Label Spotlight: One Little Indian

posted March 12, 2009

by Corinne

One Little Indian

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Celia Hirschman and I run the North American division of the UK label, One Little Indian.

When and why was the label started?

The label was originally formed by husband and wife Derek & Sue Birkett. Derek was in an anarchist punk band in London and they noticed that none of their friends could get their records released. So they began by creating a bedroom record label. Twenty-five years later, the label has found some of the most interesting and creative musicians.

What kind(s) of music does the label put out?

From Björk to The Sneaker Pimps, from The Twilight Singers to 2 Bit Pie, from Pieta Brown to Official Secrets Act - the label defies generalization. As best as I can tell, they are iconoclast musicians.

What was the first release and how was it financed?

I believe it was The Flux of Pink Indians album, Uncarved Block. It was from the band Derek was in.

What is the most recent release?

The UK is actively seeking new artists. Their newest release is Official Secrets Act but they have over a half dozen in the works for imminent release as well.

How much of the label’s punk roots, specifically in terms of philosophy and way of thinking, has remained to this day?

All of it - the label was founded by peaceful anarchist punks, who believed in total freedom and creativity of work, and they've offered that philosophy to the artists who work with them.

One Little Indian has acquired other labels over the years. How do those relationships work?

OLI has had excellent relationships with other labels over the years. On occasion, when labels have endured tough times, Derek has been there to help - with marketing and sales. Some of those relationships have led to acquisitions or joint ventures. Derek allows labels to have complete freedom, but asks for fiscal responsibility. It's the best of both worlds.

The label is home to a number of artists who have seen mainstream success and others that are cult favorites. How does One Little Indian balance the disparities?

Mainstream success simply means a wide variety of interest from new fans. On the basis of that definition, may all artist have mainstream success. The thing that touches the soul of an individual is far from easy to calculate. Those that do not connect to a larger audience, often have passionate followers nonetheless.

Today's cult artist can become tomorrows mainstream - or vice versa. If you focus on the uniqueness of the music, you never lose.

What do you see as the future of record labels?

Record labels will move into more collaborative efforts with artists. Large labels will have to shift downwards, and smaller labels like ours has had to adapt to the changing marketplace by becoming even more focused with time. With an infinite number of outlets for marketing music, a small label has to be flexible and receptive to the slightest shift in the market, while maintaining enough sales to keep the engine running and working.

How has your label adapted to changes in society, business, etc?

We've had to reanalyze everything. From A&R, to manufacturing, marketing and distribution - we are in a tweener state where the status quo still exists but isn't very effective, yet there are only a few new drivers for sales, and none are direct hits. This means we have to constantly adapt to the marketplace to accommodate the times.

Any words of wisdom for those brave souls interested in running their own label?

Do it because you love music and you want to see artists' work have a larger platform. It can be extremely rewarding, but the rewards are few and far between. Pace yourself and keep expectations real always.