Merge Records has been behind some of the independent world’s most popular releases from bands like Spoon, Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel, Waxahatchee, and of course, Superchunk since 1989. We hear about the label’s beginnings from co-founder Laura Ballance (Superchunk), and are joined again by MC Taylor of Merge band Hiss Golden Messenger.
One of the most exciting labels in Portland, OR, is also one of its youngest. EYRST Records was founded in 2014 by artist Neill Von Tally and Martell Webster. Since then, the label has filled its roster with promising artists, including acts like The Last Artful, Dodgr and Myke Bogan who have gained national acclaim. We talk with Neill Von Tally and artist Blossom about being part of an indie label and Portland’s local music scene.
2010 was arguably one of the hardest years for the music industry, but that didn’t stop manager and publicist Jessi Frick from starting an independent record label with her father, Ken Hector. Since then, Father/Daughter has released acclaimed albums by Pure Bathing Culture, Diet Cig, Vagabon, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, and more. The label has also gained a reputation for being fiercely artist-friendly. Jessi joins us to talk shop and we hear from Shamir Bailey, who just released ‘Revelations’ through the label.
How many “likes” did you get today, and does it even matter? On this episode, Portia leads an Upstream Summit keynote panel talking with Run The Jewels manager Amaechi Uzoigwe and RCA Records’ Tunji Balogun, two industry insiders who have effectively mined the vast quantities of data and analytics available. Artists, managers and labels have all begun using data to amplify albums, sell out shows, and launch careers; and at May’s Summit in Seattle, Portia and her panel of experts gave perspective on the types of data available and how best to harness it to reach your audience.
The term “A&R guy” is tossed around casually in the music biz — but what does the A&R division of a label do? A&R teams are traditionally charged with finding new talent, guiding artists through the recording process and connecting artists with producers, songwriters and other collaborators. Their insight can have huge influence on an artist and label. Over the years, the role has changed with the music business. This week, respected A&R dude and founder of Loma Vista Recordings Tom Whalley tells us about his journey from the mailroom at Warner Bros. Records to chairman of the company. He also offers his perspective on how the job has changed — and the differences between working A&R at an indie and major label. Then we talk with Louis Posen, founder of established indie label Hopeless Records, about why the term “A&R” isn’t used at his company, and why a team approach to talent scouting works for them. Finally, Robby Morris, director of A&R at New York indie Matador Records, walks us through creative development at the label.
In our second installment of our “Gatekeepers Roundtable,” we speak with Ali Hedrick of The Billions Corporation about some of the new acts that she’s working with, and how they’ve come to her, or vice versa. Christen Green adds to the conversation by telling us about how she ended up working with The Lumineers, among the other notable acts that are a part of Onto Entertainment. We also have Nate Nelson tell us the story about how he ended up at Stones Throw Records via the leaked Madvillain demos, and how his experience there ultimately led him to start Innovative Leisure. Don’t think for a second that this is a puff piece chock full of “success stories.” We dig in, and ask these folks about who they regret passing on, too! Lots of valuable “what not to do” information in this episode.