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10 years of Melodic Records

Kenny Borland talks to the label's founder about a decade of cool tunes and survival in the digital age

Published on February 26th 2010.


10 years of Melodic Records

1999 was a strange year for what you might call 'mainstream rock' music. Britpop had all but fizzled out – replaced by manufactured boy bands. Radiohead were in-between OK Computer and Kid A and The Strokes wouldn’t break for another two years. Behind all this though, there was a burgeoning underground scene developing in Manchester. It was this atmosphere that, a decade ago, inspired David Cooper to found Melodic Records.

“It’d be interesting if a band came along who didn’t sign to a label. Like if Vampire Weekend, or someone who could be massive, decided to do it themselves. But the thing that’s so important these days is that the label provides the promotion, and that’s what will ultimately sell records.”

“It was an amazing time,” says David, “mainly because we had two really good independent labels here: Twisted Nerve, which was set up by Badly Drawn Boy and Andy Votel, and Grand Central. There was a kind of community for electronic music and I suppose the nice thing about that time was that it didn’t really matter whether you were making guitar music or electronic music.”

Surprisingly, Melodic was set up as more of a hobby than a commercial enterprise. “I got a demo from an artist called Pedro that I thought was amazing,” explains David. “I literally just formed the label off the back of that demo. It was really exciting. The 12 inch sold out immediately and that was the beginning.” Following the success of the first release, it wasn’t long before Melodic (dubbed by the NME in 2005 as 'the coolest label in the country') gained a reputation.

Considering the demise of other independent Mancunian labels like Grand Central, it is testament to Melodic’s resilience that it has survived. David explains: “I’ve always run the label on the attitude that, as long as I’ve got enough money to put out the next record, we’ll do it. That’s pretty much stayed true throughout. The irony was that, when I was ready to close the label down, we started making more money than we ever had. So my attitude then became ‘I’m going to run this like a business’. When I sign an artist, I have to have the confidence that they can sell at least 3000 albums.”

Label founder - David CooperThe Longcut - who released their second album on Melodic

The emergence of digital downloading made the noughties a revolutionary decade in terms of how we consume music, posing new challenges for artists and labels alike. With online releases, Melodic has embraced new musical outlets but David is clearly conflicted about whether it is a change for the better: “I think that there’s more music available than ever. It’s so easy for a band to set up their own MySpace page. It’s an interesting and exciting time, but I feel like there should be revolutions going on.

“It’d be interesting if a band came along who didn’t sign to a label. Like if Vampire Weekend, or someone who could be massive, decided to do it themselves. But the thing that’s so important these days is that the label provides the promotion, and that’s what will ultimately sell records. The live part of the industry has been doing a lot better than the recorded industry, and I think that’s the way forward for labels.”

Now that Melodic has an illustrious ten year history behind it, what does the next decade hold? “I don’t know,” says David, tentatively. “We’ll just have to see. It’s funny putting it like that, because I’ve never thought of it that way, but it’s almost like the next ten years will be like the first ten years. As long as we sell enough records to put out the next one, then we’ll carry on doing it. When things stop coming along that really excite me, maybe I’ll just get old and listen to classical music.”

Until that time comes, long may they continue.

For more information, visit the Melodic Records website: www.melodic.co.uk

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