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July 9, 2008

Label X closes up shop

Label X President Todd Smith is a pretty circumspect cat these days. You would be too if you just pulled the plug on your own company.

Over more than five years, Label X put out six official releases by noted local acts Digby, The Muckrakers, Code Red and what Smith says is their biggest seller to date, longtime Louisville slugger Peter Searcy.

From their Bakery Square offices, Label X earned palpable and valuable recognition, and they worked every angle they could.

The Muckrakers
The Muckrakers
Code Red
Code Red
Peter Searcy
Peter Searcy

The Muckrakers spent more than a year on the road. ESPN tapped Code Red for one of its promos, as did the University of Louisville, and Searcy’s “I Believe,” off his last album, Spark, wound up on the promos for NBC’s “Sex and The City” clone “Lipstick Jungle,” as well as Oprah’s “The Big Give.”

If one of the richest women in the world (or one of her flunkies) takes notice of you, that should mean a whole other level for the folks who made that recording possible, right?

Except that this is 2008, and all of that recognition doesn’t necessarily translate into sales, Smith says during a conversation at the label’s office in Butchertown. When he saw the proverbial writing on the wall, he went to the label’s investors and said it’s over. 

Toucan Cove, Label X’s distributor, has agreed to pick up the acts.

The Muckrakers are in the process of mastering their follow-up to Front of the Parade, the second and third of a string of EPs by Digby are set to be released later this year, and Smith is finishing up recording for Code Red’s sophomore effort. Toucan has agreed to keep Kyle Meredith, who was in charge of Label X’s radio promotion, on in a similar capacity.

“The radio support was a joint effort,” Smith says. “In that sense, it’s going to be good and seamless for the bands.”

The irony of the shut down is that Label X’s last year was the best it had. In spite of that, the label’s business model, which is based on record sales with some provisions for alternative revenue streams like licensing for TV and film, didn’t square with an emerging consumer mentality that is altering the old music business landscape. 

“People think music should be free now. File-sharing is a fact. It’s not a theory, it’s not a threat,” he says.

The strife Smith faced is common for those who run major and independent labels, and the mission is clear: “Somebody has to figure out how the artists and the companies can get paid,” Smith says. “The companies need to get paid, too, because they’re underwriting the experimentation.” 

 

Contact mherron@leoweekly.com