The Independent Label Market will be returning to Old Spitalfields Market this Saturday 12th July for the fourth Summer market in London (supported by AIM - the Association of Independent Music). For the second time, The Independent Label Market is also partnering up with London Brewers’ Market, which will feature a selection of local breweries from the London area, such as The Five Points Brewing Company, Brixton Brewery, Camden Town Brewery, Fullers,Meantime Brewing Co. and many more.
Ahead of this Saturday's event, Tristan Bath spoke to Robert Raths, founder of Erased Tapes (Nils Frahm, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Olafur Arnalds...) - just one of the many labels who will have a stall at this weekend's event. Check back this week for a series of interviews with other labels involved in the market.
TB: To what extent have you noticed the change in how the record industry works in recent years? Despite things being difficult for big companies, it almost seems like things could perhaps be better for indies now?
RR: Erased Tapes was born in early 2007, bang in the eye of the digital storm that most established labels say ravaged what they've built in the 90s. We basically grew up surfing the wave of decay, so to speak. For us there has been no ‘better times’ to compare things to. Only the here and now. Embracing both digital and traditional means of releasing music only meant things continued to go upwards and onwards as we continued to reach more and more people without any age or territorial boundaries.
The one major change we've noticed throughout these few years is the rising popularity of vinyl records, which is certainly wonderful to see, although it currently causes a lot of delays at pressing plants as they can’t cope with the high demand. At the same time online streaming has rocketed, which, to be quite frank, not many of us are actually using as our preferred means of listening to music. Basically, as a label we're not old enough to miss the high life of the 90s and not young enough to enjoy sonic fast food, or what our composer Lubomyr Melnyk aptly described as ‘digital hamburgers’. We like to slow things down and take our time in making and digesting things.
Erased Tapes has a pretty distinct aesthetic, what inspired this?
Of course every label carries a certain bit of personal DNA by the people who run it. Like most of us I've engaged with form and function all my life, whether I listened to music, painted or studied architecture. Each artist on the label contributes their unique sound aesthetics too, and we decide on the visual elements that shall compliment the music together. Whilst keeping in with the general aesthetics of the label, we welcome working with the artist’s befriended sound engineers and graphic designers. Recently we commissioned the American relief artist Gregory Euclide to rework our logo for our next annual label compilation. It’s very important to keep re-inventing yourself in order to discover uncharted territory. Part of me thinks it's more of a subconscious and very natural development. Today's world is a very busy place. When you're surrounded by a lot of noise you find solace in the quiet and the minimal – sonically as well as visually.
What have you found to be the best way to find new artists?
The word of mouth, whether it's being passed on in person or online, is still the best way to discover new things. In fact, in most cases we got introduced to each other by a friend. I don't believe in activities such as ‘talent scouting’. A work relationship just like any relationship is a dialogue, a two-sided thing, something you share – like a mutual understanding and equal ambitions, but also principles and loyalty. You can't scout that.
What do you think of these increasingly common events and happenings bringing together labels and record stores?
We really enjoy these events where you can express this mutual appreciation for music. We love record stores and vinyl markets as they are the real deal when it comes to connecting with our audience, besides live concerts. Regular visits to the local stores and spontaneous DIY-style in-store events are equally important.
How did you get into the business? Were there any experiences that really standout that got you excited about labels and the record industry?
It was a very natural development. Whilst studying architecture, I got my main inspiration from listening to music. It was only a matter of time until I eventually started my own musical project and moved to London to find the right people to share it with. But sonically I was interested in too many different ideas to put them all into one single project. That’s when it dawned on me that the purity and minimal nature of each element on its own rang far more true to me than their sum. And the idea of one musical project slowly transformed into becoming a home for like-minded artists who share the same aesthetics and vision. It wasn’t until I placed the first vinyl order though that I realised I had founded a label.
Any sage advice or tips for anybody setting up a new record label in the current climate?
Not all music needs to be released. But when you get this feeling that the world would be a little less bright without this music being made available and heard by many, then stick to this gut feeling and share it with the people that can help you with this mission. There’s nothing as infectious as enthusiasm.
What’s the most rewarding part of running an independent label?
The live show. When you see what you’ve achieved together. Not just with the artist, but also with the audience. When there’s this mutual appreciation that allows all the magic to happen right in that moment. And it doesn’t matter where you are, who you are. We are one.
Are there any records or labels (other than those on Erased Tapes) that you’ll be looking out for at the market this year?
We usually do a lot of swaps with other labels on the market. We’re sharing a stall with Electric Minds, the label run by the same folks that do The Hydra, an electronic music event series. So we’ll be busy checking out their stuff. I’m also curious to hear what our friend Rob Booth is up to with his Houndstooth label. I also haven’t picked up the latest episode of Late Night Tales curated by Bonobo and our dear friend Owen Pallett’s new album on Domino yet. He played me an early mix some time ago, and it sounded wonderful.
Vinyls, CDs, tapes, mp3s - what’s the king of formats?
Well pressed vinyl that includes a download code to the 24-bit master files.
What’s the future looking like for the indie record industry?
An ever changing, but bright light for sure.
Visit Erased Tapes at the Independent Label Market this Saturday. For more info on the label go to www.erasedtapes.com
The Independent Label Market takes place Saturday 12th July, 2014, 11am ~ 6 pm at Old Spitalfields Market, London. Find out more about the event here.