Running a record label in 2010
It’s always interesting to get a look at what goes on behind the scenes in a business you admire. XL are one of those labels who’ve steered a singular course in recent years and managing director Ben Beardsworth gives an …
It’s always interesting to get a look at what goes on behind the scenes in a business you admire. XL are one of those labels who’ve steered a singular course in recent years and managing director Ben Beardsworth gives an overview on how the label operates in the current issue of Music Week.
The label have had a very good run of late, particularly with The xx (500,000 copies of their debut album sold and counting) and Gil Scott-Heron. As Beardsworth goes thought the process behind both releases, the talking points make complete sense. The xx recorded in the label’s in-house studio which meant low recording costs and there was little pre-release hype to send expectations skywards. The Scott-Heron album “I’m New Here” was a project initiated and driven by XL boss Richard Russell so you had that personal involvement at all stages.
Leaving aside the fact that Beardsworth is obviously not going to focus on any negative aspects of how his label operates (no label is perfect), XL sounds like a ringer for some of those great labels of old who made great records, a bit of cash and a lot of sense. Back in the day when I was on that side of the business, for instance, I always wanted to work for Island Records because their HQ at 22 St Peter’s Square in London buzzed with the right attitude and ideas. The label was about the music because that was what mattered most at the end of the day. Sure, there also has to be a significant back-end operation too and XL have enough strategic alliances in place to ensure that side of the house is also in order.
If there is to be a future for record labels, it’s probably along similar lines to what Beardsworth is talking about, where the emphasis is on making great albums as much as getting the finished product into Tesco. It will be interesting to see if some of the current suite of boutique and tastemaker labels will get to rise to an XL-like level in the next few years and if they’ll maintain such an emphasis.