The Hot Seat: Vincent Clery-Melin, Co-operative Music

Published in The Music Network


Frenchman Vincent Clery-Melin has headed-up the Cooperative Music network since it was launched by V2 Music in 2005. Initially a pan-European label licensing network, London-based Co-Op partners with some of the indie world’s coolest labels, from Wichita Recordings to City Slang, Moshi Moshi Records and Wichita Recordings. In 2007, V2 and its Co-Op business was sold to Universal Music Group for a cool £7 million.

Now owned by the world’s biggest music company, Co-Op’s ethos has remained truly rooted to the independents’ cause and in recent times the business has kicked big-time goals for the likes of Fleet Foxes and Phoenix. Now, Co-Operative Music has established a company in Australia, at the conclusion of a five-year relationship with Shock.

You’ve set up shop Down Under. What’s the overall vision for the Australian company?

With our team and the backing we have from Universal, we want to become a very significant player in the independent sector over there. All the labels we work with are very music- driven. We pride ourselves on not only being able to sell records, but the staff are doing that by respecting the ethos of the artists. I hope the Australian company can achieve what we’ve become at home in the U.K. — the best place to go to if you’re an independent label looking for a great success.

How many records will Cooperative Music Australia release each year?

When we worked with Shock, we weren’t always able to acquire or extend those rights for Australia. Now it’s becoming a bit more systematic, and people are showing interest in our new set-up. In Australia, our output has historically been about half what it was Europe, which over the last three years has grown to about 80 albums each year. We’ve just done an Australia deal with Kitsuné — the French label – who in the past we only represented for Europe. Given the first signs we’re seeing, we’ll quickly get to a position where we release as many records in Australia as we do in Europe. Maybe some labels will be interested in our set-up for Australia-only. From July, we’ll start by putting out records by Digitalism, the Black Lips, Is Tropical and CSS, among others.

Did the contract with Shock expire and you then decided to bring it in house with Universal distributing?

It’s what triggered it. But it’s more than that. Bear in mind, there are still a number of markets, like France, Belgium and Holland, where we’re still distributed by an independent and in those cases they’re the same independents we’ve been working with since we were owned by V2. For the last three-and-a-half years, Universal has kept true to what they told us at the beginning – that we’re very much a separate business within their organisation.

It’s not just about bringing in foreign repertoire from the independent sector; it’s also working the repertoire in a different way. Universal understands that. We sat down with them and agreed to do a distribution deal where Universal would basically do what an independent distributor generally does with an independent label. That is to provide the infrastructure, the administration, the sales, the back-office and their expertise.

With Shock, we’ve grown a lot in Australia; we broke quite a few artists, did a lot of business and brought in a few new labels.

What opportunities do you see here?

It’s a very interesting market for labels, and for alternative music. It’s a market which still has solid music retail which is supportive of independent music, which is not necessarily the case in other markets. Digital retail is very strong and you’ve got a small population with a high disposable income. Compared to Europe, Australia is per-capita probably the biggest market for a number of our bands, like Phoenix. It’s a great market for independent music and it’s helped by having a great number of media outlets which are excited about new music, starting with Triple J, community radio.

Over the years, even stations like Nova have embraced our repertoire, which is very hard to get into the commercial radio space in places like Europe. Obviously, the other side of the opportunity is completely A&R- driven. At the moment we deal mostly with European labels and with some U.S. labels. If we built a stronger presence for Australia, our partner labels like Bella Union and Wichita would have a bit more ammo for when they find new bands and sign them for the world.

Are there opportunities for Aussie bands and labels to join the fold?

Definitely. The original vision was to extend our business in Australia more systematically for our acts overseas. But through this process, I had tons of meetings and (discovered) there’s some exciting talent which can do really well through this kind of setup. As we’ve got a great international network, if we find the right bands or the right label, whose records could travel, we could also offer that as part of our service. We’d love to do that. We’ve always been interested by really good, exciting Australian talent. This setup could take it to the next level.

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