June 23, 2008 / 3:33 AM / 10 years ago

Feist's hit album a big boost for Canadian label

TORONTO (Billboard) - Canadian independent label Arts & Crafts may be enjoying the biggest hit of its six-year existence, but label co-founder/president Jeffrey Remedios says he’ll never change his “quality over quantity” business mantra.

Singer Feist accepts the Juno Award for Album of the Year at the Juno Awards, the Canadian Music Awards, in Calgary, April 6, 2008. REUTERS/Patrick Price

The Toronto-based label has seen Feist’s “The Reminder” become a runaway hit, selling more than 200,000 copies in Canada since its May 2007 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“It has allowed us to build out our infrastructure,” Remedios says. “We now have all the tools at our disposal that any much larger label has. We can do things that were previously outside our scope.”

Remedios points to increases in the label’s publicity, marketing and retail abilities in recent months as a demonstration of Arts & Crafts’ rise in stature.

The album has proved a worldwide hit, selling more than 600,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, although A&C has the rights only for Canada. The label anticipates that “The Reminder” will continue to sell, with a Canadian arena tour for Feist slated for the fall.

Such dizzying heights seemed a long way away when Remedios founded the label with Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew in 2002 to put out BSS’ debut, “Feel Good Lost.” The subsequent success of the band’s second album, “You Forgot It in People,” raised the label’s profile, and with Leslie Feist singing on several BSS songs, Remedios got a preview of the tracks that would later appear on her solo breakthrough, “Let It Die.”

Although major labels were pursuing her in Europe and the U.S., Feist signed to A&C in Canada because of the homegrown nature of the label, Remedios says.

“When people heard ‘Let It Die,’ bidding wars ensued,” he says. “But before any of that happened, Leslie was deep in with our camp. She wanted to work with us and was intensely loyal.”

“Let It Die,” released in 2003, eventually went platinum in Canada. According to Nielsen SoundScan, it sold more than 115,000 copies, and it also shifted 190,000 in the United States on Interscope imprint Cherrytree Records.

But it’s “The Reminder,” with its Apple ad-placement deals, Grammy Award nods and five Juno Award wins, that has helped Arts & Crafts build its team. The label, which has released 33 titles, now has 14 full-time employees, double the staff from two years ago.

Its A&R (artists and repertoire) policy also seems to have changed, given its recent signings of established bands like former Sub Pop act the Constantines and Montreal’s the Stills, previously signed to Vice Records.

Remedios won’t say whether he expects either to emulate Feist’s sales. Tim Baker, head buyer at Canadian retail chain Sunrise Records, believes it won’t be easy.

“Feist has opened herself up to a wider audience,” he says. “But I wonder if those fans are going to be willing to test out other acts on the label.”

Meanwhile, Remedios maintains that such signings are entirely in line with the label’s founding principles.

He says, “Our goals remain the same: to look for amazing musicians (and) continue to bring out their music in the most honest way we can.”


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