In this ongoing series, we take a closer look at some of the many labels carving their own niche.
In 2008, when a new record label was launched, it would drop to the bottom of the list of wise business ventures, investing in phonebook publishing just above the opening of a VCR repair shop. The advent of MP3 has pushed CD sales to a climax, and new platforms like MySpace and Blog have begun to give artists the means to promote and distribute their music without the need for middlemen. But from this impossible moment, one of America’s most famous independent record labels was born. Brooklyn-based Impressions Mexican Summer initially built its brand with some impressive previous A&R investments, releasing the desired early recordings Wash out, Ariel Pink, And The best coast. And it has managed to survive for more than a decade – keeping pace with the musical trends, the changing seas of the industry, and the growing population of its customer base. Here, left cofounders Keith Abrahamson and Andres Santo Domingo explain how they did it.
In the beginning
Abrahamson and Santo Domingo were in a better position than most to launch a new label venture. Since 2002, the two have been running another established impression called Kemado Records. That label became best known for its stoner-rock work Sword And Give fertilizer, But Abrahamson and Santo Domingo wanted another outlet to experiment with different types of underground music promotions and different release strategies.
“We wanted to do something less traditional in the sense of how contracts worked in the past, where you had to have long-term commitment to the artists,” Santo Domingo said. “We wanted to get more artists with less commitment.” To achieve that goal, the limited-production specialized neonatal label went into a long neglected format that began to show signs of life again.
“There was a resurgence of vinyl that was really strong and we were riding that wave,” Santo Domingo said. “It was a post-Napster era, so people were settling down to listen to music digitally, but I also think people got sick of not getting any physical products for a long time, because the CDs were gone long ago, and there was something touching for this. Need to sit deep.
Pictures of Mexican summer Keith Abrahamson and Andres Santo Domingo, Alex Tolts
Every startup indie label dreams of having a buddy on the ground floor with an emerging artist that ends up breaking down nationally. At first, the Mexican Summer was lucky for several of them, including the buzzing record from the wash out, Accommodation, And Kurt Will The label’s first true Grand-Slam release: the widely acclaimed 2010 debut album, Tuing Coast. Crazy for you, Which has sold more than 100,000 copies.
At the moment, Mexican Summer can no longer think of itself as a boutique impression that specializes in small vinyl releases. I had to quickly learn how to punch the weight of the biggest label on indie rock. It took them a while to compete at that level, and long ago, the aforementioned artists all moved on to the big label. “At first it was a cross to carry us,” Abrahamson said. “We were a small label, and we didn’t have leverage or history to hold these artists. We were burned again and again! ”
Santo Domingo added, “Many of these artists were signed as singles.” “We weren’t thinking outside of it, and they just hit.” More complicated was the fact that in the early 2010’s, vinyl was no longer a micro-niche market that provided the most dedicated music heads. Major labels were entering the game, and big box retailers like Urban Outfitters were bringing vinyl to more casual music customers, disrupting the printing presses that Mexican Summer relied on.
“We certainly had the challenge and still have it,” Santo Domingo said. “Especially with time. It’s very difficult to turn things around very quickly. There aren’t enough plants for the amount of vinyl making. So our releases were planned at least half a year ahead of time.
Being a record label in the 10s means being more than just a record label. The Mexican Summers Brooklyn headquarters has an adjacent Co-op record store (Co-op 87) and a recording studio (Gary’s Electric Studio). Similarly, the label’s internal activities have expanded to include a book-publishing force, a re-issue imprint (Anthology Recording) and an experimental electronic-music offshot (Software Recording Co.) led by Daniel Lopatin. Oneohtrix never points. But despite their deep roots in the Greenpoint neighborhood, Mexican Summer does not see itself as strictly a Brooklyn entity. Currently in New Zealand’s Avant-Soul Dynamo with a wide roster Conan Moccasin, Welsh Art-Pop Ambassador Kate the Good, And LA torch singer Jessica Pratt– Not to mention An annual label-curated festival The artist of Marfa, Texas held in the oasis – Mexican Summer has cultivated a community in psychology more than a geographical perspective.
“I would say in today’s climate, you need to branch out in all those directions,” Abrahamson said. “You can’t just take out the record. Clearly, this is our main focus, but things like publications, and events and studios and record stores – that play a huge role in establishing our identity.
“It involves our evolution as humans,” Santo Domingo added. “It’s about our own interests and where we’re going and what we like to do. Where our audience goes is about us. I think a lot of those of us who sold records 10 years ago are now interested in buying the books we offer. Can
Abrahamson and Santo Domingo have both admitted they are not hitting clubs six nights a week in search of their next signing. (There’s a way to cramp your style in this matter of paternity.) And since their label has become a proper indie organization, they’ve inevitably become entangled in free-wheeling, any method of A&R investment that primarily fuels the Mexican Summer Enterprise.
“We sign fewer things now,” Abrahamson said. “It simply came to our notice then. Obviously, we have to turn to music. But once that happens, it slows down and ensures that people adapt to the culture and community we create. I think we’ve created the subtlety of our approach. When we first started, we recorded a kind of bleeding, and it was extremely fun and quite liberating. ”
“But [it wasn’t] Always productive, both financial and creative, ”added Santo Domingo.
Running a rigid ship means Mexican Summer is in a better position to focus on its most important task these days: managing its artists through the vast, overcrowded digital-music universe and making sure they don’t get lost in the flood. While technical equipment has allowed artists more control over their careers than ever before, for Abrahamson and Santo Domingo, old-school skills are still needed to navigate new paradigms.
“I think a lot of artists don’t understand labels,” said Santo Domingo, and much of what labels do in matters like marketing, licensing and promotion – can be managed by a rational and enterprising artist, labels to improve bands and get them to the right audience Provides unique opportunities to bring.
“Labels act as curative voices,” Santo Domingo added. “You could argue that if you could rent a really empty hall and place a painting, you wouldn’t need museums. But the museum has purpose because there is a curatorial aspect that gives it the seal of approval. ”
– Stuart Berman