Dualtone Records celebrates its 20 years as an independent label today with the release of Amerikinda: 20 years of Dualtone, a collection of current artists and alumni featuring each other’s songs. Popular tracks from June Carter Cash, Guy Clark and The Lumineers are covered by Drew & Ellie Holcomb, Hayes Carll and Langhorne Slim, among others. Dualtone president and partner Paul Roper designed the concept for the album and says the project is representative of the spirit of the company as its artists are friends, tour frequently and respect each other.
“Like any good brand, word of mouth drives everything,” Roper tells me. “And that’s what was reflected on this record – the camaraderie and spirit of Dualtone on an album.”
Since the creation of Dualtone in 2001, the label has sold over 12 million albums, amassing 5 billion streams through its catalog. Dualtone has released over 200 albums and won four GRAMMY Awards. After a year in which a tornado wiped out the company’s East Nashville complex and a global pandemic struck weeks later, the store’s label is enjoying its best sales and streaming numbers in its two decades of operation. story.
“We have maintained our vision, philosophy and model,” says CEO and co-founder Scott Robinson. “We have always focused on artist development and partnerships and that is still true today. When we started, Walmart was the # 1 account. Today, Spotify is the # 1 account. Some of the variables have changed, but the formula is still the same about how music is developed, marketed and consumed. “
One of the first commercial initiatives that sets Dualtone apart from other labels is the development of the Net Accord. Co-founders Robinson and Dan Herrington decided to forge fair partnerships with the artists they signed instead of offering the traditional contract with the label. With a clean deal, if the label doesn’t make money, the artist doesn’t make money.
“It’s not out of balance one way or the other and it really helped the spirit of the business because we make decisions with our artists as partners, not because the label is the bank. and that he’s going to drive all of these things, ”Roper explains. “We tried to turn that whole mentality around and really help artists understand that recorded music is more than just a marketing engine. Our business would not exist otherwise.
Over the past 10 years, the company has also embraced vinyl as a new source of revenue. Customers often want a tangible experience of their music beyond just listening to a song or playlist, which is why Dualtone bought the Magnolia Record Club two years ago. The vinyl subscription service offers exclusive presses of new releases beyond the Dualtone list.
“We’ve seen vinyl explode, especially over the past 24 months,” says Roper. “We are seeing month-to-month growth. [It’s] something that we can then redirect our marketing resources and ad buys in real time, pivoting our strategy and putting gas on the fire for something that really explodes, and then developing a playbook that helps us improve ourselves for it. the next album we’ll be releasing.
Dualtone launched in April 2001 with Hayseed Dixie’s A Hillbilly Tribute to AC / DC. The project allowed the group to perform bluegrass covers of AC / DC’s biggest hits, including “Highway to Hell”, “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Hell’s Bells”. The following year, the label released Jim Lauderdale and Ralph Stanley’s Lost in the lonely pines which won a GRAMMY for best bluegrass album while the 2003 June Carter Cash project Wild wood flower, released four months after his death, won two GRAMMYs.
Working with the late country icon has been a memorable experience for Dualtone co-founder Robinson. At the time he met her, Dualtone was trying to expand his catalog by buying and licensing content and he acquired the masters of some of his old music. The singer arranged to meet Robinson at her home in Tennessee and informed him that she wanted to record another album. She then invited him into the living room and performed the Carter family classics on Mother Maybelle Carter’s autoharp. With her husband sitting next to her, Carter Cash told Robinson that these were the songs she wanted to record.
“I think she knew it would be her last record,” says Robinson. “She said, ‘I want to go home to the Clinch Mountains where I grew up and make this recording.’ It was about history and that record won two GRAMMYs.… We continued to sync their music in major network shows and big movies. It’s a beautiful thing that their music can continue to live on. C “is truly a magical and beautiful record. I’m so glad we did that.”
“It was the backbone of who we were as a company,” he continues. “It was just greatness: pulling out something that you know would live on forever. These discs, for the most part, performed very well. I think they just reconfirmed our DNA of who we are as a company.
Dualtone continues to push the boundaries with its outputs. Following today’s revelation of Amerikinda: 20 years of Dualtone, the label will unveil Mouse Rat’s The awesome album on cassette, CD and digitally on August 27. Chris Pratt’s fictional band from Parks and recreation, Mouse Rat will also release the project on vinyl in October.
“This is an idea I had a few years ago and I just took a minute to contact NBC and sort out the license agreement,” says Roper. “It’s a perfect Covid record. It’s a great example of finding this unique opportunity, developing a great strategy, and connecting it with the fans. It’s really living its own life. Unfortunately, most Parks and recreation fans think Chris Pratt is going on tour, which is not going to happen.
“It was a cool 20th anniversary bookend because one of the first records we ever released was A Hillbilly Tribute to AC / DC and it was an ironic marketing project that ended up selling a few hundred thousand records, ”he adds. “We like to say that we are in the fun world and so Mouse Rat and Hayseed Dixie are two special projects that remind us of that fact and coming to the other end of 20 years is a fun bookend.”