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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Chris Gordon speaks with Stu Anderson and Greg Chastang of Day Job Records, and finds out the business plan is a refreshing break from tradition.
"It's nice to take your day job and apply it to something you love," says Stu Anderson, managing director of Day Job Records.
Find a job you love, noted Confucius, and you'll never work a day in your life - a philosophical ideal Day Jobs Records' Stu Anderson and Greg Chastang are pursuing. The label's name is garnered from the fact they both have - yes, you guessed it - day jobs and pursue music as a passion.
The underlying beliefs of the label are that artists should own their work - a revolutionary concept in the music biz - and the bands they work with come to them with a finished product that is ready to be brought to market. "The thinking behind the label," says Stu, "is we're there for people who have invested in their music and we're there to give them a platform. Musicians know how to create but what they need help with is the business, marketing, PR and contacts. They're two different worlds."
Stu and Greg enjoy working in partnership with bands, which is why they presently have just two acts signed, bands Rev78 and The YuYa. "It's about giving them the full benefit of our experience," says Greg. "We licence content for three years and work in partnership with musicians, not like traditional music companies that own everything."
They have positioned themselves in a niche space and are clear about their market, their role and what they want to achieve. They are not, as Stu remarks, a "blockbuster label" and as such hope to see the bands they work with move on to bigger and better things. Success for these guys is not the rock ‘n' roll lifestyle. "We understand the fiscal value of life," remarks Stu.
It may at first appear pretentious but it was said with such self-effacing irony that its sincerity was obvious. And the rye smile and pint in hand did his case no harm at all. "It would be great to keep bands but we understand they want the yacht, the private island, to play the O2," Stu added.
Ultimately, Stu sums up their business model thus: "Bands spend their money recording and we hopefully make them more in return. So if we speak with a band it's because we believe in what they are doing. A major record label would not do that. It's all about allowing them creative licence."
Despite distancing themselves from the ‘establishment' there are still companies they respect. "There are a lot of labels out there that we look up to," says Greg. "There are a lot of people doing a great job." He reels off Bella Union, who signed My Morning Jacket; French Kiss, The Antlers; and XL, The Prodigy and Adele.
So, this is what they do - but who are they?
Thirty-seven-year old Stu Anderson was born in Essex and raised in east London. For the last 15 years he has worked in branding, marketing and PR, most of which has been spent in management doing high-end consultancy. "Putting it bluntly I know how to put together a product and sell it," he says.
He is also a singer-songwriter ("my friends are going to give me so much grief for saying that" - too late, Stu, it's on the record) and has been in bands since he was 15.
At a young age he signed to a number of smaller indies. Recalling these far-from-heady days he says: "These people just prey on your dreams, but bizarrely I never used my business acumen in selling myself." During this time he hawked himself to the press and radio stations, which gave him the experience in dealing first hand with the media and applying his marketing background in the music industry.
It was through these experiences that he started to form his ideal record label - essentially he was signed by the very thing him and Greg have strived not to be.
Greg was born in Paris and studied French, English and American law at the Universite de Nanterre Paris X with the intention of becoming an international lawyer. He took a year out of the course to study English culture at the university, a course which covered literature and politics.
Like his business partner, the 28-year-old became involved with music at a fairly tender age. "I started off in Paris at 15 (years old), just helping out mates, getting them a few gigs - none of them got anywhere," he jokes.
In January 2008 he moved to London to study music management at the European School of Economics (ESE), a course he know teaches at the same school, and only found out he had a place on the course one week before the start of term. "I arrived on the Eurostar, with no place to live, and went straight to school with my guitar on my back and a bin bag full of stuff." It's a story so bohemian his day could conceivably have begun with a cigarette and espresso in a Montmatre café and ended avec un fee verte in a trendy bar in Shoreditch. National stereotyping aside, a navy blue and white horizontally-stripped sweater and navy beret would have worked a treat.
Fate then dealt its hand when he finally found a place to lay his head. "The first flat I had was on Abbey Road next to the studios (famed by The Beatles)," he recounts. "It was perfect - I took that as a sign. Well, the flat was awful…
"After graduating from the ESE I took an internship with a record company. I was there for two-and-a-half years. It didn't go well. It's were I learned everything not to do." A valuable experience nonetheless and, again, one which mirrors Stu's unhappy time. "After that I was the London blogger for the Unsigned Guide for six months."
During this time he made lots of connections and it was here that he met Stu, interviewing him about Day Job Records and Leisurama, Stu's musical side project ("At any one time there's about five of us but there's a few regulars that come in and out. It keeps my creative juices flowing," says Stu).
This interview took place in November 2010, though the pair had been in touch prior to this, and it was from here they discussed the possibility of Greg becoming part of the label. They met a few times after over drinks, in January they decided to go for it and by March they signed their first band, The YuYa.
Greg ‘bromantically' describes this process, saying: "We flirted from October to December, got married in January and had our first child in March."
They then didn't have long to wait for their second child to come along, signing Rev78 in April 2011.
They are currently talking to three other bands, all of which are at different stages. Indie-rockers Rev78 (they name comes from the 78 revolutions per minute of old 10-inch vinyl) came to them with an album, Boy in the Blitz, ready to go "they came with a complete package," says Stu. Day Job Records released the album and a single - Killing Me - soon after and have another single, Could Have Been a Dancer, coming out on December 1.
The YuYa - whose sound is described by the boys as "acoustic fuelled, avant-garde, toe-tapping indie-folk" (crikey!) - will have a single out on November 7. It's Better will be the first single release from their debut album A Boy a Queen and a Fish. Their first single release, which did not appear on an album - Naked - is available on digital download and limited-edition 7-inch vinyl. Greg, whose idea it was to sign the two-piece, says: "This summer they played The Secret Garden Party festival in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and have an album out in February."
Since signing both bands they have worked more closely with The YuYa than Rev78 as the latter has a manager. Now both bands are at a point where they can be more self-sufficient they are ready to sign a couple more. However, they are not a closed shop - "we are always on the lookout for talented artists and bands," says Stu.
But, they stress, there are too many people missing the point: they need a product ready to go as they don't pay for bands to record music, they invest their money, time and effort in marketing the finished product. Their advice? "Get your best three or four songs, go into a studio and spend your kids' college fund on them."
They constantly work with other bands that interest them by providing opportunities for them to perform at gigs. The next Day Job Records' bash is a Halloween party on Sunday, October 30 at the Old Blue Last, Great Euston Street. "It's free entry and it's gonna be a great night," they promise.
‘Don't give up the day job' is a saying usually heard in the stampede to leave a bar, cleared by a quite terrible band. For once, and for the hard-working and eminently likeable Stu and Greg, it would be great if they could give up the day job and pursue a venture they so clearly enjoy and have invested so much time and effort in.
Though they may have to change the name of their label.
• Stay tuned to our unsigned section as Stu and Greg will be providing us with regular blogs, covering how to get in to the music industry and a what's hot blog covering up-and-coming talent in the Capital.
• If you would like to contribute to this section of the site, as we build it into a resource, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be the subject of a Q&A or to provide a blog on the unsigned and emerging talent in London, or your experiences of trying to get signed.