Independent music is the future. The major label model is dying and artists and indie labels are taking over. You only have to look at all the artists that have jumped off the major label band wagon (Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Supergrass, OK-GO – the list goes on) to see that things are changing. This week we’ve brought in Jack Clothier from indie label Alcopop! to tell you why indies are the future, what they do, and how you can get their attention.
“Piracy, free downloads and streaming have ripped the game wide apart”
Much like when you first get a car and want to give people lifts to faraway places so you can blast them with your mixtapes, I think running a record label (especially an indie one) is first and foremost about having passion for the music you’re working with.
As I’m sure most prospective dabblers in the music industry realise, the whole bloody lot is in complete chaos, especially at the upper echelons of the pile. Piracy, free downloads and streaming have ripped the game wide apart – and while those companies that smugly signed and dropped vast quantities of my favourite bands back in the 90s – safe in the knowledge that they could always rely on a couple of acts generating astronomical sales to keep them in complementary flowers and bottles of Beaujolais – are well and truly f**ked, a new breed of ultra excited, genuinely forward thinking bunch of indies are appearing out of the woodwork – and to my mind, are gradually beginning to establish themselves as the future of music.
Now while I can’t deny I did have the odd fantasy of finding an unknown act, selling a million records and retiring to an island aged 26 – to me, running a label is all about the absolute unbridled joy of working with bands you fall in love with. I was lucky enough (almost by chance) to move in with an already fairly well established indie label boss, Kev at BSM, and through a series of shared vices (of which drinking, gambling and mid/late 90’s indie were some) – we formed Alcopop back in 2006 – with no massive set goals in mind, other than to work with bands we loved, put out creatively exciting records (that would buck the trend of your typical £8.99 jewel case in HMV mass produced standard stuff) and work with as many people with expense accounts as possible, so as to gain as many free drinks as possible.
“I like to see a band that is willing to put the miles in“
But while passion has to be the major driver to picking the bands you want to work with, maintaining expectations and ensuring you don’t lose all your money is so important too. Personally, I always like to see that a band is hard-working, willing to put the miles in for shows and proactive with their fanbase too – as one of the most important things for up-coming bands or labels really is connecting with the community who are interested in you and buy your records. Whether that’s through social media, offering special deals and products that are different from the norm (we always try to put out a bonus disc, limited edition packaging, T Shirt deals or crazily conceived compilations) we always try to look at what we’re putting out and think “why would I buy that” – and it’s all the easier if you have a history of lovingly collecting 7’s, buying tour merch and generally digging indie music.
But that’s not to say that a good indie is a must for every band, and while I’d never agree that labels are all going to be dead in the next few years, they’re not a necessity for everyone. For some proactive acts it can work really well to go it alone… It’s a cliché, but signing to a label really is where the hard work properly begins! However, from our perspective, a good indie is often worth having around purely for the shared contacts, experiences, work ethic and a general passion, enthusiasm and knowledge they can offer to your band. We’ve signed acts from whole different points in their career, so we always try to adapt to offer what’s best for them. While some bands might just want us to add a little creative flair to the release package and get it out on time to our and their fanbases, to others we offer more of a managerial style role, helping out with gigs, agents, press, radio etc.
“Indies are beginning to establish themselves as the future of music”
I think the key to indie labels is to be adaptable, and not try doing too much too soon. Reputations need to be built not bought – and basically, I think my number one piece of advice for a record label would be to do it for the right reasons, make sure you’re enjoying it and that the bands you work with are awesome, both musically and personally. You’ll be putting a lot of time and effort for them, and you need to be having an awesome time too…
Keep it indie!
Alcopop! are home to Amazing Radio favourite My First Tooth and have been releasing records in all manner of interesting ways since 2006. If you have questions about your band’s next step or if you’re just a bit curious about the music industry, leave a comment here, tweet @amazingtunes, Facebook us, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.