Merrie Records' COO Zhao Yue On Founding an Independent Label in China

By Bryan Grogan, July 8, 2019

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With the release of their first album, 33EMYBW’s Dong 2, at the end of April, Merrie Records hit the ground running. Built by the same folks behind D Force Records and Douban Music, Merrie Records has already established a strong lineup of very different artists spread all throughout China, and are poised to release plenty of new music this year. We caught up with Merrie Records’ COO Zhao Yue to talk about what we can expect from the new label in 2019.

How did Merrie Records' come to be?
We are the original team who created and ran Douban Music for the last 10 years, and who also created D Force Records. Previously, we’ve always been a department of a bigger company, even though our operations and brands were quite independent and separate. In 2018, we went through some complicated corporate-level changes, and it made us decide that it was in our best interest to set up our own company. We are still representing D Force Records’ brand and catalogue and are taking part in the daily operations of Douban Music. Merrie Records, however, is completely owned by our new company. It is essentially the same team, but now we are completely independent.

What makes this label different from the music D Force has released in the past?
Merrie Records now selects artists with two criteria in mind: the music needs to be ‘new,’ and it needs to have real emotion or pathos. ‘New’ means that we especially favor and support newcomers, and those who are innovative in their songwriting. This has been our core aesthetic since the D Force days, and it will not change. 'Emotion and Pathos' means that we want the music and artists to form strong emotional connections with the audience. The music shouldn’t be empty, not even prettily empty. This also means that we strongly encourage artists to sing in Chinese. The importance of this was made plain to us during the past few years: It’s all very well and interesting to experiment and be conceptual, but when it comes to breaking away from the underground circle you need to be able to speak to the audience.

As we've seen with the first three releases, Merrie Records' does not seem to be strictly associated with any one type of music. Is the label aiming to introduce a diverse range of bands and musicians for listeners?
Yes. The main reason is that practically no one ever listens to one single genre of music. This is particularly true in China, because there hasn’t been a pop music history that’s decades long and the audience doesn’t have that foundation of knowledge. You’d have to be an avid fan and listen to music intensively for at least a couple of years to understand the genre distinctions and that’s simply not going to happen with the majority of audiences. People can even get intimidated if you stress tags like ‘synthesizer’ and ‘so-and-so wave.’ The more efficient way is to describe how this music makes listeners feel. A person might like rapper A and rock band B because they sound ‘dreamy.’ When people think of us, we want them to think of ‘new,’ ‘fresh’ and ‘emotionally charged.’

What does 2019 look in terms of new releases for Merrie Records?
Would you consider seven or eight a lot? It’s looking very exciting for us. In addition to Xiamen instrumental duo Daytrip Dormancy’s EP, Night Flow, and Shanghai power rock group Theory of Convergence’s full album, Default Beings, we have Wuhan indie electronica act Shii‘s Floating Signifiers. Later in the year we will also have Inner Mongolia prog rock band Hai Qing’s second album, Yunnan jazz hip hop artist Xu Zeming’s debut, Xi‘an indie pop duo West by West's debut and more. 

LISTEN: Merrie Records Go For Diversity On First 3 Releases

Check out Merrie Records' music here

[Cover image courtesy of interviewee]

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