While Finnish label Spinefarm Records has been part of the Universal Music Group since 2002, they’ve only recently started making inroads in America. Last year, the label hired former Roadrunner president Jonas Nachsin as worldwide GM of the label, and made a few other strategic announcements in the United States. Since then, they’ve been on somewhat of a signing spree, picking up Electric Wizard, Atreyu and 36 Crazyfists, alongside newer acts like Krokodil and Toothgrinder. We caught up with another hire, senior director of marketing Tim Brennan, who’s logged time at Ferret Records, about his thoughts on the label’s growth, what they look for in a new signing, and strategy for the future.
What attracted you to Spinefarm?
It’s a label with a history that never really had a US staff or any intention to sign a US band. We wanted to establish something almost from the ground up with Universal backing, and it was very attractive. Also Jonas had been at Roadrunner for over a decade and getting to work with him was definitely a key.
Did you know him before?
I didn’t know Jonas before. I heard his name but didn’t have the opportunity to work with him before.
What’s Spinefarm’s overall strategy now that you are completely established in the US?
First and foremost, it’s definitely the growth in the US and to be a label that you put alongside the likes of Roadrunner or Rise Records or Nuclear Blast. You want to be a destination for metal and hard rock and everything in between and to not necessarily be tied to one specific theme.
It seems like a lot of the bands you’ve signed from overseas coming out in America. Are all of Spinefarm’s releases outside of America going to come out in America on Spinefarm?
I think the plan is for any of our bands signed worldwide to have a simultaneous release worldwide. There may be some times when the strategy is to grow them in one territory over another to begin with, but I think in general we definitely want to release our bands worldwide, and we have the staff to do it.
Talk to me a little bit about what you look for when you sign an existing band, like Electric Wizard.
The first thing we look at is their potential to grow as a band worldwide. We don’t want to just appeal to one specific territory and have one specific sound. I also think we want to find something unique that might hold the bands apart from the others. With Electric Wizard it’s that history. Bands look up to them. They’ve been grinding for so long that I think they were a fantastic signing for a label like us, and they have something not a lot of bands have.
What about a band like 36 Crazy Fists, another relative legacy band as well? Does the fact that they were on Roadrunner and their past at those labels have anything to do with the fact that they’re now on Spinefarm?
I think with 36 Crazy Fists it definitely does have something to do with their past. With Jonas’ experience at Roadrunner and my experience at Ferret we know how hard-working the band is, and we generally like the team that surrounds them. We’re fans of the band, and that’s the most important part, to be fans and appreciate what they’re doing. They’re a band that has a solid fan base not only in the US but in the UK and in other parts of the world, and they’re willing to grind it out and work.
Talk a little bit about the Raw Power Management deal and how that came about.
I believe it was at one of the overseas festivals, just Jonas and [senior director of international] Maria [Oullette] having meetings with the Raw Power guys and letting us know they were looking for a new home to have a staff that could work their releases on a worldwide basis, and knowing the respect that Raw Power management has and with them growing with bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Bring Me the Horizon, it clicked when they saw what Jonas and the rest of the worldwide staff have been trying to establish with Spinefarm and them seeing that we are able to do things around the world.
The past week has been a pretty big one with your signings. How many more are in the works?
There’s definitely one more decently sized one in the works. I don’t think it’s going to be announced at this time, but what I will say is that it’s a band that’s pretty big and that we’re excited to have the chance to work with. They worked on the radio, they worked in licensing. That’s another thing; there are opportunities outside of just regular CD and digital sales to expand the band.
What’s your strategy of signing new bands, and what do you look for in a band like Toothgrinder?
We’re looking for something that sets the band apart a little bit. With Toothgrinder, we saw what incredible players the guys are and how much they have grinded, for lack of a better term, for the past few years, getting their own tours and opening for Periphery and seeing the response from the fans for an opening band like that is a great thing. We look for something that keeps the bands apart, not what you’ve heard 800 times before. We constantly got our ears open and we’re hoping to hear new things.
How many new, unproven bands in America do you plan on signing as compared to 36 who may already have an existing fan base?
I think in the US we are definitely going to concentrate on 3-5 a year. We’ve already got 2 ready to go, including Toothgrinder, but if something comes along that’s undeniable, I think we’re definitely going to take a shot on it.