The independent record label has had a boom in recent years, as a means by which jazz musicians can officially release their own music, without having the financial backing of a major label. The first independent record labels (Sun Records, f. 1952, which released Elvis Presley’s first music; The Beatles’ Apple Records, founded in 1968) were a new concept, breaking away form the big guns, and giving rise to the “Indie” bands of the 80s. Now, we can technically class many jazz musicians in this city as “Indie” bands, as the Independent record label increasingly becomes the fastest and most effective way of getting your music out there.
There are countless singers and instrumentalists who have self-released albums on their own labels (some are so named that you can easily deduce to whom they belong: Lady K Records (Kelly Dickson); Feenz Beenz (Fini Bearman); and the most recent I’ve seen: Frantic Jazz (owned by jazz manager/entrepreneur Fran Hardcastle, and on whose label the superb debut album from Emma Smith is released). Some have turned from “Indie” projects into established and sometimes major labels, supporting the jazz scene immeasurably by working with artists at the beginnings of their careers who would struggle to get any airtime with bigger record companies.
Probably the first example of an independent jazz label would be Bet-Car Records, which was founded in 1970 by Betty Carter after she had had negative experiences with other labels. As an Indie label, she released four albums, before interest from Verve Records led to Bet-Car becoming a Verve imprint in 1987.
it is becoming more common for the independent label to mark the way forward
for jazz artists, and some of my own peers and colleagues have found it an
effective way to develop as an artist. I
spoke to Georgia Mancio about her label, Roomspin Records, which she set up in
2003 after negotiations with a record label regarding her first release, UK Peaceful
broke down. More talks followed in 2008 for her second
album, but again nothing came to fruition, so by the time Mancio came to produce
her third album in 2010, she says, “There was no
question I'd be releasing it.”
At first, it seems that there was a stigma attached to self-releasing and at the turn of the millenium not a great deal of musicians were doing it. Now, though, it seems to be the best way to retain artistic and monetary control, particularly when you can work together with friends and colleagues to share the responsibilities of promotion and financial input.
This is what I’m trying to achieve with my own record label, SaySo Records (so named because my initials SEH can be phonetically pronounced “Say,”, and I wanted a title that wouldn’t obviously be associated with my own name). In the last year, I have released four albums from four different groups: The Story So Far (my own quartet); Sector7: The EP; Semi Wogan (by Rick Simpson); and New Kid, from Tim Thornton.
Three of these groups have major things coming up in 2012: Tim Thornton’s album launch is at Pizza Express on 31st July; Rick Simpson’s quartet will launch Semi Wogan on 12th September, also at Pizza Express; and Sector7 have an autumn UK tour including two London dates (1st December at Kings Place and 9th December at Hideaway – which will be a world premier of the Sector7 Big Band). 2013 will see the first SaySo Records festival at The Spice of Life.
It’s by no means an easy job running a record label, and in a way it’s second to the desire to be a live jazz musician, but the more I get into this career, the more I realise that the two go hand in hand, as to be successful you must have good-quality recordings out there. It’s also important not to do it all on your own - I have found a great deal of comfort in working with Rick and Tim on their own releases - they could well have released the records themselves, but on making it a collective effort, it diminishes the stress and the solitary feeling one can sometimes get from being a musician in this vast jazz scene.
Get in touch with SaySo Records: