What exactly does a record label offer a musician in 2011? The internet has leveled the playing field in so many ways. No longer does it require a big machine to create awareness. But record labels can still be a big help; musicians can use them market and distribute their albums, book, and promote their shows, and ultimately expand the reach of their music. Especially on a local level.
In early 2010, a group of Phoenix musicians formed Black Cactus Records with those goals in mind. They joined a ranks with other local labels, like River Jones Music Label and Gilgongo Records, in issuing Phoenix-based music.
Black Cactus is a big inspiration for newcomers Aggregate Records, another assembly of musicians who see BCR as a model. "We basically started when me and Alex Bunch wanted to put a band together," Aggregate Records' David Drew explains. "And then we thought maybe we can start a label off of the band."
"We just decided we needed to do it (the label) ourselves, if we were going to progress."
Drew acknowledges that there are plenty of good venues in the Valley, but attributes the diminished quality of shows to the promoters. "They have a stranglehold on a lot of the shows that are put out ... and the scene is really dominated by a 'pay to play' ticket. Often times you get a show of five random bands put together and the shows don't really draw anybody."
Aggregate is hoping to be the platform that provides continuity among artists by connecting and working with other musicians around the Valley.
"We started out by working pretty heavily with Tempe Starving Artist, Tempe venues The Fixx, Open Source Project, and Venue 104," he says. So far they've collaborated with the likes of Grace Bolyard, Saddles and Stellacutta and are hoping to do something with Boys and Frogs next.
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As far as their own music is concerned, Drew and Bunch remain active musicians while they continue nursing the label. Drew has drum duty for There There, and Bunch plays with Grace Bolyard.
"In the future we plan on teaming up with other labels like River Jones Music, and just try to make everything a big collective and give more feedback to musicians," he says.
The fledgling project is still the new kid on the block, but expect to hear more from them as 2011 wraps up.