There are several indie labels in the industry today; each is individual and very unique, with their own story to tell. I chose to write about Gotee Records because 1. The name in-and-of-itself gets your attention, 2. They have a roster of amazing Artist’s, both past and present, Relient K being one of them, and 3. They have an inspirational background story, and believe in the future of the music business.
Gotee Records was started in 1994 by Joey Elwood, Todd Collins, and Toby McKeehan, aka tobyMac; all three great friends, who still run their label with the “Unconventional decisions” that first started Gotee 15 years ago.
They started as a production company, working with a young R&B trio called Out of Eden. They went in search of a label for the R&B trio, and when that proved unsuccessful the three friends decided to start their own. The name came about back in 1992 in Nashville, TN. They were three guys who shared a love of music, and although they had diverse tastes, they sported the same cropped beards and hung out enough together that people started calling them the “goatee brothers,” and in ’94 Gotee Records was born. Elwood states that they “didn’t want to be known as the ‘facial hair guys’,” which is the reason for the intentional misspelling of the name.
Like many of the people just starting out in the music industry, there were quite a few things that the three were clueless about. Elwood recalls that it was “mostly the operational stuff, like how to set up a record in order for it to be sold in stores, with things like the UPC codes and ISRC codes, or knowing the Soundscan numbers and how to pay royalties – all the things that people just don’t really know.” Through on-the-job-training and experience, Gotee Records was up and running and became quite successful.
The label became associated with EMI Christian Music Group, but on March 31 2008 Gotee announced a buyback of their minority stake, which made them a fully independent company. It’s like they were starting over again, but Elwood, McKeehan, and Collins felt that they had lost their way and they just wanted an opportunity to go back to where they began. They stated that when you get into a volume-based business, you get focused on volume, and that’s not really how they started and it’s not what they wanted. It took time to buy back their stake, but luckily the President and CEO of EMI CMG was gracious.
New production and distribution models guide the new Gotee Records. New artist’s albums and songs are released online through digital distribution, and album releases through retail are left to the more established artist’s. The idea is to create demand through radio and the Internet sufficient for the release of a physical CD in retail outlets later on.
Gotee Records present roster includes Abandon Kansas, House of Heroes, Jamie Grace, and Stephanie Smith. Smith just recently released a new single called “Letting Go” in February, which can be purchased through ITunes.
Some of the Alumni Artists include Ayiesha Woods, Family Force 5, B.Reith, Grits, Jeff Anderson, Jennifer Knapp, Out of Eden, LA Symphony, SonicFlood, and Relient K, who McKeehan signed to a development deal and is considered an RIAA gold certified artists along with SonicFlood and Jennifer Knapp.
Gotee Records has also done quite a few compilations with Hip Hope 2008 being one of them. The company is all about the music, the artists and trying to influence the industry and the fans in some way. Joey Elwood, president of Gotee Records, states that “Not only are we trying to provide a platform for a very influential and important genre of music for today’s youth, but also convince the gatekeepers of this industry that a market does indeed exist for hip hop consumers that are Christians.”
There are also many artists vying to be a part of the Gotee family, and alumni artist Ayiesha Woods was one of them. Gotee Records is all about an artist being engaged in their music, and Woods was comfortable with how things were going, because she loved to write songs. “Our generation, we’re the microwave generation. We want quick and fast and in a hurry. There was a time before when it was all about songs, and based on singles, and I think we’re getting back to that.”
Elwood is also really confident in Gotee’s future and even more confident in the future of music. He states that “there’s a wonderful, wonderful road ahead for people who love this business, love communicating with people through music. God doesn’t need a song or a record company or an artist for his perfect will to get done, but he sure can use us. It’s an exciting time.” There are so many professionals in the industry today that view the future of the music business as negative. I think we could use a little more positivity. I love Elwood’s point of view and look forward to seeing what the music business has in store for the future.