Punk rock goes hip hop in a quest to find worthy record deals, notes Sam Little.



When it comes to getting a record deal, no one hustles like hip hop. Even now, with labels sweaty-palmed to sign the next Nicki Minaj, demos aren’t made and shopped around, full albums are. Finding someone to release the thing is a mere trifling matter once you’ve made your first album. It shows commitment and thriftiness, and record labels particularly like the latter.

By comparison, punk rock has been a control freak since early ’80s hardcore suggested (and proved) that you don’t need a record label, you can be a record label. But this gung-hoe indie ideal wasn’t made for 2011, and it can fatally limit the best of the DIY lot.

Forming a band is easy; booking a show easier; creating an online profile the kind of thing now taught at playschool between jabbing the round block into the triangular hole and scribbling. Song writing is – and shall forever remain – a craft. But let’s say you and a couple of pals crack that too. Then what? Then you write and record an album, of course. And then? Get people to know about it and hear it. How? Uh…

Home recordings and free, digital distribution has set the musician free but wider awareness is still a door only unlocked by record labels with savvy marketing teams and pennies in the pot – those billboards you stare through at the traffic lights, those pictures on the backend of the 244 bus, they work. Fortunately, the most resourceful young bands have recently started to realise the pitfalls of releasing your own records yourself in a world of mad saturation, and have opted to take rap’s route of shopping their records around; looking for a suitable home for their shiny new discs. It’s why most of the debut albums we’re excited about hearing this year are completed but still homeless (and featured on page 16).

It’s that stifling ‘sell out’ slur that’s prevented guitar bands from shopping their wares before now, no doubt. Hip hop is all about big – the cars; the chains; the bravado; the success. Mostly the success. To even a casual punk, selling a million records equals selling one arse. Theirs. Nobody wants to be manipulated by music’s ugly business end, of course not, but fear of it makes signing a record deal (especially with a major) almost as frightening as never signing a deal at all. Taking them a finished product though, that’s a sure-fire way to hold on to your creative integrity, isn’t it? It’s done! There can be no Cowellian figure barging into the studio gut first and demanding a ballad here and a Snow Patrol cover there once your album is in the can. Making a record how you want it, that’s what’s most important to a rigidly indie record, and ‘record shopping’ could result in an album getting the exposure it deserves.

By Sam Little

Originally published in issue 25 (vol. 3) of Loud And Quiet. February 2011

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