Mark Brown, Founder and owner, Cr2 Records

Published in The Music Network


Australia has a renowned dance music scene which sells records and tickets, and from time-to-time launches a global star. With that in mind, it’s no surprise Mark Brown wants a bigger piece of the action. Brown, a high-profile British DJ, has set-up a local version of Cr2 Records through a joint-venture with German-based Kontor Records. Cr2 is one of the U.K.’s most consistent hit-making independent house labels. The company celebrated its milestone 100th release back in 2009, in what was its fifth year in business. Now, the label Brown set-up with Christian Rodwell has almost 300 releases behind it, including works by David Guetta & the Egg, Eric Prydz and Steve Angello.  The new label has already made an impact on the ARIA Club Chart with tracks by Nicky Romero, Redd feat. Akon & Snoop Dogg and Brown’s own project MYNC.


Mark, why are you setting-up Down Under?

I’ve always had a strong affiliation with Australia. There’s a lot of demand and love for electronic music. Obviously you’ve got some huge festivals and some great artists. Until now, Ministry of Sound released our music locally. But I just felt it was time to do our own thing. We’ve got the knowledge of the market and we’ve got the right music to release locally. I’ve been coming to Australia for the last six years as a DJ. One of the first bands I tried to sign was Sneaky Sound System. I’d played “Pictures,” and had never had so many requests from a clubbing audience. That was really the start of my education on Australian dance music. I was really impressed by the quality and level of production and the songs that were in the market, being made by local artists.

What’s the make-up of your local team?

Most of it is done from London. But we’re working with promo teams in Australia like Frank Varrasso, and Gabby and Anthony Colombi from Global PR. And we have some local scouts who feed back to me what’s going on in the marketplace. At the moment, iTunes is our distributor, but we’ll probably be looking to work with one of the majors on a product-by-product basis. We will be releasing (physical), depending on whether there’s demand for it in the marketplace.

Will you be looking to sign locally?

Definitely. We’ve got a record coming out by the Stafford Brothers who are the largest DJ duo in Australia at the moment. The single Pressure was last week sitting at No. 7 on the ARIA Club Chart. My focus is to find as many good, local Australia artists and A&R them. And make them worldwide stars.

So what’s the mantra of the label here?

The aim is to make sure we have the best music possible in the market, rather than quantity. It’s about passion. And signing music because we love it, maybe not because it’s commercially viable. That’s always been my ethos for running the label on the U.K. side. I was taught that way of working when I was with Parlophone in London. They released acts like Coldplay and Radiohead, who were able to develop and release their own music without being forced into making the wrong decisions. To start with, we’ll probably release 12 singles a year and a couple of albums. We’ll focus on records that we think will penetrate and impact the market in a really good, positive way. We don’t want to be a factory. We want to be a leading, respected independent label. We’ll be looking at co-branded CDs. And, obviously, Australia is a huge fitness market; we’re looking at moving into those areas, because our music is relevant to what happens in gyms nowadays. We have an in-house studio (in Britain) where we make the records for MYNC and a lot of developing artists. And we think it’s an essential for the label, for any independent, to be able to have many different services available to artists.

Electronic dance has gone huge in the U.S. What’s behind it?

It’s amazing that they’ve finally embraced what’s happening with dance music. Because they’re the guys who were behind it from the start. But the market never really embraced it. Now, the old hip hop and R&B fans are dancing to our music. It’s taken a long time but it’s there now. It’s going to be there for another 10 years, just getting bigger and bigger.

Dance labels have been hurt by file-sharing perhaps more than any other genre. Is now a particularly tough time?

I’m really receptive to the new digital era. We’re lucky we were involved in it from day one. Although we do get effected by digital downloads, there are a lot of other revenue streams for us as a label, which we didn’t have three years ago. Spotify for us now is the second income for the label. It’s huge. As that develops in your country as well, that’s going to be a really big help to a lot of labels. It’s really about getting your music exposed. If the record is good enough, it will go on to become popular. Avicii was heavily file-shared but has gone on to be a No. 1 record all over the world selling three or four million singles. Dance music now is at the highest it’s ever been, profile-wise, since I’ve been working in it. It’s just good to have your music exposed. The new generation of kids, they’re not really a record-buying public as such. They think music is for free. It’s about us educating them on how to buy their music. But it’s also about showing them different services where they can listen to it via their iPhone or stream it legally.