Multiple Grammy Award-winning artist and producer Ben Harper has launched his own record label Mad Bunny Records, Billboard can announce.
Harper, who will run the label out of Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood, has brought on music industry veteran Elizabeth Freund to help operate an office in Brooklyn as well. Freund will continue to run her PR company, Beautiful Day Media.
The label’s first signing is Birdthrower, whose video for “Dreaming” premieres below. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I couldn’t time it right or couldn’t find the right person to do it with,” Harper tells Billboard. “Joining forces with Elizabeth has signaled that this is the right time. Also having the right flagship artist to launch was important to me, and we have that with Birdthrower.”
Harper, who is self-funding the label, produced Birdthrower’s self-titled album in 2019 and that fostered a desire to continue working with the artist and launch Mad Bunny. “There are too many extraordinary artists out there that just do not fit your typical record company mold who need and deserve to be soulfully represented,” Harper says. “I strongly believe in Birdthrower’s music and have a personal bond with him.”
Birdthrower is the first of three acts Harper plans to initially sign to the label, but he won’t name the other two yet. He adds it’s too early to define the label’s sound, noting, “I’m hoping our sonic aesthetic starts and ends with the artistic passion, sincerity and uniqueness of the artists we sign.”
Mad Bunny is starting as a digital label, but Harper is already reviewing distribution options. “We will most definitely need physical distribution,” he says. “Even if it’s solely for the artists to have physical product to sell at shows. But equally important are the record retail survivors out there, like Roots Records in Columbus, Ohio, Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, Amoeba in L.A. or Easy Street Records in Seattle. If an artist on our roster can get enough heat to take an order from a record store, we need to be in a position to fill it.”
Among the other services the label will offer are sync and publishing, with plans to expand into a number of other support services available a la carte to musicians, including public relations, promotion, marketing, sync licensing, production of physical products and distribution.
Long term, Harper hopes to build a sustainable supportive network with Mad Bunny, like the one he experienced growing up.
“I came up in my family’s music store, The Claremont Folk Music Center, which has been open and operating for 63 years,” he says. “It is to this day an environment where musicians depend on each other for help building not only their musical chops, but also to spread the word about one another’s music. Building out a community of music and musicians that we feel deserve international attention is at the core of what we hope to accomplish with Mad Bunny Records.”
Harper remains signed to Anti Records. He is expected to release new music later this year.