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I gave a seminar presentation this week about the ways in which local identity can be leveraged to promote music on the world stage. The following day, I received an email from someone who was already doing that.

This is a sponsored post.

Digital NorthernerFat Northerner is a record label based in Manchester. Their artists are Manchester artists. The music is the music of Manchester. Their audience, however, is largely elsewhere.

Having released a series of digital-only compilations, to their surprise Fat Northerner have found a degree of success that was both entirely international, yet clearly tied to their notions of localism. Which is something they did not expect.

Of course, Manchester has an international music reputation. Whether you’re into The Fall (best rock band in the world ever – period) or you have happy, baggy memories of the Madchester scene, there’s history there — and Fat Northerner are well placed to capitalise on that.

But beyond the ‘look at us, we’re from Manchester’ that the label can rightly claim, what they have going for them is a remarkably coherent and far more introspective sound than the Manchester ‘movements’ that have come before.

Fat Northerner, as exemplified by the Digital Northerner series of compilations, is a label promoting intelligent acoustic music, a sprinkling of progressive electronica, well-crafted songwriting for grown-ups — and a bunch of other stuff besides.

Which is cool.

What impresses me most about Fat Northerner, however, is the way in which they leverage the regional creative hub to generate local economic growth in the cultural industries. That is, Fat Northerner seem to realise as a company that the way in which to help create a vibrant local economy is through clustering: working in a symbiotic way with related businesses and organisations for the mutual benefit of all.

For instance, their SuperCity project was a collaboration between Fat Northerner, Urbis (a contemporary art space in Manchester), internationally renowned architect, Will Alsop and local musicians. Local musicians were commissioned to create new music to accompany Alsop’s SuperCity exhibition at Urbis – a futuristic vision of the North of England as one giant interconnected city. The (successful) album release was accompanied with a 22 date national tour.

Of course, Arts Council grants come in handy when promoting ambitious regional creative projects, but Fat Northerner seem to have turned a combination of online savvy (check out their website), an internationally-facing contemporary attitude and a regional pride into an independent music business success story.

And I like those kinds of stories.

But most of all, Fat Northerner seems to be a record label with ambition, a smart approach to the web, a clear vision of who they are and what they represent, a roster of good and interesting artists and the kind of optimism that comes from understanding the environment within which they are now operating, and starting to adapt to that changing ecology.

Hit the North.
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This is a sponsored post. I was approached by Fat Northerner to write about them in exchange for a small amount of cash. However, everything you read is editorial, rather than advertorial. In other words, it’s actually what I think.

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