18 February 2009

Touch and Go is having a shake-up

I know. I was supposed to write about the Asobi Seksu gig tonight, but new shit has come to light. Sorry. Touch and Go is having a shake-up, and I'm not a fan. For those who don't know, here's what T&G have to say:

It is with great sadness that we are reporting some major changes here at Touch and Go Records. Many of you may not be aware, but for nearly 2 decades, Touch and Go has provided manufacturing and distribution services for a select yet diverse group of other important independent record labels. Titles from these other labels populate the shelves of our warehouse alongside the titles on our own two labels, Touch and Go Records, and Quarterstick Records.

Unfortunately, as much as we love all of these labels, the current state of the economy has reached the point where we can no longer afford to continue this lesser known, yet important part of Touch and Go’s operations. Over the years, these labels have become part of our family, and it pains us to see them go. We wish them all the very best and we will be doing everything we can to help make the transition as easy as possible.

Touch and Go will be returning to its roots and focusing solely on being an independent record label. We’ll be busy for a few months working closely with the departing labels and scaling our company to an appropriate smaller size after their departure. It is the end of a grand chapter in Touch and Go’s history, but we also know that good things can come from new beginnings.

So they're not stopping the rock or owt, but are very much scaling it down. When I first heard the news I selfishly thought 'bloody hell, they were supposed to be re-releasing the Jesus Lizard albums this spring!'

I was somewhat relieved to learn they'd still be pushing back catalogue material, and re-releasing more old stuff. But that doesn't reflect well on me. I was always the person telling the canon to stuff itself, and forget the alleged classics. And here I am, unmoved by the inexorable changing of one of the key music labels of the last two decades because at least I can still get the old stuff in. It's pathetic, and I was wrong.

This is totally a bad thing to happen, because of the principle of it. It's not about how many T&G albums I liked in the last five years. It's the idea of such an independent stronghold being forced into compromise. It's that dread 'look back in anger' concert mis-idea transferred into real life. It's not one night only: it's forever.

Maybe I'm over-reacting. We are all experiencing a financial lull at the minute, and the fact that T&G is scaling its operation down means it can still exist when next we enter a boom period. Whenever that is. It's rather a shame, though, as the old musical adage hold that the most urgent music is created in those times of strife and society-wide ill health. We need an outlet.

And the saddest fact of all, for me, is that T&G is primarily scaling back its pressing and distribution arm. Again, selfishly, I don't much care for Merge (signers of the excellent Neutral Milk Hotel and utterly bogus Arcade Fire). But what of Kill Rock Stars? OK, they're apparently in the midst of affiliating with Secretly Canadian. T&G sorted out Drag City, which is my personal bummer.

Not only was DC the home of the legendary Royal Trux (more on them later), but they have since then housed Jim O'Rourke, Papa M, RTX, Weird War, Ghost, Joanna Newsom and tons more. Drag City, if I think about it, is probably my favourite label of the last five years. And in this Inspector Calls world in which we're living, that's what Touch and Go has done for me lately.

A scaled down T&G may well be lurking about, licking its wounds with the cockroaches in the post-credit crunch world, but will the labels affiliated with it? Will Atavist, Merge and DC survive? If not, who will be releasing the vital rock music of 2010? Of 2011? Who can be releasing it if relative powerhouses such as them are in danger of going under.

So I may indeed be getting my Jesus Lizard reissues this April. But at what cost?


  1. Anonymous9:56 pm

    Passing this along, from this week's Chicago Reader profile of Azita Youseffi:
    "Neither of Azita’s previous Drag City albums has flown off the shelves. (Touch and Go, one of the label’s four major distributors, announced last week that it would be shuttering its distribution arm, but it’s handling How Will You? for now.)"
    Of course, I'm unaware of the particulars, but this state indicates that Touch and Go isn't getting completely (or at least not immediately) out of the manufacturing/distro game, and that they aren't the sole distributor of records for all these smaller labels.

  2. Nice one Ted; thanks for the information! I have some links to Drag City actually, so I shall put feelers out and see what the news is. If there is any. And if my peeps know of it. If 'it' is, indeed, 'there'.

    Still getting Papa M and Joanna Newsom records in, just in case...

    Also: watch out for a little Royal Trux posting from me in the near future. I'm writing about the first two albums for Fact and - should I ever get it finished - it might be worth reading. Not that it's anything you don't already know.

    And how come nobody told me how good Pound for Pound is? It's such a solid record.


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