Small Record Labels: Great Hare Records, UK
I started Great Hare Records almost two years ago after shopping some demos (by an artist called CONIL) to labels in London - http://www.myspace.com/conilmusic
Check out the music, it is seriously good, he is a great singer with brilliant songs using unusual instruments and arrangements - it's a bit like Tom Waits, Nick Drake and Tim Buckley.
Well, the labels agreed - the response in every case went along the lines of: 'Wow! man this is amazing..' great i thought, let's talk business.
'However', they said, 'we can't do anything with it'.
But why not? i asked.
Here's what they said:
- lose the double bass (but it's Danny Thompson (legendary double bass player for Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Rick Rubin) )
- what's with all these weird instruments? can't you just stick to the indie formula? (but that's boring, it's been done a million times)
- the singer is great but he's too growly - can you replace him with a girl singer? (WHAT?...)
OK this last point was the final straw - Changing the sound of the bass i can understand but changing the sex of the singer? They've got to be joking right? This is what the act is all about. Sadly, they were not joking.
At this very point in time, the moment the A&R guy uttered those words 'change the singer to a girl' (he actually said to a 'girl in a short skirt') I decided to start a record label.
So recording begins at our home studio, we search London for the 'right' musicians - and 'right' here means 'right for the music', not 'right for selling a load of watered down music to the masses'.
Anyway, after a few months the album starts taking shape and sounding good. The great Danny Thompson was the bassist (wow!), and the weird instruments from around the world were all still there - hooray for independent record making!
But we still needed someone to mix it, to make this home recording into a proper record.
So I emailed Tchad Blake, the super-producer from LA, winner of two GRAMMYs, and producer of legends like Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel and many other non-compromising artists (by the way finding him took a little time, but I got there in the end, that's what record labels do right? find the right producer for the artist).
Anyway, I only had enough budget to get a couple of tunes mixed, I went down to his studio and he was just the greatest guy, without doubt the coolest producer I had ever met.
I remembered the words of David Putnam (famous British film and theatre director) on being asked what it was like working with Laurence Olivier (they say Olivier is the greatest theatre actor of all time). Putnam said: 'Working with Olivier was a dream, it is the second raters you have to watch out for, they always have too much to prove.'
Well, working with Tchad Blake was testament to David Putnam's observation. He is the Laurence Olivier of production. He made the songs sound marvellous AND he offered to mix the rest of the album for free!
Fantastic! Unbelieveable actually.
So we pressed up 1000 copies of a single (Dog Meat Stew / Time Settles) released it in the UK, and to my surprise it got played on over 50 radio stations, got loads of great reviews and we sold every copy. We didn't have a budget for advertisements, and we didn't bother with the mass media (they are only interested major label stuff nowadays), we focussed on webzines, fanzines and independent radio.
The internet is a great marketing tool for independent releases - myspace, soundclick, download.com, last.fm are like radio stations for us. Right now people are listening to tunes from this record. Issues of copyright, piracy etc are not a concern for us either (at the moment, we are focussed on raising the profile of our artist CONIL, getting people to come to shows and eventually selling records.
Well we've had great start and are in the process of trying to find funding to release the album properly.
At this stage I cannot tell you whether the DIY model can be sustained to the final stages of selling records. Perhaps we can just get a distributer and release the album ourselves, but without a budget I doubt whether anyone will get to hear about us. I could be wrong.
We are talking with some independent distributors, but we are also talking to record labels.
I will let you know how we fare in six months, I have high hopes though, because the music is just so good, everyone seems to love it, even the guys from the record labels who wouldn't sign it before are saying it's the best thing they've heard in years. They still won't give me their money though!
Strange Part Of The Country by CONIL is available Great Hare Records http://www.myspace.com/conilmusic
- mail order to anywhere around the world via Pay Pal http://www.conilmusic.com
- or send us an email and we'll let you know about iTunes
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