On the heels of a year that’s seen storied venues change hands, new musical ventures announced and booming growth in the city’s entertainment districts, there is a new buzz in the Memphis music industry heading into the New Year: the launch of Blue Barrel Records.
After forming quietly in 2014, Blue Barrel Records will release its first album (Mighty Souls Brass Band’s Lift Up!) in January and will quickly follow with a second (Caleb Sweazy’s as-yet untitled debut, set for the spring).
Funding for the non-profit label comes from founder John Buford, who also leads A&R for Blue Barrel alongside noted Memphis artist John Kilzer and Archer Records’ collaborators Ward Archer and Brian Dixon. Label activities are administered by Archer Records (label home of Kilzer, Amy LaVere, Lily Afshar and more). Initial plans dictate that the label will work with two new artists per year, producing an album and funding all pressing, distribution and marketing activities around the release of that record.
I think the goal of Blue Barrel is to allow local musicians the ability to make the best record they can possibly make with no expense spared,” Buford says. “Hopefully, this will allow them to gain more exposure and perhaps obtain a contract with a larger label. Another way of saying it is we are providing a kind of a “musical venture capital.’ What our first two acts have in common is uniqueness. We are looking for artists who are both talented and maybe doing something a little off the beaten path.
Archer adds that the unique arrangement of Blue Barrel as a nonprofit label allows artists to push their creative limits.
When the focus of a label is not to make money but to help artists, then the record making process is set free to be as creative as possible,” he says. “I’m excited about that and I believe you will hear it in our first two releases. And although we are not profit-driven, we will be marketing the releases through all of our existing channels in the U.S. and worldwide, with revenue used to support future Blue Barrel Records releases. There have been many opportunities that have been presented to me that I loved but couldn’t justify financially on the Archer Records label. Blue Barrel Records can now make those possible.
Art Edmaiston, saxophonist with the Mighty Souls Brass Band tells us,
I know Ward Archer has a real vision for continuing Memphis music and supporting the local players by giving them a chance to be heard. John Kilzer is a staple on the Memphis music scene and has been writing beautiful songs and is always providing encouragement to young artists and musicians. This new label is an asset to the Memphis music community and the world because it gives our creative artists an access point to reach the global music listening community.
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