Jon Coombs joined Secretly Group 13 years ago, just a few months after the label group’s Jagjaguwar released Bon Iver’s acclaimed debut album For Emma, Forever Ago. “I’ve been able to be along for the ride for almost since day one,” says Coombs, now vice president of A&R — which makes a new slate of renewals all the more exciting.
Today (Monday, June 21), Secretly Group has announced a handful of recording and publishing renewals for its flagship artists. Those who renewed recording contracts include Mitski, signed to Dead Oceans, and Jagjaguwar’s Bon Iver, Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. As for Secretly Publishing, renewals include Bayonne, Durand Jones & The Indications, Jay Som, Phil Elverum and Strand of Oaks.
“These are hands-down my favorite songwriters, poets and musicians on the face of the earth,” says Coombs. “The fact that we get to keep them as part of the team is really beautiful.”
The news arrives days after the label group swept the 2021 Libera Awards, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary and is presented by the American Association of Independent Music. Secretly — which last June announced a new partnership with Ghostly International, a smaller New York-based label formed two decades ago — was nominated for 19 honors across six companies and a dozen artists, with Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher (Dead Oceans) winning record of the year.
Though unable to reveal details or terms of the renewals, Coombs emphasized that the label group’s deals prioritize an artist-friendly approach, saying “we’ve always put artists first — and these are absolutely no exception to that.”
“All of the conversations felt like two partners approaching one another, having very open and honest conversations about the past, but also really focused on the future,” he continues. “Just being able to have that dialogue with your artists, it’s very meaningful. I think just the conversations themselves are indicative of how much trust there is in both parties.”
Some of those conversations started before lockdown, at the top of 2020, and were later closed over Zoom. But now, Coombs says, as live music returns (on June 20, Foo Fighters reopened Madison Square Garden with the first full-capacity, fully-vaccinated show in over a year) he’s eager to see the label group’s artist partners back on stage.
“I’m going to get to see a handful of our artists play shows here soon enough,” he says. “Everyone is working on [new] music right now, too, so there’s going to be plenty of opportunity to celebrate.”