Outlast Records is on a mission to give artists a real shot at success
Welcome to Generation AP, a weekly spotlight on emerging actors, writers and creatives who are on the verge of taking over.
For the last 20-plus years, the record industry has undergone a series of radical changes, due in large part to the rise of a digital-dominated society. Out of the few record labels that have stood the test of time, it comes down to adaptability, innovation and cultivating emerging talent from the ground floor. Outlast Records is hands down one of the most exciting new labels shaking up the industry in fresh and meaningful ways. Founded by UTA booking agent Daniel McCartney, Outlast Records has been at the forefront of breaking new talent in the alternative, hip-hop and rock communities, with an eclectic roster. That includes GARZI, JordyPurp, Magic Whatever and Chez, who are all genreless in their own right but still retain a palpable sense of rock 'n' roll spirit. As the label continues to establish itself, Outlast Records is forging a distinct label sound in the same way that Sub Pop accomplished in the ‘90s and Rise Records did in the 2010s.
McCartney, who spent the early days of his career touring the world as the guitarist of metalcore group Gideon, knows all too well the whirlwind journey that artists face when pursuing their dreams, and he couldn’t be a more perfect fit as a label boss, mentor and sounding board for his young roster. Outlast Records is a family affair and the result of hard work, mentorship and providing opportunities for creatives who need it the most, including placements on the hottest streaming playlists across all DSPs or tours alongside major acts in the alternative music world. Additionally, Outlast Records is an imprint of Sumerian Records, the label responsible for kick-starting the careers of Asking Alexandria, Palaye Royale and Bad Omens, among others.
"I was a young booking agent repping bands part of a new wave when I started Sumerian Records," owner and founder Ash Avildsen shares. "Getting my artists on tours and having a finger on the pulse of what was happening at shows around the country was crucial to the launch and growth of the label. I see the same visionary qualities in Daniel [McCartney], and that’s why I am proud to partner with him, announcing Outlast Records as part of Sumerian Music Group.”
McCartney wants the next generation of artists to know one thing: “If you sign to Outlast, you got a real shot.”
You’re entering the record label industry from a really beneficial place. You’ve not only grinded it out on the road as an artist, but you're also behind booking massive tours as an agent across the country. How do you apply these valuable skills you’ve gained in building the foundation for Outlast Records?
As an agent, I am able to represent some really cool artists like grandson, MOD SUN, Mothica and Palaye Royale. A lot of my business as an agent has been cruising at a really good spot, and I’ve been developing a lot of these artists from the ground floor and getting in early. From a label perspective, I’ll find an artist that I want to sign as an agent but doesn’t have any label backing yet, or they’re too young to get a deal somewhere. For me, it’s a win-win, and now I can basically say, “I believe in you enough to be your agent and invest money into you." It’s really working now, and it’s a one-two punch where I can release music from the artists that I’m passionate about and simultaneously get them on tours, which is obviously a coveted thing to do. Because I was in a band, Outlast is my creative outlet, especially now that I’m a suit on the other side of the desk. [Laughs.]
Have there been any exciting milestones that artists on the label have achieved recently?
JordyPurp is touring with Point North, which is super awesome, and he really seems to be getting some legs. I just had Magic Whatever tour with the Score, and he went down to Mexico with them where they ended up doing a sold-out club tour. For Chez and Magic Whatever, it’s been super ground floor, and we literally created their Spotify [pages when we signed them]. GARZI just got off the Sleeping With Sirens tour and also did the Monster Energy Outbreak tour with Zero 9:36 earlier this year.
[Photo by Niles Gregory]
The record industry has changed so much over the last 20 years. In 2022, how does Outlast continue to push itself to be as innovative and forward-thinking as possible?
Digital dominates now, but a lot of it is just that we are living in an age that changes every single day. It used to be the model that the A&R would go to shows, buy an album, listen to it or get a press kit in the mail and that stuff still happens, but something like TikTok is changing artists' lives overnight. Understanding streaming, algorithms, relationships with Spotify and Apple Music and obviously the ratio of touring is huge too now.
[L-R,Owner: Daniel McCartney, Label Manager: Samantha Lauren /Photo by Niles Gregory]
Outlast Records’ roster is so eclectic and genre-fluid, yet all of the artists still retain a unified rock 'n' roll spirit that makes everything feel cohesive. Do you envision cultivating a specific sound for the label?
I think about it all the time. In the group chat with the artists, I actually named it “Outlast Culture.” All four of the artists on the label sound completely different, but they really carry a punk-rock angst. That’s why a lot of these brilliant artists today are doing so well, with No. 1 rock albums again with people like MGK and YUNGBLUD. My lane is that resisting spirit, but the songs are still massive. It’s essentially the alternative world meshing with pop world. I would love it if one day people could hear a song [from our artists] and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s an Outlast band.”
What do you look for in new and emerging artists, and what are those boxes that need to be checked off?
I’m extremely meticulous about who we sign to the label. Talent is first and foremost, and we look for people who are either great musicians, lyricists or whatever it is. However, one thing I have noticed that is so important to me is moldability. When I say that, I don’t mean telling the artists what to do, but them being able to accept mentorship. We also just launched an imprint called Bloodhoney Records, which is a label with Zach Jones, who is one of my favorite rock producers out there now. We signed this artist HVDES, who is fucking awesome, and that label is a little more industrial or darker. Honestly, I could see myself signing more artists that live in a gothic-type lane. For Outlast, I’m looking for artists that want to work hard and fit the brand of the label.
What do you envision for the future of Outlast Records?
One thing I want to mention is that Outlast is under Sumerian Records. Ash Avildsen [CEO of Sumerian Records] is my business partner with the label. He’s been extremely helpful and is there to mentor me and the artists. I really want to build the label with the capabilities of being able to break songs at alternative radio and in the streaming realms while having the feel and the environment of family and that organic indie-label vibe. Our slogan is “brick by brick” — we’re not signing artists who are already established. We sign artists who are developmental, up-and-coming and young. Because we get involved with the artists so early, we develop this culture with them, and everyone is friends. All of our deals are artist-friendly, and when these artists pop off, they are going to get paid for it. I’m just having a blast, honestly.
[Photo by Niles Gregory]