Exploring Crunchy Frog, One Of Europe's Most Vital Independent Labels
The effects of digital distribution and streaming have forced record companies to reinvent, and numerous labels have come and gone. To look at the story of disappearing labels is less viable than studying a successful one.
Crunchy Frog falls into the success category, the label continues to defy all odds, it inspires and influences fans and artists in times of massive technological and economic change.
Known for labouring a strong community, the iconic Danish company recently celebrated its 25th anniversary by hosting a bill of bands at Copenhagen’s Pumpehuset venue. Featuring bands signed to the label, ‘Crunchy Frog B’day Bash: 25 Years of Acquired Taste’ saw D/troit, POWERSOLO, Shiny Darkly, Sista Bossen, The Tremolo Beer Gut, Apparat Organ Quartet and many more play stomping, raw sets.
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The key to Crunchy’s successful survival is the ability to understand, influence and respond to a constantly changing market. Things have been transformed since Junior Senior dominated the UK Top 10 with ‘Move Your Feet’ and The Raveonettes’ transformed rock, but productivity levels remain on a matching high.
Initially focusing on indie and alternative, members of Thau - Jesper Reginal (known as “Yebo”), Ulrik Petersen, Jesper Rofelt and Jesper Sand - founded Crunchy Frog in 1994. The company has since undergone several changes, and it now offers plenty of genre diversity.
As the industry’s global revenue from recordings continues to dry up, the need for sync and publishing deals is evergrowing, Crunchy has its share, and Whammy Bar in Copenhagen south and The Mudhoney located in Nørrebro help too. Loyalty, dedication and hard work are core values.
All bands belong to the Crunchy family, with that comes a never failing determination and willingness to go the extra mile. The beating heart at Crunchy Frog is A&R. Contrary to the majority of labels, it is a requirement for every label member to have heard a new act prior to signing them.
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D/troit’s frontman Toke Bo Nisted had been signed to other labels before, but noticed a shift in values and priorities when his band joined. “At Crunchy you get the real deal”, Nisted insists. “When we signed it felt like coming home. It was amazing to meet the people who work there, to discover that they’re as cool as I imagined. What impresses me is their dedication, everyone listens to the bands who are getting signed. Key steps are taken to ensure the quality is in check. It’s a fantastic record label to be with”.
Being with a fun, professional bunch is useful, but Crunchy identified commercial opportunities for D/troit and other bands, which former labels failed to exploit and successfully secured sync deals for adverts and Hollywood films. Making upbeat soul music is sellable and profitable.
“Crunchy and their international partners have been exceptional at pitching our music”, says Nisted. “It is easier to sell cars if the music is outgoing and optimistic. An upbeat song rather than a sad, miserable one, it just means more people want to spend a fortune. As a musician it feels good to receive a large cheque, especially when you make the type of soul music that we do”.
Kristoffer Bech is the frontman of indie-rock band Shiny Darkly who have witnessed much progress since joining the label clearly benefitting from the community, “We’ve felt extremely welcome, they have been incredibly helpful”, he says. “It’s is a small company, but they give the bands so much love, which you just don’t find elsewhere. They are loyal, interesting and have a quirky taste in music. They fight for their bands, it’s been an magnificent journey for us so far!”
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Crunchy has an incredible international network, not just in Scandinavia and Europe, it stretches further. In 2013 Shiny Darkly went to SXSW in Austin, Texas and they played in Canada shortly after. “With bands like Superheroes our label has gone back to focusing on underground music”, reflects Bech. “Some of their bands are small, Crunchy has had to work hard and consider other options. It sees Crunchy Tunes Publishing as equal to the rest of the company, and many of the bands are signed there too”.
Crunchy’s story shows that independence doesn’t have to mean compromising or selling out. Producer and musician Jens Benz has worked with the label for fifteen years, a member of POWERSOLO, he also produces some of the records released through the label.
“Many small record labels are opportunistic in their approach”, he admits. “They milk one thing but lose interest quickly if it doesn’t take off, whereas Crunchy continues the tireless work ethic. The commitment is second to none. They always have someone present at studio recording level”.
The talent for balancing the books against strong creative forces is a recurring feature across all projects. “It’s remarkable that they are still around today considering the limited scope you have as a music business in Denmark”, says Benz. “Crunchy understood that international publishing and sync are of necessity and quickly got their heads around streaming, understood the importance of rights etc. Equally, I never saw radio air play as something POWERSOLO could achieve. Our label did!”
Only changing times can predict where the label is going to go next, but it won’t be boring. For now the big question about how they are going to celebrate their 30th anniversary party is one for consideration.
Crunchy Frog’s truly independent journey of adventure continues to thrill and excite.
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Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Justin Winokur
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