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Report: Independent Label Market, London
Laurie Tuffrey , May 21st, 2012 09:32

A vinyl love-in to compare with Record Store Day, the Independent Label Market brings together the good and the great of the indies to sell their finest. Laurie Tuffrey went along to talk, shop and talk shop

On Saturday, among the clamour of West Ham supporters howling and the quiet rustle of continental pastries in paper bags, the sound of some of the UK’s finest independent record labels’ employees touting their vinyl wares rose through the Victorian rafters of Old Spitalfields Market. The third Independent Label Market record fair was in full swing, with among others Ninja Tune, Lex, Brownswood, R&S, Soul Jazz, One Little Indian, Sunday Best, Phantasy Sound, Sonic Cathedral and Transgressive all setting up stall. It was its biggest iteration yet, growing this time to host a total of 45 labels.

Bosses like Simon Raymonde of Bella Union and Laurence Bell of Domino Records handed over plastic bags filled with rare vinyl, sold at bargain prices, Tim Burgess brought his imaginary bumbag to the O Genesis stall, and Angular got into the market spirit with a tombola (prizes included cans of lager and a David Beckham DVD). The Market also changed the playing field for record selling: you had to offer up a solid range of refreshments as well as a good artist roster. Accordingly, Sunday Best got thumbs up for dishing out shots of rum, while Warp received their dues for putting on an impressive spread of sweets and tea.

The Quietus was on hand to rifle through the racks, enjoy Chess Club Records’ ‘Marling Macaroons’, served by Laura herself, and talk to the various vendor-bosses and artists. Here’s the word from the stalls:

Tim Burgess, The Charlatans and O Genesis Recordings

Yeah, it’s going good so far: we sold two Nik Colk Void singles before the market even opened and it’s been pretty steady. That’s a bestseller so far. I’ve sold a few books [Burgess’s autobiography], so I’m pleased about that, and we’ve got some R Stevie Moore T-shirts and singles. We got here at 9.30. I’ve got my bumbag - actually, I haven’t, but I’ve got my imaginary fanny pack!

It’s such a positive atmosphere. It shows that there’s a real interest in records, and everyone knows there’s a huge interest in music. For me, it’s all about vinyl. It’s my first time here - the label’s only 11 months old - we gave it the date 6th of June, 6 am, and I’ve got 666 followers on Twitter! A bit demonic, but... it’s quite good. I’ve been texting and Tweeting people since I’ve been here, and they’ve been saying there’s got to be [an Independent Label Market] in Manchester, there’s got to be one in Glasgow. I don’t know whether it exists or not, but if not, it should!

Joe Daniel, Angular Recording Corporation

It’s the fourth market that I’ve done, so I think we know how to do it now. This one’s twice as big as the last one. We’re selling T-shirts, and in terms of music we’ve got the Eleven Pond record, you get a very nice poster with that, and the brand new This Many Boyfriends single. We’ve got the very last copy of a These New Puritans record that I thought had sold out, but when I was looking for stuff for this last night I found a box that hadn’t been sold. We’ve got the Secret 7”s packs, which are three records, randomly selected, and that’s only £5.

The shoes [points to some green brogues] are probably the best prize on the tombola. Either that or [picks up a pound coin, one of the prizes] your money back! The Shooting Stars video is quite a find. Some of it is just stuff that was lying around the office, like my Sabrina single, and the Shooting Stars video, but some of it’s just from the Poundland shop near the office, so we got a David Beckham video and aftershave as well.

Michael McClatchey, Moshi Moshi Records

It’s going good so far - we’ve sold a few bits. We don’t have any special editions, but there’s plenty of things that are quite collectible. Some 7”s that we don’t have many left of: we’ve got our first ever release here, Moshi 01 - Sukpatch, released 1998, going for £5. It’s nice interacting with people - we don’t normally get a chance to have face-to-face time with the people who are potentially buying or listening to our music. I don’t the Internet’s changed things - even without the Internet, we still wouldn’t be interacting face-to-face with the people that are buying records. It’s just a unique situation for someone who runs a record label to actually be at the coal face for a change! I find it quite inspiring: people just come up and buy things on your recommendation: “What kind of thing do you like? Well, you might like this”, and they just buy it! I love that people still do that - I’m too cynical myself!

Jeff Barrett, Heavenly and Caught By The River

Why is this important? Well, two reasons: going back a year - we did it a year ago, at the very first one, which was in Berwick Street, and I thought it was a really good idea. It came fresh on the heels of Record Store Day, which of course is a brilliant thing for getting people into record shops and the Label Market, I thought, was a good way of label guys meeting people that buy their records. Last year, there were 15 stalls, this year, it’s huge and really great! It’s good fun doing it directly with people and telling people what things are and people asking you questions - “did that really happen?” from the days of the Manics - “were you with Richey when he carved ‘4 Real’?” and that sort of thing. So it’s nice to have that dialogue. It’s a laugh, actually. It’s also dead nice to be set out next to Domino people, and the Angular and Soul Jazz people. I think it kind of feels like more of a community thing; when we all bump into each other at the gigs, it’s always like “hi, how you doing?” stuff, but to actually realise why we all do it. I think it allows myself and all my other label owner mates to show off their eccentricities really - it validates me!

We’ve pretty much sold out of the Toy stuff - we had very few of the 12”s left - we had a small edition of the ‘Motoring’ 7”, they’ve gone. We’ve got a new book of ours, Words On Water, in paperback, that’s just come out, we’ve sold a few of those. An artist who works on the site called Matt Sewell, who does watercolours of birds, in quite a unique way actually - he sees them as characters and writes about them as such and his book’s great, and we’ve sold a few of those today.

I tell you what’s ace today: the amount of vinyl. I’ve got my son with me, who’s just turned 15. He’s really into music, but I was walking around with him going “look at that, that guy’s only selling vinyl!” And he said “so what?” And I was going, you know what, a few years ago, two, five years ago, people bailed from doing vinyl. Even labels that should have known better weren’t doing vinyl. So now, there’s people buying vinyl records again, allowing labels like us to make our money back at least from making them. I think that’s added to today; the store’s are a lot more attractive because of it.

[Vinyl’s come back] because mp3’s are boring. Simple as that, isn’t it? You love records - you love records. The ease and the access of getting music to people [on mp3] is good for groups and for labels so people can hear, but really? You want to buy that thing? Download it for money? And it’s like, you don’t get anything other than that? There isn’t any joy. I’ve got nothing against the iPod; in fact, far from it - the change was necessary, the whole industry did need that shock. We’d all been sitting there waiting for a group like the Sex Pistols or rave to be the next thing, and it wasn’t: technology was the next thing, technology transformed the way you listened to music. I think if you really love records, you want to fucking look at it, the group can get more across about what they’re about. What is interesting is going into mainstream record shops now and seeing how many back catalogue albums are available. Too expensive still, but they’re there. I see Neil Young records on vinyl; I mean, man, how happy must he be? That his records are available on vinyl again? That’s gotta be good! I use him as an example because he was one of the first people to really slag off digital music. You know, they sound better on 7”, they really do: I’m cutting off a proper big file, and they sound ace, you know.

Laurence Bell, Domino Recording Company

I don’t know if the Market’s important, I think it’s just a lot of fun. It just gets back to old-fashioned trading, instead of being sat there behind our desks in our offices sitting around, typing e-mails, how the music business operates. I think it’s just good to get out there and flog records and talk about music. A lot of people have got a history of working in record shops - I certainly have - it’s fun just to get out and meet the public and talk to them and say “this is what we’ve got!” We love to talk about the music we’re selling, it gives us a chance to all get together. The market community: it’s as old as the hills isn’t it!

We don’t have anything particularly special for today, but we’ve got a lot of rare vinyl from the warehouse, and things that there’s not much left of. Some new things - the new Hot Chip single, a couple of other things that are hot off - and maybe not even out yet! A few rarities and a few freebies and a couple of glasses of cider.

I’ve been all around - I like snacking on things, I had some Jamaican food. Everybody’s got some good gear. Warp have got some good things going on. The Heavenly guys have got a real selection, Edwyn Collins has got some good things over there with his label and some beautiful prints of his bird drawings. It’s not just people flogging records!

Laura Marling, working on the Chess Club Records stall

It’s been quite exciting seeing people getting excited about independent labels, but I’ve been helping out with Chess Club because they were very helpful to me when I was starting out. I’m not sure I’m responsible for any of the selling, but people seem to be very into Swim Deep and Chet Faker, which is the first full release on Chess Club, so that’s quite exciting.

I think the Market reminds people how important music is - I’m biassed, obviously, because that’s my living! I love seeing people buying vinyl, getting excited about the physical copy and the whole thing.

Richard Russell, XL Recordings

I can’t really talk now - there’s either talking, or there’s shifting units/selling records. I’ll get in trouble with the boss!

Mark Byrne, Bella Union

I think what it does mainly is connect labels to the fans themselves. We can speak to people and get direct feedback on packaging or saying “this 7” wasn’t available...” and it’s just good to hear this stuff. We’re pretty close with independent retailers anyway, but this actually puts us in the mix with the people who are fans of our music. It’s an opportunity for us as well to get some special items we can bring along and sell for one day only, keep it a bit special.

There’s just releases that we’ve done specifically for today. We’ve started getting into the pattern of doing now - we started last year - sort of having two shifts: there’s Record Store Day, we’d get the releases sorted for that, and then for this one we actually do a specific thing as well. Some of it’s new recordings, so we’ve got an I Break Horses vinyl that’s a new collaboration she’s done. We’ve got a remixing of Lanterns on the Lake that’s done specifically for this, with the band’s approval. We don’t try and dig out something and just put it back out on vinyl, because we’re doing that for RSD all the time and reissues are getting bigger and bigger now. It tends to be for this we’re doing completely unique things. I think the more this goes on, the more people are going to do. Last year there was 15 labels, this year there’s 40. It’s just growing and growing

I think it’s great that we have RSD and this, but I think that having an emphasis on singular days makes people a little bit lazy about things, and they just go out that day to get it. I think what you need to do really is to speak to people directly about what they want: packaging and things like that, because owning something will always be inherently better, ‘cos you’re going to spend more time with it. When you’ve got something you’ve downloaded off the Internet, chances are, in the same speed you’ve downloaded it, you’re going to listen to it and get rid of it. These type of things [RSD and ILM] remind people, but I think the idea is to try and keep it going, keep the momentum going, so we can get people going back to the shop every week - not the same person every week! - but just that idea of actually going and owning something and taking it apart and looking at the lyrics, and connecting it. This is just a really good way of doing it: it puts the spotlight on us.

Jane Third, Because Music

It’s been so much fun, I love it. I’ve sold clothes and odds and sods at a market before, but I’ve never sold any records before. I’m terrible - thank God I’ve got the kids [other Because employees] here, I don’t know how much anything costs, I’m just getting in the way to be honest.

I’ve been doing a lot of shopping. I’ve spent so much money! Angular have got a little 7” lucky dip, which is three for a fiver, and you don’t know what you’re getting, so that’s great, so I bought loads of stuff from them. And Domino gave me a nice free T-shirt, so that was cute. My only regret is that I wish I bought more vinyl! I bought too many CDs, and not enough vinyl and we’ve sold out of all our stuff! That was a mistake, I’ll know next time!

‘Cos our label’s so varied - we’ve got world music, techno and all this kind of stuff - and we couldn’t figure out how to bring it all together, like a compilation or something, so I decided to get all of our favourite remixes and put them on a simple black and white 12”, and we’re giving that away to everyone who buys something so they can get a taste of everything that’s on the label as well.

Stephen Christian and Kwes, Warp Records

SC: It’s busy and a really nice vibe, and a lot of the labels are friendly anyway, so it’s more like a hang-out session you know. It’s lovely to actually meet people who are buying the records.

K: This is my first time doing this, it’s been amazing. One thing I liked was there was a little kid, he must have been eight or nine, he was just really intrigued by the logo on my release, and he was taking it apart and it just reminded me of when I was a kid, when I just wanted to read everything.

SC: And his dad said that he was starting to make music himself, so it was like “the record you’re really into, it’s his” [points at Kwes] - you could see the connections being made!

This was our first year. We wanted to do it last year, and, for whatever reason, couldn’t, so we were just really glad to do it this year. We’ve done a special T-shirt, and we’ve got a special edition Squarepusher album. We’ve got Kwes signed EPs. We’ve got a little tombola prize drawing for mixtapes and T-shirts and just making it fun.

I think Kwes’s EP has sold a bunch. We’ve sold a lot of Battles records. Hudson Mohawke. Rustie’s sold a lot. It’s nice to see people holding the actual physical things. I just know, for myself, I love holding vinyl, I love buying records, I love looking through records, I love listening to records. You have to be involved in that whole thing. You can’t be doing the dishes and putting records on - you have to be in the moment and in the experience. I go to record shops every weekend, totally as a fan and as a nerd, so yeah, I’d definitely be here anyway.

K: Has it been good to talk to fans? I don’t know if I’d call them fans, but yeah it’s been really great interacting with people, and people who’ve expressed interest in the record whether they’ve heard it or not. There was one guy who hadn’t heard the record at all, but he bought it just based on reading about it and the look of it. You just can’t beat that.

SC: There’s been quite a few people who’ve come to the stall and said “I like X or Y”, and then asked for recommendations, talked to Kwes, listened to a little of his music, so there’s much more beyond the retail aspect. There’s a really nice interaction happening.

Photos by Jane Liggins