Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

An eulogy for Richter Collective

All good things inevitably come to an end. Yesterday’s announcement by Irish indie label Richter Collective that they will be closing at the end of this year led punters and pundits alike to sigh loudly. It’s never a good thing …

Thu, Jun 7, 2012, 08:56

   

All good things inevitably come to an end. Yesterday’s announcement by Irish indie label Richter Collective that they will be closing at the end of this year led punters and pundits alike to sigh loudly. It’s never a good thing when an entity who’ve quickly become an essential part of the small Irish indie ecosystem decides to call it a day. We’ve been here before in recent years with, most promeniently, Road Records, and there have been plenty of other subtractions from the scene which no-one thought could be replaced – and yet life goes on.

What’s immediately striking when you examine the Richter Collective story is that it’s just four years old. In that relatively short space of time, the label has become part of the furniture thanks to an excellent roster of acts. It may look as if the label cherrypicked the best of the local indie releases in recent years, but it takes a keen ear to take a punt on those acts in the first place and a lot of hard work to develop and establish them. That’s what record labels have always done.

But it’s 2012 and that’s just not enough to make a living anymore. As the label note in their valedictory note, “it’s become increasingly difficult to apply new ideas within the constructs of a ‘traditional label’ model and our label still falls within that remit.” You can’t make money from records alone for a whole host of reasons and that potential revenue is further reduced when you’re dealing with indie releases which are more often about doing-it-for-love than doing-it-for-the-dosh. Love alone won’t pay the bills.

As someone who comes from a label background, I’ve often bemoaned the fact that we’ve never established a self-sufficient indie label infrastructure and network in Ireland. Sure, we have a plethora of indie labels – here’s a good list of same – but many were just one or two act affairs, rather than labels in the traditional sense. That’s where Richter Collective went beyond the norm and showed what could be done. But, as they’ve found out and noted as they prepare to shut up shop, such an entity can’t be self-sufficient in the current music business climate. You need more strings to your bow to survive and such portfolio entities are hard to establish and maintain.

But regardless of how one aspect of the indie label game seems to be coming to a close, the game goes on. As noted above, many local music business entities which people thought were irreplacable have gone out of business in recent years and yet, we’ve never had more bands playing up and down the country. Acts still perform, audiences still see and support acts and middlemen still try to broker the exchange between the two and make some cash. One music shop closes and another opens on the exact same spot. The music business continues to shapeshift and change like never before and there are plenty of opportunities for smart young lads and lasses who don’t want to stand on a stage to get involved.

In the case of the Richter Collective, their story will live on in many ways. For a start, there are the records and that’s one hell of a legacy to content with. It’s also not as if label founders Mick Roe and Barry Lennon are going to head off and become goat farmers in Donegal. Even since they merged Popular Records and Armed Ambitions to form the new label in 2008, the pair have been involved in a plethora of other activities from band management (Roe looks after The Cast Of Cheers and Squarehead) to indie TV production (Lennon was one of those behind the recent documentary A Joyful Slog on Irish music’s DIY culture). You can expect them to turn up in all kinds of places in the years to come. Yes, even the music business, if they’ve still got the enthusiasm for this game.

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