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Football clubs have so many money-spinning ideas nowadays it is hard to come up with something original. So credit to Wolves, who have a new project that is unique, if just a little unusual: they’re launching a record label.
It may not seem an ideal time to be the first Premier League club to embark on such a venture. Live music revenues have been hit hard by the pandemic, and the major labels dominate the increasingly lucrative world of streaming. But into this marketplace comes Wolves Records, hoping to unearth global pop stars who just happen to look good in black and gold.
The label was launched this week with support from some of the club’s record industry-adjacent fans, and backed by the distribution arm of the major label Warner Music. The club insists it is not an attempt at supporter engagement or community outreach, but a genuine business.
To assist that process, the club have hired a series of “A&R [artists and repertoire] and production consultants” to the label. Amongst them is S-X, a successful rapper and grime producer who appears alongside KSI on Celebrity Gogglebox and is the face of the launch campaign. He will be joined by a more seasoned recording industry professional, Peter Rudge, who managed the Who and the Rolling Stones and was introduced to the project by Wolves’ most famous fan, Robert Plant.
“Football and music are a universal language,” Rudge said. “Wherever in the world you visit you will likely see a Beckham or a Beatles T-shirt, and the footballers of today have so much in common with musicians in terms of influencing and setting the cultural tone of the time.”
There is one current problem: Wolves Records has not signed a single artist. Club insiders admit that finding the talent to make the label a success is the biggest challenge. “The key thing we’re looking for now is submissions,” one source said. “Our guys need to be inundated.”
Wolves Records hopes to sign artists from the area, a factor in Rudge and S-X signing up. According to the label’s joint boss, however, ambitions are more global. “This is not just about supporting local artists,” said Ricky Hill, “but a genuine and authentic move by a football club with a vast audience to penetrate the music industry and develop new and emerging talent across the world.”
Plans for the label will mean just as much effort being put into finding an artist who can be a success in China, the home of club owners Fosun, or in Raúl Jiménez’s Mexico, as in the UK. It will mean licensing music to TV shows, adverts and video games. It also means that Wolves Records will hope to tie in its music to other new Wolves products, such as their eSports team.
Wolves’ latest initiative is just one of many attempts by Premier League clubs to grow their revenues in an attempt to remain competitive. A record label may seem a little antiquated but it will at least be more comprehensible to the average fan than the current craze for cryptocurrency. And if Rúben Neves ever decides to become a country and western singer, he knows where to go.