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LAB Records is riding the wave of the rise of independent record labels

Genres which were previously deemed to be too niche or unconventional are now celebrated, and independent artists have been given a wider platform to produce and release their music, which is significantly altering the landscape of the industry, with a kaleidoscope of sounds now a part of the mainstream market.

The companies are birthed from a passion for music and a relentless pursuit of artistic authenticity, which has enabled musicians to explore their creative depths without fear of compromising their personalities.

The role of streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music accompanied with their ‘New Music’ mixes has completely altered how music moguls consume their tunes and discover emerging talent.

This has worked alongside the exponential rise of social media, which marked a new level of music promotion where sharing your songs was only a click of a button away from far-reaching powers to hit a global audience.

It has therefore ensured that independent record labels have managed to grow alongside the digital trends to truly be seen as a lucrative alternative to major labels.

Whilst the concept of indie labels has been circulating for a while, it’s only been over the past few years that their significance in the industry is so prominent, giving the platform for unique sounds to be shared with the masses, which may have remained unheard of.

Data revealed from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) revealed the incredible success seen by independent record labels, which grew for a fifth consecutive year and made up 28.6% of the UK music market, up from 26.9% and up almost a third in 2017 when independents claimed a 22.1% share.

However, the album market share is where the independent sector saw significant steps as BPI highlighted they accounted for four in every ten sales during October 2022, up from 32.2% in the same month in 2021.

GigPig spoke to Mark Orr, the founder and director of LAB Records, an independent record label in Manchester that prides itself on a strong ability to spot and develop young talent.

Speaking about the reason he believes is the reason for the rise in indie labels, Orr said: “In terms of independent music, the narrative has changed about major labels as young artists understand far better the landscape now.

“When we were getting started, quite often I wasn’t sure artists knew the role of the label and the difference between an indie and a major, whereas now there are countless examples of people giving good industry analysis, so artists come in with much better knowledge, and I think they understand that whilst perhaps they need a partner to amplify and finance they also do not want to give up everything in exchange for a partner.

“But there are so many different options for recording music at this point, with indie, major, self-releases, boutique label and VC funding, I believe there is not one right answer.

“For every project, you have to find your soulmate and your perfect partner.”

However for some renowned artists signed to major labels it wasn’t the right fit, which has seen artists such as You Me At Six and RAYE opting to become independent artists.

The latter secured her first UK number-one single with the track ‘Escapism’ back in January this year.

Upon achieving this huge accolade, the English singer-songwriter told Official Charts: “This is proof [you should] back yourself, no matter what. Thank you, this is mad. These are happy tears.”

LAB Records have done incredible work to develop and progress the careers of music savants, with the likes of The Lathums, Dead Pony The K’s and Tommy Lefroy, which secured them a nomination for the Best New Label at the AIM Awards in 2017.

The label focuses on long-term growth, as well as the short-term impact of the artists' music which pans down to building a strong and loyal fanbase through live performances.

Established in 2007, Orr spoke about the ethos of the label and said: “It's always been about being a great partner for creative people, and although the business has changed, I don’t think our ethos has changed a great deal as it's all about being a great partner to developing artists, and hopefully setting them up to have a career in music by giving them the tools and our experience.

“But if there's ever occasions where we stray away from those ideals, we try and think back to what it was like to put on those shows or make those records like in 2007.”

When speaking about the benefits of the company being strictly independent, the founder said: “I think our deals are more artist-friendly, in terms of the split, but once you get used to being independent there are cons, don't get me wrong, but being self-funded means we don't really answer to the client as well as a company.

“We can make a decision straight away, which is awesome as we’re able to move quickly, and once we've made the decision and the offer, we can sign it today - that's our biggest USP.

“After you’ve worked with artists for a while and seen their progression, the dream for me is to see any of our artists headline their own show.

“Don’t get me wrong, support shows are lovely, and we've had support in Wembley Arena, and that feels great, but being a headline act and seeing their fan base singing every word, that's the feeling of accomplishment.

“That is where you feel your proudest - people singing back the song that you’ve worked so hard on is pretty rewarding.”

LAB Records are continuing to support and develop young talent whilst providing their unique perspectives to build the right fanbase for each artist signed to their books.