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Guest Column – "Every day IS record store day!" Fierce Panda hit 100 releases

Guest Column – "Every day IS record store day!" Fierce Panda hit 100 releases
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Simon Williams has now run beloved, influential and respected indie label Fierce Panada for exactly 100 hundred releases. During the 21 years it has taken to reach that milestone he’s been sent an ocean’s worth of demos, helped to discovered Coldplay and many more, released some acts we’ve never heard again, attended months-and-months worth of gigs and consumed a lot of ‘liquid’ in the process. In a guest column for Q he considers the impact of running an indie label on one’s life.

It’s dumb, but it’s true – when we first started Fierce Panda in the Blue Posts pub on Tottenham Court Road in 1994 we only ever intended to release one single, the New Wave Of New Wave-celebrating Shagging In The Streets compilation EP, and call it a day. Quite how we now come to be rejoicing in our 100th album release 21 long years later is an achievement which will baffle indie scientists for hours to come, not least because our early adventures into 7seven-inch sound seemed to have us tagged as perennial singles club underachievers.

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In a truly awkward indie stylee the 100th album release is a t-shirt which says “Every Day Is Record Store Day”*. Why is it a t-shirt? Because we didn’t want bands killing eachother in the grimly gridlocked streets of Shoreditch purely for the glory of being our 100th album release, and I needed some new clothes for Christmas. Plus t-shirts don’t get – ha ha – shirty with us down the pub or ask for tour support.

Ghastly unexplained phenomenon or not, landmark releases such as these are excellent for pondering over lessons learnt along the way, both harsh and hearty. One of those lessons is that happy accidents can happen: after we first saw the terrific Death Cab For Cutie play the Dublin Castle in Camden we offered them a classic panda one-off singles deal more in wild hope than expectation, yet we ended up releasing three albums – We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes, The Photo Album and Transatlanticism – before market forces and, more pertinently, a deal with Atlantic Records prevailed.

Similarly, who would have thought that Art Brut‘s brutish brand of British humour would go down so amazingly well in Germany, which it did with Bang Bang Rock’n’Roll, or that The Walkmen would be welcomed back so warmly after their The Rat-era major label travails, as they were with the You & Me album? Nobody, that’s who.

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Conversely, we have fretted and fought with bands over year-long album campaigns when they expected the moon on a stick, not to mention chart success on a plate. Another lesson learnt: when you spend more time planning a release than the band does promoting it then you are not onto a winner.

Equally, not everyone can be Adele, or indeed another Death Cab – especially where we are, down among the dead men with our tattered purse strings. Personally I think that Wolves & Thieves by Goldheart Assembly, Play For Today by Ultrasound and Days Of Abandon by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are all sensationally excellent records, and but for the lack of £50k marketing spends perhaps another 60,000 people would be agreeing with me.

What I suspect I have learnt most however from this entire 100 releases mallarkey is that if you do have aspirations vis a vis longevity and respect then you don’t call yourself something as intensely stupid as Fierce Bloody Panda.

Simon Williams@_FiercePanda

*NONG 100: the “Every Day Is Record Store Day” t-shirt is available to buy from Fiercepanda.co.uk. With each purchase you get a free digital album highlighting tracks from the nine albums released on fierce panda in 2015. Of course!


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