Indie Labels Lifeblood of Music Industry

Imagine hearing Aerosmith sound-a-likes over and over on the radio, like a broken record - each new band on the scene sounded like someone we'd already heard. Gag! If it weren't for independent record labels there would be no new music on the radio, we'd just hear the same old sounds rehashed over and over again. Because our airwaves are dominated by songs from major label recordings and the majors rarely take chances on breaking new forms of music, radio would be pabulum to our ear palets if it weren't for the indies. Lucky for us there are music lovers who care enough to invest the time and money it takes to get a recording of old and new homegrown sounds and then fight to promote the hell out of it to get it on the radio so that you and I can hear it and then, hopefully we will want to buy the record. Those labels like Alligator, Malaco, Flying Fish, and Rounder, who have managed to compile some extensive catalogues over the years of roots Americana music that would have been lost forever, were started by visionaries who realized the importance and historic significance of getting a record of those unique artists that didn't have a chance with the majors. Did you know that Atlantic Records started with the purpose of recording the new music of the day, jazz? Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records pulled street rappers into to the studio to record the uniqueness of the urban Americana music, and promoted it so efficiently that Rap became pop music and the majors clamored to sign anyone that talked over music.

Dallas, Texas has it's own indie history, with early labels like Star Talent Records whose founder, Jesse Erikson, toted a tape recorder into clubs to capture the soul of black blues (see Robert Wilonsky's article in the April 6 issue of the Dallas Observer ). Today Dallas has a growing number of labels led by such visionaries as Sam Paulos of Crystal Clear Records ( more a distribution network for such acts as the Dixie Chicks , the now defunct Killbilly , and others) and his new Steve Records ( with a recent Sixty-Six release), and David Dennard of Dragon Street Records (who promoted Tripping Daisy , Hagfish and the Nixons to major label fame). Other Dallas indie heroes include: Alan Restrepo of Carpe Diem Records (Course of Empire, Cafe Noir, Little Jack Melody ); Sean Handran of Direct Hits Records (Bedhead, Lithium Xmas, Slowpoke, Brutal Juice ); Paul Nugent of Rainmaker Records (The Nixons, Pop Poppins, Tabula Rasa, Adam's Farm ); Richard Chalk of Top Cat Records (Robert Ealey, Curly "Barefoot" Miller, Freddie King); Tommy Quon of the now defunct Ultrax Records (Vanilla Ice, Gregg Smith, the Mac Band, Benita Aterbury ); Brady Wood of Rhythmic Records (Jackopierce ); Chris Christian of Home Sweet Home Records (Contemporary Christian); Jim Vincent of VIP Records (a Denton label); Leaning House Records (Marchel Ivery ); Caron Barrett of Last Beat Records (Pervis, Rubberbullet ); Remarkable Records (Jeanie Perkins, When I Was A Dinosaur, and Teardrops to Rainbows) and I'm sure that I've missed a few.

This month record labels convene at the 31st annual Midem, the largest music conference in the world, in Cannes, France to trade with other labels, music publishers, and distributors, award those in the industry for outstanding achievements, and view the finest talent in the world. The American Association for Independent Music (AFIM), with a membership of record labels and distributors that produces the finest music worldwide, will be major force on the convention floor. There are 7 companies participating this year: Alligator Records ( or, Blind Pig Records ( or, Green Linnet Records / Xenophile Records - ( or, Malandro Records ( or, Primarily A Cappella Records ( or, and Righteous Babe Records. For more information about AFIM, go by the Stand and visit with Mary Neumann and pick up a directory of all the label and distributor members in the association, or call 001 606 633-0946. For more information about Midem, Midem Asia, or Midem Latin, visit the Midem web site @


Texas Music Magazine   Vol. 10  No. 1  January 2001





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