"We have a large staff that for the most part work across all four of those," label manager Nick Blandford says. "We have the shared expertise and the advantage of a big group of people working together with some specialists with particular focuses on parts of the label. It allows us to present music in different contexts and work with a wide range of artists."
This year, Secretly Canadian turns 20. How are they celebrating? By staying busy as ever.
"Our release schedule is as busy as it's ever been, and we've had a lot of big records this year. We're putting a lot of our emphasis on those records. In general, we're using this as a time to reflect, figure out ways to better engage our community," Blandford says.
In 2016, Secretly Group (Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar, Deal Oceans, Numero Group) released or plans releases by Mitski, Damien Jurado, Suuns, Whitney, Julianna Barwick, Kevin Morby, Ryley Walker, Dinosaur Jr., Black Mountain and Small Black, plus many more. When asked for an artist that defines the label, Blandford and label group co-owner Ben Swanson name the same ones immediately:
"Like some labels, we're not out there really exploring new technology in a big way, at the bleeding edge or anything like that," Swanson says. "What sets us apart is that we're constantly looking at, what do we and what do our musicians look like 10, 20, 30 years from now?"
The word for that? "We're looking for timelessness," Blandford says. "And that can mean a lot of different things. It doesn't mean that something has to sound like classic rock or classic American songwriter; it can sound very forward-looking and modern. But we're not interested in chasing trends."
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Part of the focus on a sustainable, long-term artist catalogues means the label emphasizes fairness and equity in its deals with artists.
This is highlighted in Secretly Group's push for the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, a document signed by Secretly Group pledging to convey financial terms directly and comprehensively to their artists.
The timelessness Secretly Group seeks is borne out in new artists that are inspired by early artists on the label.
"I think some of the biggest rewards that we've seen is really just seeing some of the artists we've worked with and how they've affected people," Swanson says.
To get inside the Rhythm! Discovery Center, you have to go underground. Literally. Walk in through the doors at 110 W. Washington, hop on the escalator and cruise on down. But, as Daniel Hoffman, the museum's Marketing, Membership & Events Coordinator says, in 2016 the museum is ready to for the spotlight.