Our Record Label of the Week series allows our writers to connect with their audience in a different manner; instead of presenting a new song they enjoyed or showcasing an artist they saw live, they attempt to explain the relevance and powerful presence of an entire label. Whether it houses a plethora of genres, or sticks to a specific theme, this series aims to provide students with a glimpse backstage – at the men and women that devote their lives to offering us the music that we care so passionately about.
Before August 17, 2011, OWSLA was only known as the “elite rabbit army” in Richard Adams’s 1972 fantasy novel Watership Down. However, OWSLA is now known as the successful Skrillex-founded electronic label, a subdivision of parent company Warner Music Group. Created by Sonny Moore (Skrillex), Tim “Bitvargen” Smith of Blood Company Management, as well as Kathryn Frazier and Clayton Blaha, both associates of the powerhouse publicity firm Biz3, OWSLA is a mix of many electronic styles, from hard-hitting techno to ambient indie dance.
Like its beloved founder, OWSLA is a label that likes to take risks with their artists, including as many unique styles and dynamic people as possible. The first OWSLA release was Porter Robinson’s debut full-length album Spitfire, just a month after the launch of the label. The North Carolinian producer’s album did extraordinarily well, crashing Beatport’s servers with its vast number of sales on its release date. In fact, the only other record to match the amount of first-week Beatport sales Spitfire saw was the 2010 release of Skrillex’s EP, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Along with Porter Robinson, OWSLA affiliated artists include superstars such as Zedd, Kill The Noise, and Dillon Francis, as well as KOAN Sound, Kill Paris, Jack Beats, Seven Lions, Alvin Risk and many more. As described by Skrillex’s manager and co-founder Tim Smith, OWSLA is “less overtly formal. It’s like the label just exists amongst friends.”
In 2012, OWSLA expanded their friendship to fans of the label, with their inauguration of The Nest, a drip.fm-hosted subscription-based “fan club” with pre-sale tickets for OWSLA events, access to remix stems and a capellas, opportunities for meet and greats, and a plethora of exclusive digital releases. The development of The Nest came from a desire to continue sharing music with fans, but in a more inclusive and multi-platform way. Blaise DeAngelo, OWSLA label manager, stated “The people we interact with are exposed to so much great music all the time, but there are so many constraints on what we could put out and when. We didn’t have enough bandwidth for all the great stuff we wanted to share with the world.” By creating the subscription service, OWSLA could further expand its horizons as both a label and a lifestyle among artists and fans. Artists featured on The Nest imprint are AC Slater, Henry Fong, and Wuki, among others, and the amount of featured artists continues to grow. The importance of blurring the lines between “fans” and “artists” has been a crucial mission to the OWSLA crew. Skrillex seems to be friends with just about everyone in the electronic music industry, and is frequently lauded by journalists, fans, musicians, and publicists as both a talented artist and a genuinely kind person.
The OWSLA slogan is “Good Times, Good People”, and it’s clear that everyone affiliated with the label choses to put forth those vibes in their work and their relationships. In just two and a half years, OWSLA is one of the most well-known and respected labels within the electronic music community, with over two million followers on SoundCloud, two massive OWSLA tours and a showcase at the 2014 SXSW festival, and over 300,000 fans on Facebook. Their diversity is seen in the latest releases, such as Skrillex’s first full-length album Recess, as well as EPs from soulful indie electronic group Hundred Waters, and kawaii-pop duo HEARTSREVOLUTION. OWSLA continues to expand their circle of friends, and with over 50 major releases, this label shows no sign of stopping their good vibes anytime soon.
Words: Staley Sharples