This week sees the release of Disciple 01: Purgatory. A collection of some of the best tracks from the Bristol-based label’s first year of business – plus exclusives from the likes of Habstrakt, Bar9, Getter, Barely Alive & Virtual Riot – it’s a fittingly massive celebration of their first 12 months as a label.
With success stories firing from every release (perhaps most notably Diamond Eyes’ recent chart conquest) it should come as no surprise that the label was deep in planning stages for several years before Rossy Burr (one half of Astronaut) and Rob Talbot (one half of Dodge & Fuski) slapped the scene into submission with their first release. We thought we’d catch up with the two of them to prise some secrets of running a label… First thing we should all know by now: labels certainly ain’t no bash for cash scheme!
“Through experience I’ve learnt that if your end goal is to get rich, there’s only so far you’ll get,” says Rossy. “But if you make it your vision to create something amazing, you’ll be surprised how much more you’ll profit anyway. It’s a simple shift of focus!”
Something amazing: like taking an unknown act and getting them to number one in numerous respected download charts within 24 hours of release…
“There have been a lot of highlights for us over the last 12 months,” says Rossy. “But I think our proudest moment so far was getting Barely Alive’s EP to the number one spot across four different genre charts on Beatport within 24 hours of it being released. We’ve had a lot of chart success with our music so far, but taking a debut EP from a brand new artist and getting their name to the number one on the first day felt really good.”
And here are some of the founding principals and insights into how they did that and everything else they’ve achieved in the last year…
Smash Your Branding
Art mirrors the music it represents
Rossy: Branding is a very important part of any business. Developing a look and feel that people can trust and connect with is key! Ours started with the logo being drawn over a pint in the pub one day. The rest just feel into place. We like the idea of a ‘cult following’ and chose to brand things in a dark and sinister way as if to say that if you are a disciple recs fan, you’re part of clan for life and there’s no escape!
Rob: I’m a massive perfectionist when it comes to the visual side. We’ve worked with some fantastic artists so far and we’ve really started to settle into an art style. This is important if you want your releases to catch people’s eye when they’re scanning online stores. Art also mirrors the music it represents… If your artwork is good it lends a quality finish to the package.
Use Your Ears
Don’t be afraid to take risks!
Rossy: I think to have a good ear for music you have to be very involved with it too. Being artists ourselves helps us to know whether something has been produced and/or mixed down well. And having a genuine love for dance music helps us to keep an open mind when it comes to signing new artists and trying new things. Don’t be afraid to take risks!
Rob: I tend to go on my gut instinct on the first listen. When you over-hear music (especially when you’re making it!) it’s very hard to get an objective view of the feeling that the music would give you if you were hearing it for the first time. Production quality is also highly important and the mixdowns make up a massive part of my quickfire analysis.
Respect Your Artists
We know what it’s like to put your heart and soul into making an EP and then to not see it chart or have the exposure it needed on release day
Rob: The people behind the music are hugely important. We want to work with people who have a vision for growth and that are driven to succeed – personal relationships are really important in this industry and it’s really important you get on well with your artists.
Rossy: As an artist myself, I felt like we had done the rounds with a lot of the other labels, but never really felt like the music had the promotion it should have had. So, when it comes to releasing other peoples’ art, we take it very seriously and our team is dedicated to giving the music the attention it deserves whilst making the artist money at the same time. We know what it’s like to put your heart and soul into making an EP and then to not see it chart or have the exposure it needed on release day… There’s so much great music out there at the moment and I see this going on all the time but it only motivates us to work harder for our family of producers.
Also, I think in today’s world, independent record labels have a lot to prove which is why to begin with, we didn’t sign anyone exclusively. We didn’t lock anyone into a contract or demand any more of them than what is fair. We wanted a chance to prove that what the artist was committing to was worth their while. I feel that during our first year of trading we’ve proved ourselves as a record label and as a result of that, our artists stick around. We’re out to create a home for an ever growing family of producers where they feel safe and their music is well looked after.
Promote Promote Promote!
Do everything you can to put that product in front of as many people as possible
Rossy: Release quality music and promote it as if your life depended on it! I think it’s very important to do something different to everyone else. Whether that be within the music itself, or the artists branding or how you go about promoting the release. We love to think of new ways of doing things and push boundaries. We’re not afraid to take risks even though we might get it wrong sometimes. You never stop learning!
Rob: You can break it down to being as simple as: 1. Get a quality product. 2. Do everything you can to put that product in front of as many people as possible, be it via YouTube channels, blogs, or any other online and offline marketing, and 3. Good music will sell itself.
Make Sure You Have Time (heaps of it)
When a record label is run correctly, there’s a whole bunch of time and effort that people don’t realise goes into promoting the music behind the scenes
Rossy: I think there’s a bit of a misconception on how much time and effort that’s needed to run a record label well. Through the huge amount of bad independent record labels that have popped up over the last few years that just stick the tracks up online and hope they sell themselves, it’s no wonder people think that running a label is an easy task. But, when a record label is run correctly, there’s a whole bunch of time and effort that people don’t realise goes into promoting the music behind the scenes.
Rob: The times have changed a lot from the days when you could rely on a good distributor to stick your vinyl in the front row of the shelves of record shops, or depend on articles in high-circulation magazines. It really does fall down to the label now to get their artist’s music out there and a lot of labels have fallen behind with this. With more and more people heading online, new media is absolutely key in generating awareness of what you do, which is hugely labour intensive just in terms of maintaining the personal networks required to get your music out there on a regular basis.