Next BIG Nashville Spotlight: The Orchard

Richard Gottehrer

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Richard Gottehrer has no shortage of street cred in the music business. Back in the ‘60s, he was part of the crack songwriting team that penned the smash hits “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy.” His credentials in the studio are equally impressive: he produced two seminal albums by New Wave progenitors Blondie, and even helmed the latest Dum Dum Girls release.

In the late ‘90s, Gottehrer decided to throw his hat in the arena of music distribution, when he and Scott Cohen co-founded The Orchard, a cutting edge distributor that today boasts operations in 25 world markets. The Orchard’s mission jibes with Gottehrer’s philosophy as a songwriter and producer.

“Everybody who works here is consciously aware of the significance and value of music and what it means within the business world, and what it means within the cultural world,” Gottehrer said.

Today, the company’s sales extend to more than 660 digital storefronts and mobile carriers in 75 countries. CEO Brad Navin said the company prides itself on the marketing and support services that surround the distribution of music for  clients. Those services include the administering of mechanical licensing fees to artists.

Last year, The Orchard joined forces with Mobile Roadie, becoming the first music distribution firm to offer an iPhone app creation tool that allowed clients to share all kinds of updates with their fans.

With a catalog that exceeds 5,000 labels and artists, the company’s approach to each client is handled on a case-by-case basis, said Navin, adding that no two businesses are alike in the independent sector. “Some people are very hands on and some people just want to hand over the reigns,” he said.

Though the Orchard has grown exponentially since its launch (reporting $62 million in revenue last year), Gottehrer said the company still harbors an independent mindset.

“We can do many of the things if not most of the things that used to fall exclusively in the domain of the bigger record labels,” he said.

The Orchard has also tapped into what one might consider non-traditional markets, with Navin noting that the company occupies 40 percent of the Turkish independent music market. “And people say, ‘Well, who cares?’ You know who cares? Turkish expats living in Germany who buy a lot of that music,” he said.

Though distribution of digital music is their calling card, the Orchard has also gone into physical distribution (CDs and vinyl), having acquired TVT Records through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction in 2008. And that’s not all. Earlier this year, Gottehrer – along with Seymour Stein, a vice president of Warner Bros. Records – unveiled plans to revive the Blue Horizon Records label. (The two also founded Sire Records in 1966.) The Orchard will handle all marketing and distribution through the label.

In June, Blue Horizon signed The Black Angels, a bluesy psychedelic drone band from Austin, Texas, as its first act on the revived label. Their new album, Phosphene Dream, marked the label’s maiden release in September. “It was an opportune time to do this and The Black Angels are the perfect band for Blue Horizon,” Goettehrer said.


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The Hold Steady At Exit/In, Nashville, 9/21/10