In June 2020, Ghostly International joined forces with Secretly, the label group that encompasses Jagjaguwar, Dead Oceans and Secretly Canadian. “Secretly provided a shared community for Ghostly for years” — via Secretly Distribution, which put out its releases — “before we officially partnered up, and it really helped build our confidence as a company and take bigger risks,” says Ghostly CEO Sam Valenti, reflecting on the move last week. “I like that idea of helping extend that runway for other labels in a different capacity.”
To that end: Ghostly announced on Thursday (May 12) that it is forming All Flowers Group, a collection of labels that sits adjacent to Secretly yet shares some of its services. The idea of one group of labels spinning off another can be slightly confusing; Valenti says All Flowers will “connect to the Secretly mothership, but operate as is its own entity.”
The first new member to join Ghostly in All Flowers is drink sum wtr. Nigil Mack, a veteran major-label A&R (he helped sign and worked closely with Kid Cudi) and manager (Shelley FKA DRAM, among others), will serve as the company’s CEO, while Alexandra Berenson will join as head of A&R after a five-year stint at Vinyl Me, Please.
“We’re all fans of the good parts of what a record label can be — the commonality of spirit, a dedicated team focused on an artist for the long term, 50-50 profit splits,” Valenti says. “This is a bet that labels, when done well and ethically and spending appropriately, have a seat at the table in 2022 and beyond.”
“My ultimate goal was always to start my own label,” Mack adds. “The time is perfect now.”
Getting the chance to operate alongside Ghostly is an exciting development for Mack, a longtime fan of the label, which Valenti founded back in 1999. Mack met Valenti for the first time last year and “kind of geeked out,” he says. “I’m a huge Adult Swim fan” — Ghostly has released a pair of compilations in conjunction with Adult Swim.
In addition, Mack admires Secretly’s track record of vaulting independent artists “into the mainstream conversation.” “You look at Bon Iver, Moses Sumney, serpentwithfeet, Japanese Breakfast, they’re killing it,” the executive says. “Secretly is very strategic, and they have amazing taste. I want to work with people like that.”
Mack also brings with him a long track record of success in hip-hop and R&B, which has not historically been a strength for either Ghostly or Secretly’s labels. “I’m a little in awe of what he’s done, what he’s been able to accomplish, and the network that he has,” Berenson says.
Labels in All Flowers Group will lean on Secretly for distribution. In addition, “some members of the marketing and radio teams overlap,” Valenti says. The relationship between the two label groups will be “bespoke,” he continues, “depending on the project and what’s needed.”
The first official signing of drink sum wter — “I wanted a name that was A, easy to remember, and B, kind of funny,” Mack says — is the rapper Deem Spencer. Mack previously worked with Spencer as his manager, and Berenson is also a longtime fan of the rapper; she helped him put out a pair of records when she oversaw the Rising program (among other duties) at Vinyl Me, Please.
“I like that he collaborates with artists you might not typically expect,” she adds, “like Okay Kaya or the tour he’s doing with Orion Sun.”
In addition to signing Spencer, drink sum wtr is planning a single series that will start with Shelley FKA Dram and include installments from Sol Galeano and Wahid. “Some artists may not be thinking about a label yet, but if there’s a way for them to partner with us on a single, it makes it a little bit easier,” Berenson explains. “It’s a good opportunity to be continuously putting out great music by artists that we’re excited to be working with.”
And it fits with drink sum wtr’s pitch to artists, which Berenson describes in the simplest of terms: “Put out the art you want to put out,” she says, “and we’re here to support you in any way we can.”