Great Bands We Never Signed…

You’ve seen them live. You’ve had dinner with them. You really feel like you are clicking with them. Then they spurn you.

If it sounds like the dating process, it’s not. It’s courting an artist to sign to your label.

Granted, with the digital age in full swing, the aging Phoenix of the massive major label music industry has crumbled in the early part of this decade. However, like that mythical creature, the industry is in re-birth and is rising from its own ash-heap.

While that’s not a bad thing, I do miss the whole artist-label relationship thing. When you truly love music, then you truly love musicians. Nothing pleases people like me when you can assist musicians make a living from their music. And nothing saddens you when things don’t work out and that train suddenly passes by.

However, if you look back in the thousands (millions?) of years that music has been around – I am sure that most artists have had to make a living doing something other than creating music.

So – here’s a short list of the bands that got away. And how you can support them:

  • The Record LowThe Record Low.  Hank & Robby.  Henry & Robert.  These guys were introduced to me by Stephen Shirk at SXSW in 2007 I think.  Really nice unassuming Chicago boys who had just put together an amazing CD, “Here to Stay.”  Like any good label exec, I went to see them play live.  A good number of times – my first show was at the Empty Bottle.  A small, cramped, L-shaped venue that lived and breathed music, hipsters, PBR bottles and The Record Low.  A pretty packed house of fans came out and danced, chanted the chorus to “Keep Up.”  Trust me, the live show is totally better than the song on CD – truly making the CD just a keepsake of these guy’s live performances.   We’ve had meals together, I’ve attended more shows and just about cried because they didn’t really need to work with a record label.  It’s like the mourning of a relationship that was stillborn.  But they’re still going strong!  Check them outa at FACEBOOK.  Or listen to them on SPOTIFY.
  • AJ RoachA.J. Roach.  When Fundamental started getting deep into the Americana genre of music with artists like Bill Mallonee, David Wolfenberger, Ken Will Morton and other folks, A.J. was another amazing artist who performed to his own muse.  He seemed to follow the Spirit that hovered above him with his splendid style of country, folk, bluegrassy songs.  Painted pictures on a story canvas with just a guitar and his twangy rich voice.  I followed him around SXSW one year, from performance to performance.  He did a house show, he did a coffee shop, he did a showcase.  When we had dinner together, I believe a friend of mine spooked Roach off with a performance that included over-indulgence in drink.  SPOTIFY has some of his stuff, but not enough.
  • High Strung Josh MalermanThe High Strung.  This is a funny story.  At Fundamental, we get THOUSANDS of spam emails from potential artists touting their ‘wares.”  I typically ignore most of them.  One email was particularly creative and confident.  Just one problem.  You could tell it was a mass email.  It didn’t have any personal reference to it.  Didn’t call me by name, didn’t unveil any info that showed they knew who we were.  For some reason, I responded – “If we were pursuing you as an artist, you would want us to know a little about you, right?  At least your name, some basic info about you.  So how come you don’t give us the same courtesy?  We’re not a faceless label, but people who love music and are passionate about helping musicians.”    I received a very quick response – humble.  Contrite.  And just basically endearing.  That was from Josh Malerman – the front man of The High Strung, from Detroit.  Thus began our wonderful friendship – lots of shows – from the High Strung opening for Guided By Voices at the Metro in Chicago – to SXSW showcases – to Josh becoming a best selling author with the recently released (and excellent) horro novel, BIRDBOX.  We never had the money other labels did to really entice them over, but I am so glad to be true friends to Josh, Derek and Chad.  Spotify em.

EvanesanceThere are more stories – like when I turned down working with Evanesence before they were famous.  And maybe a list of the top artists we wished Fundamental had NEVER signed.  That’s for another blog.

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