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story+interview/ LOGAN BRENDT

Hard Rock International will be celebrating the official launch of Hard Rock Records on June 19th. Famous for their hotels, cafes, stages, casinos, and the largest collection of music memorabilia, they have now added another venture to their list. As an independent music label, Hard Rock Records will be signing and developing artists and bands, creating a one year commitment with each one. At the end of that year, the artist walks away with ownership of any recordings as well as all the profits from their release.

Seems too good to be true, right? Don’t be so cynical. According to James Buell, the co-head of Hard Rock’s artist development, “It’s really getting back to our roots and trying to be more about music. When Hard Rock started back in 1971, artists like Eric Clapton came in and nailed a guitar to the wall. That’s how the memorabilia process for Hard Rock started and that’s kind of the organic way we’re trying to get back to with the record label. It’s really about being part of the beginning phase of music and not the end phase, so we’re part of the whole life cycle of music.”
The first to be signed to Hard Rock Records is the Americana band, Rosco Bandana. They were discovered during Hard Rock’s 2011 Hard Rock Rising competition. This isn’t necessarily how it’s always going to work. Right now Hard Rock has a process in place where they’re asking for physical submissions to be sent to their corporate office. Buell says, “It shows commitment on the band’s side that they’re willing to put together a package to highlight what they’re all about and it’s not as simple as just sending an email to someone with a link. When you open a piece of mail, you have something tangible and then you do want to sit down and listen to it; there was effort involved and you want to reciprocate that effort in listening to it and providing feedback.”
Hard Rock is looking for an artist or band of any genre, and for them, it’s less about the look and completely about the music. Buell is looking for “Music that makes people feel good”. When listening to submissions or scouting bands, he says, “I need to listen to more than one song. It’s tough to really pin who a band or an artist is on one song because there are bands that are one-hit wonders who have a great song, but there’s not much else. You want to see as much of a body of work as you can. It’s also how hard they’re out there working, how industrious they are on their own trying to make something happen for themselves.” If an artist is lucky enough to be signed, Hard Rock will hopefully be that push for that artist to get to the next level.
If you’re wondering what will happen if the artist wants to stay aboard Hard Rock Records once the one year commitment is up, Buell responds, “We’re hopeful and confident that we’re going to help these bands as they come on to Hard Rock find another home that is better suited to house someone for the longterm. We want to try to touch as many bands and help as many bands as we can. In order to do that, we kind of have to keep at a one year commitment from the release of the album.”
Hard Rock has been working with Rosco Bandana since January, and will keep working with them until September 2013, which is a year after their album comes out. Buell adds, “It’s our hope that once we get the videos out, once we get the album out, once we get the launch party, the press, that we’re going to help them find another home, help them find appropriate representation through management, through booking, and also a label.”
Hard Rock has a lot to offer an emerging band and hopes to sign around three of them a year. After their launch party at the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville on June 19th, it will be interesting to see what unfolds at the company. One thing is for sure, there will be no shortage of hopeful bands and artists vying for Hard Rock’s attention.

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