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!K7 founder Horst Weidenmueller has steered the independent German dance music label through almost three decades, and is this year celebrating the company’s aptly-numbered 27th anniversary


vogue. The label soon forged a natural affiliation with the burgeoning electronic scene and has never looked back. Within a few years, !K7 had landed onto MTV


with its X-Mix series, featuring long-form videos of DJ sets. Then, in 1995, it moved into the albums market, launching the DJ-Kicks series and signing artists including Tosca, Funkstörung, Bomb The Bass and Princess Superstar. Skip to the present day and !K7 has grown into a

multi-faceted music company, boasting management, distribution, publishing as well as three sub-labels – Strut (funk/soul/disco), Gold Dust (hip hop), and Rapster (urban) with offices in London and New York. The company is currently home to Danish band When Saints Go Machine, Canadian synth pop duo New Look and classical techno fusionists Brandt Brauer Frick. As a founding member of Merlin and an

active member of IMPALA, Weidenmueller continues to dedicate himself to giving independent musicians a voice. Music Week catches up with the exec to find out the secret to riding the waves of music industry change for 27 years...

What are the biggest changes in the label you’ve seen over the years? Music is changing rapidly, it’s the same for us. We see ourselves now as more of a collective of genre- specific niche labels. DJ Kicks and When Saints Go Machine are all pretty young artists. On the other hand, we are doing [imprint] Strut

and on top of that we are distributing about ten different labels - like !K7 they are all bringing great young artists to the market. We have also !K7 Management and all this

together makes quite a sizeable company. The most dynamic [division] at the moment is !K7 distribution where we work with many like-minded labels such as BBE and Crosstown Rebels. Tricky’s new label has just joined us and we’re working to release the new Tricky album in early 2013.

ounded in Berlin in 1985, Horst Weidenmueller began !K7 back when a DIY approach to making records was en

ABOVE Saints and synthers: Danish band When Saints Go Machine are just one of !K7’s more successful acts

Do you see part of your role now as a label is to help bring smaller labels and artists to the industry? I don’t think that we are the big guys helping the small guys to come into the market: our idea is more about us being like-minded businesses with our partners and together we become a strong collective. I don’t think we sell a lot more records than our partners do; we are eye-to-eye with all our business partners. We can help them bring their records into the markets because we have the expertise of what to do with, say, a Strut record.

You seem to be a bit of an independent label pioneer. What are the biggest plus sides to remaining independent? The good thing about us being independent is we have economic diversity. If you look at the industry there are about three-quarters of [the market] which are the majors; they have exactly the same business model. Then you have thousands of independents, but all of them have different business models in themselves and I think that’s what keeps the market vibrant.

“There are thousands of independents, but they all have different business models and I think that’s what keeps the market so vibrant” HORST WEIDENMUELLER, !K7


FROM !K7 Albums from: • Tosca • Brandt Brauer Frick • Will Saul presents Close

FROM STRUT February to April 2013, albums including: • A definitive retrospective of the Celluloid label • New studio collaboration

between UK band Soothsayers and Jamaican legend Cornel Campbell (pictured below) • Sun Ra compilation curated by Sun Ra Arkestra bandleader Marshall Allen

• Compilation by the Horse Meat Disco DJ collective

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry over the last 27 years? The biggest change we are in at the moment is that physical is about to stop being the constant supply - we’re going into an era where digital becomes a [dominant] supply of music and piracy is of course also a huge thing. When we released records in the Nineties everybody needed to buy a CD but now everybody can share music. That is a challenge every day, it means fine-tuning our business models on a daily basis.

How have these changes altered the way in which the label operates? We are going more into high-value product again, trying to distance ourselves from selling music cheaply. We would rather work with better and more expensive packaging and give more value to our customers.

What do you think it is about !K7 that has ensured its survival for all these years? What’s kept us vibrant is the focus on new music coming out of the niches - then bringing it into the market and developing it. That [strategy] has given us expertise and information we can share with all our distribution partners. It’s the same with international management where we have expertise for all the key markets around the world because we have offices there.

What are the ambitions and future for !K7? We have two priorities at the company - first is maintaining the business we have and investing into A&R, bringing great product into the market and working with great artists. But also for a label like Strut we see that

their value is in bringing certain music to the market which probably soon won’t be available anymore in High Street chains. In order to maintain the health of these records we want to build more on the events side and develop our web-shop. We also want to work more and more with high-quality products. In addition, we want to find companies who are like-minded labels like us, who see !K7 as a great solution to release their records worldwide and share in the expertise which we have in the global market.

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