Rock Label of the Week is focused on highlighting some of the biggest – or most obscure- labels that you may – or may not – have ever heard of.
- Name Of Label: Razor & Tie
- Founded: 1990.
- Location: New York, New York
- Label Type: Independent
- Distributors: Sony Music, RED Distribution
- Genre of Focus: Various (more focus on indie/hardcore bands)
- Current Roster: Chiodos, Norma Jean, Brand New, For The Fallen Dreams, The Pretty Reckless, Kevin Devine, P.O.D.
- Inactive Roster: The Bongos, The Clarks, The Crimson Armada, Just Surrender, Seven Nations.
- Website: http://www.razorandtie.com/
Entrepreneurs Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam created Razor & Tie Records in 1990. The label was originally slated to reissue albums for various artists, as well as producing late night television ads. The first big project slated for Razor & Tie would be their 70’s Preservation Society, where they produced compilation albums themed towards the 1970’s. This would later develop into their production of Monster Ballads, Monsters of Rock and – in year 2000 – Kidz Bop. Kidz Bop shot Razor & Tie into success, selling over 12 million copies since it’s beginning and almost always charting at the top when released.
The name Razor & Tie came about when Chenfeld and Balsam were discussing the idea of starting their own label. Both men had been attorneys before settling into their new project, and the pact for the duo is that they would, “never want to wear a tie again, and never wanting to shave unless they really wanted to shave.” These words would reflect itself into their name, Razor & Tie, and even today, some argue that since the inception of rock artists into the roster, the name itself almost sounds inherently “metal.” In an interview with John Franck, Razor & Tie’s marketing director, he even states that he has seen Chenfeld dress very nicely, but has never actually seen him wear a tie. You can hear more of the John Franck interview here.
Within the past few years, Razor & Tie has been working, in full force, to expand its rock roster (in the Franck interview noted above, he describes how rock never really goes away, but how the independents are the guys giving the bands a chance while the major labels don’t see rock as profitable). This is very apparent when you are reading any articles online about the label, including it’s most recent signing of The Pretty Reckless. In 2010, Razor & Tie entered a joint venture with Artery Recordings, which has created a juggernaut of hardcore music within the label. Artery began sharing artists with Razor & Tie (such as Chelsea Grin and Vanna), which put them on the map as a rock label within the states (Kidz Bop, while still lucrative, is no longer the only claim to fame!) In a different interview, John Franck taps on the venture between Razor & Tie and Artery Recordings:
“Our relationship with the Artery Foundation/Artery Recordings is a great one and one that will continue to grow with time. The genesis of the deal pre-dates me and the credit goes to Dylan Chenfeld and Eric Rushing who saw the potential to create something together. We’ve quietly sold over 180,000 albums together and I feel like our relationship is just hitting its stride. Will we try to create similar partnerships down the road? Time will tell.” [Razor & Tie Profile]
Chelsea Grin on the cover of Discovered Magazine.
Other than it’s vast roster and business ventures, what really sets Razor & Tie apart from the big guys is that virtually everything is done in house. Not only is the company a record label with a major label distributor (Sony and Red), but they are involved in home video, media buyouts, publishing, marketing, promotions, A&R, etc. [Label Profile] The core values of the company are focused on being completely involved with each artist they are working with, and with all the ventures the label has invested in, it makes sense (from overseeing all Kidz Bop promotion and production to the latest Chiodos album). Any successes and failures fall on the hands of the company, but with the control, it’s an easier pill to swallow.
Norma Jean Stamping Vinyl on R&T Instagram.
If there is one thing to take away from this look inside Razor & Tie, it is that they are firm believers in giving every band a chance. From the big acts to the up-and-comings, the focus is on the music, and how the music can reach its potential. With smaller bands, the focus lies on finding artists that can create their opportunities and write good songs. With the big acts, the focus is on whether the material is there, but also where the bands fan base is. These factors are key, and on a band-to-band basis, the focus is on whether or not the band is ready (something we have explored in our artist manager class here at Berklee).
For this edition of Rock Label of the Week, I would love to leave some wise words on artist management and the music industry from marketing director John Franck. Soak in the glory this man speaks, until our next blog:
“The business has drastically changed over the past decade. The retail account base has dramatically diminished; the way music is consumed and monetized is still constantly evolving. Every signing is different, but the fundamental need to have a healthy/transparent relationship with artist/manager remains the same. As a business, we have to stay rooted in reality. There has to be transparency from the on-set of the relationship, and if everyone’s expectations are clearly defined and re-defined throughout the course of the project it helps move things along. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but I’ve always viewed the relationship between label and manager as a balancing act. That will never change.” [Razor & Tie Profile]
SAMPLE THE CURRENT ROSTER
Looking for more reading material? Check out my blog Heavy Bass and Breakdowns on WordPress!