“Welcome to indie heaven”, I thought as I entered Old Spitalfields market. I was there for, brace yourself, Hipsters, the Independent Label Market. Like Charlie when he enters Willie Wonka’s magical chocolate factory I stood there wide-eyed, stunned, transfixed. As I came to my senses, I stole furtive glances at the most heavenly selection of stalls, each representing an independent record label.
Brace yourself for the FOMO, because there were so many treasures you’re gonna kill yourself for not being there. Such as: exclusives, (signed) rarities, test pressings and advance copies from Angel Olson, A Certain Ratio, Bon Iver, David Holmes, Jagwar Ma, Midlake, MØ, Pavement, Patti Smith, Sun Ra, The Strokes, Warpaint, Yoko Ono and of course many more.
Strolling from stall to stall I soon realised how many independent record labels there are. The market featured about 120 labels and partners, alongside a number of stands connected to the Brewers’ (independent beer) Market. It really was the critical mass I’d always dreamed of entering into. It took a while to take it all in – this marvellous market packed with a wonderfully mixed crowd of people who all, like myself, had braved the cold to get their hands on some delicious vinyl. Not that vinyl was the only format on offer. As I walked in and out of the rows of stalls, I spotted every possible physical manifestation of music – everything from tapes to CDs, even memory sticks and of course vinyl in all shapes, sizes and colours.
The enormous variety of labels ranged from small psychedelic releases to household names like Domino, featuring Sheffield’s own Arctic Monkeys.
The Independent Label Market was launched in May 2011 by Joe Daniel and Katie Riding, who set out to provide the venue for 160 labels to sell and promote their stuff direct to the public. It started out on Berwick Street W1 but soon moved East to Old Spitalfields. It’s now held there twice a year in conjunction with the London Brewers’ Market. Supping a few pints of indie beer is not such a bad way to develop your taste for indie music, right?
The market is sponsored by AIM, the Association of Independent Music in Britain. AIM, according to their official statement, is a “not for profit company which looks after the interests of independent record companies, from self-releasing artists to the largest independents in the world. We act collectively to ensure that all music is given equal opportunity to be as successful as possible.” Good to know there is some protection against the constant pressure from mega-corporations.
Given where it is and who is attracted to ‘indie’, some might brush it aside as just another event catering for Shoreditch hipsters and their peculiar prejudices. But it’s considerably more than that. This market gives independent record labels a unique opportunity to connect directly with their core crowd – and that’s no small thing.
My only mistake was to arrive carrying a bag badged with the logo of the world’s most corporate record company. Oh well, mistakes aside, I’d say it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon (and too much money). I’m already excited for the next one.
My top five recommendations from the market:
(These are my personal tastes, so you really should see for yourself)