Label Of The Week: Mute Records

30 Sep

Last week on twitter, @Roughtradeshops had tweeted ‘Welcome Home Mute’.  For those who didn’t know what that meant, it was a response to the news that Mute had become independent once again.

The label was started in the post punk era of 1978 by Daniel Miller who initially used the imprint to release singles by his band ‘The Normal’.   The DIY attitude of the previous generation was clearly inspiring as ’78 was the also the year that Rough Trade Records, Ace Records and Factory Records were founded.  In 1980, after Miller’s own singles became successful, he decided that Mute would begin to sign other artists.  This move would soon prove to be the right one as Mute would go on to release some of the biggest electro-pop records of the 1980’s.

Miller quickly signed a new electronic band from Essex called Depeche Mode.  After the release of their first album, lead songwriter Vince Clarke left the band to also have hits on Mute with both Yazoo and later Erasure.  It was Depeche Mode however that made the bigger impact, going on to sell over 100 million records becoming the biggest selling electronic group ever and hands down Mute’s most successful signing.  I bet Mr. Clarke was raging!

Depeche mode – “Enjoy The Silence” Video

The early 90’s saw the label venture into rock orientated music, such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but it was another electronic act called Moby that put Mute back into the spotlight.  After Moby’s 1996 album ‘Animal Rights’ had been badly received, the vast majority of the media had lost interest in the American producer and to Miller’s credit, he stuck by his artist.  As there was no real in buzz around Moby’s future releases, his fifth album ‘Play’ (1999) had only managed to get to number 33 in the UK Charts in its first week.  Determined that the album deserved a better response, Miller and Moby began to get the songs used in TV adverts as a means of promotion for the LP.  Mute’s faith in their act had paid off as ten months later the album climbed up to number 1 in the UK, sold 10 million copies worldwide and is still the best-selling electronic album to ever be released.

Moby – “Porcelain” Video

In 2002 Mute was purchased in a deal worth £23 million by Major Label EMI, who also own Virgin, Parlophone and Positiva.  Miller had stayed on to lead the label but last week it was announced that an agreement was made to make the label an independent once again.  EMI will still have a minority share in the company and remain responsible for departments such as distribution but it is Miller who will once again regain control of the label he set up 32 years ago.

One major blow for the born again indie is that they had to leave behind their crown jewels, Depeche Mode, as well as a few others acts.  Never the less, it is an exciting time for the label as they can almost start afresh and with the golden ears of Miller still at the helms, the future looks good for Mute Records.

ps check out the documentaries “Go: A film about Moby” and “Synth Britannia”


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