This week our marketing managers had the opportunity to virtually meet with talented Ankit Desai, the CEO, and founder of SACC-LA member Snafu Records! Snafu Records is a 21st-century record label based in Stockholm and LA that uses AI technology and algorithms to scan and analyze more than 1500 unsigned songs per week to find the next big artists. When working for one of the largest record labels in the world, Ankit realized that there is a massive amount of music being released every single day that isn’t connected to the world, and with that realization in mind, he decided to start Snafu Records. The company has been recognized in magazines such as the Rolling Stone and Dagens Industri and one of Snafu Records’ investors is Agnetha Fältskog from ABBA.
A SACC-LA Exclusive Interview with Ankit Desai
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Ankit and I am the founder and CEO of Snafu Records, a 21st-century music company that uses AI.
2. Have you always dreamed about a career in the music industry?
Actually no. I always knew I wanted to have my own company. I met the CEO of Universal Music when I was studying my Master’s at the Stockholm School of Economics and back then I was just a cocky kid telling him that if I was in his position I would change this, this, and this. I started working at Universal Music and that was my first job in music and I have been in love with it ever since.
3. What inspired you to start Snafu Records?
We saw that 70% of all music listening in the world was between 3 big companies but they now count for less than 1% of all the new music that comes out every year. And we thought that there was probably some 17-year old girl in Indonesia making amazing music that everyone is dying to hear but that just doesn’t make it and we wanted to change that.
4. What makes Snafu Records and your way of working unique compared to other labels in the industry?
I would say that we have built Snafu from the ground up with technology at the base and with a 21st century way of working and thinking. Every other music company that’s big today has been built for success in the 20th century and a lot of the things that they still do are quite old school. We wanted to be more transparent and more sustainable for artists.
5. What is one of your favorite memories from Snafu Records? There are so many. But I would say that my favorite memory is from the time when we had first started Snafu Records and nobody knew who we were and nobody was returning our calls and then Tim Avicii Bergling said to my partner Carl “Hey man if you guys want to use my house in LA to have meetings you can do that!”. So I just started DM:ing every artist asking them if they wanted to hang at Avicii’s house and then everybody replied. And that’s how we signed our first artist. I only have good memories of Los Angeles and Avicii, he was the nicest guy ever.
6. What is the most challenging part of your job?
I would say that the most challenging part but also the most exciting part, is that there is no textbook of what you need to do. If you go into consulting or banking there are very set ways of doing things but with Snafu we are the ones writing the textbook. We are learning to walk while we run and some people find that exciting but some people also find that intimidating. I think it’s challenging but still exciting.
7. What makes a hit song?
In my opinion, the most important thing is the connection to people. We are of course a company that looks at numbers and data but behind the data are always people and you need to see the connection that people are having with the song, and that this can become someone’s wedding song or the song of their heartbreak. When you see those sorts of patterns, that’s when you know you have something that is really special.
8. Was the plan always to expand the business to LA?
I feel that LA is the center of the universe for the entertainment industry and I had some experience working at Capital Records in Los Angeles and I think things just move faster there. With Stockholm being a little bubble. LA is giving us access to the partners and artists we were always looking for to reach the next stage.
9. How does the business differ in Stockholm and LA?
I would say that it is a lot more tight-knit in Stockholm, it is a smaller world where everybody knows everybody. In Los Angeles it takes 40 minutes to get anywhere so generally I feel like you are able to get more work done when you are in Stockholm but at the same time, I feel like you can do more impactful things in LA.
10. Do you have a favorite spot in LA?
There are so many, but my favorite spot is the restaurant Pace in Runyon Canyon, just above West Hollywood. It is my favorite place to take artists when we are trying to sign them! It is on a hill and they have great food and a very intimate atmosphere where you can get to know the person you are going to be working with. It is usually just us and then people who are there on dates. It is my favorite spot because I have a lot of memories with artists there.
11. What are your 3 best tips for an aspiring entrepreneur?
Tip #1: To have a very forgetful short-term memory because you face setbacks every single day and you can’t get stuck on those, you have to keep going.
Tip #2: The importance of the people you start with. It is hard for every person to do everything. Entrepreneurship is really hard and it is better if you have someone to share that journey with because it is going to be very lonely otherwise.
Tip #3: This is the most important one – learn how to delegate early on. Because almost every entrepreneur that I have seen, myself included, has the hardest time with that. Your company is your baby so you want to make sure that everything is done perfectly. But it is hard to multiply your efforts if you are not willing to let go.
Five Fast Ones with Ankit
Pop Music or House Music
Headphones or Speakers
Big Concert of Small gig
Beach or Ski Vacation
Morning Person or Night Owl