By definition, most indie labels remain relatively modest in their reach, sheltering a few core artists who operate within a specific genre that helps bring a specific identity to the company as a whole.
However, Yep Roc Records, based out of Haw River, N.C., defies rather than defines that notion. Now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the company has grown from a modest, home-based regional label to a first-class operation boasting both an expansive roster and an international reputation.
Founded in 1997, Yep Roc?s two initial offerings were compilations that featured a handful of budding local artists, including Whiskeytown, Trailer Bride and Two Dollar Pistols. ?These artists like were all making some noise regionally at the time, and we wanted to put out something that really captured all the great music and celebrated the Southeast,? recalls label manager Glenn Dicker, who co-founded the company with partner Tor Hansen. ?Then we started to work with individual artists, again focusing on local folks.? With that, the fledgling label began building its stable, beginning with a pair of North Carolina acts, Two Dollar Pistols and the Mayflies USA.
Today, Yep Roc?s catalog boasts approximately 120 albums, representing a diverse array of artists that spans the divide from alt-country and roots-rock to power-pop and indie alternative. Indeed, the company?s roster finds a jaw-dropping roll call of established icons, among them Robyn Hitchcock, Billy Bragg, the Fleshtones, Bob Mould, Sloan, Chris Stamey, Dave Alvin, Nick Lowe, Paul Weller, Jim Lauderdale, Chris Stamey, Ken Stringfellow of the Posies and the Reverend Horton Heat.
Dicker says that Yep Roc?s ability to build this prestigious lineup was the direct result of the emphasis placed on creating personal connections with the musicians.
?As we?ve grown, we?ve taken extra efforts to make sure we have the time to give our roster the individual attention each artist deserves,? he insists. ?We?ve always tried to stay one step ahead of this growth, but it can be difficult to keep up with everything. We have some really great people working for the company, and they all work very hard to help maintain a strong relationship with our artists. This has helped us a great deal. I personally spend a very large portion of my day working to strengthen our artist relationships.?
One major advantage that Yep Roc employed was establishing its own distribution operation, Redeye, which also handles product by several smaller labels as well. Redeye allowed Yep Roc to mimic the major labels in its ability to get its product directly to retail outlets, without having to rely on an intermediary. As its distribution network evolved beyond its regional reach, the label gained the opportunity to attract artists of national and international stature.
?As a company, we intend to continue to grow,? Dicker insists. ?We have always tried to take the best elements from the majors and the indies to make our company as strong as it can be. Owning a distribution company and a record label is certainly a major-label type of structure, but being small enables us to react quickly and adapt to the changing landscape. The idea is to give our artists the attention that they deserve, which should include providing the services that a much larger company would provide.?
Like other record companies that were born in the ?90s, Yep Roc?s evolution has paralleled the transformation of the music business as a whole, a change that?s seen traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores being usurped by the increasing popularity of the online experience. Nevertheless, Dicker is unfazed by this development.
?The landscape has changed dramatically since we first started,?