Eurythmics founder starts 'creative co-op'

Dave Stewart forms independent label and studio
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The Independent Culture

Dave Stewart, co-founder of the Eurythmics, is to set up a "creative co-operative" for musicians and film makers who bemoan the lack of artistic control over their work.

Shekhar Kapur, the film director who made Elizabeth; the Body Shop founder Anita Roddick; and Malcolm Gerrie, the TV producer whose credits include Channel 4's The Tube, are among backers who have invested a combined £10m in the project. There are plans to raise a further £20m over the next few months.

Jimmy Cliff, the reggae legend who became the first act to sign to the Artist Network, is recording its first album at Abbey Road studios (future records will be cut at the Church studio in Crouch End, north London). Other artists are being signed and several new acts are being auditioned.

A seven-floor multimedia arts centre and television studio in Covent Garden will also be at their disposal. Mr Stewart plans to create seven TV channels and there are four feature films in the pipeline. The legendary Marquee Club is being reopened at a new venue in Islington, north London, as a live venue for the company's musicians.

Mr Stewart said: "We are building a mini-empire outside of the system, run by creative people. We have been carefully getting together a plan and I have been cherry-picking people who could understand what I am doing and can push it through." He said a number of incidents in his career had been the spur for wanting to set up the project.

One was when the American record company RCA recruited its new head from a car rental firm. "It was very hard talking to someone who came from Hertz about your music," Mr Stewart said.

He added that artists in his company would share in the profits of the brand rather than being isolated, as in a big record company or film studio.

Shekhar Kapur described the idea as "empowering and managing individuality". Malcolm Gerrie said: "This is a big, brave messy idea, and I love it."

Andy Law, chairman of St Luke's advertising agency and the chief executive of the Artist Network, said yesterday: "This is putting creativity back where it belongs, in the hands and the hearts and the minds of creative people."

He added: "People like Bob Dylan, U2 and Lou Reed have heard about this and have given us their blessing. They cannot leave their record labels. But we will be building up a roster of artists, some established and some new.

"The Artist Network is a Fair Trade-style approach to managing cultural industry."