Working Labels, Working Bands

Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones & the DapKings, Soul Scratch, The Olympians, Durand Jones & the Indications, Colemine Records and Daptone Records. What do all of these names have in common?…They are single handedly keeping Soul music alive. When you think of soul or funk music, you usually think of the late 1950s to the early 1960s and Funk, probably late 1960s to all of the 1970s. Well, not only do I think of those same time periods but I also think of the 2000s, which sounds crazy but it is the truth. There has been this great and powerful yet generally unknown scene of soul and funk making its way through music lover’s living rooms and man-caves during the past few years and it is finally getting a little more hype.

A few months ago, I discovered this little, unknown record label called Daptone Records. The only reason why I found about about them was turning over a newly acquired album by a man named Charles Bradley. On the back it said Daptone Records so I immediately looked up that name and found something that would alter my music tastes probably forever. I loved the vibe of even just the website. It seemed like I was taking a trip back in time. They had shirts, sweatshirts, slipmats, and even keychains, all with the Daptone Records logo on them. I started looking at all the artists that they support. Once I started listening to some of these artists, I felt like I had found a treasure-trove of real, pure talent and soul. Some of this stuff just made me want to get up and dance. This was going to be my re-introduction to music.

As I researched more about Daptone, something really stood out to me and it really gave me this whole new outlook on what music should be and what music these days is missing. It was this idea of Daptone being a “working” label and supporting “working” artists and bands. Some of these people had very hard upbringings and they really struggled to make it in music and some are still struggling, living paycheck to paycheck. I was watching a documentary on the late, great Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings, which is the back up band for Jones and also a house band for the label. As Jones was going through an entire year of treatment and chemo, the band could not make money since she was unable to preform or record. The guitarist for the Dap-Kings talked about how he had to sell equipment, furniture, and even had relationship problems with his wife (or girlfriend, check my facts) over money issues. With all of that hardship, the band supported her 100% and continued to play everyday. Another Daptone great, Charles Bradley, didn’t even start recording music professionally until the middle of his life. He ran away for home, worked odd jobs for most of this life and walked across the country. These people have seen a thing or two and really know hardship. This is what makes their music so great.

This idea of a working label with working bands got me thinking of music that is popular today with some being made on a single laptop with limited equipment and it becomes a huge hit. There is no passion or heartache in that music. There is nothing to grab onto or relate to. Artists that work for labels such as Daptone or another great label called Colemine Records, they have put in more hours than there is in a day for their music, they have put sweat and tears into this music. That is what makes it so good and so soulful. As I dive more and more into small labels and more unknown bands, I have come to this realization that the music is just better with artists that have put those sweat and tears into their music. You can hear that they really love and care about their music more than anything and they don’t care how much money they make or fancy cars they have, they are just happy to be able to make music every day and are so grateful for their fans.

In terms of Daptone Records, their headquarters is in an old, beat up duplex in Brooklyn. Their artists, such as Sharon Jones, helped renovate the space. They put their bands to work. They built their own studio. That is a great example of the idea that if you put your own time and your own effort into something, you will work harder for it than you would if it was just given to you. That is the spirit of Daptone Records. This is why Daptone and labels similar to them and their size are so important to pay attention to, because they are filled with bands and artists that have not only sacrificed so much for their music but they have also literally put sweat and hard work into their music and the space in which they make this music. Please take a moment or two and do a little research. Look for those unknown labels and “suggested artists” in your iTunes or Spotify playlists. There are some real gems hidden away and the world needs to hear them.


Photo from:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s