Q&A with Halina Rifai, Olive Grove Records

Blog by Louise Dodgson under Record Labels

In the ever accessible music industry, taking the DIY approach could be the best way to keep control of your music. I spoke to Halina Rifai, one half of independent Scottish label Olive Grove Records to get her advice on everything independent.

So Halina what is your background in music?
I started discovering music at a young age and was classically trained in flute and piano. I decided performing was not for me and did a degree in Music, Acoustics and Recording. After a few years of figuring out what I wanted to do I realised it the only way was to get out there and do what I wanted myself. I subsequently started the arts/music website Glasgow Podcart I felt that there was not a suitable platform in Scotland that exposed and highlighted grassroots and unsigned artists enough so instead of complaining about it I did it. We now do weekly podcasts which are downloaded in more than 43 countries, we are also broadcast on Radio Magnetic. From here I managedto get into writing freelance for Rock Sound magazine. I also manage a couple of artists who are starting to do extremely well and this subsequently lead onto starting Olive Grove Records with my good friend Lloyd Meredith who is well known Scottish blogger Peenko.

Could you please tell us a little about the ethos behind Olive Grove and how the label came about?
Olive Grove Records was started by myself and Lloyd. Having both become very aware and experienced in the unsigned/grassroots Scottish music scene it became all very apparent that artists still needed help to get their material out there. It has been a dream for both of us since a young age and we just decided to grab the opportunity and run with it. The ethos is to stay true to our artists and promote them as organically as we can. We fund the releases ourselves and cover our costs, but all profits go to the artist. We use our background music experience to get them as much promotion as possible and encourage them to think outside of the box in terms of their releases and their promotion.

What can artists do to set themselves apart from the crowd?
It is not about waiting for something to come to you anymore, it is about you doing it yourself. Think of innovative way to get yourself noticed. First and foremost your music must be good, it is as simple as that. Secondly, think of things such as merchandise, we have been creating with the help of a DIY crafts company called 'I heart...' knitted and handmade CD covers which have created a great interest and selling point. Ensure that you keep people interested all the time, i.e. don't fall off the radar. Create teaser videos, animations, write blogs, even photos and talking to people individually about your music is so important. What you have to remember is that anything is possible and it doesn't have to cost a lot. Find people that want to do this that are on your wavelength or level, people starting out in their own creative field and get networking. It is invaluable to everyone as we all need a starting point. As a collective you can achieve so much more as it just amplifies the things you are doing. 

Being a Glasgow based label are you interested in releasing acts from further afield at any point, or is the emphasis on local talent?
We are Glasgow based, but that is as far as it goes. We are a Scottish label and very proud of that fact. I myself listen to grassroots artists from all over the world, but in terms of where our knowledge is best; that is Scotland. As we know the music coming out of the country better, it is best for us to concentrate on artists here. That is not to say we would not consider music from further afield. We ask that people email demos to [email protected] for consideration with a good bio.

What advice would you offer to anyone who is interested in starting an independent label?
Think about exactly why you are doing it and what you want out of it. It can be all too easy to say yes to something without thinking about the consequences. You must have commitment, passion and be prepared for a lot of obstacles. Money is obviously a factor, but as previously mentioned you can achieve anything.

Any bands/artists we should be checking out?
The ones that I think are particularly brilliant and setting themselves apart right now are PAWS, Happy Particles, Panda Su, Trapped In Kansas, Holy Mountain, Kid Canaveral, Conquering Animal Sound and United Fruit.

Finally in a bit of (well earned!) shameless self promotion, what can we expect in the forthcoming from Olive Grove?
Our first release with Randolph's Leap was so well received that it was beyond what we expected. The EPs are selling so well the band are talking about doing a second release with us and our launch night was over capacity. Out next release is with the wonderful Esperi. It is a split double A Side for Christmas and the CD covers are handmade snowmen. This is going to be released on December 13th and we have pre-orders already! This will be available to purchase through the website. We are now in the process of considering our 3rd release. We have had people approaching us and we have been looking at artists to approach, but we are not rushing into anything and we want to completely agree on who we want to work with. If we are passionate about the people we work with and the release then we will put 100% into it and that is when things really start to happen.

The Olive Grove Website
Glasgow Arts/Music Website Podcart
Esperi Myspace



Glasgow, Record Labels, Bands, Unsigned


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