When asked about the highlight of his label’s recent tenth anniversary benefit show, which featured emo heroes Brand New performing their debut album from start to finish, Fred Feldman replies, “It was seeing the dreams of a while bunch of Long Island kids come true.” Feldman’s label, Triple Crown Records, has been a patron saint of the suburban New York emo and hardcore scene, helping break Brand New, as well as developing local acts like As Tall As Lions.
Feldman got his start in the business at hip hop label Profile Records, where he worked his way up from the mailroom to become the General Manager. When the label was sold to a major in 1997, Feldman started Triple Crown Records, and ten years later, he’s still driving to the suburbs to find new talent.
1. What lessons did you learn during your time at Profile that you took with you to Triple Crown?
One of the best things about Profile was that the walls between the departments weren’t really firm, and people were working for the benefit of the records. While we did have the usual departments, in the end, the music came first. I learned that smart indie labels give people the opportunity to move around; during my time there, I did everything from radio to retail to marketing. I was also given the opportunity to start my own imprint and make all my mistakes while I was there.
2. Triple Crown is known for being aligned with the Long Island emo scene and having a local focus. Have you used this to help the label build its brand?
Well, we do have bands from all over the country on the label. That said, we’re lucky to have such a vibrant scene right here in Long Island and New Jersey; there are some great promoters putting together shows and some fantastic young bands coming up through these scenes. This stuff is really under the radar of a lot of New York City hipsters, but kids absolutely love it and connect to it.
3. Triple Crown Records is a part of the East West family of record labels, which is a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Can you talk a bit about how that relationship started and the perks and drawbacks of this sort of relationship?
The East West system is great because it offers support for the entrepreneurs who are running these small labels. We also have access to ADA distribution capabilities, which is a great benefit. We are able to aggregate responsibility and tap in to this machine while remaining independent and signing acts that we love. I have complete creative control at Triple Crown, and yet if I want to work a song to radio, I have Warner’s resources.
4. What role does Triple Crown play in developing artists and helping them build their careers?
We sign many of our bands when they’re pretty young, and the first thing we do is get them out on the road. Playing six nights a week is a fast way to determine whether a band will sink or swim. Touring is the absolute best way to connect a band with kids; you need to be out there selling merch and making good use of street teams. We don’t lead with TV or radio; we’d rather have them come to us and say, “This is the band all the kids are talking about.”
5. What percentage of your sales are digital and what percent are physical? What other sorts of work do you do in the online and mobile realm?
We’re on the twenty to thirty percent range in terms of digital sales, and we’re seeing an increase in single track sales. Our bands tend to sell a lot of discs on the road, which is great in that it helps them financially with their tours. We also do things like early ringtone releases to superfans and digital only releases.
6. What are your plans for the coming year?
We have a new record from As Tall As Lions coming out that I’m really excited about. Mostly, we’re in the same boat as every other label in terms of trying to figure out this crazy new world order.