When a record label displays actual integrity by being faithful in offering fans quality music from real artists year after, people take notice. Rope A Dope Records is celebrating 10 years of fantastic music and an incredibly manicured brand image. Medieski Martin and Wood, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charlie Hunter, North Mississippi All-stars and DJ Logic are just a few of the seminal artists who have released records on the Philadelphia-based label. We recently sat down with founder Andy Hurwitz to dive deep into subject like the future of record labels, how to make actual money and starting off in the music industry.
1. Running an independent record label is often not the most lucrative or rewarding of jobs – want inspired you to do so?
Music. Simply music. Had no choice. Music made me do it.
2. As you know, many labels are now in jeopardy because of the changes in the industry. Where do you see other labels getting it wrong?
Hate to say that other labels got it wrong. That’s a lot of pressure. I mean, seriously, the entire industry COLLAPSED, that’s hard to handle no mater who you are.
Just wasn’t easy to adapt to new world order. We were lucky because we acted in the nick of time.
3. Tell us about your experience in the industry before starting up Rope-a-Dope?
Started off as a music attorney (3 years including a stint with Pearl Jam); then got offered a job running a group of labels for the legendary NYC jazz label the knitting factory, from there got hired to do A&R for Colubmia records and THEN when Columbia wouldn’t sign my boy DJ Logic I started Rope-A-Dope where we also booked all his gigs, made all the merch and cleaned ran the tours.
4. 10 years can be a long time for a label to survive. What business philosophy do you feel has kept you guys afloat?
Never quit. Ever. Never.
5. You guys are involved in a number of social networking sites. What role do sites like Myspace and Facebook play at your label?
As important as it is to anyone else, it’s like oxygen at this point – you can’t survive without any of the key SNS’s. Just a way of life. me? On a personal level I drink the Twitter Kool Aid like a lot of folks I know, but really, you just have to do ALL of them. Keep your bases covered.
6. What do you look for in up and coming artists whom you would like to sign?
Real simple test – originality. All we’re ever looking for – something new, fresh and real. Chances are if it’s all 3 of those things, we’ll dig it.
7. On your site you count Rope-a-Dope industries clothing line as one of your smartest moves – what has that meant to the label itself?
Oh man, it’s meant MONEY, cash flow, revenue, PROFITS!!!! In the clothing industry you sell a shirt, you keep all the money! What a concept! No such thing as publishing, mechanicals, returns, reserves, all that bullshit. PLUS it was the ultimate brand builder – really helped put us on the map when everyone from TREY to BEN HARPER to the ROOTS are wearing your shit on stage.
8. Anniversaries are always a good time for looking further into the future – where do you see Rope-a-Dope in another 10 years?
Whole new thing. We’re gonna have to completely flip it and we already are. The old way is dead. We’re gonna evolve, always putting out great music, always,
but i would think we’re going to really open things up – break down all remaining boundaries, unite the world and bring peace to north Phillly.
9. Similarly… where do you see the music industry in another 10 years? In a world where more and more artists are remaining independent and recording on their own, what place do you think record labels will have in the music scene?
Record labels are dead. TODAY they are dead. Nobody REALLY needs them anymore. the survivors (like Rope-A-Dope) will be MUSIC HOUSES – a sort of
service provider to musicians/artists that will be on the artists team in various capacities. seriously, the label is dead. We’re just a filter. And a friend.
10. What is the greatest challenge you continue to face as a record label and how do you combat it?
ART vs. COMMERCE. The timeless dilemma. making money is the biggest challenge, got’s to pay the bills. To combat it we just keep punching away, eery day, Rope-A-Dope style.