ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Dine Alone Records

Dine Alone Records

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: Dine Alone Records
  • Founded: 2005.
  • Location: Toronto, Canada.
  • Label Type: Independent.
  • Distributors: Fontana North
  • Genre of Focus: Everything from Indie Rock-Hardcore.
  • Current Roster: At The Drive-In, City And Colour, Jimmy Eat World, Kate Nash, The Jezabels, The Lumineers, We Are Scientists, Yukon Blonde.
  • Inactive Roster: Alexisonfire, Attack In Black, Children Collide, Hot Hot Heat, Deer Tick, Johnny Truant, Songs From A Room, The End.
  • Website: http://www.dinealonerecords.com

Dine Alone Records all began with Joel Carriere in 2005. Carriere, one of the more ambitious dudes in the industry, was managing Canadian hardcore band Alexisonfire under Bedlam Music Management when the realization hit that the management company could also take care of label duties. Dallas Green (City and Colour, formerly of Alexisonfire) was looking to release some of his solo work, and Carriere took initiative, creating Dine Alone Records and releasing cd’s. The first release would be Dallas Green’s album Sometimes with the moniker City And Colour.

The fact of the matter: Carriere is a man of music. Having been a child in the hardcore music scene, he knew at an early age he wanted to work in music. Before Bedlam Music Management, he worked for PolyGram, and after leaving there founded Bedlam Society, a website dedicated to music exposure in Canada. This is where he would meet lots of bands, including Alexisonfire (arguably one of their biggest successes on the label). Alexisonfire would go on to release 5 successful studio albums before their separation in 2011, leaving their legacy on the label. Alexisonfire (and Dallas Green) would give Bedlam Music the push into the creation of Dine Alone Records.

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Alexisonfire.

Because Bedlam Music Management was already established at the inception of Dine Alone Records, Carriere was able to utilize his contacts to build his roster for the label. Bands that were already signed to Bedlam Music Society were being signed to the new label, giving Dine Alone creative and financial control over the artists (this also meant less interference with other labels). But when it comes to A&R, Carriere explains what’s important when signing a band:

“On the label side, it’s obviously all about the music and that’s something my employees have to love. There have definitely been times where not all of them are feeling a certain artist, and I don’t think it would be fair for me to sign a band that I just love. If they don’t like the bands they work with on a day-to-day basis, then it will seem like I’m putting them into that major label kind of world. I don’t want them to have to work on stuff they don’t like, at least not at this point.” [Blare Magazine Interview]

However, Carriere makes a point to acknowledge that you cannot sign everyone you like:

“There’s always that art-versus-commerce thing you have to play with and being such a big music fan it’s tough. I sign everything because I’m a huge fan of it, I can’t sign everything I’d like to sign because I’d go bankrupt.” [City News Interview] 

Dine Alone has gone on to sign some big, yet diverse, acts. While Alexisonfire was a strictly hardcore act, Dine Alone also signed Jimmy Eat World under the same merit (considered to be more on the rock/alt rock genre). Then there are the super successes, like the Lumineers, who are signed to the label. The folk group has released one self-titled album, which has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and two Billboard awards. Their single, “Ho Hey” would reach platinum in the United States, and is featured in numerous television series.

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The Lumineers.

With the success of Dine Alone, Carriere created a new label this year called New Damage Records (named after a song by Soundgarden). The new label focuses on music in the hardcore/metal realm, with their roster boasting the likes of Architects, Cunter, Hawk Eyes, and Misery Signals. Due to this roster and Carriere’s legacy, the label has gotten the attention of others in the industry, and the outlook for the future of the label is positive. In a statement about the inception of New Damage, Carriere shares his positive outlook:

“Come watch us succeed or fail at building a new brand from the ground up. One thing is we are going to have a ton of fun doing it.” [Sonic More Music] 

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New Damage Records Logo.

Further, what better venture to get into than food? Dine Alone Records has gone on to create a food line too, called Dine Alone Foods. Run by Carriere and Jordan Hastings from Alexisonfire, the food line is made up of sauces, from hot sauce to BBQ. In conjunction with the food line, Dine Alone Records created a game titled Dine Alone Iphone Game in which you fatten up your avatar in order to get access to downloads from City and Colour and Yukon Blonde. On why the conjunction seemed right, as explained by John Higney:

“MuchMusic, MTV, they realized 20 years ago that what they’re involved in is lifestyle marketing, So many people that are into indie music are into food. It becomes one of these ancillary lifestyle things that go along with indie music—like craft beers.” [Canada Interview]

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Dine Alone Iphone Game.

In all, the ventures all add up, and Dine Alone Records has blossomed into one of the youngest success stories in the record label industry. Carriere has his head on straight, and in an end to the article (and my time in artist management class!) Carriere explains the recipe for success:

“I think every company has a different recipe that works for them. Our recipe has always to learn from our mistakes and grow as a company each year. We started with one artist and two staff members and did a great job and continued to develop from there. Every time we saw an honest opportunity to further our collective careers, we went for it. I think we are pretty fearless, ethical and honest. We are a group of people who are massive music nerds and get to live out our dream job, but we’re also aware of the business side of it all – making sure we notice which musicians are actually focused on music and are willing to put their head down, hustle and work really hard. Not taking any of this for granted is very key. The quick ego inflation in this industry is something we see and we don’t want to be a part of. Some bands or peers like how we roll and some don’t.” [Blare Magazine Interview]

 

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Epitaph Records

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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: Epitaph Records
  • Founded: 1980
  • Location: Hollywood, CA.
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: RED, ADA, PIAS, Fontana
  • Genre of Focus: Pop Punk/Punk/Hardcore
  • Current Roster: Alkaline Trio, Bad Religion, Every Time I Die, I Set My Friends On Fire, letlive. Parkway Drive, Social Distortion, Weezer.
  • Inactive Roster: Alesana, The Distillers, Escape The Fate, From First To Last, Matchbook Romance, NOFX, The Offspring, The Sound Of Animals Fighting.
  • Website: http://www.epitaph.com/

Epitaph Record’s beginnings were as rock-and-roll as they get: with a band and the desire to distribute. The label was founded in 1980 by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz with the intention of pressing/selling Bad Religion albums. The first album released on Epitaph Records was a self titled EP from Bad Religion, followed by their debut LP How Could Hell Be Any Worse? The Vandals would get signed to Epitaph as the first band on the label other than Bad Religion, and after the release of a couple more albums, the label would take a hiatus from production along with Bad Religion (due to Gurewitz drug addiction.)

In 1987, both Bad Religion and Epitaph were back in full swing. Next year, Bad Religion would release their highly successful album Suffer, and in 1989 NOFX would be signed to Epitaph.  When the 90’s came around, Epitaph had gone on to sign Pennywise, The Offspring, Rancid, Total Chaos, etc. In 1994, the label would explode into success, with releases of NOFX’s album Punk In Drublic, Rancid’s album Let’s Go!, and The Offspring’s Smash (Smash would end up being one of the most successful independent albums of all time, being 6x certified platinum). Gurewitz describes the moment of realized success for Epitaph after the production of Smash:

“One night I was driving home and didn’t want to go in the house because I didn’t want to stop listening to [the Smash mixes]. I started circling the block listening to the record over and over on ten in my old Volvo station wagon. My wife greeted me at the door, and I said, “Honey, we’re gonna be rich.”” [Oral History Of Epitaph]

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The Offspring’s Smash Cover Art.

Through the successes of Epitaph, Gurewitz would make the decision to leave Bad Religion to focus on the label (he would later return to the band in 2001). In 1998, Epitaph created a sister label, ANTI-, that looked to diversify past punk rock. However, the creation of ANTI- would begin to change the face of Epitaph itself. Gurewitz looks back on signing ANTI-‘s first artist, Tom Waits:

“A turning point for Epitaph is when I began talking to Tom Waits. I knew that I didn’t want the label to only be for punk rock. I listened to more than punk rock, and more and more, I had wanted to diversify the sound of the label, particularly if the label was going to continue to work. That was a major milestone. A label that started as a punk-rock label in a garage had the audacity to sit down with Tom Waits. He’s the Bob Dylan of my generation.” [Washington Post]

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Tom Waits.

While Wait’s would sign to ANTI-, the inception of varying genres of rock began to infiltrate Epitaph (this would be key to the continued success of the label as punk rock decreased in mainstream popularity). Epitaph would later connect with Fat Possum (blues label), Burning Heart (Swedish grarage rock label), and Hellcat Records (partnership between Gurewitz and Tim Armstrong of Rancid that focuses on ska, punk, and hardcore music). All these ventures with other companies, and expanding the Epitaph roster, ultimately made the label more versatile.

As the years have gone on, some of the major bands Epitaph would sign would include Story Of The Year, Escape The Fate, Matchbook Romance, Vanna, and Thursday, to name a few. This detraction from the punk image Epitaph used to purely embody has upset many punk fans, especially when the label shares its roster with “emo” bands. To this, Gurewitz says:

“Whatever. They can start their own label.” [Washington Post] 

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Every Time I Die Performance.

Success is the willingness to expand and adapt, and Epitaph is still relevant in the industry because of this. Today, the company has gone worldwide, with offices in Amsterdam, Toronto, and Australia, and the company boasts a group of 50+ employees. While maintaining a “major” indie label status, the brand Epitaph developed still screams rebellion. Throughout the growth of his career and the growth of Epitaph, Gurewitz always stays true to advice his father gave him while he was starting out:

“He told me that the most important thing is honesty and integrity, and having character in your business relationships. If you do that and have a good reputation, no money can ever buy that, and it sticks with you forever. I’m not going to say I haven’t done some shitty things in my life, but I’ve always been a clean-dealing businessman between my customers, my competitors and my recording artists.” [Billboard]

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Matador Records

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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: Matador Records
  • Founded: 1989
  • Location: New York City, NY.
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: INgrooves, RED, ADA
  • Genre of Focus: Indie Rock
  • Current Roster: Belle and Sebastian, Cat Power, Interpol, The New Pornographers, Pavement, Queens Of The Stone Age, Sonic Youth.
  • Inactive Roster: Arsonists, Neko Case, Jaguar Love, Lou Reed, Mogwai, Pretty Girls Make Graves, M. Ward.
  • Website: http://www.matadorrecords.com/

Matador Records was founded in 1989 in under the bright lights of New York City. Founder Chris Lombardi began the record label under the roof of his apartment, and shortly after Matador’s inception, Homestead Records manager Gerard Cosloy would join in on the fun. Through hard work and connections, Matador was able to release albums from Superchunk (self titled LP) and Teenage Fanclub (A Catholic Education) in 1990, which would both turn out to be unexpectedly successful. The inflow of cash would allow the label to afford an office space, and sign Pavement. Pavement’s release Slanted and Enchanted in 1992, the label became a known force in the industry.

This success would be followed with the successful signing of Liz Phair. While Liz Phair’s biggest single “Why Can’t I?” doesn’t put her on the map as a “rock artist”, her earlier work under Matador was grungy (like a combo between the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Garbage). The singer songwriter released album Exile In Guyville in 1993, and was fairly revolutionary for female artists:

“Calling Exile In Guyville a “song by song” response to the Rolling Stones’ swaggering, staggering “classic” Exile On Main Street, Phair dared rewrite rock’n’roll’s heinous clichés from the lady’s perspective. Her blushingly frank take on modern sexual entanglements —sung with plenty of frank sailor-talk and confessionals overshare— gave a face, a voice, and a name to the women who, 20 years earlier, could’ve only found one place in rock culture: groupie.” [Matador Top 20 Albums

Through its successes, Matador partnered with Atlantic Records. Eventually, the partnership ended and the label was partially purchased by Capitol Records in 1996 (eventually Lombardi and Cosloy bought back full ownership of Matador, but lost Liz Phair to Capitol in the process). In 2002, Matador split ownership with by Beggars Group (Beggars also co-owns 4AD, Rough Trade, and XL Recordings) and through this venture, a London office for Matador was established in order to handle worldwide distribution/marketing for the label.

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Matador Records Merch.

 One of the keys to Matador’s success is that the label focuses on signing artists that have already released music prior to any deals being made. Chris Lombardi discloses the reasoning behind this choice:

“There’s something infinitely more attractive in an artist that already has a completed album, that has a record that we already know and like. We’re not A&R men in the archetypal sense: we don’t handhold the artists, sculpt them in the right image. We simply let them be as they are.” [Alt Music Matador History]

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Queens Of The Stone Age live at Letterman.

Matador independently handles their own A&R, art production and direct-store distribution with no outside influence, while Beggars handles the responsibilities of Matador Europe.

Matador also created one of the most beneficial marketing strategies for their label: The Matablog. With the Matablog, users that were selected by the admin (this role has been taken on by Patrick Amory, general manager of Matador) and are invited to blog openly on the website. Bloggers are encouraged to post material about Matador, including new releases, tour dates, etc. Record exec’s for Matador and artists on the label are also encouraged to post any relevant information about themselves/the label. The Matablog has created immense amount of traffic for the labels website, and Patrick Amory indulges in the purpose of the blog:

“The personality of the label – essentially the combination of all these factors – is, in turn, an important way of conveying to the public why they should be interested in buying our music.  Matador releases are not just a collection of songs or albums – they are part of a larger community of interesting, interested people.” [Hypebot Interview]

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Ceremony article on Matablog.

Matador Records is here to stay. With signed acts like Cat Power, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Pavement, the success of Matador has never faltered. On the labels website, the FAQ of the label ends with this:

“Throughout the label’s history, Matador has been a champion of artistic freedom, diversity and innovation. The label’s catalog and release schedule reflect the tastes of the company’s owners, Lombardi and Cosloy, and their longstanding commitment to sharing the music they love with as many others as possible.” [Matador Website]

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Wichita Recordings

wichita

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: Wichita Recordings
  • Founded: 2000
  • Location: London, United Kingdom
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: V2/Cooperative Music
  • Genre of Focus: Indie Rock/Post-Punk
  • Current Roster: Best Coast, The Dodos, First Aid Kit, Conor Oberst, Bloc Party, Wild Flag, The Cribs.
  • Inactive Roster: Peter Bjorn and John, The Blood Brothers, Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, Northern State, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
  • Website: http://www.wichita-recordings.com/

Wichita Recordings was founded in 2000 by friends Mark Bowen and Dick Green. Originally, the duo had both met while they were both working for Creation Recordings in London (Creation’s roster included Oasis, My Bloody Valentine, and The Jesus and Mary Train). When Creation dissolved in 1999, that became the beginning to Wichita, and in an interview with Bowen, he discusses the moment when Creation owner Alan McGee approached him about the idea of starting his own label:

 “When Alan and Dick stopped doing Creation, Alan took me to one side and told me to do my own label. I had never had any intentions of doing it, I was only thirty and thought I was too young. But a couple of weeks later me and Dick sat down for a drink and he said he wanted to do a label but he wasn’t ready to do one on the scale of Creation by the end. He wanted to do something which only involved us, something smaller but we would be really into. He wanted to build something slowly, and not be in any rush. So I thought, that sounds more like it, more my kind of scene! Starting a record company to sell a million records sounded like hard work, this sounded more like a sensible way to find my way back into life after Creation ended.” [Clash Music Interview] 

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Where it all began.

The first album to release under Wichita would be one to envy; Bright Eyes album Fevers and Mirrors. The story goes that Bowen stumbled upon Bright Eye’s music on the Saddle Creek website, and was compelled to buy an EP and check it out. Bowen was impressed, and the Bright Eyes were signed. However, Wichita Recordings had been under the impression that the band was already a huge success in the USA, when the band, in actuality, had only sold around 900 copies of their music. Apparently, they signed the band for a pretty good sum, but as it’s known, Bright Eyes would make that money back, becoming one of the bigger indie darlings of the decade. Today, Wichita Recordings still works with Conor Oberst (lead singer of Bright Eyes) in producing and distributing his solo music.

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Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.

A few years down the line, Wichita had gone through some bouts of upset. Two of their biggest acts, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and My Morning Jacket had moved to major labels after blooming success under Wichita. However, the guys at Wichita would accidently stumble upon a band that would change it all for the label. That band is Bloc Party:

“It was the Saturday before Christmas and I was meant to be home in Wales, but I missed my train and thought I’d wait and see this band. Went to the ICA and it was completely empty. I fell in love with them. It was really odd – my touchstones were The Smiths and for Dick it was New Order, and Bloc Party seemed to sound like both. Kele struck me as a Morrissey heir; his words were fantastic. He was a reticent star, but magnetic nonetheless.” [Time Out Bahrain Interview] 

Bloc Party would be asked to sign to Wichita Recordings, and their album, Silent Alarm, became a huge success for the band and the label. Silent Alarm (features songs Banquet, Helicopter, and So Here We Are) would sell approx. 61,000 albums in its first week in the UK, and in the USA the album reached #7 on Billboard Top Independent Albums in 2005. The album would eventually go to sell over a million copies, and Silent Alarm was certified platinum.

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First Aid Kit doing Karaoke.

It is typical for labels to be caught in controversy (Victory Records, Rise Records), but Wichita has seemingly avoided any problems within the label. The label’s focus: “no wankers”. Wichita has remained very focused on the quality of the bands they sign, and has refused the idea of selling out. Bowen highlights this in our close to this weeks Rock Label of the Week:

“To this day we look for something different, and if you look back over the ten years most of the records still stand up. Most of the bands still have careers. Starting with Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst, I mean they’re still going ten years later and probably will be making music in another ten years. But that was always the case at Creation – look at Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream. That was the culture I was introduced into, that they could break through with their fourth record. If you look for the next big thing it becomes quite ephemeral.” [Clash Music Interview]

! On a side-note, did you know Wichita was responsible for the “whistling song that conquered the world?!

 

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Fearless Records

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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: Fearless Records
  • Founded: 1994.
  • Location: Huntington Beach, CA.
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: ADA, RED.
  • Genre of Focus: Alternative Rock/ Pop Punk/ Post- Hardcore
  • Current Roster: The Aquabats, Blessthefall, Breathe Carolina, Forever The Sickest Kids, A Skylit Drive, Tonight Alive, The Word Alive.
  • Inactive Roster: At The Drive-In, Every Avenue, Lostprophets, The Maine, Plain White T’s, Portugal. The Man, Sugarcult, A Static Lullaby, Sparks The Rescue.
  • Website: http://www.fearlessrecords.com/

Back in 1991, Bob Becker founded/created Fearless Records. Becker, who was the original singer of band the White Kaps, was looking to release his bands music. During this period, he also spent a lot of time selling cd’s at concerts, record stores, etc. He then sought out advice from Dr. Strange Records in CA and found a recording studio, producer, and a pressing plant, officially starting Fearless Records. The name Fearless Records came to Bob when he issued his first album off the label:

“I figured I had to put something on there, so I thought ‘Fearless.’ It fit because I didn’t know what I was doing and I felt like I was being fearless about this whole thing. Then I made this kind of cheesy logo with these little dark eyes on it, and I slapped it on that record.” [Orange County Register Interview]

Around 1997 is when Fearless began the hunt to sign more bands, as Bob Becker moved the label from Torrance, CA to Huntington Beach. He went on to sign bands 30footFall, Big Wig, and (the band who would put history on the map) At The Drive-In. Fearless released ATDI’s next two albums (which were very popular in the scene at the time) before the band decided to go on an indefinite hiatus. The group members would later form bands The Mars Volta and Sparta, and it looked that the band was over, for good. However, At The Drive-In put Fearless in the forefront of rock labels, and soon after the hiatus of ATDI, the label expanded its roster into more genres of rock.

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At The Drive-In.

Fearless would go on to have further successes within the next 10 years of its inception. Two bands that found success on the label are Sugarcult and Plain White T’s. Sugarcult’s Palm Trees and Power Lines, a Fearless release, featured their powerhouse single, Memory, which was featured on numerous television shows, video games, and which had steady rotation on MTV and VH1. Plain White T’s, which you may have heard of, released their album All That We Needed on Fearless, which featured the massive hit Hey There, Delilah. The song became a multi-platinum single, and the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Arguably one of the biggest successes Fearless Records has had since its beginnings, however, would be its Pop Goes… compilation albums. The albums feature popular punk bands doing covers of popular songs (aside from Pop Goes Acoustic 1 & 2, which feature bands performing their own original work performed acoustically). The first album, Punk Goes Metal, debuted in 2000, and as of 2013, Fearless has released 13 compilation albums under the Pop Goes… name. The most recent album, Punk Goes Christmas, is due to be released November 5th, 2013. A percentage of the proceeds from Punk Goes Christmas will be donated to MusiCares, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the music community with financial, medical, and HR services.

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Fearless Santa Delivering Punk Goes Christmas.

As of 2012, Fearless announced the inception of their sister label, Old Friends Records. Bob Becker would make a statement on behalf of Fearless about their new business venture:

“Old Friends came about from us being fans of other styles of music, in addition to the genres that fall under the Fearless brand, and wanting to release records that were more geared towards the indie rock / alternative world. It will allow us to work with the bands that we discover that don’t necessarily fit with Fearless, and release music geared towards alternative radio, without confusing our established audience. We’re excited that we will be able to diversify and work with even more talented artists via Old Friends.” [BryanStars Interviews] 

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Old Friends Records Logo.

Currently, The Static Jacks and Hellogoodbye are signed to the label, with 5 album releases between the two bands. Portugal. The Man has also released an album through Old Friends Records.

So what is the secret to success, according to Bob Becker (the dude obviously knows what he is doing)? It involves hard work, and choosing the most deserving artists:

“I never take any of this for granted. I never think that I have everything figured out and that I can just kick back and relax. It’s tough living like that because you’re always on edge, but I think that’s what keeps me trying extra hard. We’re not a big label that has a huge investor behind it. We’re scrappy here and we’ve always approached things that way. I want to help the people that deserve to be successful. I look for good guys. I look for bands that can actually write songs, play live — and then there’s their work ethic. With the Internet now, you can see which bands are working hard and getting their music out there.” [Orange County Register Interview]

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Rise Records

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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: Rise Records
  • Founded: 1991.
  • Location: Beaverton, Oregon
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: ADA, INgrooves.
  • Genre of Focus: Metalcore/Post-Hardcore/Pop Punk
  • Current Roster: The Acacia Strain, Dance Gavin Dance, The Early November, Memphis May Fire, Of Mice & Men, Issues.
  • Inactive Roster: Attack Attack!, Drop Dead, Gorgeous, From First To Last, Isles & Glaciers, Small Towns Burn A Little Slower.
  • Website: http://www.riserecords.com/

Craig Ericson founded rise Records in 1991. The label originated in Nevada City while Ericson was still in school. He sold a few 7” records for bands Up To Here and Slydog before he put Rise on hiatus while he went to college (he would attend Chico State for cartography). Fast-forward 8 years later to 1999, where Ericson relocated to Portland, Oregon. It was here he pulled Rise out of hiatus with the release of One Last Thing’s album The Foster Portfolio in 2000. At this time, they would also release 7” recordings for Tenpin, The Lonely Kings, and The Secludes.

Originally geared as a punk-screamo label, some of the first bands they founded included Anatomy Of A Ghost, Fear Before The March Of Flames, and Drop Dead, Gorgeous. However, things began to really pick up for the label in 2006, after they signed The Devil Wears Prada. Ericson, who had been working a day job as a cartographer, took on Rise full force in 2007, hiring two more people to help with the duties of the growing company. Ericson describes a day in the life of Rise:

“I think there’s a lot to it and there’s a lot of little stuff you need to do. All three of us that work here multi-task. We all pitch in. They do have duties and I have duties, but we all three manage the bands and talk to them and make sure they’re all good. We do all our stuff here. Matthew, our general manager, is a graphic designer, among other things. So we have someone doing graphic design, we have our distributor that we always have to be in contact with. There’s a whole bunch of little stuff. Making sure we don’t miss deadlines on artwork. Getting CD artwork is always a pain in the ass because you can’t put a time limit on art sometimes and we’re like, “We need the cover in two weeks.” We’ll give them a little reminder and it’s tough. We always have to bug people about deadlines, which sucks, but you’ve got to do it.” [Property of Zack Interview]

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Dance Gavin Dance filming their new music video through Rise Records.

What many people notice about Rise Records is the diversity within the roster. From the band Man Overboard (pop punk) to Emarosa (post-hardcore) to The Acacia Strain (metalcore), Rise is all over the place. Numerous fans have given Rise a lot of slack for avoiding conforming to a single genre of focus. However, Rise choses this path out of tact. The shelf life for a lot of these bands is short, so by signing many different types of genres, the label allows itself the ability to see what trends are rising or failing. Rise also gives itself more diversity, and whether people like it or not, the focus is on whether a band is good, not what genre it falls into:

We will continue to sign metalcore bands. We will continue to sign rock bands. We will continue to sign Pop-punk bands. We will continue to metal/thrash bands. We will continue to sign hardcore bands. Get my message?? [Limited Run Interview] 

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Issues playing around on the streets of Portland, Oregon.

As of this year, Rise Records has relocated from Portland, Oregon to Beaverton, Oregon. For Rise, the move would save them money in taxes that they had been paying in Portland (thought to be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands dollar amount). While many critics say, for a current 5-person team, Rise probably wouldn’t save that much money in the move. However, as of late, 35 bands are signed to Rise Records .As of 2012, Rise was making $3 million in profits and $10 in revenue, which means city taxes are killer. Through a smart move, the relocation to Beaverton will save some money, and will allow Rise to flourish even more than it has. [The Oregonian].

However, no label is without a little controversy (or if you are Victory Records, a ton of controversy). Jonny Craig (former frontman of Dance Gavin Dance and Emarosa), who had been signed to Rise through different bands, was caught in the middle of an internet fraud scandal. Jonny Craig had promised to sell Macbooks to over 16 fans online, and while the fans paid, they never received their computers (it was believed that the money was used for Jonny’s drug addiction). When the story broke, Rise Records and Artery Recordings arranged for Jonny to go to rehab, and reimbursed the people who were subject to the fraud Jonny caused. [Alternative Press Article].

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Jonny Craig was the center of controversy at Rise Records.

Rise Records was able to pull themselves from an otherwise crappy situation, and continue to be a desirable label to work for, to this day. And whether your into pop punk or metalcore, Rise will give you something to look forward to. Take it away, Craig Ericson:

We’ve always gone against the grain. We know that word of mouth sells records and spending money on advertising doesn’t necessarily sell records. We’ve worked hard over the years to build a brand that the all-ages music scene can rely on. Whether it’s metalcore or pop-punk, kids can trust that Rise will release great albums from multiple genres. [Limited Run Interview]

 

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Victory Records

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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: Victory Records
  • Founded: 1989.
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois.
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: RED, ADA, INgrooves, PIAS.
  • Genre of Focus: Hardcome, Emo, Pop-punk.
  • Current Roster: A Day To Remember, Beneath The Sky, Emmure, Ill Nino, Otep, Design The Skyline.
  • Inactive Roster: Atreyu, Baside, Comeback Kid, Hawthorne Heights, Silverstein, Straylight Run, Taking Back Sunday, Thursday.
  • Website: http://www.victoryrecords.com/

Tony Brummel founded Victory Records in 1989, and today it is known as one of the biggest indie rock labels known globally. Brummel started the label at the ripe age of 18, and never looked back. Before the label began, a logo was to be created. Since its inception, Victory has been known for its logo featuring a bulldog. In an Interview with Brummel, he explains the reason for the bulldog:

“It happened before I started Victory I had gotten sick for about a week and I had a dream I started a record label and the logo was a Bulldog. So I’ve never owned a Bulldog, growing up we never owned one, I don’t plan on getting one it was just one of those things where I had a dream and the logo was a Bulldog.” [Absolute Punk Interview]

Some of Brummel’s first conquests included releasing a full length CD (prior to Victory, Brummel only released 7-inch records) and the release of his first CD under the new label, Snapcases album “Lookinglasself” (which would go on to sell 30,000 copies). Originally slated as a hardcore/punk label, as the label grew, so did the types of genre’s Victory would allow onto their roster.

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The Bunny and The Bear at Victory Records Head Quarters.

By 1997, Victory was on the fast path to success. They had secured a distribution deal with RED in the USA, but was also having music distributed to Canada, Belgium, Japan, UK, Australia, etc. Victory also began distributing through major retailers such as Best Buy, Amazon, and (the most important for the business) Hot Topic. Even today, when you walk into a Hot Topic store, you will find listening booth’s with Victory Records albums playing (how I was introduced to A Day To Remember’s “What Separates Me From You”). Victory also worked with Fuse TV to broadcast commercials for upcoming albums on the Victory roster. These marketing strategy’s widened the scale of the label, and in another interview with Brummel, he touches on the importance of marketing:

“At the end of the day, you never know what is going get somebody to buy a record. But it is extremely important to create awareness and hopefully create legitimate excitement. But it is such a fine line. There are so many artists you will read about in Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angles Times, the New York Times, and New York Post. Then their record comes out, and you never hear about that artist again. The main thing for us is trying to create legitimate excitement on the street. So we get music to someone who is a tastemaker and he or she tells 15 or 20 of their friends, ‘Hey, you have to check his out.’ I always wanted to be the guy on the block that knew about band X before everybody else did.” [Industry Profile]

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Positive Imagery of Victory Fans on Victory Records Instagram.

In 2002, Victory would sell a 25% minority interest to MCA Records. However, a little over a year after the sale, Brummel dissolved the relationship with MCA. A few years later, Victory had signed numerous powerhouse bands (Taking Back Sunday, Thursday, Hawthorne Heights, Atreyu, Silverstein, Bayside, etc.) and was being recognized for its star power. Victory also began sub-distributing with Rise Records and Standby Records. All these ventures would create a spotlight on Victory, for better or for worse.

Since the inception of partnerships and big name bands on the Victory roster, the label has been the center of numerous controversies. In 2005, Brummel attacked Apple in an email that went viral. In the email, sent to Alex Luke of Apple, Brummel spoke against ITunes polices (supposedly after a deal to partner didn’t go in Brummel’s favor). One of the email excerpts stated:

“The inflexibility on your side is mind boggling. This is art, if you have not forgotten. Do you think Michelangelo punched in and out when he painted the Sistine Chapel? Music consumers would look at your tactics as worse than those employed by the major record companies. I am surprised that Apple operates in such an authoritarian manner when its public image is that of a company run by creative types.” [Tony Brummel vs. ITunes]

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Brummel has become an online target for angry fans.

Further, Victory has destroyed numerous relationships with some of the biggest bands on their roster. Thursday would leave Victory in the early 2000’s, exposing disheartening problems they suffered while they worked through Victory. In 2006, Hawthorne Heights would go on to sue Victory for loss of royalties and how the band was promoted. A manifesto posted on Hawthorne’s website would go on to describe numerous grievances leading to their decisions to sue Victory. Most recently, A Day To Remember has been in court with Brummel and Victory, suing Victory for breach of contract (they claim loss of royalties, like Hawthorne Heights). As recently as this Monday, ADTR has been in court with Victory after the label filed for an injunction for the band’s newest album release, “Common Courtesies” that was independently released by the band on Monday (you can read more details on the court case in this article here). In all cases, Victory is said to be corrupt, and Brummel targeted for being a manipulative bully (Jeremy McKinnon of ADTR did a recent interview, describing the legal troubles and dealing with Brummel).

While this most recent lawsuit has put Victory in a very ugly light, for whatever reason, the company still stands. While Brummel might be a tyrant, he spots talent where he sees it. In the end, Brummel is still standing (we will check back next year when the ADTR lawsuit really speeds up). For last words, I will let Brummel do damage control:

“I think there are a lot of labels out there that do not work that hard they are not that aggressive and they don’t work 18 hours a day like I do. So, if that makes me a bad guy, then yeah, I’m a bad guy. I love what we do more then I ever have in the history and everyone that works here feels the same way. The whole debate about major labels and indies I don’t care about major labels and I don’t care about indie labels I only care about Victory.” [Absolute Punk Interview]

*Worth noting, if you currently visit any of Victory Records Social Media sites, be prepared for the verbal outcries stemming from their recent legal battle with ADTR. Lots of vulgarity from passionate fans. If you are looking for some juicy material, look no further

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Basick Records*

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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: Basick Records
  • Founded: 2005.
  • Location: London, UK.
  • Label Type: Independent.
  • Distributors: Prosthetic/RED Distribution/Warner
  • Genre of Focus: Progressive Metal
  • Current Roster: 7 Horns 7 Eyes, Alaya, Chimp Spanner, Glass Cloud, Misery Signals, The Algorithm.
  • Inactive Roster: Between The Screams, Fellsilent, Monuments, Shy Of The Depth, The Escape, Visions.
  • Website: http://www.basickrecords.com/

In Rock Label’s first trip overseas, we will be taking a look at Basick Records. Still young to the label world, Basick was founded in 2005 by brothers Nathan Barley Phillips and Jake Smith. When it came to Basick, neither of the brothers had any extensive backgrounds in working in the music industry. Nathan had worked at AiRecords (electronica label) for three years before co-founding Basick, but the brothers relied on doing tons of research on the biz before Basick was created. The first album the label ever produced was titled “Do You Feel This?” featuring a compilation of bands (some of them who would eventually sign with the label). Shortly after the release of the compilation, Basick would sign their first band, Fellsilent (the band broke up in 2010) and also be the first label to release material from the band Enter Shikari.

One thing that Basick has prided itself on is the fact that they focus on progressive metal as a genre. Standard metal is too boring, but they won’t necessarily avoid any band that proves themselves talented and worthy. While this niche has sometimes proved to limit the labels opportunities (in 2010 Mammouthfest, three of Basick’s bands were pulled from the lineup unceremoniously), it has found its successes in focusing on a genre the crew at Basick really loves. Nathan describes their choice to focus on progressive metal in an interview with One Metal:

“I think its borne from a necessity to stand out from the pack. Also, from a musical perspective, I wanted to make sure that we were not only working with credible music, but music that would actually take things forward. There are hundreds of other labels that are all working with mainstream rock and metal and no doubt they’re shifting more units than BASICK. And that’s fine, fair play to them, that’s their prerogative. But that’s not what BASICK is about. We’re committed to working with a broad range of music, but it must be intelligent and forward thinking.” [One Metal]

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The Algorithm Nomination for the Golden Gods Award.

While the label is only eight years old, the plan is to expand within the next few years into North America, Asia and Australia. Having made progress in the UK/European markets, it seemed like a natural “next step” for the guys at Basick. One step taken in that direction is when Basick a partnership with distribution company Prosthetic Records in 2012. Prosthetic is located in the United States, and through the partnership a selection of Basick’s back stocked catalog and all future releases would be distributed in the United States thanks to Prosthetic. That same year, Basick would also sign into a deal with Warner ADA. This deal would mean that all future releases from Basick would be distributed globally based on different markets around the world.

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Demo from Alaya

An advantage Basick has over so many other labels worldwide is that because they were created in 2005, they came about within the new age of cyber piracy. This meant that instead of having to adapt to piracy, the label developed itself with piracy in mind from day one. In another interview with Nathan, he explains how the label has worked through this issue, turning it into part of the business model of the label:

“We’ve had to deal with all this current shit like torrents and downloads etc pretty much from day one, so we’ve factored it in to our business plans. Labels that have been going for 25+ years are generally now having to downsize, which is a shitter. But that’s the world we live in. We’re never going to stop it, so all we can do is work with it as best we can and rely on the great relationships and morals of the listeners and community we’ve been building over the years. I think most open minded people know that for true talent to create music, there’s a cost involved. For that talent to then go on creating more music for you to enjoy, also bears a cost. For instance, I get sent records all week long, but that didn’t stop me spending 8 dollars on the new Cloudkicker album this week.” [Got Djent]

Now, the other labels I have reviewed on this blog are older, have crazy stories, and have internationally known acts listed for them. I am here to tell you to give Basick a look. From day one, their eyes have always been on social media, coming from a generation where social media is pivitol to the progression of your label and the music coming from it. On social media:

“It’s played a massive role. I would say that 65% or more of our current marketing strategy now consist of maximizing the benefits of all of the aforementioned services. One of the major factors which gave us the green light when starting the label, was the emergence of sites like PureVolume and MySpace. We could see how things were going to unfold and knew even then that they would play a crucial role in the development of the label.” [One Metal]

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Basick Merch Store Offers

You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Especially worth checking out is that Tumblr page, where they are constantly having sales and deals on music and merch (they run their own merch store, no big). So here’s your chance! Check out the current roster sampler and go find your new love of progressive metal!

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*Special shout out to Jad El Alam for his recommendation of this record label! You can check out one of his blog posts here!

ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Razor & Tie

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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.

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Goodbye, Razor.

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]

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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.

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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

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ROCK LABEL OF THE WEEK: Equal Vision Records

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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: Equal Vision Records
  • Founded: Early 1990’s
  • Location: Albany, NY.
  • Label Type: Independent
  • Distributors: RED Distribution
  • Genre of Focus: Post-Hardcore/Popcore
  • Current Roster: A Lot Like Birds, Eisley, Saves The Day, The Dear Hunter, We Came As Romans, etc.
  • Inactive Roster: Alexisonfire, Chiodos, Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Portugal. The Man, The Fall Of Troy.
  • Website: http://www.equalvision.com/ 

As a scene kid of the millennium, I always found that my heart began at Equal Vision Records, which is why my first blog begins there too. Created in 1992 by Ray Cappo (Vocalist for bands Youth Of Today, Shelter, Better Than A Thousand), Equal Vision’s original purpose was to distribute music for Cappo’s band, Shelter. Shelter was unique in that they identified as a Hare Krishna hardcore band, and because of this, Cappo distributed other Krishna music through Equal Vision [About Equal Vision]. Cappo’s Krishna background also shaped the name and logo of his new record label, as described in an interview by current label owner Steve Reddy;

“Equal Vision was initially created because Shelter wanted to put out their own records. The name came from a verse spoken by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. The logo is a picture of Krishna that a Hare Krishna artist had lying around, unused in her portfolio. Ray Cappo, the singer of Shelter and founder of Equal Vision, liked it and asked her if we could use it and she agreed. We used the logo for all of our Krishna-core bands, but when I signed Shift—our first non-Krishna band on the label—we switched to just the “e v r” letters as a logo. We wanted to make a differentiation so kids knew Equal Vision wasn’t just an all-Krishna-core roster. We did it that way for a couple of years, but after the Krishna-core stuff faded away, we decided to go back to [our original] logo for all releases. The Krishna logo still means a lot to me today, and I’ve always preferred how it looked over just the letters.” [Behind The Logo’s Interview]

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Equal Vision Logo.

In 1991, Reddy purchased Equal Vision from Ray Cappo, and from that moment on the label opened itself up to become a broader, hardcore label. It also meant relocation – while Equal Vision started up in New York City, it was moved to Albany, NY once Reddy took over. By the end of the 1990’s, the roster for Equal Vision (then known as EVR) had doubled. Within the Equal Vision building, bands were having their music produced and marketed right in house, while the merchandise portion of the website dedicates itself to sales on clothing, accessories, and album sales.

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MerchNow Warehouse.

On top of Equal Vision Records, Reddy and his wife Kate also created MerchNow, a merchandising company with a focus on band apparel to be sold on the online store, as well as on tour (from individual tours with bands on their roster to festivals like the Vans Warped Tour). The company holds the values of the Hare Krishna attitude, providing full health care benefits and a lunch program that hosts locally grown food to their employees. Not only does MerchNow sell band apparel for the roster of Equal Vision, you can find band apparel from bands not included in the “Equal Vision Family”. [Merch Now Interview]

Equal Vision Records has connected itself to numerous business ventures within the past few years. A sub-label, Mantralogy, created by Kate Reddy, was designed to support and promote yogic musicians in the way Equal Vision supports their hardcore roster (some artists on Mantralogy’s roster include The Mayapuris, Prema Hara, and Gauri Vani &As Kindred Spirits). Other ventures include two imprint labels off of Equal Vision: Max Bemis of Say Anything created Rory Records and Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter created Cave & Canary Goods.

We Came As Romans on EVR Instagram

We Came As Romans on EVR Instagram.

Through it all, more than anything, Equal Vision has dedicated itself to living moment to moment. The focus is on the music, and making sure this music reaches the public. The label is very active online (from Instagram posts to numerous Tweets daily) and the focus is less on making money as it is connecting the artists to the fans. While it seems unimaginable, that’s the Krishna way, and from Ray Cappo’s beginnings to the label today, they haven’t lost sight of their core values. Looking at their extensive roster, it shows that these values have found a spot in the hearts of the bands as well. Equal Vision has a business model that has worked, and will continue to flourish if they stick to their guns.

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Check out more music on the Equal Vision Records Youtube Channel!

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