TopNotch is a Dutch record label specializing in hip-hop. The label was founded in 1995, and is run by Moussa Assuom and Kees de Koning. After some commercial success (with rap acts such as De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, The Opposites, Def Rhymz, Postmen, and Extince) it became allied with Virgin EMI Records, and since 2004 has a marketing and distribution deal with PIAS Entertainment Group. It has expanded into Dutch-language music by singer-songwriters such as Lucky Fonz III, and in 2009 signed a distribution and marketing agreement with Universal Music Group. Still praised in 2009 as "the brand for high-quality Dutch hip-hop", it sought to expand into other musical genres.
Founder Kees de Koning is a former music journalist and manager of Anouk. He is credited with "putting Dutch hip-hop on the map" with TopNotch, signing acts such as De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, Extince, and The Opposites. Initially the label, which released music that didn't automatically receive radio play, used platforms such as YouTube[a] and Hyves to get attention for its artists, and added Instagram and Vine. TopNotch also collaborates in marketing with companies such as the brewery Bavaria and insurance company Centraal Beheer; for the latter, it made a video featuring Anouk, watched over 2 million times by August 2013. After achieving commercial success with Def Rhymz, Postmen, and Extince, the label acquired a reputation such that Virgin EMI Records hired de Koning as A&R and label manager in 2000. Success with Raymzter and Opgezwolle notwithstanding, de Koning's contract was not renewed after four years, and the label was in danger of folding. In 2004, PIAS Entertainment Group signed a distribution and marketing deal with TopNotch, saving the label. The first releases after the restructuring were by VSOP, Duvel Duvel, and Kubus. In 2009, the label make a distribution and marketing agreement with Universal Music Group (owners of Virgin EMI) and signed a non-hip-hop act, gabber punk band Aux Raus.
Their fifteenth anniversary, in 2010, was celebrated with a two-day festival in the Melkweg. That same year the label signed Lucky Fonz III, a Dutch-language singer, in a more comprehensive effort to expand beyond hip-hop which also included signing Surinamese singer Damaru; de Koning had personally pursued the artist, whose monthly performances in the TV show De Wereld Draait Door he admired. Their biggest commercial success to date is Gers Pardoel, whose "Ik neem je mee" is referred to as the most successful Dutch song ever; the song's video had 15 million views by 15 August 2013, a Dutch record.
De Koning started another company in 2006, Good Life, with Jerry Leembruggen and Ruben Fernhout (founders of The Partysquad and owners of the production company F & L Entertainment). Good Life aimed to produce more pop-oriented, rhythm and blues artists (such as Wudstik) through record deals and events.
In 2012, NopTotch started also signing Flemish rappers, the first Flemish rappers who signed were Safi & Spreej. 1 year later, Tourist LeMC also signed in TopNotch short after winning Humo's Rock Rally. Signing these 2 Flemish rappers was the first step to help Flanders grow the Flemish hip-hop culture.
- Gers Pardoel
- Jack Parow
- Lange Frans
- Lefties Soul Connection
- Lil' Kleine
- Ronnie Flex
- Lucky Fonz III
- The Opposites
- Salah Edin
- Safi & Spreej
- Tourist LeMC
Artists produced together with Magnetron Music
- De Koning commented in 2009 on reports that Universal Music Group made $100 million from YouTube videos, and said that YouTube was good for promoting artists but was not itself a "goldmine" for record companies. He could not say how much his label made from YouTube since Universal did the label's video distribution.
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- "Hiphop-label Top Notch vindt onderdak bij PIAS" (in Dutch). 3VOOR12. 16 April 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Loorbach, Liedewij (1 May 2009). "Topnotchbaas: 'Ik wil me niet vastpinnen'". Het Parool (in Dutch). Retrieved 13 September 2013.
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- Unen, D. van (20 August 2013). "15 miljoen views voor hitje Gers Pardoel". Spits (in Dutch). Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- "Achter nieuw label Good Life schuilen Partysquad en TopNotch anchorman De Koning" (in Dutch). 22 March 2006. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Arendonk, Femke van (28 April 2012). "Jack Parow: Zuid-Afrikaans sarcasme vindt zijn roots in Nederland" (in Dutch). Kindamuzik. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Bommel, Koen van (2 November 2007). "Salah Edin en Winne geven rauwe hiphopshow" (in Dutch). Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Nauta, Hans (6 August 2006). "U-Niq rapt recht op zijn punt af, en smijt de realiteit zo van de straat op de plaat". Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- "Cilvaringz belooft het ouderwetse Wu Tang geluid op langverwacht debuut" (in Dutch). 3VOOR12. 15 March 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Makkinga, Andrew (10 May 2006). "Draaideurrapper Kempi tekent bij Topnotch vanachter de tralies" (in Dutch). 3VOOR12. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Home page (Dutch)