Independent labels

Why the hell would anyone want to start a label? Why would they want to spend their every waking hour wondering whether Spangle Sparklytrousers fanzine was into their latest three chord thrash wonderteens? or whether the boss will notice them running off another 10000 flyers on the photocopier? or if the NME will slag them off in an even vaguely amusing way this week? or if they can squeeze another box of unsold records ("ahead of their time, mate") into the *ahem* back catalogue stored under their bed? Can they go without food three days this week to get a bit more studio time for their latest proteges? Will hiring the Camden Falcon on the same Monday night as the UEFA cup final turn out to be a financial disaster? Can they stomach another trip to the post office to send this record to another 20 journos who'll claim it's shit now but love it in 3 years when the band's huge on Sony?

All will be revealed as we speak to the people behind labels ranging from the might of Beggar's Banquet, through the credibility of Che, the anti-music biz of Org and the fledgling tape-only labels Crash the Luau and Best Kept Secret. The same four questions were put to everybody:

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

If you run a label and want to answer the questions yourself, feel free to email your answers to me cos this feature is intended to grow over time.


A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H, I-K, L-N, O-Q, R-Se, Sf-Sz and T-Z

Graham, Lal Sunny Croft, Mayo Street, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0BY

1. The local music scene is very poor (Cumbria), and we wanted to help give these bands a chance.

2. Of ours, I would like our first but the quality is very poor. The second release, by 'The Scaramanga Six' is a top, top record, which I would defiantly rush out and buy.

4. Er, I don't really know. I suppose the next Kenickie would be great, but so would just about any good band.

4. Well I thinks that's what we need as we are still very inexperienced, but I say start slowly and work you're way up!

Tony, Leaf Suite 209, Bon Marche Building, 444 Brixton Road, London, SW9 8EJ

1. we heard the Boymerang tracks that Graham Sutton was working on (then as Bark Psychosis), and as they'd just been dropped by Virgin, we felt that someone had to put them out, and set the label up for that alone...

2. probably my favourite release so far has been the A Small Good Thing album, which was virtually ignored. But this year I've got loads of great stuff coming - should be our best year yet

3. oh jesus. Off the top of my head.... Airfix Twin covering Happiness Is A Warm Gun... will that do?

4. don't spend more than you've got to start with, or than you can hope to make back on, say, 1,000 twelves. If you do, you're probably doing something wrong

Warren, Larrikin c/o FMG po box 16 Pyrmont NSW 2009, Australia

1. in 1974 there wasn't too much Australian music being released so I started my label with modest ambitions of issuing interesting Australian music. First album was Australia's first-ever industrial folk song collection called Manof The Earth

2. Eric Bogle's 'Now I'm Easy' as it brought one of Australia's most accomplished songwriters to world fame.

3. I achieved my dream release in Larrikin's extensive Aboriginal catalogue and especially the traditional recordings.

4. do! It can be rewarding, frustrating and even financially rocky but ever so much fun.

Adie, Lithium 29 Urquhart Road, Aberdeen, AB24 5LN

1. Just seemed like the natural thing to do after starting a fanzine. Was sick of grrrrreat bands here not getting the attention they deserved. Lithium was set up with intention of "signing" a couple of local bands we fancied (Lift and The Needles), and working on them, so the bands and label grow together (much like Creation and Primal Scream).

2. We've only had two releases to date (start of November)! "Teenage Bomb" by The Needles is the one I'm most pleased with. Our compilation album has a few tracks on it I'm not overly keen on. The mistake we made with that was trying to cover as much music as possible when we should've really just chosen 12 or so of the best tracks and left it at that... "Teenage Bomb" is the best debut release we could've ever hoped for.

3. I wish I could be the person to officially re-release "Tigermilk" by Belle & Sebastian (even though it's been bootlegged into oblivion by now). Aside from the fact it's one of my all-time favourite albums, it could also make me a millionaire.

4. Be prepared to lose lots of money and make lots of mistakes, but if you really believe in what you're doing you should just go for it...

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

Alasdair, Little Gems tiptop@dialstart

1. a series of twenty singles were made for a show in a gallery. to give them a certain uniformity a label was created. the name little gems was taken from the music stall i help run. before this i had a fantasy label called tip top. tip top has an amazing back catalogue.

2. there is always the taint of disappointment when something is eventually released. a project has come to its end. if i felt totally happy with anything i did i'd feel there was something wrong.p> 4. my first tip is give the label an interesting name and logo. his master's voice is a great name for a record label and has a great logo. emi isn't great and neither is their logo. but this is a bit subjective on my part. my second tip which is to think of your label as providing a service that allows other people access to the recordings you have released. i'm not sure whether this is a tip. my third tip isn't so much a tip either but with cheap cd-rs and mp3s entering the arena in a big way music-you-don't-have-to-pay-for may become a major influence on the sound of music creation in the future. or at least i'm hoping so. so don't worry about trying to be a commerical success. just do what you want. have fun.

Christelle, Mademoiselle

1. i was an hard core and punk gig promoter in France and when i arrive in London i did start a label to stay in this kind of scene and to do something different, it was an hobbie and it will stay an hobbie.

2. i did 5 releases so far in 3 years which is not a lot at all, i did like all of 'em for different felling, but i have to say the LULU'S MARBLE because i been in Tokyo at AKKO place for a month, i get fantastic time up there and one month after my come 'ere in London OKA the organ player call me up to say then AKKO die last night, it was a terrible shock for me and all her friends and family, so that why it makes this records more then special to me in my heart each time is in the air.

4. be real and keep the faith and spend all your hollyday and pub money at the records factory .

Jonathan, Magnetic PO Box 460816 S.F. CA. 94146-0816

1. basically to get music out that i found nobody else was intersted in putting out. this includes my own music, of course, so i imagine it's something of a vanity, kind of like 'if you just keep doing it eventually somebody will notice'. plus i never liked working for somebody else.

2. there are several. i really liked the last Dent cd, Verstarker. i've been very happy with all of our last 3 band releases as well, Alison Faith Levy's, Victor Krummenacher's and the Jack & Jill Fancy Birdhouse cds, but i have a feeling that when we get the next ones out they will sound even better to me.

3. this question doesn't really have much meaning for me because our label is run so much by the musicians that are on it that our dream releases are our own cds that we put out anyway.

4. don't expect to make money. don't try to pretend that you are a big label.

John, Mantra 17-19 Alma Rd, London, SW18 1AA

1. Lifelong ambition

2. Bim Sherman's "Miracle"---criminally over-looked masterpiece!

3. I think it's just around the corner waiting to be discovered!

Gerard, Matador

1. I didn't. The label was set up by someone else, my partner Chris Lombardi.

2. I'm quite pleased with all of them, though I think the new Cat Power album is particularly moving.

3. That's a bad question. With the exception of Venom, we already put out records by our favorite bands.

4. Think of what you can do well that someone else can't. Determine why you're doing it and try to work with people who feel the same way. Don't sign the Fall.

Robert, M.E.L.T. 2000

1. i was fed up listening to audiophile recordings over the many years working in the hifi field (I owned B&W Loudspeakers) and I wanted to get in touch with artists who can also perform their music live!

2. Flora Purim - Speed of Light

3. the forthcoming release of Juno Reactor in collaboration with Amampondo

4. avoid being a specialist label - it's boring!

Steve, Melting Vinyl PO Box 2927, Brighton, BN1 3SX

1. To do a free 7" at this year's Brighton Crawl. Sadly it was late but people got it eventually.

2. Our one and only.

3. The dream is really to have enough money so that when you see/hear a wonderful band you can put their record out rather than search your pockets, dig out 37p, set of keys and an old bus ticket and just wish. Otherwise, dream release would be a record that sold so much that we could buy Sony/Virgin etc, sack their bands, close down the companies, destroy the music business.

4. It's exciting when they come back from the plant. Then it gets boring. Folding sleeves, putting them in bags etc. Best advice is advertising and distro. Send flyers to zines etc, and try distros---everyone from Shellshock through to tine bedroom distros.

Laura, Merge P.O. Box 1235 Chapel Hill NC 27514 USA

1. There seemed to be a lot going on around the area that wasn't getting documented in any way. These great bands would be around for a few months and get burnt and disappear forever. So we thought, why not?

2. It is impossible for me to name any one release that I have been the most pleased with. I love so many of them. I'm still really damn glad we put out that Breadwinner "Burner" ep back in the day. It has aged beautifully.

3. I would really like to put out the next Versus album.

4. Don't overextend yourself. Start slow and easy and don't expect to sell tens of thousands of records....ever.

David, Mind Control/Kathode Ray PO Box 121135, Nashville, TN 37212-1135

1. Why did I decide to set up a label? I do consulting for bands, so I was getting tons of demos from bands who needed promotion and marketing help. Some of them were really good and they're weren't doing anything. There were a couple of bands who really blew me away. I thought the stuff needed to get out there, so I released it. Why wait on somebody else to do it? I already had the promotion/marketing backbone in place as well as just about everything else, so it seemed like the next logical step.

2. The release that I've been most please with is an album called Sniffing Glue by a Texas punk band called the Visitors. The demos kicked ass and I listened to them for about 18 months before we started on the record. These guys have incredible hooks and sociopolitical lyrics that are lacking from a lot of popular music today. We were remixing the masters to do the disc, but there was a rush to get something out before a big festival that they were playing in England. So...we just released the demo tapes with a few touch ups. It's not too raw, but it's just rough enough that it has a cool sense of urgency. Plus, I could finally listen to those demo tapes on CD!

3. My dream release? I'm anxious to get the Visitors in with a more experienced producer, a larger budget, and plenty of studio time. I wouldn't want any "special guests" and it might take away from their natural talent.

4. As far as starting a label, just know that it's a pretty expensive hobby at first and make sure that you have everything planned out as far as your budget is concerned. Don't let you ego dictate how much you're spending. You can probably cut some corners and save money by doing a lot of the leg work yourself, but never underestimate how getting a true professional can help you and save you money in the long run.

Grant, Mint Mint Records, POB 3613 MPO, Vancouver BC, Canada V6B 3Y6

1. To document our local scene. Seven or eight years later, I'm not sure if we've accomplished that or not.

2. Sales-wise, cub, gob and Lou Barlow, creativity-wise, Neko Case's album, cub's second album "Come Out, Come Out".

3. The Rolling Stones "England's Newest Hit Makers"

4. Be very, very careful with your spending. Keep promotional costs very low, and always be moving cautiously forward. Always go with your gut instinct.

Kees, Monkeyman Keulsekade 28, 3531 JX Utrecht Netherlands

1. Not enough opportunities for Dutch independent bands. I also run a booking agency and needed to get my bands on record.

2. On my Label? It's Deeper Shades if JW Roy & The One Night Band. All time best album would be Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet

3. Real dreams like: a new Jimmy Hendrix album or Queen with Freddy Mercury like many people I started to appreciate it when he was dead.

4. Don't spend to much on recordings. Find the right lowbudget studios. Do spend a lot on promoting your albums.

rkf, Monotremata PMB 515, 815-A Brazos St. Austin, TX 78701, USA

1. Partly to release CDs by my own band Autodidact, partly to release CDs of an experimental nature by other bands i like, just to get more good music out there.

2. So far probably the first one -- Mason Jones: MIDNIGHT IN THE TWILIGHT FACTORY -- which looks brilliant, sounds brilliant, and has gotten almost uniformly positive reviews.

3. Odd that you mention that -- the forthcoming release fits this description personally: Angel'in Heavy Syrup: IV (licensed for US release from Alchemy in Japan). Angel'in Heavy Syrup is one of my all-time favorite bands and it would be a pleasure to release anything by them... but the new CD is not only excellent, but the artwork (designed by Ohno, guitarist of Solmania and in-house designer for Alchemy Records) is flat-out stunning. A close second would be anything by Cheer-Accident, and we are discussing that as a possibility for sometime next year. I also wouldn't mind putting out anything by Robert Poss (formerly of Band of Susans).

4. How about two tips for the price of one? 1) Make sure you understand your reasons (is it solely for your own band, just a hobby, or a serious attempt at becoming a full-fledged label?) and follow suit accordingly. 2) Be prepared to lose $$$. Lots of it. In fact, if you can't afford to put out 4-6 records, over a period of one or two years, without making any $$$ at all, you probably shouldn't do it. It takes a long time to make back $$$ on most albums, if you make back any at all, and lack of cash flow is what cripples or outright kills most small labels.

Phil, Mook PO Box 155, Leeds LS7 2XN

1. I was running a rehearsal studio and hearing a lot of good bands. All too often, they'd go make a demo, play it to me, and the results would be disappointing - a watered down version of the sound they'd get when practising. So I decided to set up a label to attempt to do those bands justice. Mook recordings are always based on a strong live take with all the band playing together. The recording is then built up as necessary, but that initial vibe is all important, even if some of the parts only end up as guides and are subsequently redone.

2. Probably the first Chest record - the "Destiny Phones" EP because it established the way of working, not only of getting a good performance from the musicians, but of working very closely with them on the dynamics of their songs. And it gave me a real taste for producing, which is definitely the best part of the job. Plus the whole approach was vindicated through airplay and reviews. The record was runner-up NME Single Of the Week, but best of all for me was Organ Fanzine's review which seemed to grasp exactly what we were trying to achieve when they described it as being "lovingly crafted". That's a description that I hope would apply to all Mook recordings - we're about making records, not just releasing them.

3. I'm in the middle of recording two bands - Percy and Pop Threat at the moment. The tracks sound great and I can't think of any better releases to be doing right now. Beyond that though, a Mook Allstars album of seventies Glamrock classics might be fun, maybe as a kind of Millenial update on Phil Spector's Christmas Album - with lots of lottery funding of course.

4. You need to do it because you're a music fan, not because you expect to make money. That said, find a distributor before pressing any records. Send a tape or CDR of your proposed release and a schedule of your next proposed release(s) - you should be thinking two or three records ahead. And if you can't get a deal, ask yourself why. Are you sending your stuff to the wrong distributor, or are you just sending the distributor the wrong stuff?

Wim, Morc Boerderijstraat 10, 8880 Sint-Eloois-Winkel, Belgium

1.I am in a band myself, and at the time, i was not happy with my deal with Washtub DC records. they just put their name on the tape and that's all. so i thought, i can do this better myself.

2. I really love the tape by richie cunningham, that will be released as a split with pernath. the song material is just great.

3. I'd love to release something by Swearing At motorisits.

4. don't start to quickly. prepare the label decently, otherwise, the first releases wil hardly reach anyone

Adrian, Michael and Stephen, Moshi Moshi

1. the three of us had been bemoaning the lack of N4 based labels, found some good music which wasn't getting an outlet, wanted to waste a lot of time, money and effort on something which gave very little reward but was a fucking good laugh, wanted to show off to all our mates, all fancied ourselves as Richard Branson and more importantly felt that we could bring about world peace through self indulgent leftfield pop tunes.

2. Sukpatch as its a record you could take home to meet your parents or Junkboy's 'Robot and Proud EP' its a great modernist record, electro pop with the ghost of Brian Wilson shining in the background, but its difficult to choose one when there's three of us involved so maybe we'll go for Stephen's choice and say Nelson Mandela.

3. Michael: Ingo Star Cruiser 'ps i cuddle a box' (moshimoshi's first album and next release), "trust me Pete writes beautiful tunes and tells good jokes what more could the discerning music fan ask for in a pop star." Stephen: stevie wonder singing a track written by rik knowles and produced by green velvet. remixes by arab strap and wookie. kelis doing backing vocals Adrian: i'd like to steal Alfie from Twisted Nerve and release their album but failing that a 7"split with Stuart Murdoch and Kid Spatula once appeared in a dream i had about discus throwing ....

4. keep smiling, get involved with some decent people who know what they're doing, sounds simple but fuck me its hard work -isn't it Michael? and set up a website as soon as you can, its a great way of unloading all the rambling bollocks that runs around in yer head - why's my vinyl always covered in fluff?

Keisuke, Motorway 3-2-18-2C shioyaki ichikawa chiba 2720114 JAPAN

1. to release my band, bands which I love and friend band

2. recent one is HAPPILY EVER AFTER 7" (motor-038), old one is PLANETE ZEN (motor-017)


4. You can start your own label if you know unknow great band that you love. Believe your ears.

Peter, Ninja Tune

1. i didn't - Coldcut started it in 1990 because Big Life weren't prepared to release the music they were making. i joined in 1992 - why? Dunno - because music is very importnat to me and i was fed up with my previous job.

2. Ninja Cuts - Flexistentialism

3. Cinematic Orchestra - 'Motion' [just the best.....]

4. release only music you love [or at least think is worth the hassle], don't release records by people you can't get on with, don't expect it to grow quickly, it takes ages and starts embarrassingly small, don't spend money you don't have, work like a bastard, don't give up, enjoy it.

Chris, No-fi

1. Both Chelsea (my partner in No-Fi) and I worked at another indie label for awhile. A demo tape came in from a band that we both really liked---the label we were at didn't want to do anything with it so we decided to release it ourselves.

2. I've liked everything we've released---certainly not anything that I've later regretted. Personally, the Last Days Of May release is probably the most important to me since I was such a major Karl Precoda fan way back in the days of the Dream Syndicate.

3. Stan Ridgway covering "Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer".

4. Start with a release that your really, REALLY like, because you're going to be listening to it forever, promoing it, selling it, etc. forever as your label gets established.

Mike, Noseflute

1. Because I didn't think I could find anyone interested in releasing the sort of music I was making , as well as having the freedom to put the sort of records out I wanted to without having to worry about weather it sold well or not.

2. The last cdr I put out "are you Hexperienced" mainly because it was on cdr and I didn't have to come up with large sums of cash for a 500 minimin run.

3. To put out a compilation of all the great bands I have seen over the years that never got to record.

4. Believe in yourself, don't worry about sales, put out what you want and find your market, it will be out there, plus the internet is absolutely invaluable finish.


A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H, I-K, L-N, O-Q, R-Se, Sf-Sz and T-Z

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