Proper Records has entered into a label management deal with the world’s oldest independent record label, Topic Records, building on their longstanding relationship. The UK-based folk label has released artists from across the globe during its 78 year history, including Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
The partnership will ensure that Topic Records retains its independent status, while allowing longstanding members to pass on the baton as Proper Records takes on management of the day-to-day running of the label. Topic Records’ Business Manager and co-owner, David Suff, continues to consult in an advisory capacity, while Tony Engle, who joined Topic in the ‘70s, remains a majority shareholder. Harriet Simms (Glass Ceiling PR), one of the longest serving members of the team, continues as Head of Press.
They will be joined by Michael Mastrangelo, recently hired by Proper as Catalogue Manager, who will bring his expertise to further drive the success of Topic’s releases. Mastrangelo’s background includes stints at Beanos Records, one of Europe’s largest second hand record stores, Vibrant, Sanctuary and Trojan. During his career, he has worked on releases by The Sex Pistols, The Fall, and Fleetwood Mac, to name just a few.
Proper and Topic have worked closely together since 2000, when Topic’s trading division, Direct Distribution, merged with Proper. It was renamed Proper Music Distribution and transformed Proper from a wholesale operation into a full-service distribution company. Tony Engle, former owner of Direct Distribution, joined PMD’s board of directors until his retirement in 2012.
Launched by the Workers’ Music Association in 1939, the original ethos of Topic Records was that music should be used as a tool of revolution. Over the years the label has worked with American folk icon Pete Seeger, singer and activist Paul Robeson and legendary troubadour Woody Guthrie, as well as significant others including The Spinners, Martin Carthy MBE, Nic Jones, Eliza Carthy and June Tabor. Its catalogue grew to include collections from Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey and the Andaman Sea, helping to sow the seeds for the independent roots and world movement that took off in the eighties. The label has also helped shape our understanding of traditional folk music of the British Isles, with collections including the on-going CD series, ‘The Voice of the People’.
The partnership was formally announced last night at a special event at the Barbican Library. ‘An Audience with Eliza Carthy’ saw the folk legend play a rare acoustic showcase and discuss her twenty-year career with famed journalist Colin Irwin and Topic’s David Suff, who discussed the new phase in Topic’s history.
Other events will celebrate Topic’s rich history, whilst also kicking off the next chapter of the label’s journey under Proper’s wing. There will be another ‘An Audience With..’ evening on 30 January, with folk luminaries Martin Carthy and Martin Simpson, and an exhibition, ‘Topic Records & The Art of Folk Music’, is running until 8 February.
Tony Engle stated: “It has always been my intention to protect the future of Topic Records, the world’s oldest independent label, and this new partnership with Proper Music Group ensures this aim. I am delighted that we are working together and look forward to the new energies that will be brought to the label.”
Drew Hill, Managing Director at Proper, concluded: “It is a very exciting time for Proper Music Group. Not only do we now have the opportunity to work with the oldest independent label in the world, but we have been able to add the talented Michael Mastrangelo to our team as catalogue manager. The further strengthening of our relationship with Topic and of our own team makes the future look very bright.”