For SF WEEKLY: After moving to San Francisco from New York City, record label owner and publicist Jessi Frick noticed something that she had experienced more commonly among record label folks on the East Coast was not happening here: mingling.
A year ago, she dropped the idea to record label peers here in San Francisco that they consider organizing an event. They agreed, and BARF was born: The Bay Area Record Fair drew fans, record labels, and bands to the patio area of Thee Parkside in Potrero Hill in February. Record Label reps did indeed mingle, they sold records, and bands and DJs supplied music. As many as 250 people were there at any given time, according to Frick.
“I think the Bay should have and needs an event that celebrates the creative side of the population, especially in relation to music,” said Frick, who does public relations and artist management for Goldest Egg. “There’s no denying that this is a difficult city for creatives to afford and keep focused on their art. Many musicians and labels have moved on to other cities or shuttered all due to money issues.”
As digital distribution services like TuneCore continue to expand (they have more than one million registered users) and encourage artists to embrace streaming and various digital tools and strategies, the necessity and purpose of the traditional record label has become challenged. And yet, niche, boutique labels continue to put out releases, and new labels continue to emerge. The music industry’s alleged demise and dysfunction has been widely reported, and artists like Thom Yorke of Radiohead have made it abundantly clear how much they hate Spotify, but there are also signs of hope: vinyl sales have spiked, and the industry has seen growth in niche areas like video games and startups.
“Record labels provide artists with much more than just distribution. Expertise, connections, support, a sounding board, a sense of legitimacy,” Frick says. “A musician will undoubtably toot their own band’s horn but having someone else in your corner, championing what you’re doing is pretty invaluable.”
This Saturday, Frick and a gaggle of organizers will host the second installment of BARF from Noon to 5 at Thee Parkside. The event is all-ages, and attendees can purchase music direct from roughly 40 Bay Area music labels representing punk, indie, metal, electronic, reissue, and singer-songwriter genres.
Vin Sol, DJ Jonathan Reddick, and Professional Fans will provide DJ sets, and Wild Moth, Hot Flash Heat Wave, Happy Diving, and Flim Flam and the Jet Stars of Three O’Clock Rock (Oakland-based music program for kids) will perform.