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Third Man Label Market This Weekend
Luke Turner , December 8th, 2023 11:22

Over 30 record labels to take part in event at London's Omeara venue

Molly Murray-Ayres outside Third Man, photo by James Potter

One of the record shop success stories in recent years has been the opening of an emporium connected to Jack White's Third Man Records in Soho. As well as records and Third Man merch, the shop also hosts gigs in its basements, making it one of the few music venues now in an increasingly sterile Central London – tQ was lucky enough to see a set by Joel from Hidden Cameras and Owen Pallett there earlier in 2023. This Sunday, 10th December, Third Man are heading to the Omeara venue with over 30 of their record label pals for a pre-Christmas market. The likes of Mute, Stones Throw, Ninja Tune, state51, Speedy Wunderground, Rough Trade Records, Bella Union and many more (see the poster at the foot of this news) will be around between noon and 6pm. We dropped Molly Murray-Ayres, boss of the Third Man shop and venue, to find out more.

How has the Third Man shop been going? What have been some of your highlights?

Molly Murray-Ayres: The best part about opening a new record shop has been seeing young kids come in and get excited about vinyl. It’s been great to see. We also didn’t foresee quite how much the basement venue below the shop would take off, initially the plan was for it to be a small ancillary in-store kinda space, but it sounds so good down there - I guess you’d expect nothing less from a Jack White designed audio experience. It was then installed by our audio consultant Parker, who's done sound design and FOH for everyone from Four Tet to Sampha. The aim was to ensure that the sound was perfect from wherever you stand in the space. You might expect a basement venue to have pretty dire sound, especially if you’re stuck at the back, but we installed delay speakers and lined the room with acoustic tiling to ensure the sound is crisp wherever you are. At our first few Blue Basement tester shows Camille and I looked at each other and immediately started reeling off all the artists we wanted to hear down there, because it sounds so good, it feels like being in the studio with the artist.

Heading up the UK side of Third Man Records it’s Camille Augarde (head of UK operations) and myself (retail and event director) so it's a two-woman show over here. Camille and I have known each other for, wow it must be over 10 years now, so we are able to laugh when things get stressful before knuckling down, we know how we each operate, which I believe has been a key factor in ensuring the operation here has been a success. It feels like it’s growing well, Camille has a great ear for new music, her latest signing being Hotline TNT. They just released a brilliant record called ‘Cartwheel’.

Molly and Camille behind the decks

We feel like the Third Man London shop, venue and label (because our London HQ is all three) has firmly set down our UK roots. The artistic vision of Jack and co-founder's Ben Swank and Ben Blackwell has been key to it working so well, it was important to everyone at TMR that we opened a welcoming record shop. We’ve all had bad experiences when you go into a record shop and you’re made to feel a bit intimidated, you start to doubt your own existence, sweat, meekly pretend to flick a few records, bow out in shame haha. Our main aim was for that not to happen to people.

Our opening in September 2021 was a huge highlight, Jack played on the roof of Damien Hirst’s building, a stone's throw from our building – much to the disdain of the council, but it was a really special, exciting moment. More stuff like that needs to happen in London. It’s been great hearing our neighbours and other local businesses around Soho talk about that night, how they threw open their windows and sat on windowsills, heard it was happening so reopened their roof bars etc, it’s the sort of thing that Soho should be all about.

I’d say the main highlights have been some of our events in the basement, we recently had our Hotline TNT ‘Cartwheel’ launch which was insane, The Mary Wallopers, Be Your Own Pet, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor & Joe Goddard, incredible Brazilian musician Tim Bernades, Los Bitchos, an ear melting gig by Dinosaur Jr, English Teacher, Art School Gf….I just book artists I love, no matter how early in their development they are or how big, and I try to keep the genres really varied. I feel like it’s important for a venue to have that balance, and to be music led. I also run a monthly emerging artists night which I always look forward to.

Why did you decide to host a label market and what was the thinking behind it all?

MMA: Well, I guess it was a few things - I’ve always loved the independent music community and know how important it is for us all to stick together.. I grew up in south London and independent and underground music has always been a big part of my world, so I feel really strongly that it must be protected and supported, more now than ever – in whatever way possible. The current economic situation has caused uncertainty in the entertainment industry – and caused concern about the effect that’s having on independent artists and music in the UK. It just feels like a good time to celebrate and support independent music.

Art in all forms is a crucial outlet for people in hard times. Despite the gloomy atmosphere, vinyl sales are up - and there’s great power in the collective reach of the UK independent music scene, who’s influence and music extends worldwide. I’ve always loved the sense of community between all the independent UK labels and shops, and thought it would be a good idea to invite a few to join us in taking over an arch at Omeara for a small pop up. It then snowballed, word got out and we now have over 30 labels and shops, across four rooms over two floors – taking over the entire venue complex. It’s been quite the undertaking, but Gareth at Omeara has been a big help in helping to make it happen too. It’s become a bigger thing than expected, I reckon because Independent Label Market isn’t happening this winter too, those markets are always brilliant.

What does it mean to you to be able to sell things directly to customers?

MMA: I think you can get really wrapped up in the backend and behind the scenes - so it’s invaluable to be able to chat to people about their take on things, be it the venue, shop or our label releases. Both Camille and I love to chat to TMR customers and blue basement gig-goers, because it’s the best way to sound out whether we are on the right track with something. It’s an advantage not many labels have, as our offices are below the shop where we only stock our releases - we are able to pop upstairs and say hello, what do you think of this? We love doing TMR pop ups around the country too, we recently did the ILM in Leeds - we feel it’s incredibly important to not just focus all our time and attention on London.

Can you tell us about something you're hoping a nice person might buy for you at the market?

There’s a great pop up doing a stall called ‘French Workwear’ – they have salvaged, I guess pretty self explanatory, workwear from France - but they sometimes get artists to add something to the piece, whether it’s a small embroidered design or something, it’s a great shop. New south london record shop Dash The Henge are bringing down some great stuff, I also have my eye on a Jockstrap album test pressing from Rough Trade Records.

We’re also adding a competition to the event, giving people the chance to win our last UK copy of the Third Man Records 'McCartney III' record on yellow and black vinyl. There were only 333 made… To enter: Buy any three LPs from any three stalls at this Sunday's Third Man Presents... Xmas Fair at Omeara (Make sure to collect a McCartney token when you do so. 1 LP = 1 Token). Next, bring your three tokens to the TMR stall to be entered into the raffle. The lucky winner will be announced December 15th.