In a country, whose the biggest contribution to the global musical landscape has been bollywood, starting an independent label to promote anything that is non-bollywood is a pipe dream. But change, they say, is ushered on the back of those who risk going down the rabbit hole and making a reality of the pipe dream.
In the last 5 years, we’ve seen independent labels cropping up to promote indie-pop, alternative rock and electronic music. A few of these labels have made it big which, for some reason, is accomplished when your music and artists are picked to be a part of movies or OTT platforms. Historically, independent music labels have been anticipatory in the developments within a music scene – think Sun Records and Rock n Roll in the States or closer to home Pagal Haina and indie-pop.
Which brings us to Export Quality Records, a label by the people at Third Culture Entertainment. Initially set up as an agency that managed, developed and toured artists in India — including Mura Masa, Kamasi Washington and Little Dragon — Tej Brar and his team at Third Culture Entertainment have now taken on a label operation.
To understand the motivation behind the launch of a label, we got in touch with them and here’s what they had to say “Our primary function behind establishing EQR is the export of contemporary Indian music across genres to a much wider global audience. There is a lot of incredible music being written every day across the country that we feel is of the same quality if not better than a lot of the international music currently being released. There is no reason an Indian artist cannot feature on a global playlist right alongside international talent. It’s our job to enable that. To that end, we have partnered with two UK based companies – The Music Federation (who will be helping out with press, playlist pitching, international tours & global distribution) as well as with Supreme Songs (whose global syncs and licensing team will also be pitching the EQR catalogue to their global clients).”
After managing an incredible roster of artists at Third Culture and being involved in the independent music industry at various level, Tej and his team have built a knack for recognising what works for the audience and how to match it with what the industry can offer. The label has potential for up and coming artists to distribute their voice out into the world. If you’re wondering what you can do to get on Export Quality Records’ roster, here are some tips from the horse’s mouth “The single most important thing an artist can do is focus on having a really unique sound. If you sound like someone else, there’s nothing particularly interesting there for us, or for the audience. We really want to find diamonds in the rough, and work with our team to get these releases up to the mark. We work hand-in-hand with the artists on their profile, artwork, mastering and overall strategy, all prior to the release. Once released, we service the record with our partners. We’re more than happy to work with new/young/undiscovered artists and use our experience to get their releases ready and up to a global standard. This is of course, if we think the music is incredible & really has a niche of it’s own.”
In the short time of 2 months that the label has been live, it has released impressive music. It began with the release of ‘High Spirits’, a single by Adhityan R aka pelle from Chennai, named after the stand-up comedian & actor, Dave Chappelle. This was a peek into what would be the launch of his album, The Rest is Noise’, which shares its title with the book by the prolific music writer Alex Ross. With such strong inspirations a part of his profile, the debut did not let one down. The soothing, non-noise glitchy electronica that comes through the tracks in the album is sure to remind you of the early work by Jamie XX. The sound is clean yet challenges the perception of the listener by quickly switching between tones and melodies.
A month later, Export Quality followed up the release with an EP by Lifeform, a live electronic trio. The trio consists of Akshat Pradhan (Bass), Shantanu Sudarshan (Drums) and Pranay Parti (Keys and Synths). The EP effortlessly switches from disco to hip hop to jazz, while always keeping one tuned to the technological tonality of electronic music today. Taking the idea of technological determinism one step further, the futuristic Lifeform explores the realms of cyberspace, human relationships and desires through a peculiar and experimental output.
They don’t seem to want to slow down anytime soon. Of the future they say, “We have a ton of releases in the pipeline and will be releasing music every month from here on out. The releases will be a mix of singles, EP as well as full-length albums across a bunch of different genres. We have a bunch of music videos coming out alongside the releases, so definitely keep an eye out for those. Some of the artists we can reveal right now that have releases coming up on EQR include Ranj, Clifr, Sunflower Tape Machine, Dohnraj & Owlist. We can’t wait for you to hear these releases!”
While it is always exciting to see the progress of industry, especially one as creative as independent music, one wonders if the crop of new labels is helping the artist grow with the art. Export Quality Records, on their part, are optimistic about this development. They say “Over the last two years, there have been a lot of new, independent labels established across the country. It’s been quite exciting to see that happen across various sounds & genres. It’s still early days for a lot of the independent labels (us included!) and as things progress I think we’re going to see a lot of these new labels find their footing, globally. That’s already been the case with a few of the electronic labels that are getting great international press and really bringing attention to the quality of artist talent we have here in India. For EQR, specifically we’re going to remain genre-agnostic and really focus on releasing music that has an international level of quality as opposed to focusing on any specific genre of music.”
We are certain that with their experience and good vibes, Export Quality Records is going to be a label to look forward to in the future, both for the artists who want to grow and the listeners who want to diversify their tastes!