So, you want to start your own record label? Repertoire stand up!

So, you want to start your own record label? Repertoire stand up!

Repertoire, the brainchild of Ricky ‘Drumtrip’ Law originated way back in 2009 under the arm of Nu Urban Distribution. Jamie S23 hooked up with Law this week to discuss the pitfalls, challenges and the odd nice reward for running a record label.

Where did the idea for Repertoire come from? Was it due to your personal feelings about music being released around 2009, the lack of a certain style or did you just want to do you thing and get good music out to the masses?

“There seems to be a real jungle revival right now with second hand record prices going through the roof and old school raves more popular than ever. I’ve always preferred drum & bass with live breaks and proper low-end subs and I thought apart from a few producers and labels that style was a bit underrepresented at the time.

I somehow blagged my way into a Nu-Urban pressing and distribution deal (cheers Tobie and Phil!) and managed to achieve a dream of mine by getting a record pressed. ‘Sophine’ was released in 2009 with ‘Cloud Fairy’ by Brighton’s X-Nation on the flip. Sadly Nu Urban folded not long after that record hit the shops.

After that I left Repertoire alone for a while and focussed on my jungle blog Drumtrip until Ben CT (a good friend of mine) approached me and wanted to take the reins on a day to day basis. The label would have died with one vinyl release to its name without him.”

It must be tough to essentially go it alone, especially in the world of drum & bass where pretty much everyone is already connected in some way or another. What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

“In terms of networking the internet has helped massively. It’s been great to be able to hit up producers we’ve really been feeling. Most have been really cool but essentially we started out not knowing anyone. The single hardest thing about being a DIY label that sells vinyl is actually selling the vinyl.

People love the tunes and you get a lot of good feedback but when it comes to buying the physical product ite don’t exactly fly off the shelves (I swear some people think they do).

What makes it worse is the pricing. We press around 200-300 copies of every release and in order to break even (or god forbid turn a profit) we have to sell at around £9-10, not cheap for a single 12”.

That’s just considering vinyl manufacturing costs. We then have to factor in any digital mastering costs, artwork, bandcamp and paypal fees. No wonder certain labels jacked vinyl in ages ago.

Thankfully over the last two releases this year we’ve broke even and we’re on course to for the next one.”

The media have heavily publicised that vinyl is still alive and well, as a label owner what are your feelings? Is a vinyl release still as important as it was 20 years ago regardless of units sold?

“Firstly this vinyl resurgence is a bit of a false dawn to me. More records are being sold than in the last 20 years but most of that is pop music and reissues of old classics like Pink Floyd or The Beatles. Not dance music and certainly not a mass of drum & bass

Underground genres like drum & bass, dubstep, grime, dub, reggae etc all pretty much kept Europe’s vinyl presses going throughout the 2000s. Now the major labels are stepping in again and the presses are jam packed, this means your average record from a small label can take 3 to 4 months or more to manufacture. Thankfully our customers are incredibly patient.

To a lot of people mp3s aren’t really real as such. People want something tangible for their money, which is one of the reasons behind this resurgence.”

Your next release ‘Full Repertoire Volume 1’ features a full release on CD and 4 track vinyl, what was the reason behind a physical release?

“Well, anyone can put out an mp3 and call themselves a label can’t they?

I come from a time when you would buy music over the counter, staring at logos on records, like the Moving Shadow logo and it would really mean something.

The decision was made that we would always try and put out records in small numbers if people wanted to buy them but Ben had the idea of doing a CD album as well as a 12” vinyl release. We did the maths and thought we wanted to make it work, especially as CD manufacturing is so much cheaper!”

Looking at the track list it’s featuring some big underground jungle producers that have really been pushing the scene forward for many years. For those that don’t know too much about these guys can you draw for a few facts about them?

What’s cool about this release is that we have managed to sign tunes from a lot of people we’ve actually met at raves in the last couple of years. Producers that are still avid fans of the jungle sound new and old.

DJ Trax wrote ‘For The Soul’ just for the release, if you don’t know DJ Trax he’s been around since the beginning and had solo releases on Moving Shadow as well as being one half of the duo Mixrace with the mighty Paradox. The man is a bit of an old school hero and is still pushing the new drum & bass today.

SoulStructure and Madcap have both had releases on Bukem’s Good Looking imprint.

If you’re into any kind of amen heavy drum & bass you almost certainly know Tim Reaper – he spent his formative years on DNBA forums in fact.

Mantra is one of the DJ’s behind London’s best (in my opinion) drum & bass night ‘Rupture’.

Soul Intent also kindly contributed a track. He’s had some great releases on Doc Scott’s 31 Records, Samurai Music and Commercial Suicide in the last few years.”

The sound on the album is real mixed bag of influences. From Kid Libs amen tear out ‘The Source’ to SoulStructure ‘Progressive Future Music’ which sounds like something LTJ Bukem would still be dropping to this day. How important is it to Repertoire that you cover a vast spectrum of sound?

“Very. The label name is a reference to the full repertoire of drum & bass you can expect from us. We don’t just do amen tear outs, we don’t just do deep GLR style rollers. We are simply signing tunes we love. I guess we always look for tunes that give a nod to drum & bass’ golden years of 1993-1997 – that’s the only prerequisite.”

Good spot on Progressive Future Music as it’s actually an ode to Good Looking legends PFM. Bukem asked for a copy in fact.

How can people get their hands on the new release?

“It’s available to pre-order now at http://repertoire.bandcamp.com. It’s a crowd funded release so every single pre-order helps.

We have also signed a small distribution deal, so whatever we have left at the end of the pre-order period will eventually find its way into all the usual vinyl outlets online and in the real world.”

Many of the large drum & bass labels have, over the years, crafted their own unique sound with a handful of producers, do you see this as the way forward for Repertoire or will you continue in the direction you’re currently heading?

“With four vinyl releases and twelve digital releases to our name, we hope we’ve started to carve a small niche of our own. I doubt we will rely on a small pool of producers for two reasons; we’re always looking for new talent, and I can’t see us signing any producers exclusively in the near future – at the moment this is still a hobby so we couldn’t really make too many promises.”

If time travel was an option what event would you travel back to? What DJ set would you want to replay in real time?

“Damn that’s a tough one. Randall at AWOL in May 1994. A legendary club, the original DJs DJ with my favourite MC – GQ. Some tough unreleased Dillinja dubs in there too!”

As 2015 heads on its way to a close, where do you see drum & bass in 2016? Will it continue to dominate the commercial charts?

“I don’t really have a problem with Fresh and Rudimental riding the charts. It’s not drum & bass music as I really know it, and it’s not aimed at the same people we’re targeting with Repertoire. If you can make some decent money doing anything remotely drum & bass, then why not?

It won’t last though. Pop music moves fast and something new is never far away. It goes in cycles.”

Shouts and dedications

“Big shout to every person who has bought a Repertoire record in the last 12 months – we wouldn’t exist without you. Shouts to the artists on the album; DJ Trax, Djinn, Madcap, Kid Lib, Dwarde, MPathy & Tim Reaper, Soul Intent, Wheeler, SoulStructure, Mantra.

And big up to everyone we’ve met at nights like Rupture and Beautifully Crafted Jungle over the years. And finally, all the labels pushing similar sounds like Green Bay Wax, Omni Music and Foundation X.”




You can follow Jamie Section 23 on Twitter, @JamieS23
Jamie S23 is part of the editorial team at Drum&BassArena, has a huge collection of vinyl from the 90’s and spends many hours wishing music still came on cassette. He’s stupidly into fitness and most importantly, a devoted Dad. Reminisce about air horns, lighters and The Sanctuary with him via Twitter or Soundcloud