As of October 2014, Sturdy Records will be no more. The last public sighting of the label will be our stall at the Leeds Label Market on Sunday October 5th (don’t go expecting a crazy closing down sale though – everything’s cheap enough as it is you cheeky sods).
Why now? In some ways, why not – it’s been five years during which we’ve put out 12 singles, three albums and one staggeringly good compilation; enough quality stuff to walk away with my head held high. There are predictable personal reasons too – the simple fact that between family and work, I have less and less time to do the label justice in the way that I’d like to. And frankly barking at bands (and one band in particular, whom I nonetheless love dearly) to make them do my bidding, or at least make them not shoot themselves in the foot quite so much, is becoming a less enjoyable and fruitful way of spending time than it used to be.
There is another reason, which maybe affects other labels too to some degree. When the Sturdy Records started in 2009/10, it was possible to accomplish quite a lot with very little. The internet had provided a level playing field to some extent; no matter who you were, it was possible to post out some CDs or email a track in the knowledge that there were a lot of blogs and zines out there who were likely to give it a listen and probably write about it if it was any good. Hence a label with no real track record (me) was able to conjure up a lot of grassroots interest in a band with little or no existing profile to speak of (say, The Wind-up Birds). That’s been the most satisfying thing about doing the label – taking an artist that had hitherto seemed to be stuck in a ‘local band’ ghetto and connecting them with people all over the place who were prepared to listen with an open mind and could see how amazing they were.
In the past couple of years though, it seems as if many of those same blogs and zines (and others that have sprung up to take their place) have become as co-opted by the big music industry as the mainstream media is. It now seems to be necessary to give a national press company the best part of a grand to achieve no more than I used to manage on my own with a laptop and a pile of stamps and envelopes (or indeed, in one recent memorable case, give a press company the best part of a grand to achieve absolutely nothing). If Sturdy Records continued it would most likely mean pushing harder to achieve less in a world that seems ever less hospitable to tiny labels. And if that’s all that’s on offer, I’ll leave it ta.
Final messages to the world:
1. Thank you to all the bands – Loqui, The Wind-up Birds, The Sequins, Post War Glamour Girls, The Seven Inches and everyone who was on the compilation – for letting me have a go (in more ways than one). Thanks also to anyone who showed an interest, whether it be writing about the records, playing them on the radio (God bless you Steve Lamacq) or coming to the gigs. There have been a lot of you, and that fact alone massively outweighs all the other moaning here.
2. Labels! The Seven Inches and The Wind-up Birds are both now in need, and deserving, of a home. They are both brilliant. Snap them up quick, you won’t regret it.
3. Leeds Music Scene. Please could you give me back the hours that I spent practically begging you to cover music that you should have been writing about as a matter of course. You are a textbook example of how a site that was once a hugely valuable community resource can become possibly the most useless page on the entire internet. Looking at the site today, it looks like you might have finally started to turn things round a bit. Hope so. Goodbye.
4. If you write a music blog and you’re more likely to pay attention to music if it’s sent to you by a press company than an individual – shame on you. And if you’re a press company that makes money from getting independent blogs to write about independent bands – you know, like they used to anyway before you started coining it in on the whole process – shame on you too.
5. Marc Riley. You never played The Wind-up Birds. This is possibly the most inexplicable thing ever to have happened in the history of the world. But you’ll rectify that at some point, won’t you? Yes, you will.
6. I might change my mind in six months’ time, in which case I retract all of the above.
7. Loqui. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to finish your album now. Nice try. Please finish your album.
Anyway – hopefully see some of you at Leeds Label Market on Oct 5th; it’s at Leeds Music Hub in Headingley from 2pm. The Wind-up Birds are playing a live set and there’ll be plenty of other ace labels and bands involved too. Also, it’s quite likely that I’ll be really hungover, so that should be entertaining too.