From the outside, Numero Group has been a model niche independent label almost since its founding — growing from three employees and losing money in 2003 to housing 11 employees and a reported net profit of more than $1 million last year.
The Chicago-based reissuer is known for its painstakingly researched and presented releases from forgotten eras in soul, folk, gospel and rock and has been nominated for a Grammy Award three times. Internally, though, Numero’s owners recently found themselves facing tough realities when it came to staffing, infrastructure and scale.
Founders Ken Shipley, Tom Lunt and Rob Sevier were experts at unearthing rare and noteworthy music, but as the company grew they became deluged by mounting accounting and legal needs. Numero turned to a larger peer label that could help flesh out its infrastructure. Its deal to join Secretly Label Group, which includes Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar and Dead Oceans, was announced June 24.
“For the most part we had been paying attention to how we make things and what we wanted to acquire, so there were a lot of internal structuring things that we never had the chance to focus on,” Shipley says. “We began looking for a partner who could bridge a lot of those gaps and would already have an infrastructure set up for us.”
In Secretly Label Group, Numero has a midsize indie empire with 26 employees, including four accountants, spread across North America and in London and Paris. The label is the latest indie to forge such a partnership to enhance its business operations. In May, Brooklyn’s Terrible Records entered a joint venture agreement with XL Recordings for worldwide promotion, marketing, production and distribution, and in January Ultra Music teamed with Sony Music Entertainment to serve similar functions.