Starting an Indie Label and Getting Signed

An Conversation with Anchor Eighty Four CEO Cody Jones

LA-based Anchor Eighty Four Records was first established in January 2010, after CEO Cody Jones moved from Northern California to seek a more business-oriented musical career at Epitaph Records. A musician himself, Jones crafted Anchor Eighty Four with the sensibilities of an experienced performer, the durability and dedication of a skateboarder, and the no-nonsense resourcefulness of a punk rocker. The label released a compilation album following its emergence and has been going strong ever since. With signed bands such as A Shipwreck A Castaway, What Hands Are For, and Hear The Sirens, Anchor Eighty Four is building momentum – but never losing sight of its creed: Supporting bands that are hardworking, genuine, and optimistic. Performer had the chance to speak with Jones last month to better understand how his experiences were refined into a self-sufficient and successful record label.

Anchor Eighty Four, Jones expressed, is all about a commitment to the underground scene, pushing bands to exceed limitations and promoting the little fish in a vast and churning sea of music. “Los Angeles,” Jones says, “is really large, and even being part of the music community it’s still very hard to get a good venue out here; there are so many bands competing and the promoters kind of take the top tier, you know, because they need to make money and they need to fill venues. So for some smaller bands its very hard to get a good gig.” Coming from Jones, this idea seemed so much less a gloomy state of affairs and more so a steady challenge (read: the fundamental driving force behind his label).

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“I’ve noticed that a lot of kids get their band together, they write their demo and then send that in, and want to be signed. That’s not really how it works.”

Having played in a myriad of bands before shifting into music business, Jones has seen a healthy share of the scene: starting in a punk cover band, writing originals and moving on through hardcore, metal, and rock. “I think that [experience] helps [me] to know where my artists are at. I’ve been there. I’ve done some touring and recording and playing live shows and putting out our own records – so I know what these guys are going through.” Jones explains. “When I sign a band and, you know, they have all these ideas and aspirations – the things that they want to do – I totally get where they’re coming from and want to help them out.” As countless innovators before him, Jones wishes to create a resource that wasn’t ever there when he was playing music. “That’s my main focus: just to be that helping hand and give these bands an extra push.”

Another key element for Jones is the integration of varied artistic media. “I definitely see Anchor Eighty Four gravitating toward more of a collective,” Jones says. “Branching out, because of my roots in skateboarding and music, you know, and incorporating those worlds: bringing music to the art world and bringing music to the skateboarding world – and vice versa, bringing all of that into Anchor Eighty Four.” An excellent example of this is an event the label put together last year, DIY Eighty Four, held at Backside Clothing in Echo Park. The event featured live performances by What Hands Are For and Rob Roy and also highlighted visual art by Tyler Jones, which was displayed around the clothing store. DIY Eighty Four successfully picked up a few sponsors, generated good turnout, and brought artists of all walks together in one place – a success, collectively.

With several bands in the studio right now, a few label showcases, and tour plans, Anchor Eighty Four is heating up some good stuff. The summer schedule is at max capacity with Heart to Heart embarking a two-month tour alongside Last Call, Jones details, and Lincoln, Nebraska’s No Tide finishing up a Midwest run before hitting the West Coast – only to blast over to the East Coast following with Storm the Bay. Tour frequency dictates fan volume and helps to reach different audiences, says Jones, and Performer has to agree.

Jones’ advice on advancing your career: “Keep writing, because the stuff you write today is going to be better than the stuff you wrote yesterday – whether you use it or not, keep writing. Always be playing shows. Play outside of your hometown as much as possible; a lot of bands get kind of stuck and they just play the four venues that are in their hometown, they don’t get out much, and wonder why they’re not progressing, why they’re not signed.” This is sage advice in a digital age that allows musicians expansive communication, but also the opportunity to cloister themselves from the world, including their (potential) fans.

Check out Anchor Eighty Four’s talent at anchoreightyfour.wordpress.

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