By Ashley Elizabeth Brown
Community Records sits unassuming among the other apartments on Freret Street in the Uptown New Orleans area. It is run from an office within co-founder, Greg Rodrigue’s home. Rodrigue had just finished an unplanned conference call with a music artist, who had just agreed to be contractually signed to the label. Community Records is not your traditional record label. This record label focuses on releasing physical formats of music, and not just collecting royalties from artists. Founded 11 years ago in 2008, Community Records celebrated its 10th anniversary last February with a live music event.
Community Records distributes physical music formats from the artists that collaborate and sign with the organization. They sell CDs, records, and even cassette tapes. The label is a fan of traditional formats that consumers can, quite literally, get their hands on. To Community, music is not just a mental experience, but a physical one. Their most recent record pressing includes the new album, Secret Princess, by NOVA ONE. Music listeners can choose between a “pale pink or magenta swirl vinyl.” Community Records has paired up with New Orleans Record Press, located in the St. Claude neighborhood, to press their vinyls. In addition, the organization has partnered up with the distribution center, Redeye Worldwide. Community Records sells physical formats online, but the distribution is completed by Redeye.
If you would ask Greg Rodrigue what genre the record label prefers to sign, he would tell you “a conglomerate of genres, mostly focusing on DIY, indie, and punk.” “DIY” refers to music that is put together without industry professionals. Community Records is as indie as you can get; he fondly recalls plans of traveling in a tour bus that runs exclusively on waste vegetable oil. Greg Rodrigue and other co-founder, Daniel “D-Ray” Ray wanted to create a platform and a place to support their friends who were not signed to a record label. The success of Greg Rodrigue’s band led to the development and formation of what is now known as Community Records.
“Signing” may be the wrong word to use with artists that have chosen to be a part of Community Records. Each musician, group, and band develop an agreement on a case-by-case basis, increasing individuality, choice, and the “do-it-yourself” attitude. Whatever the artist and label wants from the agreement is up to them. And private. When asked what the record’s label main focus was, Rodrigue said, “We are much more guided by trying to connect people and artists to listeners and let that be our guiding light. People enjoying music, rather than who’s popular right now.” Community Records enjoys connecting the New Orleans community with music artists of all kinds, most commonly found in the southern United States. Although they distribute physical formats, they also have digital streaming available online.
Rodrigue describes the events that are held on behalf of Community Records. This includes shows hosted at HEY! Cafe and Roastery. Being the co-owner of both Community and HEY! offers the record label a chance to hold live music events with the artists that are a part of Community. Hosting shows at HEY! Cafe means that the event can draw listeners of all genres and ages. Community is not just limited to playing at HEY! Cafe. They have also held shows at Main Street Bar and Gasa Gasa, supporting local businesses. One annual event that began five years ago is an unofficial SXSW, or South by Southwest, music showcase. SXSW hosts music festivals, conferences, and a film fest annually in Austin, Texas. The most recent event held by Community includes a collaboration between the record label and Glasgow-based music blog, GoldFlakePaint. This event is held in a Texas-based band’s backyard. In 2018, the band, Hikes, was the artist of choice.
All transparency and mostly agreements is how the label operates. AntiGraviy Magazine online posted an article in March 2018 that talked about the “one nation under dog…” and how “music has been a positive force in (their) lives.” In the article, Rodrigue notes his main ambitions in life, including, “to make and support good art from New Orleans…I want New Orleans to be taken seriously because I think there’s really good stuff from here. We want to be a foundation and a support system for that.” Finally, Greg Rodrigue mentioned the story of their logo. The logo is a dog, and only because, they “just love dogs.” It was designed by New-Orleans-based artist, “Otto Splotch.” Daisy, the label’s official mascot dog, appeared in their lives soon after. Community Records continues to focus on connecting people and good music.