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Now That You Asked: What’s up with all the label-jumping?

February 1, 2008

Now That You Asked: What’s up with all the label-jumping?

Just in case you’ve been living under a musical rock for the past year or so, there have been a number of shake-ups in the music industry as big name “indie” bands have left their major labels and gone back to their roots within the indie scene. The most glaring and possibly most spectacular example is that of Poison the Well, who jumped ship at Atlantic Records because of creative differences and landed squarely with Ferret Records where they released Versions, one of the strongest albums of 2007. But other big names have left the mainstream for more fitting spots on smaller labels.

Possibly the most surprising of these is Thursday’s exit from Island Records and their reunion with estranged friends Victory Records. Despite harsh words that were exchanged by both sides after Thursday’s 2002 exit, both sides have reunited to release a CD/DVD combo that features both new material, old demos and live performances of one of independent music’s shining stars. The third big name that has changed labels is Thrice. As they were gearing up for the release of their long awaited Alchemy Index Thrice jumped from Island Records to the somewhat stagnant Vagrant Records. For Thrice it was a move that “just made sense for them as a band.”

What is surprising about all of this is not that three well-known bands in the indie scene jumped ship from large labels, but where those three bands landed. It is particularly interesting in the case of Thrice, whose relationship with Hopeless Records seemed to be one made in heaven four years ago as Thrice kept donating a portion of their record sales from the Artist in an Ambulance album to charity through Hopeless. In some circles there was an expectation that Thrice would end up back at Hopeless and help pull a somewhat silent but well respected member of the indie community back into an active role. The choice to go to Vagrant, though somewhat surprising when announced, makes sense after hearing Thrice’s first two volumes of the Alchemy Index.

The most surprising move was Thursday’s move back to Victory Records. After the 2002 release of the Five Stories Falling EP that was slated as a way to complete a contract with Victory, Thursday spent an entire tour trashing corporate music and encouraging fans to illegally download their Five Stories Falling EP to keep money out of the hands of Victory. Now after two releases with the big boys (Island Records) Thursday has gone back to Victory for the 2007 CD/DVD release Kill the House Lights.

What does this all mean for labels? Hopefully it means that we are seeing a shift away from the need for the large labels and a shift toward smaller labels that are able to more directly work with their bands. At least one can hope…

-Scott Landis

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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