U.K.'s Enter Shikari Scores Without Label

Rock outfit Enter Shikari is claiming victory over the label system after crashing the U.K. top five with its self-released debut album.

Rock outfit Enter Shikari is claiming victory over the label system after crashing the U.K. top five with its self-released debut album. "Take to the Skies," which the band put out on its own Ambush Reality imprint, entered the Official U.K. Charts Co.'s albums survey March 25 at No. 4 with sales of 28,000 units, marking the first significant chart success for a new act operating outside the traditional label system.

"This vindicates our decision to do things ourselves," band manager Ian Johnson of London-based Mythophonic Management says. He notes that the band turned down several offers of "six-figure advances" from major labels in favor of remaining independent.

"There's not a major label out there that could have sold us more records in week one," Johnson says. "It's very easy for majors to throw money at something and smother it, but we actually spent less than we originally budgeted for."

Outside of rock press ads, Enter Shikari relied upon its fanatical fan base to push the record into the charts. The St. Albans, England-based band, which fuses metal with hardcore techno, attracted considerable media attention last year when it sold out London's legendary 1,600-capacity Astoria -- the only unsigned band to do so, after the Darkness -- on the back of its MySpace popularity, where it lists more than 100,000 friends.

The album launched with two chaotic release-week in-stores at HMV shops in London and Manchester that Melanie Armstrong, music product manager for the market-leading retailer, describes as "exhilarating. They remain off most people's radar," she says, "but ask any 15- or 16-year-old in the U.K., and they are pretty much the coolest thing on the planet right now."

"It's not like we're some ruthlessly ethical DIY punk band," singer Rou Reynolds says. "Initially we did everything ourselves out of necessity, not choice. But it definitely suits us -- and it will suit others as digital becomes more important and people cut out the middle man."

The band will travel to the United States in May for live dates, but it seems unlikely to attempt to replicate its self-released success stateside. With the album licensed to PIAS in Europe, Johnson says the band is negotiating with three major labels for a U.S. deal, but will remain independent at home. "America's just too big for us to do things on our own," he says. "But as long as it ain't broke in the U.K., I'm not inclined to fix it."

Additional reporting by Courtney Lear in London.

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