Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Daptone, Bruce Iglauer Honored at A2IM's Libby Awards

(photo: Andy Gensler)

Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records accepting his A2IM lifetime achievement award at NYC's Highline Ballroom on June 19, 2014

The American Association of Independent Music’s third annual Libera Awards (a.k.a. The Libbys) hit NYC's Highline Ballroom last night, recognizing achievements throughout the independent music sector, which now constitutes some 34.6% of the retail music market. Though all the honorees are indie labels or signed to indie labels as defined by A2IM (which uses an ownership metric rather than a distribution one), many of this year’s winners had a stature that rivaled or surpassed many major label artists.

Grammy-winning, chart-topping Arcade Fire who are on Merge Records, for example, were the night’s big winners walking away with three trophies for best live act, video and co-album of the year honors. Other well-known winners included Glassnote Records, whose signings include Grammy winners Mumford & Son and Phoenix and which won for best indie label with staff of 6 or more; and Alabama Shakes, another Grammy winner, won best sync usage award for “You Ain’t Alone” which was used in the "Dallas Buyers Club" trailer.

At the same time, less high-profile music companies were also honored: Warp Records’ Steven Hill & Josh Berman won the Light Bulb award, for their creative marketing campaign for Boards of Canada’s “Tomorrow's Harvest,” which had a sort of cryptic scavenger hunt for it new release (see nominees video below); Jagjaguar's Angel Olsen won upcoming artist of the year; Kurt Vile’s "Wakin On A Pretty Daze Deluxe LP" (Matador Records) by Stephen Powers and graffiti artist ESPO won for Best Album Design; and Daptone Records won for best label with staff of five or less.

Tthe evening’s highlight was Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglauer’s acceptance speech for the A2IM Lifetime Achievement Award. It began with one of the night’s best lines: “So, a nice Jewish hippie from Cincinnati and a six-fingered guitar player from Mississippi walk into a bar.” That guitarist was Hound Dog Taylor and the hippie was Iglauer himself in the 1970s on the Southside of Chicago at a place called Florence’s Lounge where he heard music that he called “the happiest, most energizing, soul-stirring and fun” music he had ever experienced. “Forty-four years and 300 albums later, the spirit of Hound Dog Taylor lives on in everything that Alligator Records releases,” the label veteran said proudly.

Iglauer spoke eloquently about what makes independent music unique:  “We are driven first and foremost by our mutual passion for music, and the belief that music is more than a commercial product,” he said. “It’s something that can move people, inspire them, soothe their souls, make them understand and bond with their fellow humans and, of course, elevate us to higher levels of dancing and partying. Whether its Martin Mills championing a punk band called the Lurkers, Tommy Silverman being inspired by Afrika Bambaataa or me falling in love with Hound Dog Taylor, we are first and foremost – that’s all of us in this room – passionate music fans.” He then added, to much laughter: “I assume we didn't get into this business for job security, huge growth prospects, low stress levels or short hours.”

Hit Men: A2IM's lifetime Lifetime Achievement Recipients (from left): Beggars Group's Martin Mills, Alligator Records' Bruce Iglauer and Tommy Boy's Tom Silverman

The Alligator Records founder also shouted out music execs who had the greatest influence on him, which included Bob Koester of Delmark Records, who is still running the label he worked for 61 years after he started it; and Lillian Shedd McMurry the founder of Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi who led a female-owned indie label in the early-1950s featuring blues and gospel artists and who was the “most honest person" Iglauer said he ever knew.

“Everything that I know and everything that you know about the music business that’s more than five years old doesn’t matter anymore ,” Iglauer said of the ever-echanging music business. “We have to be constantly evolving to find new and profitable ways to bring music to the masses.”  He also spoke on the importance of having talented employees who are not disposable or easily replaced and thanked the 15 “quality people” who worked for him every day, “some for more than 20 years."

A2IM head Bengloff paid tribute to Iglauer’s humanitarianism before bringing up this year's split decision for album of the year by way of a rather circuitous story. He spoke of a late music exec who had a profound impact on him: ADA’s Michael Bassin who used to keep things on the up-and-up with the phrase “That ain’t right.” Bassin's words popped into Bengloff’s mind as he was tabulating votes and discovered that there was only one vote separating the first and second place album of the yea winners. Having not voted himself, Bengloff disclosed that he voted for the second place finisher ensuring that there would be a tie between Arcade Fire and the Arctic Monkey’s “AM” (Domino Recordings). The A2IM president swears he "ain't telling" which record he voted for.

Host Kurt Braunohler, who Comedy Central called a "Comic to Watch," brought much needed levity to the rather fast-paced ceremony marked by succinct and rather non-descript acceptance speeches. When announcing Taylor Swift's nomination for the Hardest Working Independent Artist of the Year, Braunohlerk called her the “face of independent music.” And upon scanning the crowd for "a-listers” to mock and not finding any he incredulously asked, “What, you guys couldn’t get Moby?”

While the night was surely devoid of celebutantes, the room was chockablock with indie royalty. Here Martin Mills of the Beggars Group, Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy and NMS, Daniel Glass of Glassnote Records and Portia Sabin of Kill Rock Stars held court.  Also Mingling about were heads of the independent global trade bodies— Alison Wenham of AIM and WIN, Charles Caldas of Merlin, Helen Smith of Impala and, of course, Rich Bengloff, who have a lot on their hands these days such as YouTube’s licensing demands for their new streaming services and other broader licenings and copyright issues. Also seen: Hopeless Records president Louis Posen, Epitaph GM Dave Hansen, YepRoc/Redeye co-owner Tor Hansen; ADA worldwide president Mike Jbara, Caroline president Dominic Pandiscia, Concord Records president Glen Barros and Daptone Records' Neil Sugarman.


Light Bulb Award
Steven Hill & Josh Berman (Warp Records), Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

Hardest Working Artist of the Year
Charles Bradley (Daptone Records)

Best Sync Usage Award
Alabama Shakes “You Ain’t Alone” (ATO Records) in Dallas Buyers Club (by District Music)

Best Live Act of the Year
Arcade Fire “Reflektor” (Merge Records)

Independent Ally of the Year
NPR Music

Creative Packaging Award (Physical or Digital)
Kurt Vile “Wakin On A Pretty Daze Deluxe LP” (Matador Records) by Stephen Powers/ESPO

Up & Comer Artist Award
Angel Olsen “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” (Jagjaguwar)

Breakthrough Artist of the Year
Chvrches “The Bones of What You Believe” (Glassnote)

Video of the Year
Arcade Fire “Reflektor” (Merge Records)

A2IM Lifetime Achievement Award
A2IM Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records)

Album of the Year TIE
Arcade Fire “Reflektor” (Merge Records)
Arctic Monkeys “AM” (Domino Recordings)

Label of the Year (5 full-time employees or fewer)
Daptone Records

Label of the Year (6 full-time employees or more worldwide)