The Sound Cafe
BlackDenim Records Launches From Austin, Texas With An Eye On The Global Market
Focused on discovering, developing and shepherding the best and brightest talent, new indie label aims to build national and international careers for its signings; BlackDenim also announces a series of upcoming events including a city-wide Austin showcase in 2022, offering up a $100,000 recording contract and publishing deal
Austin-based BlackDenim Records, an American independent record label that develops and distributes indie-inspired recording artists, positions itself for international recognition and industry clout. After spearheading a robust campaign for indie rocker and label partner Zach Person as its flagship artist, BlackDenim has its eyes set on multiple local artist signings in the year ahead. The label is currently seeking new talent for its roster, offering label signings including marketing support, management and publishing, as well as artist development deals including traditional artist development and future label opportunities. BlackDenim will celebrate its official launch with a number of events in the year ahead, including a city-wide Austin showcase slated in 2022, which will result in a $100,000 recording contract for a local Austin act. While details about this showcase will be rolled out in the months to come, the event will include a comprehensive submission and selection process as well as offer valuable resources to runner up applicants.
BlackDenim presents “Back in Black” - an industry mixer celebrating the return of Zach Person, Jake Wyble, and team from their first major European tour. The event will take place on Sept. 30, 2021 from 7 to 10 p.m. in the parlour room at Native Hostel. The evening is open to members of the local music industry and media, and will be an opportunity to learn more about the new label. Masks are highly encouraged and RSVPs are required for entry. To request attendance, please email email@example.com with name, title and music industry affiliation.
“I have always admired the musical prowess of Austin’s talent pool, the talent pool here is vast, diverse, and eager,” said Christopher Durst (Co-Founder/Chief Executive Officer of BlackDenim Records). “We are committed to lifting up the best of the best in this music community and bringing them to the global market.”
BlackDenim Records has recently been gaining attention of the music community with its grit and growing success of the label's first release for Person, who was discovered and signed by industry veteran Christopher Durst, a music entrepreneur and former rock photographer. Durst co-founded the label with producer and musician Will Loconto (Information Society/T-4-2), and the duo offered Person an equity position and third partnership in the new label as well. Loconto’s ability to blend indie rock, pop, and electronica, along with Person’s love for roots music and blues guitar made it the perfect collaboration for this first body of work. Person’s debut LP was initially released as an EP in March 2020, but was immediately put on hold due to the Covid pandemic. Almost a full year later, Person re-released the five original tracks and an expanded selection of new songs. Listen to the full length LP now via Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon.
Person celebrated the release of his LP on April 2, 2021 with a sold-out release show at Empire Control Room in Austin featuring Jake Wyble, his long-time musical collaborator and drummer extraordinaire, who is also an equity owner in the label. Fun fact: Zach and Jake were both born in Millville, New Jersey, a very small town of about 27,000 people, but they never actually knew each other. The power duo wouldn’t meet until 2017 during a chance meeting on Sixth Street, while the two were in town for ACL Fest in Austin. Since then, it’s been pure magic - as their electricity together on stage is what continues to draw new fans both stateside and abroad.
“Having the opportunity to work with Zach as the first album that BlackDenim released has truly set the bar for what is to come,” said Will Loconto (Co-Founder of BlackDenim Records / Producer). “I look forward to where we are going as a label and the incredible talent that Austin has to offer us in the years to come.”
As the BlackDenim team continues to expand, they’re excited to have signed singer/songwriter Kaylin Karr for the label’s first artist development deal. Hailing from Fairbanks, Alaska, but currently living in Austin since 2017, Kaylin has built a steady following of fans who have discovered her ethereal vocal sound. Karr just released her single “Photo Booth'' which can be found on Spotify and Apple Music and will be re-releasing the track soon under the BlackDenim label and production team.
“Kaylin Karr is a wonderful addition to our team; she is incredibly kind, talented, charismatic, and humble...everything BlackDenim looks for in an artist,” said Christopher Durst. “We truly look forward to introducing her to a global audience.”
The BlackDenim label team has also been growing with boots on the ground both in Austin and in Europe. With a variety of industry experts handling marketing, brand development, PR, radio promotion, social media and more, the philosophy of the label is “indie artists, major sound.” Major sound being a literal play on words as the label is deeply committed to the marketing of its roster. The core marketing team, who are also partners in BlackDenim, consists of three industry veterans with major label and brand experience.
Leading global marketing efforts is Jennifer Smits who has been named BlackDenim’s President, UK and Europe. She is also the Founder of No L Agency in London, a company that offers PR, promotion, and social media strategies for international artists. Prior to BlackDenim, Jennifer worked with EMI Music Belgium and Warner Music Benelux, where she worked with artists like Ed Sheeran, Rival Sons, Royal Blood, Paolo Nutini, Metronomy, and more. Jennifer caught the music bug while studying Journalism in college (she initially wanted to write for the UK music magazine, NME). Her journey in music would eventually lead her to The School of Music Business (SMG) in London, England, where she focused on promotion and marketing.
In Austin, Heather Wagner Reed is serving as BlackDenim’s SVP Marketing, Publicity & Strategy. She is also the founder of Juice Consulting, an Austin-based PR and marketing firm. Prior to starting Juice in 2007, Heather served as Senior Product Manager for 28 GRAMMY®-winning artist Beyoncé, handling her day-to-day management and global marketing coordination for five years. With over 27 years in the sector, Heather’s passion for the industry started with a long stint in college radio at WUOG-FM Athens. She went on to work in Europe for companies such as Universal Music Holland (Mercury Records), music internet startup SoundArtist, and Disneyland Paris among others. She currently is an Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College in the Music Business, Performance and Technology program.
To advise on sponsorship strategy, BlackDenim tapped Kelly Mosser to act as SVP Brand Partnerships for the label. Kelly currently serves as Director of Brand Partnerships and Premium Seating for Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater, the world-renowned Austin venue that he helped open in February of 2011. Kelly has also consulted on sponsorship strategy for a number of major events including Electric Forest Festival, Neon Desert Music Festival, BUKU Music + Art Project, Tortuga Music Festival and Pachanga Latino Music Festival. Prior to his time at ACL Live, Kelly served as sponsorship coordinator for Madison House Presents and ROTHBURY Music Festival.
“I am pumped that we have been able to grow the label with some serious industry veterans who are as committed as we are to making it a global success,” said Zach Person, who is not only the label’s flagship artist and first signing, but also an equity partner in BlackDenim. “At the end of the day it all comes down to hard work, commitment and surrounding yourself with the best. I can’t wait to see what is next for us.”
Christopher Durst is BlackDenim’s co-founder and CEO; he is a startup founder, music executive, artist manager, and abstract painter. Christopher has an extensive background in electronic and live music as a promoter, buyer, producer, and manager; he has vast experience and knowledge in branding, product development, A&R, marketing, strategy, and operations. His projects have spanned North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. Durst is also a former, internationally-celebrated tour photographer known for his iconic imagery of artists such as Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Seasick Steve, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, and more. His photography has been licensed, published, and acquired worldwide. In 2017, Christopher partnered with longtime industry veteran and music producer, Will Loconto, to begin developing, producing, and managing Austin-based recording artists. After signing Zach Person in 2018, the trio founded BlackDenim, an American, independent record label based in Austin, Texas that develops and distributes indie-inspired recording artists.
Austin-based Will Loconto is a well respected and accomplished musician, songwriter, producer, and game developer. Before co-founding BlackDenim Records, he built a distinguished career that has spanned decades in both the music and software industries. His band T-4-2 was signed to Columbia Records, and he performed with the platinum-selling group, Information Society. Complementing his work in pop music he has contributed to many high-profile video game projects including Rayman Raving Rabbids, Aliens vs. Predator 2: Primal Hunt, Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa, American McGee’s Alice, X-Men: The Official Game, and Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay. Will’s work has also been heard on several TV shows including American Ninja Warrior, Entertainment Tonight, Building Alaska, NFL Total Access, and Hap and Leonard. Hailing from Houston, Texas, Person was recognized at an early age for his talents as a vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. Those talents would later lead to Person sharing stages with legendary acts such as Buddy Guy and Robert Cray. Person moved to Austin, Texas in 2017, where he was quickly discovered and signed by industry veteran Christopher Durst, a music entrepreneur and former rock photographer known for his work with Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Seasick Steve, and more. Person and Durst then partnered with producer Will Loconto, who was chosen for his unique ability to blend indie rock, pop, and electronica, along with Person’s love for roots music and blues guitar. Person’s debut LP features Jake Wyble, his long-time musical collaborator and drummer (who he met in Austin and is actually from Cumberland County, New Jersey, the same area in which Person was born and lived until he was three years old, though they never knew each other).