In 2006, We Signed Ourselves / by Mark Daman Thomas

In 2006, Attack + Defend (my band at the time with my brothers: Lee & JT) started a label called Shape Records and 'signed' ourselves to it. The previous year we had signed to Cardiff's one-of-a-kind label, Boobytrap Records. We had a lot of fun with Boobytrap and they released an EP of ours but then suddenly the label shut down so we were left without a label. We had an album worth of material and thought "maybe we can just do what they did, ourselves". 

Let's face it, the crucial reason is that nobody else was interested in releasing our music and we wanted to continue to release music. I was sort of dubious about doing it at the start as I wanted to be 'all about the music' and it felt uncool and 'businessy'. But ultimately I didn't want to be in one of the many bands I knew who were sitting on their music and waiting until they were 'chosen' (most never were and stopped before they had done a proper release). I had decided around that time that I wanted to record and release 5 albums before I was 30 so I wanted to get cracking (I made it, sort of!). Lee was very entrepreneurial and had already figured out everything to do with copyright, PPL and knew how to do basic HTML, so he was a huge driving force in the creation of the label.

So, we set it up and Shape Records was born. It was just a name and a website but it was empowering. I eventually got over myself and started to learn all about the business side of being a musician and the role of label. I am very much still learning now. 

We mocked up this image on MS Paint. Lee being the classic record label head honcho, jumping out of his helicoptor with only enough time for JT & I to sign the 'recording contract' and off he went, back to London. 

We mocked up this image on MS Paint. Lee being the classic record label head honcho, jumping out of his helicoptor with only enough time for JT & I to sign the 'recording contract' and off he went, back to London. 

The original Shape recording contract signed by Attack + Defend in 2006. 

The original Shape recording contract signed by Attack + Defend in 2006. 

Anyway, the main reason I am writing this is because I recently saw a programme called 'Wales Unsigned'. I felt the title of the programme was regressive so I tweeted: 

Looking back, I possibly sound a bit snarky so I want to explain what I meant by that and why I said it. 

I feel defining artists as being 'unsigned' is highly negative as it suggests they are waiting to be chosen to become 'signed'. The danger is that is delegitimises the artists and gives the impression that success is getting 'signed' to a record label. It suggests an underclass of artists who are waiting to be validated by some-kind of expert. BBC Wales making a programme called 'Wales Unsigned' reinforces that idea. No one (that I know of) ever refers to Islet as being 'unsigned' but technically, we are. We currently self release, as do two of my favourite Welsh artists, Euros Childs and Future of The Left. I think we need to be creating a culture where it is cool to understand the 'business', cool hold on to copyrights and be independent. The media would ideally be celebrating what is interesting and different about music in Wales, not defining emerging artists by their contractual status. Maybe BBC could do a programme called 'Self-Releasing in Wales' or 'Independent Artists in Wales'. 

If you do want to get signed right now, check out this slightly tongue in cheek 'label': Any And All Records

Thanks for reading. 

One of our stated aims when we set up Shape was to get our own section in Spillers Records, Cardiff so that we would no longer be in the 'local / unsigned" section. We achieved this goal in 2011. We got to cut the black ribbon to officially 'open' it. 

One of our stated aims when we set up Shape was to get our own section in Spillers Records, Cardiff so that we would no longer be in the 'local / unsigned" section. We achieved this goal in 2011. We got to cut the black ribbon to officially 'open' it.