So yesterday (Saturday 12th July) I spent the afternoon and early evening at the Independent Label Market at Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross. A few things crossed my mind whilst there; one, who would have ever thought that Kings Cross would ever be a venue for a family day out. I still remember working girls, horrible pimps and Scottish and Maltese gangs fighting over control of the sex trade. Two, why does regeneration in London (and elsewhere) always go hand in hand with the negatives of gentrification and Three, how vitally important indie record labels are to The Illicit Grooves Radio Show, to UK culture and the music scene and to me personally as a music fan.
Now gentrification and white on white gang violence from the recent past can wait for other articles in different blogs. The focus of this piece is the indie labels representing at the market yesterday and other labels we play music from on the show and write about in The Return of the Illicit Groove blog and social media pages.
To be fair, most of the playlists over the past two and a bit years of The Illicit Grooves Radio Show have been a mix of indie and major labels with a clear majority, especially over the last 18 months, of indie music. Indeed, the rise of the whole LDN Nu Jazz scene and its acts, along with US acts such as Kamasi washington, Snarky Puppy and others have set the music ethos of the show. Re-issues and compilations of music from Latin America, Brazil, Japan and all regions of Africa have also fed into the #Grooves4TheGlobalLeftfield direction of the show. Nearly all of this music comes from independent labels or from bands who have been signed by majors off the back of indie recordings and their live appearances.
Major labels play a huge part in the global music scene, Shabaka Hutchings being signed by Verve/Impulse has undoutably enabled him to have the freedom to be as creative as possible with Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming and also stands as a beacon for all those looking to earn a living from their music. Gregory Porter, the Blue Note back catalogue and new music on that iconic label come to us at a time when it is owned by Universal Music. So, this article is very definitely not a waxed beard, check shirt and alpaca wool latte, hipster style condemnation of the majors. Rather it is imply a look at the labels we are lucky to be associated with and/or admire as programmers of #Grooves4TheGlobalLeftfield on The Illicit Grooves Radio Show, our #AcrossThetracks Compilation of the Week and Deep Thrill Mean Something mixes and on our various gigs over the years such as Groove Indigo and Roasted Grooves.
Indeed, such is our admiration of those indie labels which bring out new artists, curate excellent compilations and search out music for re-issue that the annual #IllicitGrooves Awards has the categories of Favourite Re-Issue and Favourite Compilation in place to highlight and thank the very labels we are discussing. Both the Favourite Track and Favourite Album categories have also been dominated by music from indie sources as well.
Indie labels remind me of lower league football clubs which use their Academy systems to search out, sign and nurture new talent in the knowledge that if successful they will earn for that club as players and may well then be signed by a Premier League team. Either way, new talent has emerged and been brought the notice of fans and the smaller club becomes known for its excellent talent spotting and nurturing. Translate this to music labels and think of how many brilliant bands and artists have been supported over the years by smaller labels, selling directly via online sites such as Bandcamp or through independent shops such as Honest Jons’s, Sounds Of the Universe, Love Vinyl and others too numerous to mention.
I was listening to music focused morning show on a national station on the 4th of July when the presenter joked about ‘today being ‘Independents Day’. I liked that and followed it up with a post to the #IllicitGrooves Facebook page paying homage to those labels we are talking about.
Whether for new talent, new homes for established artists to create late career magic, re-issues and re-releases and outstanding compilations here is a roll call of just some of those labels.
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