With the current situation being complicated for the music industry, it was an opportunity for me to highlight some DIY punk labels around the world. Here’s the UK punk label TNSrecords, managed by Bev and Andy.
Could you please introduce yourself and present your record label to our readers?
TNSrecords is run by Bev and Andy, with help from a few friends. We’re a not-for-profit DIY label that aims to support and spread the word about exciting bands who could be considered punk in either sound or ethos based in Manchester, UK.
What made you concretely get into the music industry and how did you start this label?
We’re not sure that we are necessarily properly part of the music industry as individuals, as we don’t do this as a job. The label started as a fanzine in 2003 alongside putting on DIY gigs in Manchester. We started the label in 2008 to help support bands that we’d seen, both in Manchester and across the UK, release their music. We would discuss between us that we couldn’t understand why some bands music wasn’t being released. As with many things we’re involved in, we realized there was no point complaining about it, it was best to just do something about it yourself. We started off with a CD compilation and not much of a plan. It has steadily grown from there. Earlier this year we put out another compilation for our 100th release.
With a worldwide pandemic going on, how have you handled the management of your label over the past few months?
As mentioned above, it’s not our job, so we’ve been fortunate to not rely on it for any income. We had a lot planned for 2020 and in the main we have carried on through the pandemic. We co-run Manchester Punk Festival, which takes place in April. It was one of the first things to be cancelled due to Covid. Lots of our bands want to plan their releases around the festival so we had a few coming out at the start of the lockdown in the UK. A few releases have been pushed back but the majority have come out as planned. Last year ended up being our best year to date. We are also lucky to have loads of very supportive people invested in what we do, so sales have been good and we’ve been able to keep releasing music throughout the pandemic.
We run the label from our homes and in our spare time, so the pandemic hasn’t directly impacted the ‘management’ of the label. We have carried on as normal in that aspect. Less time catching up at gigs, bouncing ideas about after a few pints though. Lockdown feels like it is grinding down creativity now, but we’ve done well all things considered.
How does a label develop its roster? Do bands approach you directly or is it rather the other way around?
Our roster has grown organically over time from the immediate Manchester scene, across the UK and then internationally. We mostly work with bands who we see live and really enjoy. We’re not sure we’ve ever released anything after a random message from a band we’ve not heard of. Sometimes, we approach a band we’ve become aware of and sometimes, they come to us. Due to the DIY ethos of TNS, we do tend to work closely with bands who are active in their local scenes, booking gigs and contributing to the community. No band is ‘signed’ to the label. We mostly just have a chat about what works for both parties.
Has the pandemic strongly affected the production of your merchandising and the pressing of CDs / vinyls / tapes of your bands?
Vinyl pressing times are becoming extremely long, which has slowed down a few releases, but we’ve not been massively affected. It’s hard to unpick the extent that this is a result of the pandemic with other factors like Brexit and increased demand having an impact. Lots of releases being delayed at the start of the lockdown is probably making the backlog worse now though. It feels like a lot of people who spent money at DIY gigs have been eager to support DIY bands/labels whilst they can’t play gigs. It will be interesting to see what happens when gigs come back.
We’ve had no problems with merch though. We use the awesome Shay from EHC records who always sorts us and MPF out from the shed in his garden.
If you had to choose between a vinyl, a tape or a CD, which one would you personally pick and why?
We started off just pressing to CD as we couldn’t afford vinyl and it was before the big resurgence. The easy, speed and cheapness of CD will always have a place in our hearts. But as soon as we could afford to release on vinyl, we had to. So much nicer as an object. We like the idea of the art being important to the release, so with an LP having bigger art, that side is more appealing.
Out of all the experiences you had with your label, has there been one that has stood out to you?
There are so many that it’s difficult to pick, but the arrival of our first release was special and our ten-year Birthday party was incredible. We had been holding annual all-dayers to gather as many TNS bands together for one big family party. We decided to go big for the 10-year gig and it was so much better than we expected. People travelled across the country and we were blown away. Looking across the crowd was very special. A defining moment for the label. The only way we saw of topping it was to get a couple other Manchester promoters involved and start Manchester Punk Festival.
To finish, what is one lesson you’ve learned that you think is important to pass onto other label managers?
Just stay true to your ethos and try to learn from criticism and mistakes. You’ll never please everyone, but ultimately you can only try your best to build something and to improve what you do. You can do it yourself!
Thanks for your time!
What Happened to your Band?