6 questions with LAB Records’ Mark Orr

Mark Orr from indie label LAB Records gives us his top advice for emerging artists…


Indie labels are the lifeblood of the music industry and Manchester’s LAB Records is one of the strongest to recently emerge.

Set up ten years ago by Mark Orr the imprint has been responsible for killer releases by the likes of Martin Luke Brown and Stereo Honey and was nominated by the AIM Awards for the accolade of Best Small Label in 2017. 

With new releases a plenty in the pipeline, Mark was invited to ICMP for an afternoon of 1:1 A&R sessions with ICMP artists by our careers team, The Hub. We caught him for a quick interview on his label and what new artists now need to do to stand out in the current musical landscape…

What’s the best way for someone to approach a label like LAB? 

A lot of our music comes via industry contacts but artists can come to us unsolicited. So in that sense, keep any messaging succinct, only include your biggest achievements, don’t send a huge file as an attachment, just a link to a stream works well. Also, remember to be respectful - by all means, follow up but leave it a decent amount of time - but no stalking please! I think it’s important to understand everyone is busy - it’s the same for us when we pitch to radio or streaming.

Don’t just copy and paste an email and send to a 100 people - do your research into the label you’re contacting and personalise your message."

What is the ethos behind LAB? 

We put out music that we love by artists we love. The ethos is to really to build a stable of artists who can write and tour together, remix one another, just create a real label roster in the traditional sense. It’s a concept that has kind of gone out of fashion. Ultimately, from an industry side and how we service artists, the end goal for each is different - the most important thing is we tailor our service to them.

How has the role of the label changed since you started out?

In the ten years since we started, it has changed dramatically.

At the beginning, the goal was to get on as many HMV shop floors as possible. Now it’s all about streaming."  

We went through physical, then digital downloads and iTunes, now streaming is king: Spotify, Apple Music. There’s less of an issue around pressing physical records but we still do this for the 500 or 1,000 super fans. At the same time, we of course strive to make records that connect with fans and engage people when they hear them on playlists.

What are the main ways new artists can sustain themselves?

In 2018, there are several different revenue streams – for our artists, live is a big one, then from that merchandise is important. Then sync and music publishing are also important, even a mid-level sync at £20k can keep a band on the road for a year. Ultimately, our model is to ensure artists get paid from selling records - we want them to see a cheque as soon as possible.

Music streaming massively changed the industry. Is there another disruptive force on the horizon?

We’re in the age of streaming and I don’t think it’s going anywhere just yet. There’s a lot of talk about smart homes and Amazon and Google’s devices - which could be game changing. So how we access music and the radio will be entirely different. We’ll have similar systems in the car too and so on.

This will be a shift. But what we need as an industry is a growth in paid subscribers on streaming services. I see people consuming music differently to how they consume Netflix.

Ultimately we need more paid subscribers to help the artist royalty rate increase and extend their careers."

What would your definitive piece of advice be for a new artist?

Write and collaborate with as many people as possible. You learn your craft this way - set up the unlikely sessions even if it’s with someone not aligned with you musically. Even if you just pick up one thing from their process and how they work, then it will have been worthwhile. Also, learn about the industry alongside your artistry. That’s important to help you make informed decisions when it comes to the business.

Listen to 'J.O.Y' by Martin Luke Brown. 

Visit labrecs.com for more.

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by Jim Ottewill
July 23, 2018
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