Four Indie Ventures Marking Major Milestones In the Music Industry

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Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low

With A2IM Indie Week taking place in New York June 18-21, two independent labels, a retailer and a distributor celebrate staying power.

Newbury Comics, 40th Anniversary

In the early days of Newbury Comics, in a thrifty apartment on Boston’s Newbury Street, founders Mike Dreese and John Brusger occasionally opened the store in the morning while still wearing pajamas. The New England chain has since had over 20,000 employees pass through its doors -- today’s number is 375 -- as it expanded to CDs, T-shirts, merchandise and, of course, vinyl albums. “The first diversification we ever did was selling music,” says Duncan Browne of Newbury’s management committee. “Selling a whole bunch of stuff other than comics has kind of been the story of Newbury Comics.” The retailer’s 40th anniversary was recognized in May during the Music Biz Conference in Nashville.

Hopeless Records, 25th Anniversary

In December 1993, Louis Posen was directing a music video for Guttermouth when the punk band dared him to put out its next 7-inch vinyl single. Posen picked up a book called How to Run an Independent Record Label, and the first lesson he learned was “you need a label name.” Guttermouth’s single happened to be called “Hopeless,” and an indie institution was born, releasing albums over the years by All Time Low, The Used and Taking Back Sunday. The label has been profitable for 25 consecutive years, using its nonprofit Sub City to donate $2.5 million to 50 charitable groups. “We’re in a scene, a community, that’s cultural and lifestyle-based, and it doesn’t go up and down as much as the industry,” says Posen.

Ingrooves, 15th Anniversary

With its first (and quite obscure) release, a 2004 self-titled album from Autopilot, Ingrooves partnered with Apple’s iTunes Music Store early on and gave artists and labels a way to distribute music efficiently online. “The whole point of where it started was around giving artists and labels an opportunity to get their music out in the world, and there weren’t many ways to do that at the time,” says executive vp/GM Amy Dietz. Ingrooves has since closely associated itself with Universal Music, which has a 22 percent stake in the company and exclusive access to its digital-distribution service. In its 15 years, Ingrooves has grown from three employees to a staff of 120.

Mom + Pop Music, 10th Anniversary

Long before he decided to open an indie label at perhaps the worst possible time in the history of the record business, Michael Goldstone was an A&R hero who signed Mother Love Bone, the first iteration of Pearl Jam, as well as Rage Against the Machine and Tegan & Sara. He can’t recall Mom + Pop’s first release, but he says Sleigh Bells’ 2010 album, Treats, gave the label crucial momentum, and over the years it has grown from two employees to 13, putting out 70 LPs. “It defined the DNA of the company in terms of finding things that are artistically interesting and culturally important,” he says. Mom + Pop signing Alice Merton has topped Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart with “No Roots.”

This article originally appeared in the June 15 issue of Billboard.