White Labels - bootlegs
It seems the humble white label has reached a time where the market could not survive without its presence on every radical shelf.....
The musican had several borders to cross when reaching a high level of performance and exposing themselves to an audience.
It was back in the late 80s that musicans finally worked out how to press their own vinyl records and have them distributed. It seemed at that time record companies did not like a radical approach to music productions, and tended to play it safe with commercial releases that would reach a larger audience. After all... record sales in its units is what the recording industry is all about.
Enter the white label, which seems to have reached a legacy that every specialist retailer can not do without. Surfing pages and pages of retail stores, its proved its weight in gold, and has exposed a radical approach to record sales and exposer.
Recording contracts(ill cover another time) is no longer needed to reach a mass audience, all ready and willing to part with their 5.00 in search of the next new sound, or a tune that their fellow DJs cant get or find out whom it is by.
The philosophy behind a DJ seems to be playing stuff other DJs can not get. Some of these white labels that are pressed and distributed through specialist stores are only pressed in quantities of around 250 units, and the guy that made that track may never release another.
The first white label ever that I can recall was back in the mid to late 80s (1986 I think), a track by The Mafia called ABC, which sampled Nina Simone, James Brown - Funky Drummer and The Jackson 5 - ABC, amoungst other sound samples. The white label was referred to as a BOOTLEG(illegal sampling or reproduction of copyrighted music). Bootlegging ment that you had to compromise sound quality, as most of the recordings had an amatuer approach and filled a market that wanted music that other DJs could not get. Other hard to find tunes such as Gwen MCcrae - all this love that im giving (CAT Records 1979), also seemed to hit the shelves(or under the counter). Bootlegs also cost a whole lot more, around 15.00 to 20.00 for a 12inch.
White label refers to the label in the center of the record, also known as a promo (promotional copy). Record companies use these promo copies to test the market, this helps them to gain feedback from DJs on their mail outs. These mail outs are free and sent to a group of selected DJs. The DJ plays the record in their venue and fills in a reaction sheet informing the record company of how good or bad the audience reacted to the track. The white label also cuts costs for the record company, as a bad feedback would mean the track would never get released.
Today it seems without the white label in your specialist record store the market wouldnt be the same. New comers would never get a look in as record companies seem to be shy when it comes to a radical approach and always take the safe option.... which is understandable.
I personally think the next new generation of producers and performers are gonna come from white labels, as listening to these new comers i find they are breaking new ground and major labels tend to copy them once the sound has reached a certain level in terms of audience popularity.
My record collection is filled with white labels dating back to 80s sent to me from record companies, some have never been released others have reached cult status ......