Other Music, New York City's small but enduring bastion of independent music retail, yesterday announced it is launching a music label in partnership with Fat Possum Records.
The Other Music Recording Co.'s first release will be by Brooklyn's Ex Cops whose debut single "You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb" b/w "The Millionaire" comes out on April 24 in both 7" vinyl and digital formats. Ex Cops and Shintaro Sakamoto (of the Japanese group Yura Yura Teikoku) will have the label's full-length album debuts later this spring in CD, LP and digital formats.
"Fat Possum will be manufacturing and distributing everything for us," explained Josh Madell, Other Music's co-owner and the new label's manager. Fat Possum, which has put out albums by Andrew Bird, The Black Keys and T-Model Ford, is located in Oxford Mississippi and has had partnerships with Big Legal Mess, Brown Records. Designer Records, Hi Records and TVZ Records and Hi Records.
Other Music was founded in 1995 by Madell, Chris Vanderloo and Jeff Gibson who all worked together at Kim's Underground, a NYC-based independent music and film retailer. Opening their small retail store directly across the street from then-music-retail-behemoth Tower Records seemed to many a fool-hardy idea. But Other Music managed to outlast both the large chain store and music retail's decade-long downturn. The store added a mail order business in 1997, opened a Boston store in 1999 (which closed in 2002), and launched an MP3 business in 2008 -- all of which has helped the store and its staff keep one step ahead of the masses.
"We get to hear music pretty early," says Other Music co-owner Chris Vanderloo from the Other Music store. "Bands bring their music to us all the time and we get to develop relationships. We've sold music here on consignment that later gets big. Over the years we've had a lot of A&R guys come in to find out about bands." Much like a scene out of "High Fidelity," Vanderloo says they can see the response from customers and what does and doesn't have potential.
There is, of course, a long history of music retail launching record labels. Fabled stores such as London's Rough Trade (and Honest Jon's and Soul Jazz), Boston's Newbury Comics, NYC's 99 Records and Fat Beats all had their own labels. Even box stores like Tower Records and Best Buy had their own music labels.
Other Music, according to Vanderloo, never had the resources to start their own label until Fat Possum came along. "Our buyer had a relationship with Steven Bevilaqua who does A&R at Fat Possum," says Vanderloo. A meeting about it developed from an idea he had into a proposal and now they're going to fund a lot of the production, manufacturing, recording costs and so forth.-- it's really cool."
Madell said the store's "talented staff will help out in various ways, including A&R support."
This is Other Music's first label venture, though Gibson, one of Other Music's original founders who is no longer involved with the store, was a partner in the OMplatten label with Johan Kugelberg. That label's releases included reissues of several original Os Mutantes titles and a Bjorn Olsson album.
All of which begs the question how come Other Music didn't launch a label before now. "I guess," Vanderloos says,"they were the first ones to ask."