Reissue labels: Why DJs and music lovers can’t get enough

By Scarlett O’Malley
January 29 2020, 11.45

Since the vinyl boom of 2016, when for the first time ever vinyl record sales overtook those of digital downloads, it seems the music world has gone wax mad. 

I spoke to three reissue record labels to find out why more and more records are being reissued in their original form. 

A reissue record is a repressed vinyl, put out through different label than it was originally produced for, often re-released due to the rare and expensive status of the original.

Lewis from Deptford Northern Soul Club Records (DNSCR) said: “Initially it [the music] was made to be on a record so it seems right to have it as a record, rather than a .wav or CD.”

DEPTFORD BOYS: Lewis (left), Will (right) down by the river (Credit: J D Croy)

Lewis Henderson is one half of DJing duo, and label co-founder of Deptford Northern Soul Records, with Will Foot.

They started their label in 2019 and released their first single (A, Lester Tipton – ‘This Won’t Change’/ B, Edward Hamilton & The Arabians – ‘Baby Don’t You Weep’) in November and they have just released Candi Staton’s ‘Now You’ve Got The Upper Hand’.

When asked why they felt it was necessary to start a reissues label Lewis said: “I think because music is becoming very hard to find and the quality of the stuff when you can find it is very poor. It was also part of the evolution of our club night, it was just a thing we thought we had to do.”

It is very much the same for Dom Williams who is the founder of Miles Away Records.

Dom said: “As well as wanting to do it for a while I guess I felt like there was still a market for a new reissue label.

“Obviously there’s a lot of brilliant reissue labels around but I felt that I would frequently come across certain tracks that I’d love to have in my bag but couldn’t afford them or were out of print. So it felt right.”

Dom released ‘Patience’ by Rokk on February 4 2019, which sold all 500 copies within a matter of weeks and was featured on Gilles Peterson’s BBC Radio 6 Music show. 

Dom said: “I think perhaps one of the reasons was that vinyl developed as a reaction to other methods of consuming music like streaming.

“I also think there’s something to having a record. The look, the feel, the sound quality is something tangible that could never be created through something online. 

“For younger people, often we can’t own a house, we can’t own a flat, perhaps there’s something in that. The only thing you have are your belongings really.”

Discs of Fun and Love was started by selectors Miche and Frederika who released their first single ‘This Is My Year’ by Rochelle Rabouin in October of 2019.

PRIDE AND JOY: Discs of Fun and Love’s first two single releases

For the Discs of Fun and Love label duo, they had a similar reason to DNSCR and Miles Away Records for wanting to reissue vinyl records.

Miche said: “We launched the label with a desire to release exactly what we wanted to hear.

“Most of these songs seemed like they would be impossible to own, so we decided to relicense, remaster and repackage these tracks, learn the history and create a product that looks as good as it sounds.”

He added: “Labels are thriving in the modern era because of the amount of choice and quality. I don’t think I’d be playing these days if it weren’t for the music Athens of the North and Mr Bongo put in front of me!”

Athens of the North and Mr Bongo are two veteran reissue labels who in recent years have released rare records spanning sweet soul, Brazilian funk and jazz.

However, reissue labels haven’t flourished without controversies surrounding them.

A Twitter poll showed that while 62% of people would rather buy a cheaper reissue, 38% would still save to buy an original copy of a record that they wanted.

PUBLIC POLL: Save for the original or save on the reissue?

This came after an explosive Facebook status erupted into a very divided debate about whether reissue records were ‘allowed’ to be played out during DJ sets.

Matthew Bolton, a patron of the rare soul scene, said: “Don’t DJ on reissues for the sake of playing a record you can’t afford. There are millions you can afford and many of them can be the big tunes of tomorrow.”

He added: “From an older perspective I do feel that it’s a music that draws from the artifact of the original 45. I understand the younger perspective (I DJ to 100s of 18-21 year old every week) but really it’s a lazy way to go about things.

“The way I’ve always seen it, if we all go digital or play reissues then by the same token we should all be the best DJs in the world. Sadly life just isn’t like that.

“That’s why certain events exist. So that we can all go and hear those records in unison and appreciate them. Like going to church.”

This sentiment was backed by DJ John Dunne who commented: “Reissues can actually result in lazy DJs who depend on tunes broken by others rather than having the passion to go find cheap, accessible but no less brilliant unknowns.”

However, other DJs and music fans hit back with their rebuttals.

Reggae DJ Taylor Charlie Jack said: “Reissues are an excellent way of being able to enjoy and play out your favourite tune at an affordable expense.

“However also giving you an incentive to find the original to purchase to then sell the reissue. 

“Then when playing the original out, you get much more let’s say ‘job satisfaction’ and it keeps the snobs happy.”

Jazz FM presenter and DJ Anne Frankenstein said: “I can understand why they piss people off if they’re hoping to retire on some OG rarities in their collection but I think they’re brilliant.

“There’s so much amazing music in the world that’s inaccessible because it’s tied up in archives or only had a tiny limited release.

“Also great for artists who deserve credit to finally get it…and royalties too.”

When asked if they had received any backlash since starting their reissues label, Will of DNSCR said: “We’ve had no issues for our reissues label and we’ve been on soul source [an online soul music forum].”

Lewis and Will described their sound as remastered Black American music from the ’60s and ’70s that is hard, fast and loud. 

SELL OUT: Miles Away Record’s first sold out release,’Patience’ by Rokk

Records from these eras and genres are often the rarest and very expensive to buy if sourced.

Will agrees with Anne Frankenstein that reissue labels are essential in bringing music out from the archives.

He said: “I think it is necessary because records are being lost constantly.”

Dom Williams of Miles Away Records also believes that as long as reissues are done well with care and are just as good if not better than the original.

He said: “I can’t understand why anyone would be begrudging of this. I think that they’ll [reissue labels] continue to grow as there’s so much music out there which deserves to be heard by more people. Ultimately that’s what it’s about, isn’t it?”

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