Rock and indie record labels

Janine Rostron of
Janine Rostron of “Ready to Rock.” Photo Credit: Tina Winkhaus

Rock and indie record labels

Berlin’s best rock and indie record labels

**City Slang: Bands like Calexico and Lampchop made Christof Ellinghaus’ label the most recognizable German indie record label. After temporarily teaming up with Virgin, City Slang is back on its own two feet again. How is it going, Christof Ellinghaus? “It is harder than it ever has been. The music industry systematically destroyed any credibility they had – through horrible products, through public mistreatment of artists, through smugness and arrogance, through disrespecting the consumers, etc. And now they are wondering, why the consumer is taking complete control by means of new technology and deciding himself what he likes and what not. The consumer feels that he or she can legitimately own music without having to pay anything for it. That is a problem … We simply cannot spend any more money and have to hope that our records are so good that they will sell based solely on its high quality. There is something good about that too, though, because it forces you to radically react to the changing market. The chances are much higher than we can anticipate, thanks to the new technology. At the end of the day, there must be a democratization of the industry: fair gratuities for artists and musicians and maybe even the end of the recording industry as we know it. Isn’t this all so exciting! Some call it a crisis. I do not.”

Firestation Records: Uwe Weigmann and his team have been releasing Britpop for a good eight years. 72 releases so far, Weigmann’s hobby became a full time job: “In the beginning, we still took the demo path, nowadays everything is managed over MySpace. I listen to bands and secure the rights for the German market. Sooner or later we will have to be digital. But not completely, that wouldn’t be as much fun. I don’t particularly care for CDs, but I would rather have something in my hand than on my computer.”

*Louisville Records: Following Kitty-Yo and Motor Music, Patrick Wagner founded rock music label Louisville (Jeans Team, Naked Lunch, Puppetmastaz) together with Yvonne Franken. After their offices had to be closed due to financial reasons, the two work from home. “We could not do anything else, except downsizing and, at the same time, establishing a large amount of credibility. That is one of the few chances we have: that the people trust and believe us first. But we might have to take on random jobs soon anyhow. We swore that we would rather so bankrupt than to release something because we need to, from a commercial point of view. Why do I keep on doing it? Because I love music! Music is so great, music makes me really happy.”

**Motor Music: Tim Renner concentrates on local music (Dorfdisko, Super 700, Hund am Strand) for Motor, which is also a radio station (Motor FM) and television program (Motor TV). Is it worth it? “It is starting. One cannot say if downloads will finally terminate the recording industry. Or if downloads could bring back what we have lost on classic record sales, but it is showing a tendency in that direction. Too bad the download market is being limited by the major labels’ copyrights, which makes legally downloading music even less attractive than illegal downloads. Combining airplay and downloads like we do at Motor FM, however, are beginning to get more and more followers. How can you re-educate consumers, who are used to getting music for free, to pay for it all of a sudden? First you must give them a reasonable offer – price ranges and formats alike. Secondly, you have to re-socialize the consumer as retailers themselves. That means: everyone can sell music and have their own interest margin as well. Then he has no reason to chare or trade music anymore, because he is interested in selling himself.”

*Nois-o-lution: Arne Gesemann’s alternative label (Mother Tongue, Kate Mosh) sprang from the ashes of the now defunct Vielklang Konstrukt. Not only are the many demos actually listened to, but any refusals are written by the boss himself. “I care less about the image of the label, and more about the singular products. I always meet people who say: ‘Man, I have ten of your records on my shelf but I didn’t even know about your lab’ The problem with a label image is that it can grow out of your control, and one day it is out because it isn’t trendy enough. Just look at Lado or Kitty-Yo… At the moment, whenever I fall asleep or wake up, my first thought is always: What is missing? What does the music industry need? Where should things change? I read somewhere, that Rockefeller gave out gas lanterns, in order to sell more gas. Maybe one should give music out for free, in order to make money when the music reaches it’s second owner and so forth. No idea. I guess you have to be very alert these days, and stop hanging on to old structures.”

**Pale Music: Pale Music is mainly recognized overseas, where Steve Morell’s label is viewed as the Berlin underground freak label. Morell: “We don’t care anymore what the German market says. The quality of the German media landscape has drastically waned, everyone is talking about the same things. Only when someone in England reports about something do they write about it here. It is absurd: Music is made in Germany, goes overseas and only then does it come back. We are not doing good, but we still exist. We started with nothing, it can only get better.”

*V2 Records: Large indie label with bands like The Datsuns, Stereophonics and Aimee Mann. Like City Slang, V2 is a member of Cooperative Music, an international network concerned with placing products of participating indie labels in other countries.
(tbp, 10 Jan 2007)