Label Services Focus: Grin Recordings | Features | MN2S

The second label to feature in our new Label Services Focus series is South West London house imprint Grin Recordings. The long-running label has grown from humble origins to make serious headway in the scene, with support from some of the biggest names around. Their story is one that attests to the power of hard work, determination and organisation. Label manager James Edwards gives us the lowdown.

What’s the story behind your label? How did it come into existence?

Grin has gone through many changes in its eight years. Originally it was set up by a group of DJs based in South West London (Mark Batch, Jack Michaels, Richard Bowditch, Sean O’Brien and Yannis Balkisas). I (James Edwards) joined the team in 2008 after DJing on one of their boat parties in Ibiza. It just so happened that I lived around the corner from the guys and they invited me to join the brand, which I did, and eventually became the label manager. Over the years various members left the team to pursue other ventures. It went dormant for a while and I started working at Concrete Promo. Then in 2011 Mark Batch called me and asked me to take it on full time as he was moving into a different industry. I knew that I would need some help so I contacted Tim Cullen who was a regular remixer on Grin in the early days. We now run the label together and things are going really well.

How was the name chosen?

Well I wasn’t there when it happened but I know from the stories that the name was based on Jack and Richard’s ‘cheeky grins’.

What is the label’s ethos, and has it been that way from the start?

It was always an avenue for us to release music in the early days of our producer careers. When we started out it was very hard to get on the bigger labels as an unknown act so we used Grin as a platform to release music and put on events. We hosted two official afterparties for the SW4 festival in London and did multiple events at Ministry Of Sound. After a few years the bigger labels started to take note and we were able to license music to the likes of Subliminal, Ministry Of Sound, Skint and Toolroom Records for their compilations. This in turn helped to boost our reputation as a collective. Now we have a solid foundation of artists who we work with and I think that’s vital when creating a sound and an image for a record label.

How did you go about sourcing and choosing your first few releases?

There were five producers in the team so we just rotated the releases monthly between us and outsourced the odd remix.

What have been your most successful releases?

Tim Cullen & Richard Dinsdale ‘Skank Marvin’ was my favorite and has been our best-selling track. I remember hearing it for the first time at Tim’s after he had just got back from the studio and loving it. I said “this has to be a Grin record”. It’s original name was ‘Crack Whore Skank’ but that went out of the window when we tried to drop it off at Radio 1! I think “with a name like that it has no chance of airplay” was the response we got.

We also did physical drops at DJ Mag and Mixmag. I walked into the offices on a Friday afternoon with the CD strapped to a 6 pack of beers, which went down a treat, as did the music. So Called Scumbags ‘Punch’ was championed by Fatboy Slim and Erick Morillo and was the second-best-selling house record on Traxsource in 2011, holding the No. 1 spot for over eight weeks. Erick also included it on his ‘Subliminal Invasion’ compilation, which gave us a great boost in notoriety. Made By Pete ‘Special Request’ still picks up a lot of heat as does ‘Full English’ by Tim Cullen & Made By Pete which we have just re-released alongside remixes from Harry Romero, DJ PP & Barber.

What do you think the most important elements of running a label successfully are? What advice would you give someone setting up a label of their own?

Well there are so many things you need to do these days. Obviously the number one thing is the music. If you can build a stable of 5 – 10 artists who constantly produce great music then you have a great foundation. Image and artwork is very important too. We see so many labels scrimping on costs when it comes to the artwork, which can really cheapen your image. We see the artwork as a gateway to the brand. We live in an era driven by the ‘computer click’. Having attractive artwork to use in your marketing campaigns can entice people in – people who haven’t heard of you before.

Finally, I think you need to know your industry. It’s no secret that digital downloads make a fraction of what vinyl sales used to make. Having a good understanding of other revenues such as licensing, YouTube and PPL will help your label run as a sustainable business.

Which other labels do you really admire and why?

Subliminal was my first real label love. Now there are so many out there who deliver great music. I don’t have a favorite but these are some of the imprints that inspire me as an artist and a label manager. Rebirth, 2020 Vision, Defected, Toolroom, Love & Other, Suara, Noir, Moda Black, Black Butter Records, Futureboogie, Exploited, Aus Music, Cadenza, !K7, Madtech, Future Classic.

Which artists would you love to have on the label?

Harry Romero was one who we really loved for a while and were very pleased when he agreed to remix ‘Full English’. At the moment we’re big fans of Weiss (and we nearly had his first single), Sidney Charles, Sandy Rivera, Dusky, Olivier Giacomotto, Doorly and Crazy P.

What’s the benefit for you of working with MN2S’ label services team?

The MN2S label team have been a huge help to us. It’s great to have the backing of such and integral, long-standing brand in dance music. To be able to draw on their experience and contacts in relation to getting features on download sites, sourcing remixes, marketing plans and general support across the board is priceless.

What’s coming up on the label?

As mentioned we have just released the ‘Full English [Remixes]’. Tim Cullen & Made By Pete’s original has been reworked by Harry Romero, DJ PP and Barber. We have been working on the package for six months and support has come from all areas. It’s great to see legends of the game like DJ T, Hector Romero, Andy Cato, Mark Knight, Danny Rampling and Tall Paul supporting the record alongside the new(er) wave of tastemakers like Shadow Child, B.Traits, Audiojack, Catz & Dogz, Weiss AND Franky Rizardo. Over the coming months we have new music form Santero, Will Gold and new act Hidden State on the way.

Click to enquire about MN2S label services.

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