'We wanted to push it as hard as we could': How The K's cracked the Top 3 with LAB Records and ADA

'We wanted to push it as hard as we could': How The K's cracked the Top 3 with LAB Records and ADA

The K’s crashed into the albums chart at No.3 with I Wonder If The World Knows? – a hugely impressive result for a debut album released by indie label LAB Records

The indie rock band finished ahead of acts including Vampire Weekend, J Cole, The Black Keys, Feeder and Conan Gray.

The K’s were actually at No.2 behind The Libertines for much of the week, but Beyonce’s streaming for Cowboy Carter proved just too strong. The group from Earlestown, Merseyside still managed a strong result in third place with 12,546 sales (10,778 physical copies, 925 downloads and 843 sales-equivalent streams), according to the Official Charts Company.

As well as in-store gigs, The K’s played the album to fans in release week at a hometown show in Warrington at Parr Hall. Their UK tour this month includes Manchester’s O2 Victoria Warehouse and London’s Electric Ballroom. 

The band have also confirmed slots at festivals this summer including the main stage at Reading & Leeds, Isle of Wight Festival, Camp Bestival, Truck Festival and Kendal Calling, as well as appearances across festivals in Europe.

LAB Records was founded in Manchester in 2007. The label renewed its partnership with ADA, Warner Music’s independent label distribution and services division, in October 2023. LAB recently signed Oldham-based indie artist Seb Lowe, while the roster also includes Nell Mescal, Beka, Antony Szmierek, and more. 

Here, label co-founder Mark Orr opens up about The K’s Top 3 campaign, including operating under the industry radar, the partnership with ADA, and why a new focus on physical sales is paying off…

Was it an exciting chart week for the label and The K’s?

“Everyone's a bit dazed and confused, it's been completely relentless. This debut record has been a long time coming, so we wanted to push it as hard as we could. We know this fanbase shows up every single time they're asked to show up, so we were quietly confident. It was the debut record, so when it came to things like projections – speaking with ADA and by association Warner – it was very difficult to project. But it’s been fantastic, huge credit to the lads and the team. Every single day, they were either at an in-store, playing a show or they've been at the pop-up [shop] in St Helens. I think that's super-meaningful to the fanbase, people feel like they have a relationship with this band.”

Have they taken the music industry by surprise with this result?

“This is one of the better kept secrets, certainly on a recorded music [level]. They are at the stage now where they are playing Victoria Warehouse in Manchester, which is 3,500 capacity. The Electric Ballroom in London is smaller, but not to be sniffed at. So they have flown under the radar to a degree. The band are from Warrington, we're from Manchester. We liked the idea that the industry would see the Midweek [chart] and raise an eyebrow. I've definitely had a lot of very supportive messages, particularly from indies.”

Do The K’s have a strong regional appeal around the UK?

“Yeah, we always want that for our whole roster, we don't want to just exist in a bubble. We're always conscious of how the London shows are selling. But the band are from Earlestown, which is a small town near Warrington, they're proud of it and clearly they connect regionally. The first time I saw them after we did the deal was at Tramlines in Sheffield, and the show was unreal. So they had built it themselves, and at that stage I started to think that there was a very high ceiling to this. I would expect the Reading set to be very busy, the billing is great there. I know the band’s agents will have aspirations to keep growing it all over the country and beyond.”

LAB renewed its label services deal with ADA last autumn. How has that partnership delivered for you?

“We've been with ADA now for seven years. We were lucky enough last year that we were able to take some meetings [with other distribution partners]. Because we have a catalogue now, that was of interest to some people. We agreed to take the meetings, and ADA knew this at the time, but we just felt that internationally ADA are very strong. We felt that – and this is probably a great example – when the time is right to put the foot to the floor, you need that support internationally. You need that support at physical retail to achieve what you want to achieve, and the ability to scale with ADA was really important to us. It just allows us to offer the deals that I would hope are very artist-friendly, where the artist doesn't have to compromise. And the artist doesn't have to feel like they're not getting the attention of a major or a big indie.”

We know this fanbase shows up every single time they're asked to show up, so we were quietly confident

Mark Orr

Did the range of variants help to boost the physical sales performance for The K’s debut?

“We’ve done a good amount of formats, probably more than we would do again! To their credit, the band came up with ideas later on in the campaign, and we wanted to facilitate that, that's our job. We've had a relatively long pre-order. The band toured with The Reytons at the end of 2023 and we were quite keen to get the pre-order live. So that's been an important part of it, keeping the campaign fresh while still having that long pre-order. And, as I say, getting out and shaking hands in the past couple of weeks has been crucial too. 

“The live prowess speaks for itself. We're really grateful to their live agent, Charly Beedell-Tuck at Solo, and the promoters, that they allowed us to do these special shows that were really meaningful for the fans, as well as the in-stores at Rough Trade and Jacaranda, and those kinds of opportunities. Parr Hall in Warrington was a very special hometown show, effectively, it was the first time they had played most of those songs on the record. It was just a special moment for the boys and for the fanbase.”

It’s LAB Records’ biggest chart result. How can you build from here as a label?

“It’s certainly our best chart result. I think we’ve been known as a streaming-focused label, a digital-first label. One of the conversations we had with Howard Corner when we renewed with ADA, was to go and prove we can do this. We have artists that have these direct-to-fan relationships and a DIY philosophy. That's been our most basic factor on this campaign, making sure we get the most out of it. People in a similar lane [musically] have reached out already, so I guess that's our proof of concept to a degree.

“It can't be denied the difference that the physical campaign made to the bottom line. Physical was maybe 10% of our overall revenue last year, and that was something we wanted to address. With the help of this [release], I hope it will be close to 25% this year. So that is meaningful, and in a time where we want to reinvest and sign new things, that makes a difference.”

Are you sensing an indie rock revival, and can you now be a magnet for some of those acts?

“I think there is definitely a scene. We are from Manchester and we're proud of that. We love our roster to be eclectic. We love to do different things and not just in the indie lane necessarily, but it does feel like this [indie rock] world is selling tickets. There have been successful campaigns from The Lottery Winners, The Reytons and other things of this ilk. The common denominator there is Northern guitar music, and so it definitely feels like those acts are propping each other up. Like I say, these fanbases show up time after time and [The K’s] is just the latest example of that. When I keep reading about how important direct-to-fan is going to become, and how important superfans are, well, these acts are the poster folks for that.”


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