Strictly Rhythm is back. After four years of legal action with major label Warner Music, Mark Finkelstein has acquired the catalogue and copyright for all things Strictly. What does that mean? Think about classics like Ultra Nate's "Free," Armand Van Helden "Witchdokta," Real 2 Reel "I Like to Move It," and River Ocean featuring India "Love and Happiness." Think about producers like Josh Wink, Armand Van Hedlen, Erick Morillo, Roger Sanchez, and Kenny Dope who all got their start on Strictly Rhythm. Teaming up with top international house label Defected is a very strategic partnership that ensures Strictly Rhythm will revive its cachet as the premier dance music label.
DJ Ron Sloowicz: I'm so excited that Strictly Rhythm is back.
Mark Finkelstein: Yes, but not half as excited as I am.
RS: So why 2006? What happened to make this all happen?
Mark Finkelstein: I got the rights to the catalogue and to the trademark back, I acquired everything back.
RS: Not looking for a big recap of the legal fight, but how did
you win against the big major label?
Mark Finkelstein: I can't actually talk about any of that, that's why I'm being vague.
RS: Why did you sign Strictly Rhythm with Warner to begin with?
Mark Finkelstein: I signed to Warner because I realized, particularly in the US, that I had no ability to deliver a record to the level it should be delivered to. Without the strength of a major label, radio-wise and MTV-wise, there was no shot of breaking an act big time to the mainstream. A song like "We Like to Party" by the Venga Boys was huge in the clubs and got some radio play, but visually nobody knew what they looked like because they never had the ability to get the videos played properly. I had known my range for years and years, and decided that to have Strictly be able to have a big brother that could help on an as-needed basis regarding any sort of successes would be a good thing, and that's why I did the deal.
RS: So you were signing album artists like Aurora and Ultra Nate
to launch on Strictly and then take up to Warner when you had the
story started. Was that the goal?
Mark Finkelstein: What it was about was when I found another Venga Boys or another big record like " I Like to Move It," "Free" by Ultra Naté, or "Set You Free" by Planet Soul, I would have the ability to lay it off on a very powerful organization that could then take it to where it should go. Then, of course, I could go back to doing what I did best which was finding new talent. That was the reason, find it, deliver it to a certain level, lay it off to my partner the major and that's why we did the deal.
RS: Then it didn't work out that way.
Mark Finkelstein: I have no comment.
RS: OK, leave it at that. Do you think it's the same way where
independent labels can't get their music on the radio here in 2006
like it was in 2002?
Mark Finkelstein: I'm not so sure because I've been out of the business for a while. With the latest probes into payola scandals at corporate radio stations, I think the more reform there is at radio, the more either the government or the population start to say that it can't be that controlled, the better. Because of radio consolidation, there are just a few players controlling an enormous amount of radio stations and because of that they can pick the pace by what they play. Since it seems to be opening up because it's being looked at, then an independent label's got a better chance.
Simon Dunmore: Internet culture is a help. If you're not hearing what you want on the radio, you just tune into an internet stations. So people are seeking out the music that they want to listen to and they don't necessarily have to consume what's given to them, as they did five years ago.
Mark Finkelstein: I think Simon's smart, that's why he's my partner. The other thing is you've got satellite radio with a number of different stations on it where now the consumer can rebel against the status quo. In the day of course you had whatever number of stations, if you didn't want to listen to what they played, you better take out a piece of vinyl or a CD and listen to your own stuff, but now the consumer has a number of alternatives.