First World Music
PO Box 30932
Seattle, WA 98103
firstworldmusic at gmail.com
In an increasingly formulaic and top-heavy music industry, First World Music (FWD) stands apart as a record label that is as innovative in its business strategy as in the music it presents. The difference? FWD puts its musicians first.
Unlike most record labels, FWD was founded and is run entirely by musicians-Lesli Dalaba, Greg Gilmore, Jeff Greinke, Trey Gunn, and Bill Rieflin-all of whom have built international reputations based on their work in a variety of groups and projects ranging from Ministry to King Crimson to John Zorn. Together, they have established a label that is more musician-friendly and supportive of its artists' intentions than conventional record companies.
FWD is all about making imaginative, uncompromising music available on the artists' own terms, with a minimum of wasteful overhead and maximum return on the artists' creative investment. "Our aim is to make the release of records as accessible and uncomplicated as possible, [and to ensure] that the musicians see as much money as possible," says Rieflin.
In a notable departure from standard music industry practice, all FWD artists are responsible for their own production and promotional expenses. This has two significant results: the artists, not the label, own the copyrights to their music, and all proceeds from CD sales go directly to the artists themselves. "Everyone at FWD owns their own copyrights and is free to do with them as they see fit," says Gunn. "This is probably the most radical thing [a record label can do]. Even many so-called indies insist on owning the artists' copyrights (master tapes). It's a crime."
FWD brings out the best in its artists by giving them a greater stake in the way their music is presented and distributed. Each of the label's five cofounders is responsible for a different aspect of its management, such as Web site design or researching manufacturing options. Says Rieflin, "One of our operating principles is that by combining our efforts and pooling our resources, we can work more effectively."
Now two years after the initial inspiration, FWD has eleven titles in its catalog. With four adventurous new records released in spring 2001, FWD is quickly establishing itself as not only a source of exceptional creative music, but also a model for a better kind of artist-label partnership based on respect for the artists' intentions.