We tend to see the idea of artistic freedom as at odds with the industry aspect of musicianhood. In exchange for providing an optimistic artist with marketing and gig opportunities, a record label can control the artist’s artistic vision, stifling and sterilizing it. And even with all that, a record label won’t always compensate its talents fairly. That’s partly why a lot of artists strike out on their own, aware of all the challenges that come with being independent. What matters most is making the music that they like.
And look, a record label doing things different isn’t going to change everything, but one can’t help but look at 60NICE with optimism. Founded by Filipino wife-and-husband team Patis and JP del Mundo, 60NICE makes it a goal to be a home where artists of all stripes can let their freak flags fly. The record label will hold its label launch, slash EP launch of electronic artist TRNG, slash fundraising event on June 15, 9PM EST, on virtual gig space Club Matryoshka. All proceeds will go to the NAACP legal defense fund. They’re really doing the mostest.
When Patis describes the goal of 60NICE, it sounds like everything a musician could want in a record label. “As a whole, it is a record label that welcomes even the most out-of-the-box artists out there. A lot of music and visuals that we encounter from many skilled artists aren’t heard or seen because they don’t have a platform. We want to be a conduit for the diverse pool of artists that can’t seem to find their own place just yet.” They don’t “own” any of their artists, but help distribute their work while giving talent room to grow and evolve. “We give them as much freedom to express themselves in their current artistic eras. 60NICE is all about freedom of expression and fair treatment between the record label and the artist whether it’s through profit or artistic command.”
Evidence of this commitment to sonic diversity is the artist whose EP they’re launching (enigmatically titled “Procedural World - 2,008 Children), TRNG, an experimental electronic artist whose sound takes cues from industrial and noise to produce something mesmerizingly glitchy abrasive. It’s daring to announce oneself to the world by supporting an artist that the Billboard charts wouldn’t normally consider, but that’s kind of the point. It’s about giving a chance to the new, and riding with conviction.
The way the label operates also speaks to JP’s experiences as a musician, and that experience informs his style of caring for whatever artists end up in the good hands of 60NICE. “Having been signed to a couple of major record labels during my band days, I’ve seen how little artists actually get from physical record sales and streaming, and these are major labels we are talking about!” he states. “Being informed by that experience, we’ve made it a point to always compensate anybody who’s ever worked with our label fairly and in a timely manner, whether it be through fairer shares in physical sales, properly compensating commissioned artwork, etc.”
Patis and JP are currently based in New Jersey, but according to them, the record has no geography. “Not having a geographic ‘center’ works well in our favor because we can work with artists from everywhere,” JP says. “You can really approach everybody online, it’s just a matter of confidence! Everything we did for the label we just handled online via e-mail threads and WeTransfer/Dropbox links. We’re looking to release artists that we like from all over the world!” And unlike other labels or prods that might subscribe to maintaining a sense of sonic uniformity, 60NICE won’t be limiting itself in terms of genre. Pop, rock, techno—everything’s fair game.
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Things are just beginning for 60NICE, and just imagining what they’ll be capable of once they hit their stride is a cause for excitement. No small feat to launch in the middle of a pandemic and do most of the work from home and online. But it’s also important to note that underneath 60NICE’s ability to roll with the punches is a mindfulness of how they’re in a position to change things. “There will always be something that pushes back against our plans, but in true 60NICE fashion, we aim to adapt every single time,” Patis says. “And by adapting, this is where we find ways to give back to the community by doing fundraising events or promos for charity.”
Hence the fundraiser aspect of the launch. “Allowing ourselves to operate with the current climate gives us direction. We don’t plan on stopping but we strive to be sensitive to the issues around us and acknowledge that our existence is hinged upon the diversity and strength of our communities especially those of minorities and the disenfranchised.” Imagine art, and artists, flourishing in the context of that kind of idealism.