Label Love: Sapien

Is there no end to our love? So long as there are hard working independent record labels out there flying the flag for the small guys, Bearded will unearth their secrets and support them all the way. Welcome to Sapien.

Posted on Apr 21st, 2011 in Features and Interviews, Sapien / By Peter Clark
Label Love: Sapien Fresh on the trail of more fresh meat, Bearded headed up to North East England to visit the home of Sapien Records, one of the newest labels on the scene, and possibly one of THE labels to look out for in 2011

With it's roster of artists gathering more and more critical praise, and when he had a moment to catch his breath, we sat down with label owner David for a chat, .

Hello. Firstly, who are you and what do you do?
My name's David. I run an independent record company (Sapien Records Ltd) and publishing company (Sapien Songs Ltd)

Where does the name Sapien come from? - Sapien(s) meaning: “resembling modern humans” - thought it was quite apt!

How did the label start out?
I started in 2009 / 2010 through playing in a band which had relative success in the industry so had a brief insight into how the business worked. At the same time a number of bands were doing great things and I wanted to help promote what they were doing deservedly over to a much wider audience.


How does the average day/week pan out for you?
Get up 07:30 / teach a lot of kids a lot of guitar until 19:00 / reply to emails / work on designs / forward think and plan / network and draft emails until around 01:00. Weekends are the same with the addition of practices and gigs (…plus the odd Sundays dinner when possible)

How has your job changed since you started?
It has changed dramatically. The industry is constantly changing so you have to learn, think and react fast, diversifying into all sorts of areas to keep things moving. As well as running a business (working on cash flows, tax accounts and other corporate bumpf) theres bands to manage, events / releases to promote, promoters and press to constantly chase and re-chase: all with a heck of a lot of planning and forward thinking!

"PinkBerry ice-cream stores in the US are playing one of our artists which is quite exciting. "

You’re based in both London and Durham. How does that work? Do you think it’s important to stay in a small city like Durham rather than be fully engulfed in a city the size of London?
Most definitely 100% yes! Durham is far too nice to ever move away from. I like the space to think and maneuver without the clutter of the big city life. It’s easy enough to hop on a train and be in London in a few hours.


What do you look for in bands to garner your time and effort into promoting?
They have to be original! I’m not looking to re-hash the same old thing in competition with other labels. The band also needs to be on the ball with social networks, playing live, posters etc. I like to elevate their work into places where it should be reaching and give them a lot more chips and a bigger board for us all to be playing from.

You’re not just a record label, but also a publishing company, and deal in Management and Events. Do you see taking on so many roles as key to your survival, or do you just like being in control?
It’s important to diversify into all these areas to nurture the artist into a position where you envision them to be. For me, artist management comes under the same role as running a record label – it’s your artist (team) so you have to manage them! Sapien Songs Ltd is the publishing company and deals with royalties from radio play and music sync with other business / advertising companies: currently PinkBerry ice-cream stores in the US are playing one of our artists which is quite exciting. Event wise we are in touch with booking agents on a daily basis so makes sense to host events in the region when their acts are looking for dates. I wouldn’t say I like to be in control, just if a job needs doing then a job needs doing.

In an ever changing world of music formats and distribution, how do/are you evolving and keeping current with the current scene, and where do you see the future of Sapien heading?
Music formats and distribution are quite easy to change with as there are set routes in which to follow. It’s important though not to get too boggled down trying to keep up with everyone and everything as you could soon lose sight of what is important; keeping a clear focused effort on one artist at a time by giving them an ambitious but manageable time scale / route to follow and make sure everything 100% gets done! I find things turn out for the best if you stick with a gut feeling and have fun with it. Once one Sapien band is successful within their plan then it will be time to inject a similar path onto other artists, and so on and so on.

What have been some of the highlights and lowlights of your time at the label?
The lowlights are lack of sleep, money, deadlines and headaches. These are always outweighed by the highlights such as the success of Sapien artist WE ARE KNUCKLE DRAGGER featuring on the likes of Kerrang, Rocksound, Scuzz, Radio 1 etc; and soon to be flying over to Chicago in June to record the album with Steve Albini. Exciting stuff!


How do you measure success? Do you think you’d be able to hold onto a band who suddenly became huge, or is there a fear that you may become a label where bands move into majors from?
Success comes in ticking off the targets that the band and label set out together. Major labels aren’t a fear, far from it. Over time these companies can actual help support the artists and independent labels further within in the industry. Because of various contract negotiations it would be rare for a major label to be able to take over a Sapien artist fully, but working together is very feasible!

Where would you advise someone to begin when wanting to discover the music of Sapien? / Spotify / Youtube / iTunes

Any advice for someone wanting to set up their own label?
Trust your instincts! Do it 100% for the music and love of it otherwise you’ll inevitably fail!

Do you carry an ethos or mantra?
Shy bairns get nowt!