Q&A: Simon Morley, Pink Mist and Blood & Biscuits
By Chris Cooke | Published on Thursday 25 October 2012
Indie label collective Pink Mist was formed by Big Scary Monsters, Holy Roar and Blood & Biscuits in late 2010, bringing Tangled Talk on board last year. As well as allowing the labels to share resources in order to reduce costs, they also use the alliance to co-operate on releases where bigger budgets are required.
Among the artists labels in the group have worked with are Gallows, Rolo Tomassi, Will Haven, Pulled Apart By Horses, Three Trapped Tigers and Sleep Party People.
In the run up to this year’s AIM Independent Music Awards – where Pink Mist is nominated in the Best Small Label category – CMU’s Chris Cooke spoke to Blood & Biscuits’ Simon Morley about how the collective came together, how it’s developing and what the future holds.
CC: When and why did you decide to form Pink Mist?
SM: It’s an idea Kev (BSM), Alex (HR) and I had been talking about for a while, maybe a couple of years. But we actually decided to put it into action at the end of 2010. Then we invited Andrej (TT) into the fold as the fourth label last year. Why? We were all doing a similar thing in slightly different musical areas, we were all friends, and figured it’d make sense to all pull in the same direction. Even if it didn’t step up what we were doing, it’d be more fun!
CC: Running a small label can be a solitary affair at times, how has having people around you who understand the ups and downs affected the way you work?
SM: You know how learning from you own mistakes is one of the best ways to learn? Well imagine how many mistakes the four of us can make combined! So much learning! It’s great to have people around to bounce ideas off. Everyone is pretty inventive with how they do things, so it keeps you thinking. Equally, it’s just as important to have people there to say “that idea is terrible, whatever you do, do NOT do that”!
CC: Has the alliance had a significant effect on the way the three labels work, and what projects you are able to take on?
SM: Structurally yes, we’ve got a system in place now where we put our distribution through the same channels, and use the same manufacturer, merch companies etc. Also, as Pink Mist, we have moved into gig promotion and have a central website, both of which are a big part of the project. Around the same time we invited Tangled Talk into the collective, we also got our friends Ross and Suzy involved to run those extra elements.
So in the last year we’ve put on shows in London by Ceremony, Retox, Cerebral Ballzy, Joyce Manor, Mission Of Burma, Basement, Title Fight, Milk Music, Make Do & Mend, Set Your Goals, Native, Zechs Marquise, Tera Melos, Metz and Onelinedrawing. Pretty sweet! You can check out the new music site and upcoming shows at www.pinkmist.co.uk
CC: Where do you see Pink Mist going from here, would you consider bringing more labels into the mix?
SM: We want to grow all aspects of what we’re doing. Each label has had their biggest year so far in 2012, and between us we’ve released records by Will Haven, Minus The Bear, Tall Ships, Last Witness, Three Trapped Tigers, Sleep Party People, Listener and lots of others.
We just need to make sure we’re growing at a manageable rate and not over stretching ourselves. We’ve always been thinking about taking in more labels, though at the moment there’s some boring admin reasons why we can’t, but once they’re sorted it’ll be partytime!
CC: How do the Pink Mist labels choose which artists to work with? And how does that change with projects funded by more than one label in the group?
SM: I think each label has it’s own identity which is essentially governed by the owner’s taste. Naturally there is cross over between all of us, so occasionally if there is a band which does sit nicely in between two labels, and both labels are passionate enough about the record, have enough space in their release schedule, and the money to back it, then BINGO!
All of us have done co-releases with the other labels in Pink Mist. Actually, I haven’t done one with Andrej, maybe that’ll change next year!
CC: There’s lots of talk of labels working with artists on a bigger range of projects than in the past. Is that something you are doing, or might do in the future?
SM: I used to be dead against it because, to me, it looked like labels panicking about record sales and blindly grabbing every potential revenue stream from an artist to cover themselves. But if both parties can benefit from a label getting involved with publishing, live, merch, then that’s fine. I just think bands need to be really careful with what they’re giving away. At the moment, we’re good with records and a bit of merch. We’ll see how we develop in other areas before taking the next step.
CC: As the boss of an independent label, how do you feel about the big major music companies, Sony and Universal, getting even bigger via the EMI sale. Does that kind of thing have any impact on you?
SM: It’s terrible and it’s depressing, but it’s no surprise. It’s big business, I don’t even know if it’s anything to do with music. Realistically it probably doesn’t affect us that much at all. But in general a huge corporation monopolising what is supposedly a creative industry is never good is it? Fuck em.
CC: What are your thoughts on digital – do you embrace every new digital platform going, or do any digital business models bother you?
SM: Luckily we have an excellent digital distributor who handles all of that for us. They’re a French company called Believe Digital. They make an educated call on what’s worth embracing! I know that the majority of our digital sales still come through iTunes though. Like, 85%.
CC: What’s the hardest thing about running an independent label in 2012?
SM: It’s gonna be an obvious answer I’m afraid. It’s hard to sell a decent amount of records, and we’re competing with people with a lot more money than us!
CC: And what’s the best thing?
SM: The good times! We have so many of them. I’m having one right now! We get to work with music we love and we don’t have a boss. Everyone hates their boss right? Well you should, because they hate you!
CC: What are your proudest achievements to date?
SM: The AIM Award nomination is probably the best joint achievement. Also, the Tall Ships album came out last week and they sold out XOYO on Monday. Three Trapped Tigers sold out The Garage last year. It’s great to work with bands from day one and see them playing to big crowds and getting the recognition they deserve.
CC: Are there any other labels or label chiefs – past or present – that you particularly admire?
SM: I think we all have labels we admire from years past and there are probably too many to mention, but Nigel and Wez at Full Time Hobby are my personal heroes.
Read more interviews with indie label bosses conducted in the run-up to the 2012 AIM Independent Music Awards here.