Pay Close Attention

Fri, Aug 29, 2014, 00:00


Pay Close Attention




These are trying times for record labels, but some are bucking every trend in the book by going back to the future and concentrating on the music and artists. This policy informed the great labels of the past, be it Ahmet Ertegun’s Atlantic Records or Alfred Lion’s Blue Note: put the artist at the top of agenda and all flows from there.

This approach has made Richard Russell’s XL such a shining star in a sea of music business ebbs and flows. XL is the label many artists aspire to because they know its instinct and ethos are good. The fact that XL doesn’t work with hundreds of acts also means there’s more time and patience to go around.

Though he plays it down, Russell is one of the reasons why XL has survived and thrived over the past 25 years. He has good ears, oodles of persistence and a knack for attracting the right artists, which explains why Radiohead, Gil Scott-Heron, Bobby Womack, White Stripes, Adele, The xx and many more are associated with XL and its Young Turks subsidiary.

As this retrospective of the label’s first quarter-century shows, XL began as a rave label home to SL2, The Prodigy (above), Jonny L, Awesome 3 and many others. Those roots provided the foundation for what was to come: a label strong on originality, artistic freedom and fresh, exciting music.

Be it the grandstanding anthems from White Stripes, M.I.A. and Adele, or genuinely groundbreaking sounds from the likes of Jai Paul and Tyler, the Creator, XL now covers all bases. Here’s to the next 25 years.

Download: The Prodigy, Out of Space; SBTRKT, Wildfire; Jai Paul, BTSTU; White Stripes, Seven Nation Army