When Nina Persson of the Cardigans signed with Bushwick-based indie label The End Records, she joined a handful of other established indie artists who had already eschewed big labels for The End, including the Dandy Warhols, the Lemonheads, Juliette Lewis and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes. Alt-rock trio Better Than Ezra, playing a show at Irving Plaza tonight, also signed with The End last month.
The label’s founder Andreas Katsambas, who is thin, with salt-and-pepper-hair and a calming presence, said he believes many of these artists come to him because the bigger labels in Midtown feel “impersonal with all those cubicles,” whereas The End “feels like a real place.”
But what seems to truly set his operation apart from other indie labels is that it functions as more than just a record label. More than half of The End’s headquarters, at 94 Bogart Street, operates as an actual warehouse space, from where it runs two additional operations. One is a massive music webstore, called , and the other is a screen printing business, called Endless Merch.
On a recent Wednesday, a handful of guys, most of them with tattoos, long, stringy hair, and wearing band T-shirts, unloaded vinyl albums and CDs from boxes or worked on screen printing merchandise on The End’s manual press. “This is our life. We are all here because we don’t want to sell insurance,” said warehouse manager Jonathan Bova as Busta Rhymes blasted in the background. The room, which holds 8,000 CDS and nearly 3,000 records, includes rows and rows of music with notes on it such as: “Bro-Dawgs, Dandy Warhols LPs with a sticker are black.”
The room also contains dozens of boxes of finished, screen printed T-shirts, including shirts for Macaulay Culkin’s band Pizza Underground and for Godflesh, an industrial metal band on its first tour in a decade.
Bova said the many different operations make the label a one-stop shop for artists. “You can come here and put your album out, and then we can get it full press, social media” on the office side, he said, “and then also do your merch and ship it” on the warehouse side.
The End also sells their artists on an online store, Omega, which Katsambas got going back in the ’90s by spamming other web stores with comments saying he was selling CDs, all for $10, including shipping. Soon, he says, distributors started calling him, and today, Omega sells and ships out thousands of CDs and albums from The End’s warehouse a week.
“As far as the web is concerned, we’ve got the hard rock and heavy metal niche on lock,” said Bova, who was preparing to go the next to the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, where he would both sell CDs in person and look for undiscovered artists.
Finding new artists is a focus of any indie label, and Katsambas has been doing it since he started The End as a tiny operation back in Los Angeles, when he would recruit opening bands he liked from shows at Whiskey or the Roxy. (Katsambas moved the label to Bushwick in 2006.)
Today, Katsambas often asks his employees to suggests new artists. On that particularly Wednesday, a graphics employee at The End had brought in a chamber rock artist he liked to meet Katsambas. A buyer at The End, Logan Butler, said he got his job based on his extensive record collection.
And the label’s ambitions seem to be getting bigger. It recently started hosting “Endustry” parties, invite-only get togethers for other Brooklyn indie labels and artists. In the fall, it also hosted secret concerts inside its warehouse, which can fit about 200, including a November show with local bands Total Slacker, Ski Lodge and Cool Serbia. Bova said that so many people came to the shows that they had to put them temporarily on hold.
But Katsambas insists the focus remains very much on its signed artists. Last week, at least a quarter of The End staff went to go see Nina Persson play a sold out show at Baby’s All Right, a venue in Williamsburg, where she mostly played songs off her new solo album. Katsambas got their early, in time to see the opening act.