Published on July 19th, 2011 | by Clara Cullen
PT 1: Hassle Records Interview
Hassle Records has released some of the UK’s finest output when it comes to rock music. Having formed relatively recently in 2005, it has gone on to release stunning albums from acts as diverse as Rolo Tomassi to City and Colour. This year it released the early awaited second album from We Are The Ocean and the debut album from Blitz Kids. We talk with Hassle’s marketing manager Chris Baker about everything from the collapse of HMV to how he got started in the industry. Prospective record label employees start reading now!
1) Hassle Records has quickly become one of the UK’s go to independent labels for high quality punk/hardcore/rock music. When the label was founded, what was its initial vision and has that changed over time?
Chris: I think fundamentally the vision is to work with bands we love while kind of keeping within the broad genre of rock, which includes punk, hardcore and metal. The fundamental principle that we hold to today is that any band we sign, any band that we work with has to be a band that we absolutely love. The music industry is becoming increasingly hard to work and survive in, so what offsets that is just working with music that you absolutely love and that you want to do everything you can for.
2) Being a DIY focused label, I imagine a day’s work is not as confined and ridged as perhaps it would be if you worked for a major label. So having said that, can you tell BlagSound a bit about what you get up to on a daily basis?
Chris: Well you’re absolutely right in saying it’s not very confined, every day is literally a different job. We’re quite a small business , so the realities of that is that it’s all hands on deck, and that you kind of do everything that needs to be done. We don’t have different departments to do marketing, production or touring so we’re doing everything ourselves.
From my personal perspective, my job would encompass the whole process of finding a band, putting the music out, going into the studio with a band, helping out with the album and videos. Also the production, the packaging, marketing and setting the release schedules. So we have to be involved in every aspect, but to be honest that’s the most beautiful thing about working in an independent record label, the personal perspective means the job never becomes boring. You’re working with music you love and you’re involved in every single aspect of it. Then if your bands have successes, it feels good that you’ve been able to be involved in it. You develop such close relationships with the bands that you can build something that’s much nicer because you can sit around a table with the band, the manager, the touring agent and theoretically everyone agrees and our on the same page!
The job of a record label is to act as the middle man and to communicate ideas to different parties, to be the central hub. The role of a record label has changed massively, even just in the last 5 years of so, but it still remains the fundamental hub of everything. So without the team, a band can’t tour or sell merch, they can’t get on radio or get publishing deals. So the really good thing is being able to work with a band in all those different areas.
3) How did you get involved with Hassles Records?
Chris: I was doing a university course, and the 3rd year of that was to do a placement year. Music has always been one of my loves, so I did an internship at a label called Mushroom Records, which I worked at for a year. I was fortunate enough to be at that label when Muse had just released ‘Origin Of Symmetry’. So it was a really exciting time for that record label, and I was very lucky to be there at that time. I was very fortunate to make some very good relationships there. Then when I went back to university for my final year, 2 of the main guys at that record label decided to leave and set up their own label. I got a call about 2 months back into my university term asking if I would come and work with them when I finished university.
The internship worked really well for me, I think it’s an amazing thing, and would really recommend it to people. Just to prove how important it is for Hassle, at one point in time there was only 3 people out of 10 that hadn’t come from an internship background. The best way you can try and get yourself a job in this industry is through an internship, because it doesn’t matter what qualifications you have. In the music industry qualifications are no substitute for experience. You can walk into a record company and say “I have a masters in strategic business planning” which is great, but if you can then say I have experience working for an agent, promoter or I’ve put on gigs in my local town and I work in a local music shop, then you have the relevant experience.
4) For those who have never heard of Hassle Records, what would you say are the essentials releases they need to pick up?
Chris: That’s quite a tough question to answer. I guess bands that people kind of know us for initially would be:
Cancer Bats-Hail Destroyer
We Are The Ocean- Go Now And Live
Rolo Tomassi- Cosmology
5) You’ve forged quite close links with other independent labels (including Banquet Records and Big Scary Monster) recently the state of larger music shops has become increasingly precarious. Is this nerve wracking for Hassle, or do you believe the quality of your music and the links you’ve forged will help you as a label sail over this storm?
Chris: Yeah absolutely, if HMV does go under it’ll mean there will be 200 less stores out there to sell our records. The realities of that are that whatever music you’re producing if you haven’t got any where to sell it, or a store that acts as a tastemaker then that’s a bit nerve wracking. It’s something as a small label we have to prepare ourselves for, and it’s actually been happening over the past few years already. As such we’ve been working towards strategies that mean if HMV does not exist in 10 years time we’ll be ok. So that basically means forging better relationships with shops like Banquet Records. It means doing retail campaigns with online shops, it means having to make our website sales great. All our bands sell their albums out on the road, which surprisingly a lot of records label don’t let bands do! If there’s a way to distribute a record then we have to be doing it. Of cause if HMV does go then that’s quite scary as it’s a big change, but you have to just roll with it and be confident and flexible in your company.
Join us next week for instalment 2 of our hassle records interview!
To check out all of Hassle’s release go to their website here: http://www.hasslerecords.com/
What’s your view? Let us know in the comments section below…