Exclusive: Frenchkiss Leaves RED, Takes Physical Distribution to Orchard
Exclusive: Frenchkiss Leaves RED, Takes Physical Distribution to Orchard

Frenchkiss Records, the independent label founded by Les Savy Fav bassist Syd Butler, told Billboard.biz that they have left Sony distribution arm RED in favor of diving in 100% with digital-leaning outlet the Orchard. The label has worked with both distributors on its 30+-artist roster, with RED handling U.S. physical and the Orchard handling U.S. and international digital, but its RED deal expires in January.

The new agreement with the Orchard encompasses U.S. and international distribution, both digitally and physically.

Before catching a flight to England (where Les Savy Fav will be curating ATP's "Nightmare Before Xmas" festival this weekend), Butler explained the label's decision to go with the Orchard alone, with whom they've worked since 2004.

"We went with the Orchard fully because we speak the same language. It's a lame analogy, but it's like [Frenchkiss] speaks Mac, [not] PC. People at the Orchard speak Mac, too. They've been so honest with me for 10 years."

Butler says the label saw 80% of its sales in digital in 2011, anyway; the move reflects the evolution of the label since its beginnings in 1999, both in terms of product and scope.

"I really wanted to be a big fish in a different kind of pond," he says. "RED is a great company and they have the awards to prove it. But Frenchkiss has survived because of how nimble we are, and the Orchard has let us be that quick. There are only a couple labels who do physical [distribution] through the Orchard, and we'd rather have that hands-on focus and attention constantly. As an indie label, we need that attention to survive."

Orchard CEO Brad Navin says that the dynamic between the two companies, however, will be business as usual, thanks to their longstanding relationship--notwithstanding a few new perks, that is.

"They're going to have a cohesiveness they haven't experienced before," he explains. "Adding physical after digital may seem backwards to a lot of people, but it's the opportunity to work more closely with our label partners to market, promote, and sell releases across retail channels."

The previously all-digital Orchard added a physical distribution arm to its services when it acquired TVT Records and TVT Distribution in 2008.

Frenchkiss anticipates about ten releases in the first half of 2012, including full-lengths from Local Natives, Suckers, and a "secret band," with whom Butler says the label has been in signing talks for several months and who, he hints, is an act that fills 5,000-capacity venues. That signing will be announced in January.

"We're fired up to be working more closely with these guys," says Navin. "Syd's really got his ear to the ground, and we want them to be able to do what they do, with us being the back office."