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Aussie artists
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Howzat! Archive - February 24th 2010

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Two things you'd be reluctant to do in the music business in the past decade: One, start a record label. Two, open a CD shop. But Mickster from Off The Hip has made a success of both ventures, with his Off The Hip label celebrating its eighth birthday this month, and his shop - at 381 Flinders Lane in the city - going well. And Mickster tells Howzat! he's looking forward to the label's 10th birthday - and beyond. "We're in a very good position at the moment," he says. The label is celebrating its birthday with its first vinyl release - a seven-inch single from the label's biggest international seller, Johnny Casino. Off The Hip started in 1992 with the release of the first Stoneage Hearts' album, Turn On. Their biggest local seller has been The Dolly Rocker Movement's 2006 debut, Electric Sunshine, while they have also released albums from Little Murders, Dom Mariani, The Breadmakers, The Bo-Weevils and The Cheats - Howzat!'s favourite party album of 2009. (The Cheats are playing this Saturday at Cherry).

How tough has it been running a label for the past eight years?
"It was much tougher in the beginning when shops would only take stock on consignment, and then they might not even pay once sold. Now we have more than 90 releases, mostly albums, so we have a solid catalogue, and only deal on regular invoiced terms, so it's a lot easier these days. And now it's a full time job, so I get to devote more than 40 hours each week to the label and shop."

What are the origins of the name Off The Hip?
"It's a rally cry, like 'Make Love Not War'. Major labels keep your hands off the hip artists!"

Was there a model or label that was the inspiration for Off The Hip?
"In the beginning we just wanted to release a few records by bands we loved. Over time, I've come to look closely at what makes a good label tick, like Norton, Bomp! and In The Red."

Which three local releases are you most proud of?
"Dolly Rocker Movement, Johnny Casino, and the debut Frowning Clouds album."

Is there much difference between your sales online and in the shop?
"About the same, actually. I couldn't survive on shop sales only."

Why is it important to still have a shop in this online world?
"It's convenient for me 'cause I have to warehouse more than 90 label titles, and our mail-order has grown to more than 7000 items (mostly vinyl), so I have to house it all somewhere. Off The Hip is far too big to run from home, as I did in the beginning, so I need an office of some sort, so I just combine it all into one space in Melbourne's CBD. Wanna drop in and have a beer while buying records? Sure thing, drop in any time!"

Has the label's "DIY ethos" changed much over the eight years?
"Not at all. We still do all our own distribution, packing, invoicing, mailing, dealing with bands, radio, press "

What are your plans for the label's 100th release?
"We've got Jon Auer of The Posies producing the Sole Stickers' debut album. Very exciting."

Lots of Aussie acts are heading to this year's South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Loene Carmen - who was in town last Sunday to launch her new album, It Walks Like Love - went to last year's SXSW. So what was the experience like? "Illuminating, exhausting, fun," Loene says. "But it definitely opened my eyes to the fact that, even in the independent scene, a band isn't going to get very far these days without 'hype' and 'heat', and it takes a hell of a lot of money and dedicated effort to manufacture that. I didn't realise quite how naive I was to all the business stuff actually, having always been a DIY kind of girl."

Local folk pop combo The Tealeaves have delivered a delightful debut. Their self-titled set is warm, witty and wonderful. It's already drawn comparisons to Cat Stevens and Simon & Garfunkel, and they would also find a happy home alongside The Waifs and The Little Stevies. The Tealeaves launch the album at the East Brunswick Club on Friday.

The new Gabriella Cilmi singles lands at number 19.

Sweet Disposition THE TEMPER TRAP (number 15)
On A Mission GABRIELLA CILMI (19, debut)
Black Box STAN WALKER (20)
Art Of Love GUY SEBASTIAN (22)
One Way Road JOHN BUTLER TRIO (28)
In The Air TV ROCK FEATURING RUDY (37, debut)
According To You ORIANTHI (38)

The Birds of Tokyo' orchestral live album arrives at number 11.

Wrapped Up Good THE McCLYMONTS (number 10)
The Broken Strings Tour BIRDS OF TOKYO (11, debut)
Conditions THE TEMPER TRAP (14)
Black Ice AC/DC (23)
Hazardous VANESSA AMOROSI (26)
As Day Follows Night SARAH BLASKO (27)
Golden Rule POWDERFINGER (31)
Bran Nue Dae SOUNDTRACK (34)
Walking On A Dream EMPIRE OF THE SUN (37)
Introducing STAN WALKER (38)

Barefoot & Beautiful THE TEALEAVES
Will You Shine? PERRY KEYES
Sometimes I Just Don't Know SOLE STICKERS

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