It’s been a while since Berwick Street, Soho, was thriving with music lovers scouring the huge number of independent record shops that once lined the streets.
The traditional method of selling records has long since changed. Years of digital music growth soon put a stop to that, so much so that even Britain’s last remaining music chain HMV is struggling. Artists such as Radiohead are selling their CDs directly to fans. Why buy a CD when you can download the album much quicker (and cheaper) online?
Which is why it was with a great sense of relief to see Berwick Street bustling on Saturday with punters picking up the latest releases from market stalls set up and run by seventeen indie record labels. Indie’s including Rough Trade, Wall of Sound, Heavenly, XL Recordings, Domino Records, Moshi Moshi and Mute, all took part, with some stalls even run by the label bosses themselves (Domino Records very own Lawrence Bell donned a rather fetching boiler suit).
Hackney based Angular Recording Corporation (set up by two former Goldsmiths students) had a stall selling a number of exclusive releases. Co-owner Joe Daniels set up the label in 2004 after releasing a compilation featuring bands from New Cross. The CD went on to win Best Compilation by music magazine NME in 2004.
Angular’s stall sold the few remaining copies of the Klaxons debut single Gravity’s Rainbow, and rare copies of the labels first release ‘The New Cross’ compilation. Co-owner Joe Daniels helped organise the event and explained why it was so important:
The idea was to get the bosses of the record labels – that’s the guys that sign the bands, invested in them and were the people who started the label – because it’s rare that people get to see them. And also for them to get to engage with the people who are interested in the label and like the bands that they put out.
The day was originally planned to co-incide with Record Store Day but was moved to become an event in it’s own right.
A number of stalls sold rare and hard to find music, some of which was signed by the artists themselves. XL Recordings, home to Friendly Fires and Tyler, The Creator were selling signed copies of The xx and Adele. They also auctioned off a D.I.Y record label starter kit. This exclusive item included the masters and rights to material specially recorded by XL boss Richard Russell and studio engineer Rodaidh McDonald. It was won by a last minute bid from Angular label boss Joe Daniels, who spent the takings from his stall on this rare item. Details of a future release are sketchy, but Daniels thinks it may be a “low key release, shrouded in mystery and enigma”.
Numerous record label bosses and artists were present, including BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand. For XL Recording’s label owner Richard Russell, it was a return to the early years of his career. He started in the business by making mix tapes and selling them at Camden Market. He said:
That’s really what a record company is, apart from the fact it’s not legal. You sort the music, get the artwork done, do the manufacturing and then sell them. That was actually the most fun, visceral way of running a record label that i’ve ever been involved in.
With over a thousand punters taking to the streets, the market was a huge success.
Speaking afterwards, Geoff Travis from Rough Trade was impressed that indie labels from “the chiefs to the bottle washers” had all got involved with the project. Stephen Bass from Moshi Moshi added that the event may help the music industry by “re-igniting the imaginations of the British buying public again”.
Organisers are hoping to take the event to towns and cities across the country, including Manchester and Glasgow, and even globally to Berlin and New York.
Reaction for the event was overwhelmingly positive. PaulBonham tweeted:
The independent record label market was inspiring. Such creative and great innovators work at these labels. Exciting.
Whilst Anthonygdli proclaimed:
Can we have the Independent Label market every week please!
However not everybody was in agreement. JamesStephenFinn said:
Independent Label Market on Berwick Street was a really nice idea but didn’t have much that you couldn’t pick up in some retailers.
A selection of tracks from labels that took part in the market can be found on the Independent Label Market Soundcloud page.
Angular Recordings label boss Joe Daniels explains more on how Angular Recording Corporation was formed in the interview below: