Hard to put a label on it

Blog by LIVE UK under Record Labels

“At that early stage it’s essential to be able to work with a label or a manager that can operate in all areas of the industry so that, as an artiste, you can get on with what you do well,” says Al Mobbs, who has launched two labels, Ambiguous Records and CRC Music Group.

“My income comes from a lot of business models. It’s a mixture of promoting, producing and recording songs for people.

“Our last release was for Alice Gun – who recorded the album at home. At that level you do it for the launch and the live shows, which is where you make money. It can cover the cost of the recording.”

Kerry Harvey-Piper co-founded Red Grape Records in 2006, with husband Callum MacColl, and it has since evolved to include artiste management.

“If you’re running a business you need to make money – it’s the music business, not the music charity,” she says. “The primary aim is to at least break even. If you’re an artiste running your own business, it’s different because you’ve got a number of income streams.”

Red Grape’s roster currently has five artistes, including Hafdis Huld and  Colour Of Sound.

“You need to get a good team around you. It doesn’t have to include a label or a manager per se, but you have to have people who can get you to the next step,” says Harvey-Piper.

Alison Wenham, chairwoman of independent labels body the Association of Independent Music (AIM), says that an increasing number of the organisation’s 850 members are moving into new areas, such as management and live promotion.

“Income now comes from a number of different sources. A lot of people who come to AIM are older than you might expect and many come from other areas of the industry – they see an opportunity to diversify.”

“If there’s enough money coming in then it can go towards other areas. Often we find that labels are working so closely with their artistes that they’re basically a partnership. There’s an opportunity to take an active part in other directions.”

Fiercely indie

Simon Williams formed Fierce Panda in 1994, with then fellow NME journalists John Harris and Paul Moody, and in 2001 he began promoting Club Fandango nights at London’s Dublin Castle (cap. 150) in Camden.

Showcases have followed at venues across the city and since 2010, Williams has been running The Bull and Gate (150) in Kentish Town, promoting his acts and those of other independent labels.

“We say they can have the night to themselves and we will cover the costs of the venue and share the profits. For labels it can focus the mind,” says Williams, who has released singles and put on early gigs for acts such as Coldplay and Keane.

“It’s part of the same thing, so it can be hard to see what comes first. Some people set up a label and then a live night to grow off it, or the other way around, where you’ve already got an audience for the label of the 500 people who went to your gigs.”

Visible Noise, which has worked with bands such as Lostprophets, Bullet For My Valentine and Bring Me The Horizon, branched out two years ago into management under the name Wiseblood – with acts including Evile and Mothlite.

A&R director Julie Weir says, “We have always been a multi-faceted company and worked across label, publishing and sync, and also on gig booking with some bands.”

But she adds, “Most labels now wouldn’t really give out a great deal of tour support as they don’t get anything back on live.”

Tim Dellow at Transgressive agrees that, in his experience, fewer independent labels are getting involved in gigging in the current climate.

“I don't know how many labels offer substantial tour support now, certainly not without expecting anything back in return.”

Transgressive, formed in 2004, now has management and publishing divisions, singles label paradYse and Rockfeedback website, and has worked with artistes such as Graham Coxon, Johnny Flynn and The Shins.

“The DIY model can work, if you're of that mindset,” says Dellow. “But I like the idea of great, passionate people outside of the band, supporting the artistes and allowing them to concentrate on being creative.

“You have to have faith in long-term relationships and keep a long-term perspective.”

So, if you’re taking the indie route through choice or otherwise, it’s a case of having to do whatever needs doing to get your acts and business to the next level, and then perhaps again.    (“Twas ever thus,” Thomas Moore, 1817)


record label, record company, independent record labels, aim, alison wenham, association of independent music, digital music, record sales


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