instagram and it’s hardly more of a guarantee than if you hauled your guitar to a street corner and started singing. Your reputation alone can’t buy you a record label, and there’s virtually no chance of publicity unless Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez, and Ashley Tisdale lip-sync your song on YouTube. Add hours of failed networking, promoting, and advertising to the list, and you have the plight of the start-up musician. So what differentiates the Kygos and the Martin Garrixes from the one-man bands that never quite escape the bar scene? In this case, maybe Eddie Sanchez.

Edward Sanchez ’18, known by most as Eddie, is a current Haverford student who may just have your fix. It’s called La Tropicál, and if you haven’t heard of it, you’re about to.

Growing up between São Paolo, Brazil and Miami, Florida, Sanchez’s childhood was steeped in two cultures that, while different, celebrated similar lifestyles of leisure and relaxation. It was while living in Miami that Sanchez met his eventual business partner, Kevin Zimmermann, and was first exposed to the budding industry of SoundCloud and start-ups.

For Sanchez and Zimmerman, Miami was a city of limitless potential, a melting pot of beach-goers drawn by the promise of a good time and immigrants eager to converge on the American dream. Yet, in their minds, the hard-hitting, intense sound of electronic dance music that pervaded the 2000’s club-scene failed to do justice to the nuance and beauty of the Miami culture. Hoping to escape the tense chords and deep bass of EDM, Sanchez and Zimmerman were immediately drawn to the slower, more acoustic sub-genre of the growing house music scene. This was the genre of Tropical House, and the two hoped to find in Miami an audience of like-minded individuals with which to spread this music—popularizing the genre themselves. It was from this deep-seated desire to bring good music to the people of Miami—music that at last complemented the laid-back, feel-good atmosphere of the city—that La Tropicál started.

Even a few years earlier, the idea of two men single-handedly creating a culture for tropical house would have been laughable, and Sanchez’s vision would have likely ended there. But with the recent growth of SoundCloud, opportunities for individuals hoping to make their way in the music industry grew considerably. Suddenly, the notion of two men with no official record label to their name tackling the music scene didn’t seem so far-fetched.

Founded as a place for unsigned artists to share their music directly with listeners, SoundCloud pushes the traditional boundaries of the music-industry by eliminating the need for artists to cooperate with record companies like Sony and Warner. Good in theory, the system still prevents unknown artists from getting their music heard; without followers, releasing your music on SoundCloud is like shouting into a void. It is a resource, much like YouTube or Instagram, but only if used right.

Eager to support artists whose music reflected the Miami culture they grew up in, Sanchez and Zimmerman created their first page, La Tropicál, as a way of expanding the niche of tropical house. But as the two began to attract a substantial following, they quickly realized that an audience of thousands meant more than spreading a culture of tropical house; it meant supporting musicians in a way that was impossible before. Frustrated with record labels and their often bureaucratic, self-interested methods of supporting artists, Sanchez and Zimmerman could use SoundCloud to accomplish a second goal—helping artists overcome the barriers of the music industry. The two could use SoundCloud as a platform for artists with neither the time nor the money to chase down record labels, all while feeding their viewers Miami-inspired music. La Tropicál became the materialization of this vision and in essence, its very own record label. Now, with over 100,000 followers, Sanchez—along with Zimmerman and now six other co-workers—is able to use La Tropicál exactly how he envisioned it: to share music worth sharing to an audience that refuses to stop growing.

Now, you are most likely to find Eddie trading time between Costa Rica, Brazil, and Miami, working with various members of his team to establish a music presence in various cultural hubs around the globe. With La Tropicál as the founding father of their music vision, Sanchez and his team have added four new SoundCloud pages to their resume (Royál X, Classy Records, Le Sol, and Etiquette Noir) in order to explore more sub-genres of house music that don’t fit the “tropical house” model. The group can also be found on platforms such as Facebook and Youtube. Eddie makes his own music as well, and hopes to use his gap year to learn more about what it means to produce music in the modern era—all the while supporting up-and-coming artists by returning to his Brazil and Miami-inspired love of tropical house. He plans to return to Haverford for next year’s spring semester (in 2017), and hopes to have solidified his footprint in the music industry by then.

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