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.


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Record Store Day 2017 is here!

Record Store Day is almost here! Rejoice!…..Goodbye to paychecks everywhere! April 22nd is the day! It is like a holiday to music lovers everywhere and especially to vinyl lovers and collectors, AND it comes twice a year….that’s right…. two times. I cannot think of another holiday like that, can you? For those of you who have been living under a rock all your lives, Record Store Day is a special day twice a year where bands, labels, and other artists may release exclusive vinyl releases for either new music, remastered albums, or other random music. The main day is usually somewhere in the middle or late of April but there is also an “RSD” on Black Friday.  Most of these releases are limited in number and are only released on these days and each Record Store day has a whole new list of releases. It has been going on for about 10 years I believe and has become been more and more popular each year with the resurgence of vinyl in popular culture.

For the returning RSD-ers, it is a whole process of planning and jumping up and down in your office chairs as you start on the first phase of this holiday called, THE LIST. This list is put out by Record Store Day roughly one month before the fateful day to let everyone know what will be released. Let the sleepless nights begin. Personally, I have perfected this phase from year to year. I start by just going through the list once, writing down everything that catches my eye. After that is done, and new to this year, I make a Google doc, organizing my wish list into categories such as “Must have” or “12 inch” so I am ready to go on that day. The next phase is to go through the list probably once a week until RSD just to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Phase 3 begins on Record Store Day Eve when you make your final preparations for the next day, including laying out your best sweatpants and sweatshirt for the morning trek. Finally, the day is here. You wake up half asleep at the crack of dawn, with only one thing on your mind: Sweat clothes, beanie, car keys, and you’re out the door. You arrive at Newbury Comics, or wherever you go and the wait begins. I usually get there at least one hour before the store opens. I have been able to be the 3rd or 4th in line the last couple years. You could be the biggest coffee drinker in the world but on Record Store Day, coffee is the last thing on your mind.

7:58 hits and you start to stand up from an hour of sitting and waiting, still half asleep, but a quiet adrenaline starts flowing through your body. That door will open any minute. Then… go! And the organized ciaos begins. You whip out your phone and get the list up. People are literally selling releases in the store to other RSD-ers before they go and actually buy it from the store itself. From there, you are literally just grabbing without thinking. Anything that looks familiar, you grab. Personally, after I grab everything, I go to a quiet place in the store and sort through it. This month-long preparation comes to an end when you take a deep breath, take a quick look at your bank account on your phone and you complete this crazy day with a step up to the register and watch your paycheck quickly disappear but you could not be more happy and content with the world. It is like Christmas morning but the good Christmas morning, back when you were 8 and still believed in Santa Clause. But wait!….The day is not over. After I grab everything I really want, I typically visit other local establishments such as Bullmoose or another Newbury Comics to grab the bottom feeders of the list. After all this is done, it is still not even lunch time so there is only one thing to do, go back home, sit back and dig through your collection from the morning.

I think Record Store Day is so popular within the music collection community because of this process. It is fun to go through the list, mark your favorites, plan with a friend to get up early and head out RSD morning and then get home and enjoy what you love, music. It still seems like this little club that you belong to and can share with others. It is the thrill of the chase and the adrenaline that fills you up on that day that makes it exciting. Go out and start making our own tradition on Record Store Day!

Until next time,




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