Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Independents New Era in Sales

For many the dream of staying an independent, never joining a major label stable and making it in the entertainment industry never gets realized. For the first time in history an independent band, with no prior chronicle of major label attachment has debut Billboard Top 200 album charts at #1. This is no fluke but an orchestrated business plan that has encompassed 3 years of promotion, marketing and fan building.

Vampire Weekend is classified as an American rock indie band, however there music is influenced by both classical music and African popular music. Their biggest single released in 2007 “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” is basically Congolese soukous music and was covered by Peter Gabriel former vocalist of Genesis.
Singer-guitarist Ezra Koening and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij (both music majors at Columbia) brought the African sounds into the band — particularly soukous music, one of the styles made famous in the West via Paul Simon’s Graceland album. When they formed the band, Ezra was listening to a compilation of Madagascar guitar pop music called Madagascar Guitar Vol. 2,. At the same time, Rostam was listening to (South African singer) Brenda Fassie a lot.
In 2007 Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa was ranked #67 on Rolling Stones list of the top 100 songs of the year. Being a touring band has made them interact with their fan base and in 2008 Spin magazine claimed them the Best New Band of the year making them the first band to be shot for the cover of the magazine before releasing their debut album.

Vampire Weekend is a group of Ivy League guys that are not afraid to make fun of their upbringing and neighborhoods. Using the Internet and live shows to keep their fan base alive has worked for these four gentlemen. In 2008 their debut album ranked #15 on the UK charts (over 100,000 sales) and #17 on Billboard, after selling 28,000 copies; its tally now stands at 498,000. First week count on the new album Contra stands at over 124,000 within the United States.

Kudos go out to the band but even more kudos go out to XL Recordings an independent record label which was launched by Tim Palmer, Nick Halkes and Richard Russell in 1989. Originally a UK based dance label, it also released drum and bass, techno and rave music. Tim Palmer retired in 1994 and Richard Russell’s vision started to take command. One thing that Mr Russell has always done and that is work with artists he saw as creative and inventive thus bringing XL Records to the forefront of Independent labels within the UK and himself as one of the most influential people within the British music business.

The diversity of XL Records is apparent once you look at the rooster of acts now on the label:

• Adele
• Badly Drawn Boy
• Basement Jaxx
• be your own PET
• Beck
• Blue Roses
• Cajun Dance Party
• The Cool Kids
• Damon Albarn
• Devendra Banhart
• Dizzee Rascal
• Elvis Perkins
• Friendly Fires
• Jack Peñate
• Giggs
• Gil Scott-Heron
• Golden Silvers
• Gotan Project
• Holly Miranda
• The Horrors
• Kicks Like a Mule
• Kid Harpoon
• Lemon Jelly
• M.I.A.
• Magistrates
• Peaches
• The Prodigy
• Radiohead
• The Raconteurs
• Ratatat
• RJD2
• Sigur Rós
• Tapes 'n Tapes
• Thom Yorke
• Titus Andronicus
• To My Boy
• Vampire Weekend
• Various
• The White Stripes
Since the late 1990s expanding into other genres such as freak-folk, alternative rock , hip-hop and UK Garage, XL Records has maintained a TOP three (3) sales place on the US, UK and Canadian record charts.
Good business sense, coupled with increasing online and offline fan base reach has propelled this label to new never before heard of heights.

Surprising what a little work and education will do.

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