National Geographic Starts Record Label

National Geographic have built a reputation as one of the few old guard magazines truly dedicated to culturally relevant, incisive content without ever stooping to low-brow gossip or ad-hungry pandering.

National Geographic have built a reputation as one of the few old guard magazines truly dedicated to culturally relevant, incisive content without ever stooping to low-brow gossip or ad-hungry pandering. Even their recent Web expansions such as Nat Geo Music – a site dedicated to webcasting music and profiling artists the world over – never felt like a cross-promotional gimmick.

So with Nat Geo Music now taking the plunge to become a fully functional record label and distributor, here’s hoping some of the organization’s elder status can shed a hopeful light on the industry.

Rather than starting a new line of masseuse-friendly, rain forest sound collages or rediscovering monastery monk chants, Nat Geo Music plans on seeking out, according to former former ESL Music manager and new head of Nat Geo, Matt Whittington, “anything from Malysian DJs to Brazilian hip-hop artists to African funk and soul bands.”

If their music channel is any indicator, the label will seek out artists such as Spanish electro-tropicalia artist El Guincho or Nigerian R&B crossover Asa. With record sales down more than 50 percent since 2000, though, some may worry that Nat Geo’s emergence is a tad too belated.

“There’s a lot of doom and gloom about the business as a whole, but that’s the business as a whole,” said Whitington, “We don’t have $2 million-worth of product sitting at Best Buy that we’re really worried about returned [by the stores] right now.” Besides, National Geographic is no mere upstart, with multiple mediums already at its disposal to promote its artists. As far as distribution, INgrooves and UMG subsidiary Fontana will support digital and physical transport, while ADA Global handles units released in Europe, Japan and the Middle East, among others. “Every label and artist needs to find a business model that works for them,” added Whittington. “If you can find a business model that works for you, then who cares what the rest of the business is doing?”


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