Wednesday 23 November 2011, 11:38 | By Chris Cooke
Q&A: Joe Daniel, Independent Label Market
Next month, on 10 Dec, the teams from numerous independent record labels will gather at Spitalfields in East London to sell their wares direct to the music-buying public at the latest Independent Label Market. The brainchild of Joe Daniel of the Angular Recording Co (pictured left, with fellow Angular founder Joe Margetts), the first Independent Label Market took place in Soho earlier this year, with a second event in Brooklyn in October.
This time around, aside from it just being cool to have label founders selling their own records, there will be the double benefit of music fans being able to help out those indies hit by the fire at the Sony/PIAS distribution centre back in August, many of whom are now feeling the bite from having no stock for a month or two this summer.
Ahead of it all, CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke caught up with Daniel to find out more about the Label Market idea and the Angular record company.
CC: Where did the idea for the Independent Label Market come from?
JD: I ran the merch stall for one of our bands and really loved it, and thought other label bosses would enjoy it too. Selling something that’s close to your heart to someone who’s asking you interesting questions about it is really great.
CC: Was it difficult persuading so many other label chiefs to get behind their own stall for a whole day for the first market?
JD: Not really. I knew some of them already, and then word got around and people seemed to like the idea. Indie labels tend to start as one or two people shouting their mouths off, trying to persuade other people to buy music that they like, which is a lot like the scene you find at a market. I reckon all label bosses are barrow boys at heart really!
CC: As a label owner yourself, how did you find the experience of selling your label’s records directly to music fans?
JD: Really fun. It reminded me of how we used to do it when we started out, stood behind a table at the Paradise Bar in New Cross, trying to get locals on the fruit machines to slot three quid into our pockets instead of in the fruities.
CC: Do you think such direct connection with the customer can help improve the way you run your label?
JD: That kind of engagement and direct feedback is edifying, and I suppose you get to check out your demographic, and that’s cool. Though it wouldn’t influence my taste or what bands we sign.
CC: With the upcoming second London Independent Label Market, you’ve noted how this event will also help those labels hit by the fire, during the riots this summer, at the Sony/PIAS distribution centre in North London, where many indies lost large amounts of stock. Was Angular affected by the fire?
JD: Yes, we lost all of our stock. It was quite distressing. It reminded me a bit of the end of ‘The Wicker Man’ actually, so who knows, maybe we’ll have a great harvest next year and sell more records than we lost!
CC: While there was a definite outpouring of sympathy and support from the music community after all that indie stock was destroyed, some people did say “but surely these guys are insured?” Why was it such bad news for so many labels, even if ultimately most affected record companies would be reimbursed?
JD: It’s bad news because of the sales lost whilst labels were waiting for replacement stock to be manufactured, which in most cases would be about a month, but would have been longer for labels without sufficient funds to replace the stock immediately. So a lot sales were lost immediately after the fire. And because PIAS pays three months in arrears, we are only feeling the effects of this now. The market at Spitalfields will be great, as it is an immediate cash injection for labels that are struggling. That’s the plan anyway.
CC: Tell us a little more about Angular Records – why did you set the label up, what’s your motivation?
JD: My friend Joe Margetts and I originally set up the label as a reaction to the art department at our university. They were hung up on the ghost of Damien Hirst, and we thought we could do something equally as meaningless as what they were doing, and maybe find some meaning along the way. Thus ARC was born and we’ve been charting an errating course through popular music ever since.
CC: It seems like running an indie in the internet age is both thrilling and challenging. The web means a more level playing field in terms of reaching music fans, but declining record sales across the board affect everyone. Would you agree?
JD: I can’t really compare now with before, because when we launched ARC in 2003 the web was already very much part of selling music. But it’s challenging to sell records, certainly, and thrilling when you manage it.
CC: Do you have an opinion on the recent debate over whether or not indies should be licensing their music to services like Spotify? Some smaller labels seem to think the royalties are too low, and that being on subscription-based all-you-can eat platforms has a negative impact on conventional iTunes-style download sales.
JD: I think Spotify, or something similar, has to work as an alternative to file-sharing or else this business may be fucked, which is why I’m trying to have faith in it. Though until recently Spotify payments were a joke, and so our stuff wasn’t on there. Then they changed the rules, and now that usage is more limited and payment to labels has improved, I’ve decided to try it out. I don’t let other reports on this kind of thing sway me too much – often the authors of them have an agenda – we’ll see how it goes for our own artists. I do like that, conceptually, and as an experience, Spotify and the Independent Label Market are about as far away from each other as you can get, but that they could both co-exist happily and be a good thing for music consumers and musicians.
CC: Do you think events like the Label Market prove that – despite the boom in digital – there is still a place for physical product, especially in the indie label space?
JD: Of course there is. Everyone likes a record.
CC: You staged an Independent Label Market in Brooklyn too. How did that come about?
JD: It just seemed like the next logical step. It happened in a similar way to the original London event on Berwick Street – I asked around some labels, everyone was keen, and so one thing led to another.
CC: Do you have ambitions to take the Market to other cities or countries?
JD: Yes. It would work in any city that has a rich musical history and record labels which represent that.
CC: While you’ll be there to sell, obviously, is their anything the other labels are likely to be selling at next month’s Label Market that might persuade you to do some buying too?
JD: It’s always the craft type things on sale that are the most fun – home made mixtapes, home baked mp3 cakes etc. I’ll be looking for mulled wine with a download code at the bottom of the glass. Also, Sonic Cathedral are releasing an incredible new record by Fairewell that week; people should look out for it.