Like many singer/songwriter Ben Rector is working outside the traditional music industry. What’s interesting is how far outside, and what he’s accomplishing.
Without label support, publishing or any type of radio push, his most recent album, “The Walking in Between,” debuts at No. 16 on the Billboard 200, with 21,000 sold in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Rector has upped the ante since his last set, 2011’s “Something Like This,” which debuted and peaked at No. 41 on the Billboard 200, working alongside long-time booking agent Jeff Krones at Creative Artists Agency, publicist Jim Merlis at Big Hassle, music licensing company Secret Road and manager Bernie Cahill at ROAR.
“There’s aspects of being independent that I really enjoy, like creative control. It’s more of a known commodity,” Rector says. “I know more of what ROAR and I can control, and the things we want to invest in we can.”
Rector built a fan base for his sweetly funky pop through years of touring starting while he was still in college at the University of Arkansas in the mid-2000s. “I understand that the music I make is poppy and might not fit in that blog sphere, but that’s totally fine with me,” Rector says. “We didn’t do a ton of press for the album, partially because press people would be like, ‘Who are you?’ We released the record and hoped that fans would talk about it and like it.”
“At the end of the day when you have a Ben Rector show, you listen to 500-1,000 people sing every word back to him,” Krones says. “It’s not about a radio single.”
Earning a high-profile spot as iTunes’ Single of the Week and partnering with Live Nation’s Ones to Watch program helped propel Rector’s music. “This started as a digital-only release, and with no label, no publisher, no radio, these are very strong numbers,” Cahill says. “It would take a pretty remarkable label deal to get him to blink.”
Cahill has recently fielded inquiries from Warner U.K. and Decca, with more international label interest surfacing daily. “When you put out an album yourself and it charts, one of the things that happens is you start to get international calls. Certainly he’ll be able to do big business there.”