Ghostly International: Not Just a Label

Posted September 24, 2013 in
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Shigeto. Photo: Anthony Ciannamea

I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Owens last week, Label Manager for Ghostly International, which is one of my top five favorite labels. Owens has been with Ghostly for nine years, and after speaking with him, I understand why. The spirit of Ghostly is subtle and warm, which is reflected throughout each project and in each person who is or becomes a part of the Ghostly community. It is very clear as to how the Ghostly ethos can influence someone in the most positive of ways.

A part of me has always wanted to get involved in the industry, but I have always been afraid of it. However, after speaking with Owens, it is obvious that there are still labels that hold true to their beliefs when it comes to the creators of the arts. Ghostly International is more than just a music label. Ghostly is a community that is home to musicians, artists and dreamers who are all connected by a string of creativity. Together, they weave the web that makes up Ghostly International.

I would consider myself a music connoisseur of sorts, but for all of the music and artists that I might know, I am maybe familiar with a handful of the labels that they are on. In most cases, a label is just that—a label. The label is where the artist’s name lives, and that’s it. Ghostly goes beyond that, which is what sets them apart.

I was introduced to Ghostly after discovering Scott Hansen, aka Tycho, in college. After perusing through the Ghostly website, I realized that it was home to some of my favorite sounds, such as Gold Panda, Com Truise and Phantogram. I also realized that there was more to Ghostly than just the music. The mindset of being more than “just a label” stemmed from the idea of wanting Ghostly to be a community. Rather than limiting themselves to one “genre” of art, Ghostly has opened their doors to musicians, artists and designers alike. “When Sam Valenti started Ghostly in 1999, he saw it as an art house, where the music, the art and the design was equally important,” says Owens. Music has always been the genesis of Ghostly, and the art is considered a part of the music. Intertwined through both the music and the art has been technology. Because of the electronica background of Ghostly, technology helps to influence both the current and future state of the label.

Ghostly is defined by the members of its community, which is why instead of being sought out, Ghostly does the seeking. If an artist or musician happens to be producing or creating works that bleed into the beliefs of Ghostly’s ethos, and the Ghostly family feels like they can stand behind them together, that artist or musician becomes a part of the Ghostly family.

Not only does Ghostly find ways to stay connected to the listener and the community through the music and the art, but also through the Ghostly store, found online. It is full of works of art, music, free compilations, and even a few collaborations. Ghostly has teamed up with companies such as RPMG, Study NY, and the most recent, featuring a collab with online boutique eyewear dealer, Warby Parker. Ghostly collaborations are about helping the community grow. It is a way to create products that the people will want to listen to, look at and wear. The Ghostly store sells products that they believe in. From speakers, headphones, backpacks, notebooks to sunglasses and T–shirts—you can’t go wrong.

Rather than forcing themselves upon new fans, Ghostly waits for the listeners and the admirers to come to them. Earlier this year, Ghostly teamed up with Odin to open up the first Ghostly pop-up shop. “You have the fans that already knew about it from being a part of the community, and then the people who would walk by and became intrigued by the presentation,” said Owens of the pop-up shop. Through the pop-up shop, they were able to bring all the elements of Ghostly together, allowing passersby to experience Ghostly in a way that worked for them. Giving the power to the people and ultimately creating new fans out of them, whether it was the music, the art, the products, or all three.

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, two of Ghostly’s artists, Shigeto and Beacon, will play at Kilby Court. Catching a show where there are multiple Ghostly acts is a treat. This show in particular will also feature Nightmoves. Although he isn’t on the Ghostly label, he plays drums with Tycho’s live band and sometimes Com Truise, both a part of the label, which makes Nightmoves one of the family.

With technology changing at such a rapid pace, the artists of Ghostly International need to keep up. “Back then [in the ’90s], no one was paying attention in the same way that they might be now. The way that art and culture move, it’s just a constant wheel of change,” says Owens, about the future of Ghostly. “For us, it’s about being able to foster each project while keeping an eye on how the industry is shifting.” Allowing themselves as a community, their musicians and their artists to be creative in how each project is presented is what drives Ghostly.

Ghostly will never just be a music label. Ghostly will be a way of life, a home to those particular creatives who happen to be on the same path right now. By working together and influencing each other, the ethos of Ghostly will continue to grow and will be a welcoming light in the dim realms of the music industry. I can only hope that other labels start taking some notes.

Find out more about Ghostly International here, and don't miss the show at Kilby this week.

Shigeto. Photo: Anthony Ciannamea Tycho. Photo: Tim Navis