In a time where the music industry, as well as much of the world, is driven by larger owned entities and a chaotic abundance of accessible music and content, it’s difficult for smaller run labels to exist — much less to standout amongst others. Yet, somehow, a few manage to make an impact. New York-based Triple Crown Records is one of those labels.
Kick-started by Fred Feldman in 1997, Triple Crown came to fruition from the closure of another label. “I had previously been working for Profile Records for years, and Profile was in the process of being sold to Arista Records,” Feldman remembers.
“At Profile, while I was running Profile, they let me start this indie-rock label division of it within it, called Another Planet Records. We signed a lot of New York hardcore and ska stuff. Basically, they were being sold, I was about to be out of a job, so I decided that I kinda thought I knew what I was doing — and I’d been making money for someone else for a long time — so let’s give it a shot,” explains Feldman.
“So I’d been at the point where I was trying to sign 25 ta Life to Another Planet, so I went to those bands and said, ‘Hey, I was thinking of starting my own thing, would you guys be interested? Because this thing is going to be going away. Would you be interested in coming along for the ride?’ And they said yes. And that’s where it all started.”
From pressing vinyl, to cassettes, to CDs, to online services — and now vinyl’s reemergence — Triple Crown set their sights forward and have managed to ride the ever-changing tides of the industry to continue signing bands and getting their music out there. The ability to remain profitable, and also true to his vision for the label, is hard work, but Fred believes his success boils down to one thing above all else: passion.
“You have to have passion to stay with this. You have to get over the fact that people have so much music out there now, because it’s so easy to put music out these days. Anybody can do it; anybody can say they’re a label. So you have to build your story and be relentless and passionate about it. That’s the most important thing,” says Feldman.
“We’re always listening to music we thinking fits what the Triple Crown aesthetic is,” says Feldman, later continuing, “It’s also talking to the bands, seeing if they have the drive realize it’s not an instant thing. We want a reciprocal relationship.”
But one thing in particular stands out when Triple Crown is considering a band. “We’re looking for bands who can pull it off live; who can make a connection with the audience,” says Fred.
One of these stand-outs is Foxing — a five-piece indie rock outfit from Missouri. “We had put a single, and then a new record, under Count Your Lucky Stars,” explains Conor Murphy, Foxing’s lead vocalist. “Then we started getting — I don’t know how to describe it –courted by other labels, which was very intimidating and scary, because we did not expect that at all.”
But Fred stuck out to the band: being slightly older and intimately more knowledgeable about the industry than most of the other labels chasing after them.
“We were really intimidated by him,” Murphy remembers, laughing. “But the more we talked to him, the more we realized that his passion for music was so far beyond just money. He’s a really down to earth person. He understands, when he signs bands like us, he isn’t really making money. He might just break even on records.”
Despite this, Triple Crown has continued to truck on, now preparing to celebrate their twentieth anniversary with a charitable concert, showcasing some of their current roster, like Sorority Noise, Foxing, a new sign-on, Shortly, and others.
“I just think this is a good representation of where the label’s at right now,” says Feldman, on how the performances and bands came together.
For Murphy, after Feldman asked Foxing to perform at the show, the decision was simple. “It was really, really easy to decide,” explains Murphy, continuing, “The guy has done so much for us — and this is a charity event, not like Triple Crown profits from it — it was just like, no question for us.”
And as for the future? “I don’t know!” Feldman laughs. “We have a few records coming out next year; Foxing’s record is going to be really special. Shortly’s working on something, just amazing.”
The bond, and excitement for the future, is mutual between the label and its artists.
“With the industry, as far as we’ve come to understand it, there are really some evil people that exist in it. And some really selfish, mean spirited people who are looking to profit off of music and take advantage of innocents and naivety,” Murphy says. “And we were still really naïve when we signed to Triple Crown. Three or four years later, having encountered every type of person there is in the music industry, there is no person that I would rather have spent this time with than Fred.”
As for Feldman, his growing roster speaks volumes. “It’s great, after all this time, that I can still hear a record and get excited,” he divulges. “That’s why I still do this.”