Dharma Label Launches
DJ Dibby Dougherty draws from experience in finding and promoting new artists. 'It's music that we love, and that's crucial'
DJ turned digital record label impresario Dibby Dougherty claims that to start an independent record label in 2012, you need just three things: a passion for new music, the creativity to package and promote that music, and decent broadband. 'Simple as.'
While the globe-trotting DJ, originally from County Derry~Londonderry, manages to catch many live acts when performing in cities like New York, Mexico, Dubai and Hong Kong throughout the year, he is adamant that the traditional A&R root to finding new artists has become redundant in the digital age.
Having set up his Dharma label in early 2012 with his 'better half' Ciara Wilson and long-term friend and collaborator David Young, Dougherty rarely goes to gigs to locate Dharma's latest sign up. Instead, he plonks himself in his favourite swivel chair, fires up his iMac, and gets clicking.
'We mainly find artists through SoundCloud, which at the moment is my favourite website in the world. It's such an amazing place to meet new people and search out interesting, undiscovered music. Dharma is a Northern Ireland-based label, but we have artists from Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, New York, Mexico and all round the world involved.'
Unearthing those artists might take a lot of trawling through SoundCloud and Bandcamp pages, but it's worth it for that elusive 'eureka moment', says Dougherty, when the sound emitting from his speakers is 'original, unique, exciting'. Yet his ability to find new music online surely raises a question: do artists really need labels like Dharma? Can't they release and promote their own music?
At only 25-years-old, Dougherty has years of experience in the music industry to draw from in his search for continued success. A resident at Yello nightclub in Belfast, Dougherty is the typical jet-setting DJ, rubbing shoulders with superstar DJs in Rio one weekend, rocking the crowds in Belfast the next.
Dougherty and Young have also performed for several years as Dharma, releasing music on prestigious dance labels such as Bedrock, Renaissance and Parquet.
The experience of working with the various departments of those labels inspired the duo to give it a go themselves, and Dougherty believes that, while new artists are free and increasingly able to promote themselves and their work online, there is no substitute for experience and industry know-how.
'Myself and David manage the promotion of Dharma artists, A&R and all the rest, while Ciara handles the write ups,' says Doherty. 'The extremely talented Rob Small masters all our releases, and we work with a bunch of amazing graphics designers on our artwork, which is very important to the label. We try to give our artists creative freedom and work closely with them so that every release is individual.
'Starting the label did take quite a bit of work, but it has been very rewarding. We have got off to a fantastic start so far, having only launched in spring 2012, with our music featured in magazines in the UK, India, Germany and also radio plays regularly on the likes of BBC Radio 6 and Kiss FM. Also we've been getting a ton of great reviews on über cool blogs, which is nice.'
Dharma has garnered positive feedback from industry insiders due partly to its eclectic output. Having released four EPs thus far, a browse through the label's SoundCloud page finds artists such as Sweden's Johan Bengtsson, aka Mitch Murder, and French artist Kelly Pavan experimenting with electronic sounds, but there are also acoustic numbers to be found among the playlists.
'The label is not a traditional dance music label,' Dougherty notes. 'We don't focus on the music that we play as DJs. Dharma is more like a home for great music. We have tried to be as open-minded as possible when choosing artists.
'Our artists are all very special in different ways, and the music ranges from synth-pop to folktronica. It is all music that we love, and that's crucial. We release music we love to listen to in the day time – music you can listen to when driving your car or walking through a park with your iPod on. It's a labour of love.'
Having launched Dharma with virtually no budget or backing from governmental bodies or arts associations, Doherty, Young and Wilson have shown that a little bit of ambition can go a long way in the modern music industry. New releases are forthcoming, but Dougherty admits that while digital content is the future, even he can get nostalgic for the 'old ways'.
'In two weeks we will launch label merchandise,' says Dougherty. 'Wall prints, hoodies, t-shirts, which is all very exciting. I remember coming away from gigs when I was a teenager having just bought a t-shirt, and it was the best feeling ever. But we will also be branding up iPhone covers,' he says with a smile. 'Because we know who our audience are.'