Socially conscious, independent label, promoter and artist collective. Est. 2009.
Run by Adrian Brian Thompson and Mark Buckley.
What made you start a label?
Back in the day, around 2013, we were running regular club nights and through those, we were coming across so much good music that just wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. Most of it was electronic and tied in with the ethos of what we were doing with the club nights we ran; pushing boundaries, making a musical or political statement, highly individual and not fitting into neat categories. We saw it as a natural step in a way, from playing music and putting on gigs, to getting the music out there via a label. Several years later, here we are.
What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
Where to start? I guess the main one is the shift away from physical to digital as a form of distribution. There’s a hardcore group of people who will always want vinyl, cassette or CDs but that number is dwindling, even though the headline amount of money spent on them is increasing. So much of that money goes to heritage artists or ones that already have a strong brand, and there doesn’t seem to be much room there for newer artists.
The economy is uncertain which makes people less inclined to spend, there’s a lot more competition for attention also. Our releases are competing not so much for sales, but for people’s spare time. You’re up against everything from Netflix to Twitter in trying to break through to the individuals’ digital bubble and leisure time. Brexit adds real uncertainty to the practicalities of selling music abroad as well – nobody knows what’s going to happen and it makes it near impossible to plan anything long term.
Our new stuff and back catalogue sell well at gigs, which is great as it means more of the income generated comes to us and consequently to the bands. But at the same time, that does create pressure on the label and the bands to have an ongoing live presence. Luckily our roster has cracking live performers and we have a dedicated following that get what we’re doing and come to our live events, but it’s still a lot of work to get people to the gigs in the first place.
What’s your take on Spotify?
I’d rather leave it! I listen to Spotify almost every day, so I’d be a hypocrite to criticize it too much. Its dominance in Europe and part-ownership by the major labels means much of the cash it generates doesn’t always go to the artists you listen to but to big business; but you have to utilize it as a distribution platform or you’re just never going to get discovered. I worry that it adds a disposable feel to the music, and takes away from the concept of the album as an art form, and music as art.
The threshold for getting noticed on Spotify, and certainly advertising on it, can be too much for indie labels or bands that self-release. It’s become a new gatekeeper of sorts I guess, replacing the old music mags and blogs and pushing people towards certain bands, genres, and sounds with its playlists and algorithms rather than old school editorial content. To make money from Spotify you need money in the first place, so it’s very much a necessary evil.
Is there a specific focus to your label as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music?
Not really. When we started the intention was to primarily focus on electronic music, but when we started getting more demos and submissions, the brief changed. It’s always been about trying to get good music out there – how commercially viable it is, where it’s from or what genre it is doesn’t feature too highly on our criteria. Acts on the label based in Canada, USA, Japan and Denmark mean we certainly have an international presence, while the likes of Husk, St Lucifer, ded.pixel and Factory Acts proudly fly the flag for our home town of Manchester.
Do you believe that music could bring social change?
In a word, yes. Music is a great medium for getting a message across. A catchy chorus can get places a newspaper article, viral meme or salty Tweet fail to penetrate; inside the minds of people with a willingness to absorb new ideas.
It’s not just about the songs, but also how you get it out there too; everything we do from our charity samplers, to using recyclable packaging, to subscribing to carbon offsetting shows others that with a little effort, they can easily change some of the ways they do things and make a positive impact on the world around them.
Our roster is also deliberately diverse. We’re proud of that, but we’re also glad that we live in a city where that diversity isn’t necessarily a political act in of itself, rather it’s just a wonderful fact of daily life here.
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