Behind The Label Extended: PMR
Nardene Scott goes behind the label with the incredible PMR...
Over the last few years the power has shifted across the musical landscape, where major labels once dominated, there has been a fresh injection into the UK music scene of music lovers releasing artists they love independently. Not because they were ticking boxes to send their artists straight into the Top 10 but because they were passionate about the music and wanted to take control of a scene without it being watered down and multiplied by the majors. Nardene Scott hears how Black Butter, PMR Records, LuckyMe and Butterz are spreading their sounds far and wide and what it took to get to this point.
Words by Nardene Scott (@NardeneScott)
Working his way up through Polydor as an A&R, Ben Parmar soon decided he wanted to do his own thing, thus creating PMR, the label that has brought Disclosure, Jessie Ware, Julio Bashmore and more to the masses.
I’d been working for a major label… for seven years and I got a bit frustrated with how they approached developing artists. I really wanted to get involved in other areas. I quit my job because I found this kid called Jai Paul, his music blew me away and I felt really inspired. The bosses at Universal were a bit confused, so I explained that I just felt like it got a bit stale and people were chasing after the same bands and having to pay too much money to sign them. I just wanted to really believe it was possible for me to work in music and with music that I love. They said you can start your own label. I was in a position where I was managing Jai and Julio Bashmore and Battle For Middle You just blew up. I didn’t know how many people were gonna like it, it wasn’t about what I thought could sell or what the mainstream wanted, it was just about what we loved and those were the principles.
It’s a reality of the music business now… it’s harder to sell records and have hits, the landscape is shifting and the way people consume stuff is changing. When you work in music, brand association and things of that nature are important and how a lot of artists are able to make money. There’s a huge value to music, and I feel like we’re just at a point where the business is evolving and streaming is now becoming such an important part, so we have to embrace all of that. I was quite reserved in terms of pushing the brand to the forefront for the first couple of years because that’s not really my nature; I wanted to really build a story of the label first.
“I just felt like [major labels] got a bit stale and people were chasing after the same bands and having to pay too much money to sign them. I just wanted to really believe it was possible for me to work in music and with music that I love.” PMR – Ben Parmar
When we signed Meridian Dan… I think I was surprised as well; it wasn’t like we set out to do it. I’ve always been a fan of grime, whether it was Dizzee and Wiley in the early days or Dynamite and So Solid. But German Whip appeared and I just couldn’t stop playing it, I heard it once, sought it out and then met him and he was so impressive, in terms of what he wanted to do. He played us more music that was really strong and we were just sold on him, his vision and the music. It felt natural to work together and bring him onto the label.
Regrets… that’s a daily thing. It’s a competitive business, everyone is fighting to find great music and have success. It feels like a battle, especially because we’re trying to push something that is a little alternative, and some days you feel like you’re pushing boulders up mountains but you get over it. If it were really easy then everyone would be doing it.
You need to have a strong vision… for what [your label] means and what you want to achieve. The labels that have inspired me had very strong identities and a consistency to what they do. Whether it was Def Jam, Bad Boy or XL, Warp or Factory Records, they had a strong sound and visual presence and I think if you’re smart you’ll be thinking about stuff like that.
Keep your eyes on @pmrrecords and look out for a compilation album dropping this year.