What's in a Label?: Centricity Music
- Monday, July 21, 2008
Downhere can relate to the "pop or drop" mentality. As bassist Glenn Lavender explains, "We were with Word for our first two albums. We won a Dove award and the next month we got dropped."
Appropriately, it was a church small group that led the band to the smaller label. "We spent a year looking around at different label options," says Lavender. John Mays and Steve Ford were in a small group with Jason [Germain]. Within a month or two we had talked to John about Centricity being a possibility. I guess what they had to offer that Word didn't was a smaller staff, which could come across as bad [to some], but I think in today's market a smaller staff works out great for making quicker decisions. You don't have to go through as many people for things to happen, and all these guys are willing to try different things. I think the bigger labels are starting to do these things too, but being a smaller, independent label, they're more willing to take a risk with new ideas. Centricity's philosophy is more about 'building the artist up.' It takes time to develop an artist. That's not usually how things are done [with labels these days], but it makes way more sense."
The band is a recent subject of risk-taking, having offered its Wide-Eyed and Mystified album as a free earlier in 2008. Lavender recalls, "It was funny watching John Mays through this whole process, because he's been in this industry forever, and I just remember him saying, 'Guys, you've gotta understand, I've spent my whole life trying to figure out how to sell these things, and now you want us as a company to give it away. I know this is probably the right thing to do, but it's going to take me a while!'"
Another digital experiment involves releases-between-releases. Digital-only tracks or EPs are consistently produced for artists between major CD releases, marketed not to radio or retail but directly to fans. "Artists help drive that," says Mays. "We're trying to keep interest alive for artists between releases, even releases that didn't do well. The ability to try to find new ways to connect with the audience is one of the joys of what we get to do."
In the same summer, Jamgochian found herself interacting with two distinct audiences: girls associated with a Brio event, and a middle-aged crowd at a summer camp of sorts. Digital remixes of her songs connected with the younger crowd, while an acoustic set with hymns peppered in served the older crowd.
Barring some dramatic unexpected change, the next Centricity artist will be Andrew Peterson, an acclaimed singer/songwriter who has also been around bigger labels. "The label I was on before was Watershed, which was an imprint of Essential. They were great people, but back when I was on the label they had big bands like Third Day, Caedmon's Call, and Jars of Clay. So I was understandably the very lowest on the totem pole as far as record sales and all that. I was honored to be [with Watershed/Essential], and it was cool that a label like that wanted to have a folky singer-songwriter guy on their roster.
[But as I've been talking to Centricity], man, it has felt good to go into a record label and not feel like the cousin that nobody really wanted to hang out with. I don't mean to sound like the Essential experience was bad, because it wasn't. But to walk in and realize that the folks at Centricity had attended my Christmas concert in Nashville a couple of times, that they were familiar with my independent records released between Essential and now—it's a great feeling to know that the people are on your team because they like your music and want to know how they can help you in your ministry."
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