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Dani Cotter Takes Performer Behind The Scenes with Xtra Mile Recordings, Home of Frank Turner and Against Me!
INTRO/TEAM & BACKGROUND
We are Xtra Mile Recordings – an independent record label based in London, releasing records all over the world. We’re a team of three full-time members working with a larger network of awesome folks all over the world.
Charlie Caplowe – Founder and big boss man of Xtra Mile
Dani Cotter (me!) – PR & Marketing
Anthea – Production & D2C
The fourth member of our team and honorary XMR-er is Bradley Kulisic, who is our label manager at Kartel Music Group and who handles all our distribution and label services for UK and the world (excluding North America). For USA, we work with the good people at INgrooves, and in Canada it’s the fine folks at Fontana North. We also have a team of freelancers who look after our social media, our website and all our artwork and design needs.
Charlie started the label in 2003, working on it just part-time to release the debut albums by Reuben and Million Dead (Frank Turner’s previous band). We had been working with these great British bands for press but got frustrated that they were being over-looked by record labels; so instead of endlessly waiting for someone else to sign them, Charlie set up Xtra Mile and did it himself.
Over the past twelve years the label has grown and grown and now we’re dedicated to it full-time. Our roster ranges from artists who’ve achieved mainstream success to acts just starting out, covering the genres of rock, punk, folk, indie and hardcore from the UK and North America. We’re home to: Frank Turner, Mongol Horde, Against Me!, To Kill A King, Skinny Lister, Cheap Girls, Beans On Toast, Will Varley, PJ Bond, Northcote, Jamie Lenman, Billy the Kid, Rob Lynch, Mineral and many, many more.
New music comes to us in a variety of ways. We get the traditional demos in the post or via email. We are recommended to bands by other industry people who we’ve met or worked with over the years. Sometimes our bands will come to us and ask us to check out an act that they’ve stumbled across. In fact, our roster is a great source of A&R since they are out there playing venues all over the world and coming across new music all the time. So much so that we did a label compilation album Xtra Mile High Club Vol: 5 Signed Vs. Unsigned, featuring a track from each of our signed acts followed by one track from their favourite unsigned act. The result was a brilliant mix of new and emerging music, and from that we met PJ Bond, whose album we’re about to release.
We try to listen to all submissions where possible. When new music is sent to us, from wherever they’ve come in by, they get added to a spreadsheet and then we will all sit around and have a listen. Charlie heads up the A&R-ing of the company and as well as submissions coming to us, he is also out and about meeting new managers, agents, etc. and always looking for new acts to join the XMR stable.
When deciding on whether to sign an act or not, we’ll have a proper listen and do our research on them, looking at their online presence and proactivity, touring history, the team around them and any press/radio activity they may have had. If we love the music and there’s a plot to be developed, the only other criteria is if they fit within the XMR family. Whilst a lot of our roster is musically very different, there is a common thread that links them all together. Charlie often talks about being able to join the dots between all our acts – where each of them complements and supports their fellow label-mates. A lot of them know each other, have toured together, released split singles together and appeared on each other’s albums. We love the community/family vibe of like-minded artists sharing a passion for music and who are team players.
The initial conversations between label and act are done by Charlie, who puts together a deal that’s agreeable for both parties. The broad expectations and nature of the release will emerge from these initial talks and then once signed, we as a team will sit down and work out the best structure for the campaign at large. We will meet the manager and/or deal directly with the band/artist and discuss the campaign in further detail – discussing formats, PR targets, single choices, touring activity, marketing ideas, etc. It is then over to Brad and Charlie to nail the budget, Anthea to collate all the parts – artwork and audio etc., and me to get together all the necessary assets we need like press shots, videos, bios, singles, etc.
STRUCTURING A CAMPAIGN
Each campaign will be very different. For some acts, we’ll start working with them from a very early stage so will need to organise studio time and producers for them to record their album (eg: To Kill A King). For others, they’ll just turn up with a finished, mastered album together with complete artwork and a tour in place and all we need to do is get it made and get it out there (eg: Beans On Toast). Despite which starting point we’re at, the first thing to sort out is the release date.
Typically we’ll decide on a release date and then work backwards from there, factoring in the lead times for production and how many singles we’ll release ahead of the album. Once that is set in stone, we can then work out deadlines for artwork and audio, which allows us enough time to get the CDs and/or vinyl made and enough promotion time to set the album up at press, radio and online.
Anthea is in charge of production. She will work closely with the artist/manager and our artwork guy to produce print-ready files ready to send off to the manufacturers, as well as stickers, download codes and merch for you all to purchase. The audio will then be uploaded so our distributors can deliver to digital retailers, including us! All tracks will also need to be registered with PPL [a British performance rights organization and licensing company] and the BPI [British Phonographic Industry], which she also does.
Simultaneously, I will begin the process of structuring the finer details of the campaign, working towards announcing the album release, music videos, singles, etc. and working on a marketing plan. We sometimes work with out-of-house press and radio teams, so I will liaise with them to ensure they have everything they need and promotion is planned out and structured to get maximum exposure for the band and album around release date and tour.
Working closely with Brad and Charlie, we will devise a marketing plan that includes digital advertising on media sites, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Depending on the act, we will look at more traditional advertising opportunities such as street marketing, posters and print ads; it all depends on the act, the release, the plot and the budget.
Although we all have our own individual areas of work, we are all across every aspect of a campaign, working closely together to ensure we all meet deadlines and make the most of every opportunity to promote it. Once a week (or once every two weeks) we will have a huge label-planning meeting, which can last for a few hours. We will go over each project in turn – discuss ideas, detail progress, share any concerns, listen to new music and plan much further ahead to look at our release schedule for the next 6/8/10 months.
As we release albums all over the world, we have to coordinate everything with our teams in other territories. We have a press team in Germany (one of our biggest territories) on a retainer and press, radio and marketing teams in North America. In addition to this, there are people in place in Australia and across other countries in Europe and Asia. This means lots of conference calls – at the end of our day if talking to West Coast America or first thing in the morning if Australia – which can be a challenge to sort, but a necessity for a global set-up.