Perusing any story about the music industry in the last ten years, you’d think it’s all doom and gloom for anyone who wants to sell cds through traditional means. File sharing, plus the recent trend of musicians giving away their music online as a means to get people to their shows, surely means it would be crazy for anyone to start a record label from scratch. (btw, a “record” is a vinyl circular object with tiny grooves that plays music when spun)
But Sean Peoples did just that in 2004 when he debuted Sockets Records. Like others who started the independent labels that have become legendary in DC’s history (Dischord, Simple Machines, Ruffian to name just a few), the most important part of the business for Peoples is providing an outlet for the types of music he believes in.
“There were a lot of very weird and interesting sounds back in 2004, but a lot of bands were breaking up and were in danger of not being documented,” says Peoples a day after his other gig, as a Fatback DJ. “There weren’t many labels in town looking to do small run releases of experimental music. I thought I could fill that gap. I started the label as a way to share the different sounds these friends were creating.”
This Friday, January 22, Peoples celebrates five years of Sockets Records with a showcase at the Black Cat. The eclectic nature of the five bands playing is a testament to Peoples taste and the wide variety of music being played in the DC area.
And those challenges to the music industry? Peoples sees them as a minor nuisance. “Obviously, running a record label in the midst of the death of the music industry is an idea I still toil with daily,” jokes Peoples.” But, I believe there is still a place for record labels. We just have to adapt to the new tools of dissemination.”
The music business paradigm, especially for an independent label, changes almost monthly because musicians and their fans are constantly discovering new ways to connect with each other. No matter what the future holds, Peoples has a plan for Sockets Records. “I would like to keep curating music through the label and start getting into publishing books and other multimedia,” he says. “I think it all fits and I would really like to share the creativity of my friends in a larger, more robust manner. But who knows, I think it’ll be an interesting time to observe how music is shared, created, and consumed.
The Socket Records Showcase is on Friday, January 22 at 9pm at the Black Cat. Tickets are $12. Performing are Buildings, HUME, The Cornel West Theory, Big Gold Belt, and Imperial China.
Emmett Williams (www.emmettwilliams.com)