Hey GZA, what’s in a label?

When a friend asked me what my favorite record labels were, I really had to think. My first thought was, does it matter? As a listener, I didn’t see why I should care about record labels. After some thought, I realized that like any good manager, a good record label encourages musicians to connect with fans, create excellent music, and to further explore and develop their talents. My favorite bands are signed to labels like Sub Pop, Barsuk, Up, Domino, Jagjaguwar and Matador. These labels by all accounts employ music fans first and foremost. They love and nurture their roster and are working with bands to create innovative ways to release albums and to connect with new listeners through creative marketing.

Two weeks ago I went to the Domino website to see if the new Animal Collective album was for sale. It was available on 2 LP 180 gram vinyl packaged with a MP3 download coupon. Fantastic, sign me up and count me in, I want that package. To me that is a win-win. The consumer, me, purchases an audiophile vinyl copy that I can listen to at home, and picks up the added value of the MP3 download. Also, I get the whole package before the official release date. The label gets my email address and information and now they can market directly to me via email. They also now have the data that tells them that I buy vinyl and am a fan of Animal Collective. Again, win-win. This is what I want from my favorite labels – a personal connection, a reason to keep coming back, be remarkable, offer added value. Otherwise, why pledge allegiance to a label? For instance Domino just “gets it” and is interested in not just selling CDs, but building and fostering a relationship between its roster of bands and consumers that purchase their music.


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