Ben Swanson, Chris Swanson and Darius Van Arman, who co-founded Dead Oceans, Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian labels, prominent indie labels that feature artists such as Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth, Yeasayer and Okkervil River, but eventually found that they wanted to be involved in even more aspects of their artists’ careers.
“We were already handling it informally and we thought it would be better to build something that had its own distinct identity, away from the record labels,” Darius Van Arman told Billboard.biz.
So when the crew learned that close friend Ami Spishock from Zeitgeist Artist Management held a similar vision, they joined to create Fort William Artist Management.
The company’s current roster consists entirely of pre-existing clients, including: Grizzly Bear, Bowerbirds, Sondre Lerche, Dreamers of the Ghetto, Department of Eagles, CANT, JBM, Menomena and Jens Lekman.
The small, hard-hitting lineup leaves room for growth but Van Arman wants to keep the “boutiquey” feel of a small indie operation.
“It feels familial,” he said. “And that’s something that we’re committed to maintaining amongst the artists and the partners.”
Part of that boutiquey feel can be assured by the branding. The Fort William of the company’s name refers to a small Canadian town with a former town motto of “A Posse Ad Esse,” or “from possibility to actuality.”
“(The name) it feels safe, it’s a fort,” Van Arman said. “It’s something that hopefully takes care of artists and steers them in the right direction.”
The four Fort William co-founders will continue to operate the three labels as well as the management company but Ben Swanson and Spishock will focus on more on the management side while Van Arman and Ben Swanson will guide the labels.
“We can handle it all,” Van Arman said. “It’s going to be a challenge for sure but we want to set up a structure where that can happen.”