New labels are constantly appearing in today’s music industry, and the local labels help create and influence the Australian music scene. This seminar on day two of Bigsound 2015 helped identify how and why influential boutique labels came about. Joe Alexander, founder of Bedroom Suck Records, was influenced by the huge amount of good music to create his label, and it was because he identified the gap in the industry that his label has become so successful. Milk! Records, on the other hand, started as a label between Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher so they could make their releases look more professional with a label on the album. Jen reasoned it as artists wanting to join another label, but you can’t invite yourself to other parties, so they decided to create their own.
Each speaker at the seminar started their label due to a gap in the industry that they identified, and it all started for them with their core passion for supporting bands they believed in. It’s a hard task deciding if an artist is right for a label. Julia Wilson from Rice Is Nice values a band if the music is good, and they are available to chat and develop a closer relationship with the record label rather than delegating the role to their manager. Labels help artists with the final stages of the release, whether it be reassuring them that their music is ready to be sent off for mastering, or to help them decide which tracks do or do not make the cut for the final release. They do not, for the most part, get involved in the studio when bands are recording unless they ask for help, which rarely happens.
It’s hard to categorize things as being successful or unsuccessful in the music industry, and as Lio Kanine from Kanine Records pointed out, his favourite album he ever released sold two copies, and he still has it hanging on his wall today. Success comes down to what people are looking for when they release albums, and the successful label owners feel they have achieved something just by releasing an album they are excited by.
Many Australian record label owners might run a successful label, but a large amount of them still work odd jobs to make ends meet, and that is why passion is a key part of owning an independent label. There are moments when independent labels have to reach out to major labels, and it is a fickle thing to manage. The important things the speakers mentioned were to make sure you are across everything, and to ensure the people you sign with have the same goal and passion as you.
It was clear to see just how passionate the label owners are as they sat in front of the Bigsound delegates, and there’s no doubt people walked away from the seminar with their minds buzzing with potential names for their new labels.