In an era of turmoil and disaster for the record industry, a flurry of British independent labels have led a charge of new talent.
Fuelled by enthusiasm and the slenderest of budgets, these new imprints have prevailed where other, much larger, labels have fallen away. Formed by two friends brought together by a love of music, Transgressive records recently celebrated their 5th birthday in the best way possible – with some incredible records and great gigs.
ClashMusic sat down with label founders Tim Dellow and Toby L to find out how you can take on the big boys – and win.
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Tim: I think we were really frustrated with seeing loads of bands that we love not being represented, and not being able to complete with the dross, well most of the music that was being given an opportunity today. I think we wanted to find an ethical, cool way to have a kind of old fashioned career in music through releasing great records. It was that simple really.
Toby: We shared a few points, but I think more than anything the friendship was a crucial factor we just got on really immediately. I think the label is something we could focus our friendship around, it was something we could co-conspire on. Deploy some of our ambitions through it as a vessel and maybe help support some of the bands we were really fans of.
Tim: We didn’t really have any experience before forming the label, weren’t not one of those labels there our dads were all big MDs at big record companies. We’re just sort of enthusiastic music fans. We started it on a student loan and a lot of enthusiasm, we made our own contacts and worked hard at it really. Being immersed in the scene is important, and keeping an open mind about what people are doing.
Toby: People were quite supportive of us, and it built the pressure up and in a re-assuring way as it felt that whoever we signed were going to get attention. That made us want to up the ante each time we were signing bands, making them better and better each time.
Tim: It might be ego talking but I think that we really helped inspire other great singles labels such as Young & Lost Club, Moshi Moshi kind of rejuvenate the seven inch and giving it a value by making it limited. Just a high quality thing that people would want to own.
Toby: Our most recent signing was Mystery Jets, funnily enough, who we did the first ever signing of. We just signed them for publishing at the weekend so it feels as if the whole thing has gone full circle.
Tim: That first Young Knives seven inch is worth a lot – I wish I had more copies of them I could probably do with flogging a few of them! I’ve always been a collector of music as well and that aspect appeals to me. It’s nice that people care enough that they will pay that kind of money for it. But then again it’s not meant to be an exclusive club we want it to be accessible for everyone as well.
Toby: There have been no under the table encounters to get our bands the popularity they deserve which might happen at other labels and other companies. When we get success it’s genuine, it’s just been through great music and hard work all round. So I that’s what keeps us going, the reward aspect of knowing that we’re supporting our bands. There may be a day that they get the attention that they deserve and that’s why we’re here to put our efforts behind people and music we believe in and ensure it gets to the right place.
Tim: It is a job, and it is a lot of hard work and it is a complete labour of love. It’s really hard to finance stuff, especially at the moment as it’s a recession. We do spend all day listening to music, and there’s a few rooms so we can do stuff like the TV show as well. There’s loads of exciting stuff going on and that’s great but at the same time as that’s going on we’re having to worry about how we’re going to budget things and market things, studio sessions… it’s a hard job but it is rewarding.
Toby: With Transgressive it’s really great as we can film our bands, give them cameras – it’s really great as it’s become a one stop shop. One day I can wake up and do a TV program, the next day I wake up and put on a show with one of our bands, there’s just so many things we do now and they all support each other.
Tim: When you’ve got all of those aspects and you have a community of great people around you, and support it, and there’s an infrastructure there to support you then you can make things sustainable. I think where some of the majors have gone wrong is just through keeping bands indefinitely and putting out a hell of a lot of rotten music and making more music than ever even gets released. It’s not a very sensible model and that has had to change.
Toby: I think everything is really uncertain right now. But from reading books and stuff it’s an industry that seems to go through these periods every ten and fifteen years where formats change or technology changes, and that’s all that’s happening. I think that basically the internet gives you a vast library that people can access from TVs, from mobiles and so to ask people to go out and buy music is almost laughable – you only do it as a hobby. On the weekends you might go to a nice record shop, which is something that I love doing but I don’t expect that a lot of people do.
Tim: In one sense we’re really lucky to be in this time as you can make up your own rules, it’s not case of even having to ask someone for advice you can just create your own rules. As long as you always put the band first and you’re ethical and honest then I don’t see why you can’t have great success.
Toby: I think as long as there are great artists who make music for the right reasons, and as long as there is an audience who want to hear great music then independent labels will always have a place. The audience respect it – because the internet is a massive library that is difficult to filter then I think that these brands are the places you can go to first as you can trust them for years and rely on them to give you the best music. We’re a bit like an introduction to a band from a friend, or a record shop salesperson. We want to get an audience who trust us, who trust what we’re doing so we’re all in it together really.
Tim: Musically I think we’re just getting better and better as a label – I think the stuff that Foals are working on is breath-taking, the new Johnny Flynn record is stunning.. The last record we put out was the Graham Coxon solo album which is immense. There’s been some really stunning records coming out which is just the biggest reward, and that’s what we’ll be remembered for – great albums that people continue to listen to for years, which is the real goal I think. And supporting those bands – I don’t want the Nick Drake situation where you die massively unhappy with no real success. It’s a situation where we want to nurture the band so they can make money, and do it without having to worry about that. The only thing they should be worrying about is how to communicate with people through their music, which is what it really should be about.
To win tickets to some of Transgressive’s 5th anniversary celebrations click HERE!