Co-operative record label goes national

A Southampton recording co-operative is gaining a national presence, having signed artists in Manchester, Liverpool, Bournemouth and Brighton.

Sotones began in Southampton in 2004 as a club night promoted by brothers Rob and Dave Wade-Brown. Inspired by the musicians they were rubbing shoulders with, they wanted to document their music and take it to a wider audience.

In 2007 they set up Sotones record label as a co-op, with the artists as members. The members own the label and are directly involved in the recruitment of staff. Directorships are rotated, so members can gain new skills and experience in governance. The staff are mostly artists, but Sotones also works with volunteers and interns.

The co-op’s first label sampler was reviewed in Kruger Magazine and played on local BBC radio. It featured artists who are still with Sotones today, along with Blakfish and Southampton rock bank Band Of Skulls.

Sotones has since secured a distribution deal with State51, released its first 12” and 7” records and founded a publishing arm. It has released over 70 recordings, which have received radio play on BBC Radio 1, 6Music, Radio 2, Xfm and Resonance FM and caught the attention of national and international media including Kerrang!, NME, Rock Sound, Drowned In Sound, Artrocker and Clash Magazine.

Its acts have played across the world, and supported big names including the Ting Tings, the Holloways, Mystery Jets, Noisettes, Glasvegas and Delays. In the summer of 2009, Sotones’ Lonely Joe Parker played 12 dates in 14 days, traveling between shows by bicycle and co-headlining with other Sotones artists along the way. In 2011 Anja McCloskey went on tour in the midwest of America, playing shows across eight states.

Anja, who is finance and PR director as well as a recording artist at the co-operative, says: “It’s not only Southampton based any more, it’s spread out a little bit.

“It’s basically a network of friends and people tend to move. That’s worked for us because now so we’ve got links to other cities and other music scenes.”

Sotones is currently planning its next Spring Social, a day of music and events which will showcase not only Sotones acts but also other Southampton co-ops.

“We really like the co-operative approach,” says Anja. “It’s benefited us from an artistic point of view, as well as a practical point of view.

“Sotones is almost a collective – what you put into it you get out of it. No one can do everything in terms of skills and expertise.

“I’m organised so finance and PR has fallen into my lap. Some of our members are music technicians. We pull together to maximise our skills.”