Rise Records, an indie label based in Beaverton, Oregon, is attracting attention for its outsized performance. With 6 enployees the label has had 3 releases in the Billboard 200 this year. According to Billboard.biz "Rise is responsible for nearly 5 percent of all hard rock records sold in 2014." Between recent coverage and an interview from 2010, we see a label that has maintained a hands-on low-budget approach though they seem to be making moves that haven't been revealed.
Maybe the Rise Records team is simply that amazing but even given word-of-mouth and social media jiu jitsu I don't know how you leverage a team of 6 to produce revenues of $10 million a year. Here are a few clues.
Rise Records Featured in Billboard
Reggie Ugwu recently covered Rise Records who are killing it on the charts and whose acts are "responsible for nearly 5 percent of all hard rock records sold in 2014 -- more than twice the share of older and more established competitors like Hopeless Records and Epitaph."
Founder Craig Ericson began regularly putting out records in 1999 and finally had a break-out success in 2007 with Drop Dead, Gorgeous. The band sold 30k of its debut and was then "upstreamed to Suretone/Interscope" ultimately leading Ericson to full-time self-employment.
Ugwu gives one example of how Rise "maintains fine-grain control over its marketing budgets and isn’t afraid to break with conventional business practices when there are incremental gains to be made."
Apparently Ericson noticed their digital download cards cost a penny more than CDs so they switched to adding an extra CD to vinyl orders instead of a download card. What happened to the shipping costs remains unclear.
The Agency Group's Dave Shapiro says "they know their market better than anyone in the world and they don’t waste time or money." As an example he shared the fact that they knew the difference in ROI between various ad options because they'd tried them out in the past.
Hmmm, there's gotta be more than that. Here's one interesting strategic move that was revealed:
"In 2009, the label made the unusual move of making its entire catalog available to stream for free with ads on YouTube. The gamble paid off. With over 1 million subscribers, Rise’s YouTube channel is now one of the most followed among record companies."
In addition the label itself has apparently built a fanbase with some fans buying albums by all artists. If that's true then it is a sign that they now have a strong identity that fans trust which helps boost loyalty and sales.
The View from Late 2010
It makes one wonder about how things changed in 2010 when they began signing new acts for all-ages that brought in different sounds.
In an interview for Property of Zack, Ericson shared more of the nuts and bolts when they had only 3 staff members which included "spend smarter" and having faith in the acts one signs:
"We spend just enough money on print-ads and then let the kids decide what’s going to happen. You can’t spend money to sell records. I’ve tried and I’ve spent the most money on whatever band and they don’t sell the most. Word of mouth sells albums."
"We try to get the band out there to the public and then word of mouth will do the rest. If they’re meant to be huge, then it’s going to happen. If not, then there’s nothing a label or a band can do about it. It’s just going to happen organically. It’s just the way it is, which is good for us."
"We don’t have to spend lots of money to sell albums. Selling a lot of albums is relative. For us, selling 20,000 is awesome, but it’s shitty for a major label."
They certainly seemed to know their lane in 2010 when they were expanding their roster and their success since shows they know how to grow.
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Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) posts music crowdfunding news @CrowdfundingM. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.