2010 was quite a year for dance music. The turn of the decade brought many listeners to the electronic scene. Suddenly, the sound that Frankie Knuckles patronized was slowly coming out of the underground towards bigger heights.
So, inevitably, new names were reaching the spotlight and becoming preponderant amongst household names at the time like David Guetta, DJ Tiësto, Axwell and Afrojack, and that’s when 21-year-old Nick Rotteveel comes into play. After remixing tracks from famed artists of that time, like David Guetta and Sidney Samson, and being signed to the Ministry of Sound label, Rotteveel, real name of Nicky Romero, released “My Friend” on Spinnin’ Records. From that point on, his career took off: more music released on Spinnin’, its sub-labels and others, collaborations with big names, producing for Rihanna and Britney Spears, and finally “Toulouse” in late 2011, a song which absolutely catapulted him to stardom. Nicky today has its waveform tattooed in the arm.
Everybody was talking of “Toulouse” and the Guy Fawkes Masks who popularized the track within its videoclip, but Nicky Romero wasn’t going to stop climbing the mountain: in May 2012, in Amsterdam, he unveils his own independent label, Protocol Recordings. Good quality electronic music met a strong identity, originating a unique concept.
The first Protocol release was a collaboration between Romero and ZROQ called “WTF”, which many fans were awaiting after Nicky played it in his memorable 2012 Ultra Miami set. It reached Beatport’s top 10 in a blink of an eye. Following that, “Iron”, by Nicky and Calvin Harris, brightens the label even more, and to end 2012 in a great way, “Like Home” with the Australian sisters NERVO, comes out. Premiered in Tomorrowland 2012, the song is one of the Dutch DJ’s biggest hits, the only Protocol double platinum record, and was the label’s first Progressive House release, a style that Romero would adopt and be known for.
The starting year of the brand also marked the beginning of one of its trademarks. The ADE Protocol Night, hosted every October at the Melkweg music venue, had its first edition in 2012. The event is a landmark for those who attend the Amsterdam music week, being one of its most coveted parties.
In the following year, Protocol presented new talents to the world. The likes of Tony Romera, Merk & Kremont, Michael Calfan, Vicetone, Kryder, Pelari, CID and Don Diablo enriched the sound of Protocol. However, the trendiest hit of 2013 was of its owner. “Legacy”, with Krewella, climbed to the top of the charts and went viral through its videoclip, a heartfelt story directed by Kyle Padilla.
In 2013 as well, Protocol Radio appeared. The show gathers thousands of listeners per week, being a reference in the scene’s podcast field.
2014 was one of Protocol’s richest years, musically speaking. In the first 2 months of it, two of its greatest releases came out: “Colors” by Tritonal, Paris Blohm and Sterling Fox, and “Howl At The Moon” by Hungarian duo Stadiumx. The last one even went platinum. New talents, like Blasterjaxx, Tom Swoon and Row Rocka, allied with the “old” ones, such as Tommy Trash, John Dahlbäck and Nicky himself, to improve the brand’s quality. Besides, KURA remixed John Christian’s “Next Level”, becoming the only Portuguese artist to be featured in the label. Also that year, Protocol introduced two compilations presented by its boss, “Miami 2014”and “Protocol ADE 2014”, inchoating an annual tradition.
Reaching the middle of the decade, the entity became known for Progressive House, stablishing itself as the Mecca of the genre. The likes of Paris Blohm, Deniz Koyu, Volt & State, Thomas Newson, MAKJ, Thomas Gold and Florian Picasso made the label’s 2015. Absolute Progressive anthems such as “Lift”, by Koyu and Don Palm, “Origami” by Florian Picasso, and Nicky’s own “Lighthouse”, “Warriors” and “Harmony” with Stadiumx came out that year. Protocol kept on gaining new fans from all over the globe.
2016 didn’t bring new talents and sounds to the label. Instead, Nicky Romero released a bunch of top notch productions, besides Vietnamese DJ and producer Florian Picasso, who also was a protagonist that year, through the release of “Origami”. Nicky released “Novell”, “Take Me”, “Ready 2 Rumble” and collaborated with the legendary guitarist Nile Rodgers in “Future Funk”. In what concerns to new material and diversity of artists, it was not the best of years to Protocol, however, the label hosted its own stage in three big festivals: Daydream (in Belgium), Tomorrowland Brasil, and Sziget (in Budapest). This initiative was called “Get Connected”, for the label to get more in touch with its growing fanbase.
And finally, there was 2017. A frenetic year for the brand, with lots of new music. Themes from Corey James, D.O.D., Raiden, and Nicky himself reinforced the quality of the label. However, what made last year so special for Protocol were the compilation releases. Besides the Miami one, as usual, the label released something special to commemorate its 5th anniversary. First, “Nicky Romero – 5 years of Protocol EP” came out, consisting on 5 remixes of Protocol epic classics, such as “Like Home” (by Stadiumx) and “Howl At The Moon” (by the boss himself). Then, instead of just one EP for the ADE, the label released THREE, in the “Protocol Lab” 3-part EP, specially produced for Amsterdam’s music week. Nicky released, together with Teamworx, his latest single (before this one from 2018), called “Champion Sound”. Let’s see what happens in 2018 if we keep “following the Protocol”!
And, dear reader, here we are. This is the present, with Nicky Romero collaborating with Spyder to release “PRTCL”. It’s the 100th release of Protocol, and we, from time to time, start to realize that time goes by very quickly. For you, what’s the label’s best song ever? And what are the memories that Protocol has brought you over the course of history? And what are your predictions on the future of it? Tell us all about it in our social media!