New York City based Wind-up Records was formed in March 1997 by Alan and Diana Meltzer. The label’s releases are distributed by Sony Music Entertainment worldwide, excluding Canada, where the company operates Wind-up Entertainment Canada, Inc. and receives distribution from Warner Music Canada. Wind-up is currently the largest independently-owned record label in the United States.
Alan Meltzer founded a distribution company called CD One Stop in 1985, which three years later had grown to become the largest independent distributor in the country. In 1993, he merged CD One Stop with several competitors to form Alliance Entertainment, and Alliance quickly grew to become a 700-million-dollar company.
But Alan became disenchanted with the music business, and felt it was all about business and had little to do with the music. He set out to establish a self-financed independent label that would be capable of competing with the majors. The Wind-up trademark is “Developing Career Artists” and that was what Wind-up became—a community. A family of artists.
Some of the successful acts on the Wind Up roster include Evanescence, Seether, Finger Eleven, People in Planes, and most recently, Thriving Ivory.
One of Wind-up’s premiere artists is female fronted Evanescence. After recording a few independent projects, the band released their first full-length album, Fallen, on Wind-up in 2003. Fallen sold more than 17 million copies worldwide and helped the band win two Grammy Awards.
But the band that put Wind-up on the map is Creed. Creed formed in 1995 in Tallahassee, Florida. Becoming popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the band released three consecutive multi-platinum albums, one of which has been certified diamond, selling over 26 million records in the United States and an estimated 35 million records worldwide.
Diana Meltzer heard Creed’s independent album and, after hearing them live, signed the band to Wind Up. Fourteen labels had already passed on the band, but Diana had no doubt they would emerge as a superstar act.
Creed was one of the most commercially successful rock bands of the late 90s and early 2000s. Their first three studio albums, My Own Prison, Human Clay, and Weathered, have all gone multi-platinum in the United States, selling 6 million, 11 million, and 6 million copies respectively.The band won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song for the song “With Arms Wide Open” in 2001.
These days, it has become fashionable to hate Creed. I am by no means a Creed fanatic. Never bought a CD or download, never saw them in concert. So I am certainly not here to defend Creed. Besides, this blog is about Wind-up. And it must say something that Wind-up can sell 35 million copies of something everybody purports to hate. (Maybe it says more about the herd-mentality of the music fan base, both in jumping on and jumping off bandwagons).
Although the business skills behind Wind-up belong to Alan and label president Steve Lerner, it was Diana Meltzer that brought Creed and Evanescence to the label, along with all its other acts. She landed in A&R by accident. She wanted to adopt children, but when she saw Creed for the first time, she decided her talents might be better-served adopting bands.
“When you find great talent you can’t waste any time worrying about radio, formats or where the artist might “fit” within the current music scene.” –Diana Meltzer
True to Alan’s original idea, Wind-up operates from a very different set of principles than most record labels, and especially the major labels. They keep the roster tight and focus on every Wind-up release as an equal priority. Well known for its resourcefulness and relentlessness, Wind-up focuses on longevity and career building for its artists instead of jumping to the next flash-in-the-pan trend.
Wind-up instituted medical coverage for all its artists, a concept unheard of at the major record labels. When Drowning Pool’s vocalist Dave Williams tragically died, Wind-up gave $250,000 to the Williams family, in order to build the house that Dave had always talked about building for his parents before his life was cut short. They had another band member who, prior to initiating the medical-coverage scheme, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Wind-up paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure that he got the best medical care possible.
“I never got into the business to make money. It has always been and always will be the love for music and the artists that drives me.” Says Diana. “The bands are in and out of my house regularly and have become part of my extended family. At the end of the day, they are all big kids and I am someone that they can trust and believe in, because they know I would never do anything to hurt them or damage their careers. They know I love them and their music and that is something you can’t communicate in words alone.”
Wind-up has always taken a DIY approach to marketing. From its inception, they have used the Internet at to build fan bases, communicate with the music community and develop their artists. “When we launched the first Creed album, we supplied fans with a pre-packed, ready-to-go web site for them to set up, including music and their own exclusive Creed photo”, says Diana. “Meanwhile, several major labels were suing fourteen-year-olds for streaming music!”