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HOOB Records: Ten Years Young

HOOB Records: Ten Years Young
James Pearse By

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When we released our first album, we took the CDs around to the record stores in Gothenburg by bicycle. —Josef Kallderahl, HOOB Records
There is something romantic about starting a record label nowadays. With few financial incentives and a whole bunch of work to do to get the record recorded, promoted and distributed, it's a wonder people start records labels it at all. But they do. And many do it very well indeed.

Artistic freedom is an oft-cited reason for started a label, especially when those starting the label are artists themselves. Not having to answer to anyone when it comes to how your music should sound, look and when it should come out, is an attractive proposition for many musicians.

But, then there's the time and the investment needed to pay for recording studios, pressing plants, PR professionals, and the rest. It's a hard thing to do start a record label.

One way to get around the obstacle of having to invest large sums of money each time a new artist is signed, is to let the artists sign themselves to the label and cover the costs for their own recordings. That's what happens at HOOB.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, and with roots in the portal city of Gothenburg on the east coast, HOOB Records' subsidiary HOOB Jazz is a purely DIY label run by musicians for musicians but with a twist: the three partners—bassist Josef Kallerdahl, pianist Fabian Kallerdahl, and drummer Michael Edlund—act much more like A&R managers than record label executives, maintaining good relationships with other Swedish jazz musicians and inviting them to record under the HOOB name. The invited musicians then pay for their own recordings and promotion but benefit from the association with the label and the niche it has carved out for itself over the past ten years.

All About Jazz: Ten years have gone by since you started HOOB. Can you tell us how you came to start your own record label?

Josef Kallerdahl: "The label was started by a group of musician friends who all lived in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the time and wanted to make something happen. The first release was by a pop act called Universum and after that we changed direction a bit. The first full-length jazz album on the label was the trio MusicMusicMusic's debut One, Two, Free (HOOB, 2005). The members of that trio went on to form the board of HOOB. The idea was just to get going and not wait around for someone to discover us and then decide everything. We wanted to decide things for ourselves."

AAJ: On the HOOB website, you write that the premise of the label is to "support music and not the industry." Have you been true to your word in this respect?

JK: "I think so. We want as few intermediaries between the artists on HOOB and the consumer as possible. We have always wanted to do everything ourselves. When we started out we didn't have any distribution or anything. If we'd known then what we know now we would have perhaps done things differently, though. Perhaps not, but who knows? So, we made that first CD and then happened to go to down to South Africa on tour and ended up playing a lot together. The tour was the result of a partnership between the University of Gothenburg and the University of Durban and we got some money in the form of a grant from the Swedish Arts Council to go on that trip. We didn't use all the money we got so we invested it into the label. Today, the three original founders of the label still act as a kind of board, where we all help run the label and choose the musicians we invite to release albums with us."

AAJ: When you started the label, did you imagine how much work it would be?

JK: "Not at all. It's a lot of work but we noticed that we started the label at just the right time because it was getting harder and harder to get record deals for young jazz musicians here in Europe. Other labels that were releasing jazz on a commercial basis seemed to be dying out in this period. Ours became one of the first labels in Sweden to be owned by musicians. Saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar came before us with his Moserobie Records and in many ways he was a role model to us."

AAJ: Was it hard to get the albums into record stores?

JK: "I remember than when we released our first album, we took the CDs around to the record stores in Gothenburg by bicycle. When we went to the other big cities in Sweden, like Malmö or Stockholm, to play concerts, we'd take CDs with us to sell at the record stores there."

AAJ: What was the reaction from the public to your label?

JK: "We got a lot of attention for the way we ran the label and it was quite easy to get space in the music press. Journalists here in Sweden were interested in what we were doing because people had been discussing was the death of the CD and things like that for years. We were a breath of fresh air. Not many musicians had done what we were doing in Sweden before us."

AAJ: What have you gotten out of running the label?

JK: "We quickly realised how hard it is to run a record label but we also quickly saw how much we got out of it. We've had some amazing experiences and a lot of fun along the way. We are not millionaires but that was never the intention. It's not that expensive to record a CD nowadays. We usually record albums in 2-3 days in a studio and that's it. It's a lot of fun to be in control of all the different stages of releasing an album. I like to write about the recording and do communication and PR. I'm also interested in design and it's great to be part of the whole process. We are happy to be able to decide for ourselves when things can happen. If we decide we want to record a new album, in theory we can just go and do it the next day."

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