Mar 25, 2018
Ben grew up with his older brother Chris in Fargo, North Dakota. His dad and his uncle built a vitamin supplement business from their garage. Ben remembers his dad in the garage pouring powder into tiny capsules by hand. That company is now Swanson Health Products one of the largest vitamin suppliers in the world. Ben’s dad loved music and he would take them to shows sometimes. Fargo happened to be a stop over for bands as they traveled to the Northwest so they had the chance to see a lot of shows. In the late 80’s early 90’s, Ben was a teenager and was able to see tons of the bands that seeded the Seattle grunge explosion of the early 90’s. He started collecting albums and paying attention to the music that certain labels put out. Eventually, his brother Chris moved to Bloomington IN for college. Ben followed two years later and they decided it would be fun to try and start their own music label. They dug into the explosion of independent music but also loved the catalogs of labels like K Records and Discord. They finally started to figure out how to physically make records and cassettes. Then they would go to shows of musicians they loved and see if the musician would let them be the ones to manufacture and market the album. Their first taker was June Panic and then Songs: Ohia followed.
For Ben, it’s all about just being a fan first. Artists tend to want people surrounding them that understand and get what they’re doing. Ben has always just approached it that way.
Being from Fargo, North Dakota Ben had a connection with Canada. They really loved and connected with a ton of Canadian talent, from music to comedy and beyond. They started joking around about the fact that all good things must be secretly Canadian.
There are definitely pros and cons. The hard part is getting over the big brother little brother stuff. Ben happens to be the little brother. One positive is the short-hands that they speak. They can get really heated and then get over it and move on. Sometimes that would devolve into wrestling. One of Ben’s favorite moments is when he finally won one of those wrestling matches.
They are a global music company. They’re a record label, the Master side helping artist to write and pitch the music they create, physical and digital distribution throughout the world, an artist management service, and a vinyl plant.
Incredible musician, incredible artist, smart person, sells a few records. The bottom line is that Ben wants to love the artists music. It can work out from there. Secretly represents Indy music artists primarily but they dig into tons of genres.
Bands can really easily get in their bubble. The good ones are able to connect with others. Other artists, other industry folks, whoever will listen. You have to reach out and build relationships. The more you can get to know people and the industry the better you’ll do.
Ben really likes how fearless Richard is. He gets into a lot of different spaces, builds a lot of brands, and is always ready to grow. That’s a similarity. Richard Branson is a totally outgoing guy with tons of other people running the show. Ben is simply a part of the team. His hands are on most things in a way that certainly is different than Virgin Records.
Other artists are the low hanging fruit. Connecting with an established artist or two is the key. Labels like Secretly hear about new artists all the time from their existing artists.
Not necessarily bigger, but more streamlined. Finding ways to stay interested by chasing new ideas but not getting too sidetracked from the core mission.
The show was produced and edited by me Jeremy Goodrich. The music is by my high school buddy Mark VInten and Secretly group artists June Panic, Songs: Ohia, Bon Iver and Serpent with Feet. If you enjoyed this podcast, there’s a couple of things we need you to do right now. First subscribe to Scratch Entrepreneur on itunes, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts so you can hear future episodes as soon as we release them. While you’re there, please give the show a review. We’d love to know what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you want to hear next. Until the next time, We truly appreciate you listening. Mentioned in the episode:
Need Shine in Your Life?
More great stories & information at: