Why are artists starting their own labels?
In 2014, Ivy Lab kicked off 20/20, a forward-thinking club night that would later form a record label. In the years that followed, Spectrasoul started Ish Chat, and Alix Perez started 1985 Music. This year, Ulterior Motive formed Guidance, and today, LSB created Footnotes. There are plenty more not listed here.
Clearly something is happening in the D&B world right now. Some of D&B’s household artists are making the bold move of creating their own labels, often moving away from the biggest labels going. So what’s really going on here? Are disillusioned artists breaking away from slave-driving labels? Are the ‘big game’ labels losing their edge? Or is it something less sinister? Finally, what does this mean for the labels they’re turning their backs on?
I cannot answer the questions above with any element of certainty. I can, however, provide my opinion from a once rarified position as label boss, DJ/Producer, and fan.
This has happened before
Some of the game’s biggest labels started out when artists fancied a change in direction from their previous labels. Goldie notoriously came to fruition after releases on Reinforced. Friction released on Hype’s Playaz, and even 31 Recordings - a label itself created as Doc Scott’s personal offshoot - before he started Shogun Audio. DBridge had a glittered career before Exit. This new wave of jump offs from big artists should come as no surprise.
Graduation, not exodus
Artists seeking to increase their influence use the security and support of larger imprints. it is the purpose of a label, and the prerogative of an artist. There comes a time where their personal influence stands up on it’s own. This represents that point for the artists at the top of this article. With years of solid material on classic imprints in their armoury, they clearly feel they have enough kudos to go it alone. Good luck to them, it’s what keeps the genre alive and healthy. The more A&Rs there are scouring the earth for unique new talent, the better place we’re all in.
..And there’s always a new intake
When artists decide to move on, their old labels don’t simply die. The brands already have a place in our hearts, and they will regenerate. ’There’s no player bigger than the club’ for a sporting analogy. The void left by these artists represents an opportunity for the brightest new talents to join the ranks of the labels they only dreamed of being a part of in their early days. We’ve seen Phase join Metalheadz' most recent Christmas podcast. We’ve seen our own Terabyte alumni GXLY join Shogun (big ups lads!). We’ve seen countless more examples across other labels. These great schools of our sound will always remain exciting prospects for any producer(s).
What does it mean for the scene?
Put simply, it’s a headache for other labels. The more labels there are, the more opportunities there are as a producer to slip your demo to as many people as possible. A&Ring has become way more competitive. I won’t name names, but we recently had once instance where an artist we’d been coveting was snapped up by one of these new labels before we had the opportunity to even digest the promos we’d been sent.
But whilst painful for labels, it’s great for the scene. Competition is healthy, forcing labels to diversify their offering and find unique talent. The more labels there are out there, the more great music fans can be exposed to. That is fundamentally what we’re all about, so how can we complain?
At Terabyte, we remain committed to sourcing and nurturing talent, in the hope that we can both set up artists for big moves in their career, whilst also growing our own reputation. An influx of labels run by figureheads makes our lives that bit harder, but our pursuits that bit more rewarding.