FRUKT went to Indie-Con 2016
I attended AIM (Association of Independent Music)’s annual event Indie-Con, a day of unique sessions aimed at helping independent labels and artists grow their businesses and make their music heard.
The day consisted of panels and discussions with key players in the independent music sector, sharing their expertise across many aspects of the industry.
My attention was very much drawn to those most relevant to my role at FRUKT as part of the FRUKT Fixers, specifically the importance of running events, and the power of new artists and smaller labels.
The importance of running events in the music industry
As the revenue streams in music become more diverse, labels have had to continuously adapt and evolve in order to compensate for the fall in traditional record sales. This spans publishing and sync, merchandising and artist management. And last but not least, live events.
Wah Wah 45s label director, Adam Scrimshire reminded us of the importance of running events as a label. “Events put labels in touch with people who buy their records but also generate incredible signings. It’s about hearing one song at one moment, and knowing.” Scrimshire also mentioned that it is an opportunity to discover who the artists are as people, as performers, and how they conduct themselves on and off stage. In conclusion, it’s a great auditioning process. It goes without saying that sometimes, as with releasing music, it’s not easy to make money from running events, but this is something that labels need to persist with in order to continue releasing good music and connecting with fans.
The cultural driving force of small labels
Whilst it is common for smaller labels not to make huge money, there are many success stories when it comes to building loyal fan bases.
Dave Cawley (FatCat Records) highlighted the cultural driving force of small labels and raised key points about how to release music that gets you noticed. One of which is the collective sense of A&R – building a trusted team around you that becomes recognised by the fans. Vinita Joshi (Rocket Girl) stresses this, stating that a trusted label creates loyal fans.
Adam Scrimshire (Wah Wah 45s) and Robert Rath (Erased Tapes) both highlighted the importance of being transparent with the artists and managing their expectations. Sometimes labels discover amazing artists but don’t have the profile or ability to do the best job for them. It is also about ensuring that the signing makes sense with the story and history of the label. This is where they need to take responsibility and make an honest assessment on whether they will be able to deliver work that satisfy all parties.
Sire Records - a small label that grew but remained great
Indie-Con ended with a discussion from Seymour Stein, founder of Sire Records, who was responsible for signing bands such as Talking Heads, The Smiths and Fleetwood Mac. Founders of Transgressive Records, Tim and Toby, interviewed him. Seymour shared multiple stories about his long, successful career in music. His opinion is that you don’t need to focus on type, stating: "there’s no such thing as a genre: there’s good music, and there’s bad music.” Ironically, he blamed Talking Heads for ruining his life for 11 and half months by holding out on signing the deal he had offered (11 and half months fearing that someone would discover them and offer them more money).
In conclusion, whilst small labels are facing new challenges in the music landscape, they continue to rely on integrity and persist with authentic practices. Did Seymour Stein open eyes and give new horizons to the small labels? Either way, this was an encouraging send-off to the independent music sector for 2016.