Life's not easy as an independent record label. The constant battle for sales when people are buying less music, and competition from major labels makes it a real challenge. So it's something to be especially celebrated when an indie makes it to 10 years old.
Therefore, it gives us great pleasure to wish Happy Birthday to Kings Cross-based Full Time Hobby (FTH), which is celebrating a decade of diverse, often challenging releases with a series of gigs at the Southbank Centre.
The label was born when Nigel Adams and his colleague Wez Westley realised that Mushroom, the indie label they were working for at the time, was about to be swallowed up by the multi-national major might of Warner Brothers. The pair had always been wilfully indie-minded — "I've never liked the 'churning out records' aspect of major labels", FTH director Adams tells Londonist — so struck out on their own.
They soon found a tight-knit community of independent London labels working in a spirit of collaboration. "There's no sense of competition," says Nigel, "there's loads of sharing of information and helping each other out — for example among us and labels like Bella Union and Loose — and we certainly don't actively compete with one another."
FTH has a young team of music lovers to help spot acts which might be suitable for the label, although Nigel still makes it to shows himself when there's something he's particularly keen to check-out. His favourite venue is the Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston, which is close to his home.
Life's hard, but rewarding, Adams explains: "Clearly it's a tough industry, sales are nothing like they once were, but we're doing well with licensing our music out for film, TV and ads." It helps that the music FTH releases is particularly original, rather than the identikit filth the major labels try to force into our ears every week.
Ten years on, Adams, Westley and the whole FTH team can look back on their work with no small amount of pride. They've released music by the likes of White Denim, The Hold Steady, Tunng and Let's Wrestle, and its current roster includes a set of bands now lining up at the Southbank Centre to celebrate the label's success.
On 16 October the aforementioned Tunng will be playing alongside the new band of their former member Sam Genders, Diagrams. Tuung most recently released the album Turbines last year, and rather than us trying to describe their sound, here's So Far From Here from that record.
On 17 October it's the turn of Erland & The Carnival, and they'll be joined by labelmates The John Steel Singers. Finally, on 19 October one of the label's biggest success stories, The Leisure Society, will bring the celebrations to a close with a show alongside The Smoke Fairies and Samantha Crain.
Before all that though, there's a special night at the British Film Institute in praise of the label's work. On 13 October the BFI will host a BUG Special to celebrate FTH, a special screening of the label's music videos from over the years, plus some new material and the ever-popular 'special guests'. FTH is particularly proud of this show, because "the BFI don't often highlight the work of record labels like this, so it's a great honour for us," Adams proudly states.
We asked him if he had any tips for us, and he understandably plugged the new record on Full Time Hobby from Timber Timbre, entitled Hot Dreams. And it just so happens that the Canadian band are doing a show at Heaven on 14 October, more or less part of the label's birthday celebrations. Here's what you can expect to hear there — from the album, this is Beat The Drum Slowly.
The shows are each dedicated to a former artist on the label, Benjamin Curtis of the band School of Seven Bells, who sadly succumbed to cancer late last year, aged just 35. All of the shows are being brought together under the banner 'What The Hell Are you Doing?', the title of the David Shrigley image Full Time Hobby used on the front of its 10-year anniversary album.
According to Adams, "it summed up the reaction you get from people outside the industry when you tell them you’re running an indie label in 2014. People imagine the music industry can’t possibly be functioning any more, but we’re finding a way."
And bravo to that we say. Tickets are still available for the shows and we strongly recommend you get yourself along to help celebrate the work of a group of Londoners in it simply for the love of great music.
FTH10: Full Time Hobby 10th Anniversary Shows take place from 13-19 October at the Southbank Centre, and you can get full details and tickets via the venue's listings page or the Full Time Hobby website. An additional show takes place at Heaven on 14 October — details on the Heaven website.