The amount of people familiar with this collection of labels undoubtably grew after Bon Iver’s Best New Artist Grammy win, a curious award for those who have been listening since their actual breakthrough album For Emma, Forever Ago in 2008. When Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon climbed the stage to collect his award (accepted, in true Grammy fashion from the odd pairing of Carrie Underwood and Tony Bennett), he thanked his label.
“(Thank you to) Jagjaguwar, my label, for having both transparency and friendship,” said Vernon.
Friendship is indeed at the heart of Jagjaguwar, and its sister labels Secretly Canadian and Dead Oceans. Founded in 1996 by Darius Van Arman in Charlottesville, Va., Jagjaguwar eventually relocated to the offices of Bloomington label Secretly Canadian. Secretly Canadian was also founded in 1996, by brothers Chris and Ben Swanson, Eric Weddle (who now operates Family Vineyard) and Jonathan Cargill. In 2007, the now-partners of Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian founded a third sister label, Dead Oceans.
These three labels all distribute under Secretly Canadian’s distribution arm, SC Distribution. SC Distribution also distributes Family Vineyard, FatCat Records, K Records, St. Ives, among many others.
This trio of labels and its distribution outfit provide an anchor for many of Indiana’s smaller labels, and have themselves risen to become one of the biggest indie record collectives in the world in the last 10 years. They claim big names beyond Bon Iver, including Sharon Van Etten, Dinosaur Jr., Animal Collective and The War On Drugs.
There’s much more to be said about the labels than can fit in this feature, but keep your eyes online for new reviews of SC/DO/JJ artists, tour date postings and much more from this growing collective.
The days of musical isolation have passed for the Hoosier state, freed by the World Wide Web and the tireless work of those who put out what they wanted, how they wanted, when they wanted.
This spirit is alive and well, to be found in many of the state’s niche labels. Look no further than Indianapolis’ own Joyful Noise. Founded by Karl Hofstetter, Joyful Noise began like so many before it.
“The label initially began as kind of a BS, pseudo-label for my own musical projects. My bands simply couldn’t find any labels interested in us, so I decided to start my own,” Hofstetter said.
But he’s quick to point out that success wasn’t instantaneous.
“JNR didn’t really become a ‘real’ label until about 2006 when we got a distribution deal and all of a sudden had an actual platform.”
Joyful Noise is at the forefront of the micro-label movement; they release limited pressings in unique formats. The staff of six works tirelessly to manage the demands of a fledgling label with varied interests.
“Two of us work full time in the office on a daily basis,” Hofstetter said. “Shawn [Woolfolk] handles sending out mail order, packaging records, etc. My time is mostly spent talking with bands, artwork designers, coordinating with manufacturers, etc. The others help with managing the money side, business development, social media, etc.”
With its use of cassette releases and the sold-out launch of the flexi disc series (featuring Lou Barlow, Akron/Family, Tortoise, of Montreal and other indie heavy hitters), Joyful Noise continues to buck trends to achieve success.
Said Hofstetter: “We are rather ambitious with our release curation, and I don’t know of many labels who would think it would be a good idea to release 10-album cassette box sets, or a year’s worth of flexi discs. But we get excited about these weird types of releases, and I think that sets us apart from the labels that follow a more traditional business model.”
Joyful Noise continues to push its boundaries. Despite Hofstetter’s initial idea that Joyful Noise would be what it implies — a noise label — JNR has expanded to include all forms of experimental music and media. This open-mindedness also has landed Joyful Noise some big-time releases in the form of cassette reissues from Dinosaur Jr. and of Montreal. Hofstetter credits persistence in landing such storied bands.
“In each case, we were the first label to approach these bands about doing a cassette, and the bands were excited about it” Hofstetter said. “Since we had experience under our belt, I suppose we seemed credible enough to work with.”
As Joyful Noise continues to establish its reputation and roster, Hofstetter sees a bright future in which JNR still operates on a smaller level.
“We will continue to grow and expand in a variety of ways,” he said. “We are certainly not staying idle. However, we do plan to keep the operation small and focused. We like being the ‘boutique’ label.”