Russia isn't often considered an incubator for dance music. Though Artem Stoliarov now makes beats that move the world, he admits that back when he was starting out, he wondered if he would ever even be heard outside his country. But the DJ and dance-music artist known as ARTY says that the only thing keeping him from conquering the world wasn't his location—it was fear.
When he was first learning how to make music, he was told that Russian producers aren’t treated the same way as everybody else.”It kind of got into my head for a little bit," he says. "People talk about barriers and all this stuff, but it's a made-up thing that just makes things worse because it's not true. Producers should not think about wherever they come from. The only thing that matters is the quality of your music—your talent—and that's pretty much it. It's all quality of music at the end of the day."
Stoliarov was born in the town of Engels. “There's definitely not much of a community of musicians,” he says. His family sent him to a music school, from which he graduated early, at the age of 14. He considered going to a music college and becoming a professional concert pianist, but—inspired by electronic-music artists such as The Chemical Brothers and deadmau5—he found himself drawn to the finer points of anthemic dance music.
“I started to make music back in 2006,” ARTY says. “I wasn’t taking it seriously. I was kind of having fun, pretending that I wanted to make a career out of it. It was just a childhood dream. Two years later, in 2008, I finally dove into all the production techniques, and I decided to make myself better as a musician and a producer. In 2009, I made my first single.”
Putting it out there
ARTY started sending his singles to his favorite dance-music labels. Enhanced Music released the dual singles "Inside of Me" and "Flip Flop," and his 2009 single "Bliss" caught the attention of Armin van Buuren (who included it in his A State of Trance radio show) as well as ARTY’s favorite label, Anjunabeats (which signed him later that year). "With 'Bliss,' I really didn't expect that the track was going to be signed. I just sent it to the record label that I was a big fan of," he says. "It definitely inspired me a lot and motivated me a lot to move forward with my music."
ARTY worried about whether the labels would take him seriously, as he was unknown outside Russia and not even terribly well-known in Russia yet, but “they didn't have any problems with the fact that I'm from Russia, nor [did we have] any problems with communication,” he says, adding that the support from van Buuren and the resulting swell of fan enthusiasm were highly inspiring and motivating.
His initial success encouraged him to keep going and also to push himself creatively, using the alias ALPHA 9 for more trance-oriented material such as "Only Good Mistake.” That was part of a sharp shift from the more energetic material he made his name on, but one that he felt was necessary to keep himself engaged and excited creatively. "I do whatever I feel I want to do. I want to be honest with myself and be honest with the fans," ARTY says.
While his initial success was encouraging, he does admit that “language barriers were the first problem I faced when I first started doing international gigs, even though I had a pretty decent knowledge of English grammar prior. It does get better pretty fast when you’re spending enough time in an English-speaking environment,” he says. “Touring logistics can be a big problem too, especially if you’re an international DJ/performer. The tour manager is essentially the [most important] person in your life when it comes down to visas, flights, hotels, transportation, etc.”
He also adds that “of course, the most important thing is that you have to handle your mental condition. Being on the road, far away from your home, family, and friends for weeks and months is the hardest part of the DJ’s life and usually takes a huge toll on you,” he says.
“It’s important to find the balance between touring, studio time, and your family. At the end of the day, it’s all about your personal experience. You go on the road and learn.”
From festivals to social media to Vegas
There were no music venues in Engels, though ARTY did play the prestigious St. Petersburg dance festivals Trancemission and Global Gathering in 2009 and 2010. But his main focus was making new tracks and posting them on Myspace, where he began building a fanbase. He stresses that back then, the way artists used social media was much simpler—it was more of a one-way relationship. "Nowadays, the rules are a little bit different,” he says. “You have to engage with your fans over social media and make sure you talk to them and keep the dialogue [going]. But back then it was all about music. It was different times."
In 2012 and 2013, he was offered residencies at the Las Vegas nightclubs Marquee, Day + Night, and TAO, and since then he has held down residencies at Drai’s, Encore Beach Club, and others. "I knew it was the right thing to do, because Vegas residencies are kind of a step-up point in an artist's career. If you make it to Vegas, it means that you … perform really well in the North American market," he says. "It's showing that you're reaching certain points in your career.”
When looking at today’s music landscape, he observes that “over the past few years the dance music scene has expanded a lot. There are a lot more artists and producers, there are more new music styles and genres, and you have to find your own place in this extremely busy environment. Nowadays, it’s definitely more complicated to break through,” he says. “But apart from social media being a crazy valuable asset in DJs’ careers right now, I don’t think the rules have been changed dramatically. Work hard, find your own unique sound that will appeal to your fans, be passionate, and stay true to what you do. Be inspired and inspire others.”