By paul

It’s fair to say that as young men growing up, we all want the fame and adulation that being in a band brings. I know, because I tried to do it. I was 18 or 19 and learned enough guitar to get me in a band. We were crap, absolutely useless, but I knew I wanted to be involved in music somehow, even then. It’s something that us men all go through, with the majority growing out of it and the minority either continuing our teenage dreams in crappy bands or the lucky ones continue on and do good things.

LAB Records founder Mark Orr (22), is certainly in the latter camp. Born in Northern Ireland but moved to England when he was two, Mark grew up on an indie/pop diet that eventually grew into an intense love of music. “I played a little guitar as a kid and started a couple of bands but never had the natural flair or patience to take it any further,” Mark said. “That said, music and the radio had a massive impact on my life from an early age – from 9 or 10 I would spend pocket money on tape / CD singles. From that age my Uncle tried desperately to get me into The Hollies, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac – but I was far more interested in Oasis and Blur. I think my first single may well have been ‘Perfect 10’ by The Beautiful South.”

From there Mark’s love of music moved into the realms of Snow Patrol, Razorlight and The Killers as he went through college. “Somewhere in there was a huge love for Fall Out Boy, The Used and the like,” he added. “Drive-Thru was a massive part of my teenage years and I still spin The Starting Line‘s ‘Say It Like You Mean It’ from time to time. I was always fascinated about the process of a band’s progression from underground, ‘hype’ status to worldwide success. I guess the first time I saw it first hand was Fall Out Boy‘s progression from playing Manchester Roadhouse to Academy 1 in less than a year.” It was at this time that the teenage Mark Orr knew that his career path wasn’t exactly going down the road he would like. “At college I studied English Languge & Literature, Law and ICT. I went on to get a degree from The University Of Salford in Journalism & English Literature but within my first year at uni I knew it wasn’t a career I wanted. LAB released its first record one month into my uni career and from that point studies always came second.”image

But LAB hasn’t always been a record label. “Embarrassingly, LAB originally stood for Lifes A Beatch. Yes, that’s spelt ‘tch’ – it was a play on ‘Beach’ and ‘Beat’,” Mark added. “I wanted to be ‘involved’ in the scene so putting on shows seemed to be a good way to do it. Blackpool was big on punk and ska but nothing else – so it was something challenge and I knew all my friends would be into it, so we attempted to put on more pop-punk/pop-rock shows. Our first gig that went ahead was early 2007 – with a line-up of Three Storeys High, The Honeymoon Suite and Out Of Sight. Our first ever show was headlined by Kids In Glass Houses – but in the end they pulled the whole tour. I’m not entirely surprised – they were only on £50 and playing a Sports & Social club 15 minutes outside Blackpool. We put on around 8 shows over a year or so – including Me Vs Hero‘s first show actually – and primarily did OK – we always did 100+ after that first show. It all stopped so we could swap the stresses of promoting to the stresses of running a label.”

“As much as I loved promoting it was always about something more tangible for me,” the 22-year-old revealed. “I was and still am a big collector of physical music so releasing a record (just one) was always a dream I suppose. There were no targets as such – at first it was enough to just see our logo on a physical product. I never would have expected to be 30-releases deep and counting.” That first release was Lost On Campus‘ debut EP. “It was Rob Lynch, who performs under the name Lost On Campus. We knew he was looking for a label to release the record and myself and (business partner) Nathen asked if he would take a chance on us releasing the record. To this day we’re incredibly grateful he said yes!” The label has grown hugely since then, releasing records by He Is Legend, The Morning Of and Not Advised, to name but three. The first two releases came together as part of a hook up with US label, Tragic Hero. “Nathen had toured with the band The Morning Of and the Tragic Hero link stemmed from that. We were able to meet Tommy, the founder, and work alongside him on He Is Legend in the UK/EU. That release went really well and took LAB to a whole new group of fans. Later in the year, he approached us regarding working The Morning Of together worldwide. It was a fantastic opportunity to develop our brand in the States and at the same time work genuinely one of our favourite bands in the world. We were able to utilise their contacts and distribution which definitely helped us out a whole lot.”

Whenever I talk to label owners – as someone who once ran a label myself – I always ask about new methods of getting music out there. I’m intrigued, both as a music fan and someone who writes about it, to see how new technologies are being used and how successful they are. I was a slow convert to Spotify, it took me a while to grasp it. But, as Mark explained, it’s become a staple of the his label’s efforts to get music to new ears. “I love Spotify! With MySpace on the decline and Facebook still struggling to sort the music part of their site, there’s certainly a gap in the market for a streaming service and Spotify does it really well. There was a train of thought at the start of the year that kids may choose to stream the record rather than buying it on iTunes – but now more than ever I’m of the opinion you just have to get music out there any way you can.” And that includes SMS text messaging. “It’s a cool little additional revenue stream right now,” Mark added. “We’re still experimenting with it but I definitely think it has a lot of potential – not every kid has a credit card but the majority own a mobile phone. If you can incorporate the digital side of SMS sales with the live environment – posters at venues and the band mentioning it on stage each night, it can work really nicely.”

So, after their most successful year (“we just recorded our best ever month on iTunes in June“), what does the future hold for LAB? “Our final big record of 2010 is a mini-album from a Manchester indie-rock band called Pegasus Bridge. They’ve already been spun by some of the top DJ’s at Radio 1 so we have really high hopes that it will take us to a whole new audience. I haven’t been this excited for a record in a long time! 2011 is already filling up, our sound will go a little more poppy but I’m keen we retain our rock-side too. I’m so keen that we can’t be pigeon-holed and so we will have an eclectic roster.”

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