Dec 27, 2023
Words by Zach Salafia and Ross Goldenberg.
“At This Never Happened, we invite you into a space where the only thing that matters are the people in that room, the music, and the magic that happens when those things interact,” Daniel Goldstein, better known as Lane 8, said in a 2016 Facebook post announcing the inception of his label.
Since its origin, This Never Happened has unfailingly fostered a bond between its music and those experiencing it. And 2023 might have been the purest example of that yet.
More than a few labels warranted a seat in our discussion of which label presented the most compelling resume this year, but ultimately, we felt that there was only one that stood above the rest, based not only on consistency, but also quality from January all the way through December. That imprint is This Never Happened, Dancing Astronaut’s 2023 Label of the Year.
Lane 8 has proven This Never Happened to be a label whose ability to flourish isn’t inherently anchored by what he is or isn’t doing. As he explained in a December 2022 Instagram post, he wanted to shift his attention in 2023 from touring to a more relaxed schedule where he could take a “mental health reset” and refocus on his true passion: making music. In that time, Dancing Astronaut’s 2020 Artist of the Year still put out six original productions—including “Woman,” “I Will Leave a Light On,” “The Little Mushroom That Got Away,” and plenty more—on top of his seasonal mixtapes, a quarterly showcase of nothing but the best that his label has to offer. The series notably celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
A key driver of This Never Happened’s distinction as Label of the Year was its flurry of long-form releases, all four of which will soon find their way onto Dancing Astronaut’s list of the Top Dance Albums of 2023 later this week. Sultan + Shepard ignited the label’s album release calendar with Forever, Now in February; EMBRZ’s In Our Own Way and Massane’s By The River followed suit in August, as did Le Youth’s About Us at the end of September. Each album stems from artists who can only be pinned as This Never Happened all-stars, with all four bodies of work affirming This Never Happened as an esteemed—if not the premier—purveyor of melodic house.
Beyond the album front, This Never Happened persistently put out music almost every week, tallying close to 200 tracks across LPs, remixes, singles, and even an official mashup release. The prolific release pace saw Lane 8’s label offer new music at least once or twice weekly from a wide set of tastemakers. The label played host to everyone from longtime veterans like Sultan + Shepard, Dancing Astronaut Artist to Watch in 2023 Grigoré, OCULA, and Jerro, to an abundance of newcomers that added to the label’s already deep, diverse roster, like Dancing Astronaut Artist to Watch in 2024 Otherwish, nimino, Huminal, VONDA7, and Olga Berg. And, we’d be remiss not to mention that This Never Happened also featured a handful of soon-to-be discovered acts on its ninth iteration of Root To Branch in October.
But as we all know, Dancing Astronaut’s 2023 Label of the Year qualifications don’t begin and end with just the label’s music. This Never Happened’s story began as a phoneless event concept, and Lane 8 furthered this foundational desire (to allow people to fully experience a moment in music) this year. This summer, the label revisited its Summer Gatherings series for the first time since 2019 with three star-studded lineups across three locations, including New York City, San Francisco, and—of course—Lane 8’s residence of Denver. In today’s day and age, where phones have increasingly become an extension of oneself, This Never Happened’s initiative feels even more impactful than it did when Lane 8 launched the concept seven years ago. And having attended the Forest Hills stop in June, which Lane 8 himself described as one of his “all-time favorite” label events, we can attest that this phoneless concept series is one that each dance music fan should experience at least once.
With the third full-length label project from Sultan + Shepard—Endless, Dawn, due on March 1—already on the books for 2024, in tandem with a 13-city trip around North America that begins at the end of January and will spotlight the label’s rising talent, This Never Happened is already setting itself up to capitalize on what it accomplished in 2023.
Time and time again, This Never Happened has repeatedly set itself apart through the authenticity rooted in its message and the bond fostered between it and its audience, offering high-caliber music at a consistent pace and from an expansive family of artists—something that isn’t seen often in dance music. With the advent of this year’s Summer Gatherings, Lane 8 explained that in the years between the series’ most recent iterations (2019 to 2023), he came to the conclusion that This Never Happened had finally become what he’d always hoped it could be: a 360-degree label. That claim was verified tenfold throughout the past 12 months alone, prompting us to unequivocally proclaim This Never Happened as Dancing Astronaut’s 2023 Label of the Year.
Featured image: Fixation Photography