Hard Rock Records
What’s in a name? Plenty if you’re talking about Hard Rock.
The iconic brand, which owns cafes, hotels, and casinos across the globe, has always embraced the musical aspect of its character—after all, the company has stages all over the world and stakes claim to the world’s largest collection of music memorabilia—but perhaps never as much as with its latest venture, Hard Rock Records.
“When you think about Hard Rock, you think about a brand that plugs you into musical experiences,” explains John Galloway, Hard Rock’s Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “Music is important to us. It’s what differentiates us. There are a lot of companies in the hospitality space, but one of our main differentiators is being a brand that plugs you into music.”
With the introduction of Hard Rock Records, that connection can only get deeper. An independent music label created to find, develop, and promote up-and-coming artists, Hard Rock Records will provide artists an unparalleled opportunity. Each artist on the label will receive assistance with recording, production, marketing, promotion, distribution, and touring in exchange for a one-year commitment to the label. At the end of that year, the artist walks away with ownership of any recordings as well as all the profits from their release. Hard Rock has no expectation for remuneration of any funds spent developing the artist.
“All the money from album sales goes back to the artist,” says Hard Rock Records co-Head of A&R James Buell. “We don‘t take any publishing. The artists own the music and hopefully, when the year is done, they have a better standing in the music community and we have a great ongoing relationship with them. The best thing that could happen for us is for another label to say we really like this band and to sign them and further their career after we helped get them started.”
And what kind of groups will Hard Rock Records be looking for?
“An ideal group is one that’s really talented but just needs a lift to the next level,” explained co-Head of A&R Blake Smith. “Maybe a band that doesn’t even know yet how to help themselves, but that’s at a talent level which merits the opportunity.”
Considering that Buell and Smith regularly scout live bands, and that, according to the guys, recommendations have been pouring in from Hard Rock employees around the globe, finding talent shouldn’t be too difficult.
Hard Rock itself also hosts Hard Rock Rising – a global battle of the bands competition.
“This year we had over 12,000 bands,” Galloway explains of the contest, “and while the winner won’t necessarily make it onto Hard Rock Records, you’re looking at thousands of bands, so there’s a good chance someone is coming along who could be part of this game.”
One band familiar with the process is Rosco Bandana. The seven - piece from Gulfport, Mississippi caught the ears of Hard Rock Records executives in 2011 when they took part in the Rising competition and ultimately became the first band signed to the new label.
The experience has brought the band from the Gulf Coast to London, Los Angeles, and a few points in between. Along the way, the group has honed their sound and laid out a vision for their future with the help of Buell and Smith.
“It’s been a bit of a mentorship for Rosco,” says Smith, “but I think they’d be the first ones to tell you we can offer a lot more than just guidance. As a brand, we’re uniquely positioned with cafe and hotel locations that have stages and video screens all over the world. I think that we have something very different to offer, an opportunity to feed and shelter bands, get their songs played all over the world, and put them on stages.”
When a group, like Rosco Bandana, does get tapped, there’s already a system in place to make sure a year on Hard Rock Records—which plans to sign roughly three bands each year—is a successful one.
Indeed, in 2011, Hard Rock hosted over 17,000 live music events—and that was before it had its own roster of groups to promote. It’s clear that the company makes a point to involve music and musicians as much as possible, and to give them the opportunity to help emphasize the rock in Hard Rock.
“We want to give back to the bands themselves because we couldn’t exist without them,” Buell says. “The whole reason Hard Rock exists is music. It’s important that we’re not seen as just the end of the line, that we help foster people and complete the circle of a musician’s career.”
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