Monday, December 7, 2009

Local Natives Finally Sign a Record Deal in the U.S.

The circle is now complete: Frenchkiss Records for the U.S. (side note: Frenchkiss also recently signed the excellent Freelance Whales -- LN/FW tour in 2010?), Infectious Records for the rest of the world, and Universal Music Publishing for those lucrative publishing rights. Gorilla Manor, Local Natives' debut album, which was released on November 2 in the U.K. (and I'm sure is all over the internet), will be released on February 16 in the U.S.

My initial thoughts about the three month gap between a U.S. and Worldwide release date for Gorilla Manor was that this was clearly stupid. I have a hard time believing there was a shortage U.S. labels that wanted to sign the band and release their album like they wanted to in the fall.

But when I think about it more, I really like the idea of spacing it out. First, the album was completely self-financed by the band, which means that LN is not thousands of dollars in debt to a label. This definitely takes the pressure off record sales (also helped by not signing to a major label), and I'm sure the band knows that their meal ticket is their phenomenal live shows, not some eternally fixed translation of their songs onto a record. (Taylor is quoted in Pop & Hiss saying “We’re proud of our album, but we’re at our best when we’re live.”)

Second, spacing out the releases allows Local Natives spend months solely focusing on Europe, since it's the only place they have label support and the only place where their album is available. And LN is taking advantage of the opportunity. They've already done two tours in the UK and will be spending two months there early next year. With the band being in Europe, and the album exclusively on Infectious Records, Infectious has a tremendous incentive to support the band.

Then, with momentum coming from the UK, Local Natives can continue making waves in the U.S., where they're almost surely destined for success (and just a pesky Pitchfork review away from 2010 domination). The momentum and potential will encourage Frenchkiss to put their full support behind the band.

Who knows how much of this was planned. Nonetheless, Local Natives and their team have assembled a very smart group of business partners:
  • Two indie labels on the recording side, which secures indie cred and frees up more money for them (2 is more than 1). Splitting up their label commitments geographically allows each label to focus on the territories they know, and should allow more efficient use of their resources.
  • Universal Music Publishing Group for that always needed advance money, not to mention the clout of the world's largest music publishing company in the only way bands make money now besides touring: placements in TV and advertising.
So, in all, kudos to the band, its management (Phil Costello of Red Light Management -- Red Light also manages to Dave Matthews, The Jakes, and a ton of others) and most importantly (in my eyes) their attorney, Richard Grabel, who's known to be one of the best indie lawyers around, if not the best.

For CER, LN's signing comes during a time of reflection on the past year and thoughts about what the next year will bring. The first time I ventured to the east side for a show was to see Local Natives for the first time almost one year ago, on December 8 at the Silverlake Lounge. Since then I've had the privilege to see them 9 additional times, and set #11 will be at the Echo on December 22. That's a lot, I know, but every time I'd go to a LN show thinking this would be the last time before taking a break, I came away from their sets always wanting more. Their explosion in 2009 has been deserving and remarkable and I see no limits for them in 2010.

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