Hyper/Local: DIY Labels
Tracing the rise of indie labels - the anchors and networks they created, the people who made them work, and the opportunity and obstacles they created in the growth of their scenes.
The story of Punk in America is the story of Punks in America. There's no singular Punk experience, any more than there is one American experience.
Like other venacular music that came of age during the era of recorded music -- Jazz and Hip Hop, to name but two-- Punk is simultaneously a social movement, a cultural expression and a musical style. It was shaped by maturing personal identities, evolving interpersonal and in-group dynamics, and external pressures-- from school, parents, society-- that varied across geographies. Those geographies carried with them their own societal structures, demographics and histories that influenced what happened when, and how.
Our plan is to simultaneously collect regional stories and plan for an eventual documentary series that gives a critical sense of place, illuminating the unique contexts of each region and how they created both opportunity and obstacles to the growth of their unique scenes. Drawing from both established and unexpected voices to share the impact and influence of the music, we'll also highlight personal perspectives on Punks' DIY ethos, its countercultural values, and the challenges of maintaining both as Punk attracted new audiences.
We'll also explore some common threads:
Individual Identities: Whether driven by a singular artistic vision or founded by fans to elevate the sounds of a community, Punk labels are as different as the places they started in and the people who started them.
Creative Communities: It's more than the bands - getting a record out requires photographers, designers, and producers-- as well as studios, distributors, small press and zines, and other parts of a creative ecosystem.
Cultural Conduits: Labels helped spread more than music - they messaged identity, ethos and belonging, helped define and shape Punk sound and culture in America. As labels forged links with other labels, they helped establish the first national touring circuits for Punk bands; spearheaded the growth of the US indie underground of the 80s; and laid the foundation for the explosion of alternative bands and independent labels that followed.
Records are the most visible manifestation of the music. By exploring the spread of US Punk through the lens of record labels and their landmark recordings, rosters and creative ecosystems- we get to talk about bands, sessions, styles, innovations, virtuosity, curation, entrepreneurship - and bring often-sidelined voices into the conversation.
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We're documenting local scenes by starting at the middle of the Venn diagram between local and national.
Working with labels in 8 cities (some active, some not) as the intersection bringing together a scene, the records, the tours and the cross-country connections, this gives us a way to get at the geographies, micro-cultures and the music that ultimately became a network.
We're kickstaring this project with the search for No.1s which will help narrow down our who's, what's and where's.
From there we'll see what it takes to catalogue something like a label archive - and maybe, if things go well, we'll use all the interviews, connections and digital activity to jumpstart a series on the growth of a movement.
Have ideas for this project?