Rise Records is a tiny operation - just six employees at a modest office in Beaverton, Ore. But in the metal music world, the independent label is making a surprisingly loud noise. Three of its albums have cracked the top 10 of the Billboard 200 so far this year, including "Unconditional" by Dallas metalcore outfit Memphis May Fire, released in March (No. 4). Rise is responsible for nearly 5 percent of all hard-rock records sold in 2014 - more than twice the market share of older and more established competitors like Hopeless Records and Epitaph. In each of the last two years, the company's revenue was estimated at $10 million.
And the label has done it by building a young, fiercely loyal audience while keeping a low profile. "Everything that they're doing is fairly under the radar, as far as the mainstream goes," says Vaughn Lewis, founder of Strong Management and manager of bands like Killswitch Engage and Disfiguring the Goddess. "They've kind of come out of nowhere and surprised a lot of people."
Nowhere, in this case, is Grass Valley, Calif., where Rise founder Craig Ericson put out his first 7-inch as a high school senior in 1991. Music moguldom didn't come quickly. Ericson got a degree in geography, moved to Portland and worked for years as a government cartographer before succumbing to a persistent itch to resurrect his old passion project.