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"I care about week 100 more than I do week one at retail."
——Jack Ponti, Bardic Records

BARDIC BUSTS OUT
WITH FIRST RELEASES

Label Started by Industry Vets Jack Ponti and Akbar Shamji Release First Albums by Ben Arthur, Jennifer Marks, Sleep Station Next

Jack Ponti has already had a successful career as a musician/producer/songwriter for Bon Jovi, Nelson and Alice Cooper and manager of India.Arie. His London partner Akbar Shamji scored a distribution deal for his Soulife label on Atlantic, producing a big hit in Sunshine Anderson.

So why, at a time when the music business is in such turmoil, would they want to start a new label?

"We wanted to find a model that worked both economically and creatively," explains Ponti of Bardic Records, which officially releases its first album this week (3/23) with intriguing Virginia singer-songwriter Ben Arthur’s Edible Darling, followed by Jennifer Marks’ self-titled debut May 4. "A label that wasn’t predicated on instant results, but long-term objectives. I care about week 100 more than I do week one at retail."

Bardic Records spent five months setting up their first two releases, sending out 150k CD samplers; launching a website with viral players that have been downloaded a million times; and sending their own Ben & Jen show on an extensive promotional tour.

The RED-distribbed label ran a TV ad campaign on MTV, MTV2, VH1, Fuse, Oxygen and even the History Channel. They also landed Arthur a performance on ESPN2’s morning show Cold Pizza and made a deal with Mattel to place Marks' first single, "Live," on a DVD packaged with their My Scene Barbie doll.

"We market our records like the police compile a sketch to find a serial killer," says Ponti. "We ask, ‘Who would like this?’ And then try to find out where they are and how to reach them."

Arthur’s first single, "Mary Ann," has already gone to Triple-A, though the label is considering sending multiple singles to different formats.

Says Ponti. "A demographic has to be exposed to an artist before you can tell whether it’s attracted to your act."

The label is also boasting innovative artist deals that involve equity participation and favored nation clauses in the contracts.

"If you’re trying to launch a commodity that will give you many years of value for your investment," says Shamji, "you want to build a relationship with a partner who’ll be with you for the long haul, rather than just a quick killing. We want to work with artists who have a good strategic view of their career and understand what we’re trying to do."

The label has dispensed with large advances and recording budgets in favor of marketing and promotion. The Arthur and Marks albums were produced by in-house A&R exec Mike Shipley, who has worked with Shania Twain, Def Leppard and Aerosmith. To see the Ben Arthur video, click here. For the Jennifer Marks video, click here.

Next up is a joint venture with N.Y.-based emo independent Eyeball Records—a label which has spawned hit acts Thursday and My Chemical Reaction— for the band Sleep Station, which comes out May 18. Ponti considers it a model for how Bardic can be an intermediate step between the indie and major labels. They’ve also inked rap artist Knowledge the Pirate and Euro group Werring.

"I look for great songwriting first," says Ponti. "At the end of the day, that’s what defines the length of an artist’s career."

Ponti and Shamji are banking on it for the longevity of their Bardic label.

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