Sprouting forth from a storied heritage that has spanned decades, and has encompassed a wide array of disparate ventures in hospitality around the world, including restaurants, hotels and casinos – Hard Rock Records constitutes the latest endeavor from the people behind the legendary Hard Rock brand. It is an affirmed representation of the next logical step for an empire that has long sought to create an experience that would plug even the most conventional of audiences directly into the live music experience. Hard Rock Records aspires to be an independent music label, geared specifically to the cause of discovering and aiding in the development as well as the promotion of talented musical acts that still haven’t quite broken through to a larger audience and show the potential for substantial artistic growth. The label provides a tremendous opportunity to their signed acts, providing them not only with the necessary assistance to complete the recording process, but also going beyond the studio, and aiding in the marketing, distribution and touring aspects, given that the artist formally agrees to a one year commitment to the label. After the year has expired, the artist can then depart from the label, retaining full ownership and creative control of their own recordings, as well as any profits generated from their efforts. The working dynamic between the musician and label conceptualized by Hard Rock Records is singularly unique in the contemporary recording industry. We recently chatted with co-head of A&R for Hard Rock Records, James Buell, who answered some questions about the upstart venture.
The Hard Rock brand has existed for many years now, but there has never really been this drastic of an entrance into the realm of recorded music. Why make those strides now?
The foundation of Hard Rock has always been music, so Hard Rock Records is a natural progression for our brand. It connects us at another phase and place in the life cycle of music and gives us another way to interact with musicians and their fans.
The brand has always been associated with classic rock, and with delivering an experience geared around that fond heritage of old. When it comes to establishing your identity as a label, is there any particular sort of artist that you are attempting to sign or a specific sound that you are aiming to attain holistically?
There’s no specific type of artist or sound we’re going for. We want to work with passionate people who make great music. If that leads us to an Americana act like Rosco Bandana or something on the total opposite end of the spectrum, we’ll dive into the deep end and get to work helping make the best possible album we can.
It seems like scouting out thousands of acts systematically is not only an overwhelming task, but one that could result in some compelling talent falling through the cracks. How do you go about seeking out the talent to produce the music that you feel will be attuned to what you’re trying to accomplish creatively?
One of our main ways of scouting talented bands – like a Rosco Bandana – is through the Hard RockRising program, a global battle of the bands we have staged at Hard Rock locations across the globe. This year more than 12,000 acts entered. And while the winner isn’t guaranteed a spot on the label, the hope is we’re able to find someone in the process who piques our interest and is worthy of consideration. Aside from that, the best way for artists to get music into our hands is to submit their demo and contact information to: Hard Rock Records, 6100 Old Park Lane, Orlando, FL 32835.
There is more and more of a struggle to engage the artist in the creative process and that lies at the center of maintaining the artist’s commitment to the label over time. How does Hard Rock Records seek to engage their artists at a level where they can capture and develop not only their creative abilities, but their commitment to the label?
Every artist has a voice and one of our jobs is to help them find it. No one vision is right or wrong and our process – on all fronts – is as collaborative as possible. We want our artists – and their fans – to feel good about Hard Rock Records, both today and in the future.
There does appear to be more a paradigm shift in the way that bands are doing their recording and dealing with labels these days. How do you plan on distinguishing yourselves in lieu of more and more artists seeking to go their own route and independently release and have a more pronounced role in their own music?
Given the way in which the economy, coupled with continued advent of file sharing has continued to cripple physical music sales, how does Hard Rock Records plan to maintain a state of longevity in spite of these challenges that loom over the industry as a whole?
I really can’t speak to the role other record labels see themselves as playing. For Hard Rock Records, our role is to find, develop, and promote up-and-coming artists, and give them all the tools at our disposal to help them pursue their passion.