Label profiles: Four independents under the spotlight

Martin Goldschmidt

INTRODUCTION: While a slew of new guitar acts keeps the label fresh, the last few years has seen it evolve into a home for big name acts whose major label days are behind them.

HISTORY: Martin Goldschmidt (above left) launched Cooking Vinyl in 1986 with business partner Pete Lawrence. The label enjoyed early success - their first release, Michelle Shocked's The Campfire Tapes sold a very respectable 150,000 copies worldwide. But in 1989, their distributors, Rough Trade, went bust leaving Cooking Vinyl on the edge of bankruptcy. Lawrence cut his losses and sold his stake to Goldschmidt who, after years of hard work, has established Cooking Vinyl as a thriving indie.

WHAT THEY SAY: "Signing Billy Bragg in 1993 was a huge break. It gave us a lot of credibility and really enabled us to rebuild the label. " Cooking Vinyl founder Martin Goldschmidt.

NOTABLE ACTS: Michelle Shocked, Cowboy Junkies, Billy Bragg, Blondie, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Orb, Ryan Adams.

2006'S TOP TIPS: A boxset Billy Bragg collection and albums by from label new-comers Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel.

PUB FACT: Cooking Vinyl's best selling artist for 2005 was Hayseed Dixie - a band who found success playing bluegrass covers of AC/DC songs. Also, says Goldschmidt, "We can't cook and we don't do vinyl." So now you know.

DOMINO

Laurence Bell

INTRODUCTION: Initially a UK home for seminal American lo-fi acts, the artist-led label is renowned for its personal touch. In 2003, label boss Laurence Bell signed the hotly-tipped and much sought-after Franz Ferdinand. The signing proved to be a turning point for the label and after securing the Arctic Monkeys last May, they are the envy of all labels - large and small.

HISTORY: While working for Fire Records in 1993, Laurence Bell came across quintessential US alt rockers Sebadoh. He loved the band so much, he set up Domino in his desk-less Putney basement to release their records in the UK. A string of similar acts followed, before Bell turned his discerning ear on more homegrown talent.

WHAT THEY SAY: "What do I look for in a band? I look for something unique and innovative, twisted and original. Alternatively, if I can't have that, something unbelievably exciting that makes me feel like the teenage rock'n'roll fan I once was," Laurence Bell, Domino Records founder and boss.

NOTABLE ACTS: Franz Ferdinand, Sebadoh, Elliott Smith, Sons & Daughters, Bonnie Prince Billy, Orange Juice, Pavement, Smog, Adem, Arctic Monkeys, The Magnetic Fields, Royal Trux.

2006'S TOP TIPS: Arctic Monkeys.

PUB FACT: The Domino logo was based on the logo designs of Triumph motorbikes and Tamla Motown records.

MVINE

Frank Joshi & Calum MacColl

INTRODUCTION: It's still early days for this web-based label who use users' feedback to pick and develop their acts. And if enough people like a band, Mvine sign them.

HISTORY: Founded by Frank Joshi and Calum MacColl in January 2005, MVine was set up to provide a focal point for DIY unsigned bands already mobilising a fanbase through their own websites. Artists are invited to submit three original tracks to MVine which visitors to the site are invited to comment on. The bands with the best feedback are eventually signed to the label.

WHAT THEY SAY: "We hand the A&R process over to our audience of music lovers and it is their opinions of the material, not ours, that inform our signings. We only want original material; artists that want to be artists rather than those who want to use their music as a route to having their own chat show." MVine Marketing Director, Kerry Harvey-Piper.

NOTABLE ACTS: Christie Hennessy and Boo Hewerdine.

2006'S TOP TIPS: The Slides and Broadcaster.

PUB FACT: MVine boss Calum MacColl is the son of legendary folk musicians and songwriters Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, and was Kirsty MacColl's half-brother.

MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES

Matt & Ollie Jacob

INTRODUCTION: From the sonic carnival of Mercury Prize nominees The Go! Team to Swedish psychedelic folk-rockers Dungen and the Phil Spector-esque bubble-gum rock of The Pipettes, this burgeoning young label is quietly establishing itself as a home for sparky and eclectic accessible acts.

HISTORY: Affectionately describing themselves as a "shabby but charming family business," Memphis Industries was established eight years ago by brothers, Matt and Ollie Jacob. The label was partly set-up as a vehicle to release their own music. However, after the critical success of their first signing, Blue States, the brothers' own musical ambitions fell by the wayside.

WHAT THEY SAY: "When it comes to signing new acts, we're not restricted by genre. We try to keep things fun and interesting by signing artists that are stylistically unlike the one signed before it," label co-founder, Ollie Jacob.

NOTABLE ACTS: The Go! Team, The Pipettes, J Xaverre, Dungen, Blue States.

2006'S TOP TIPS: The Pipettes.

PUB FACT: Ollie Jacob accidentally threw away the master recordings of his label's first album release, Blue States' critically acclaimed debut, Blue States Forever. Memphis Industry artist, J Xaverre is DJ and TV presenter, Lauren Laverne's brother.

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