STARTING a record label has always been fraught with risk. Starting the world’s first crowd-funded record label in the year 2016, with a commitment to give every new recording a physical release rather than relying on online streaming, came with even more danger attached.

Yet the not-for-profit Last Night From Glasgow Records recently celebrated its first birthday, rewarding the 170 people who invested in it last year.

The company has a straightforward business model – each member of the label pays a £50 fee, with the money being invested in helping release several albums, EP’s and singles a year. After announcing itself, Last Night From Glasgow saw backers sign up straight away, without even knowing what music would be on the way.

“I think that speaks volumes for the support of people,” says Murray Easton, one of the co-founders of the enterprise. “People invested in the label before they had even heard any music, and then the artists had to trust us too. It was difficult – Carla in the band TeenCanteen is my sister and even she wasn’t sure about it at first. Then she came to the launch night and was like ‘yeah, this can work’… "

The aim of the label is to help the artist, both financially and creatively. Throughout 2016 there were several releases, ranging from the vinyl debut of the aforementioned TeenCanteen to quirkier ideas, such as USB credit cards for Stephen Solo’s first album or USB wristbands for a single by electronica act Boo Hoo Hoo.

What artists the label chooses to work with comes from discussion between the group’s original six founders, but they are happy to take tips from those investing in the label, which is how they found promising singer-songwriter Emme Woods, who is one of the acts set to bring out music through the label this year.

The project itself owes its roots to Easton’s sister Carla. Her band TeenCanteen had crowd-funded to raise money for recording studio sessions to work on an album, and one of the people who funded them was Ian Smith, now the honorary chair of Last Night. Smith, a music lover who is an insurance specialist by day, remarked that he wanted to be further involved in crowd funding, leading the singer to suggest he contact her older brother, who was pondering setting up a label to release music digitally.

“After a couple of emails and a phone call we started thinking about crowd funding a label and getting other people in as members,” recalls Easton, who works for the British Heart Foundation by day. “We started talking about the structure, and we each brought two people to form the board and took it from there. It has snowballed massively, and by March of 2016 we had set it up. Very quickly we got 50 members, and our initial aim was to reach 100. It has all been very organic.”

Currently the group numbers 170, roughly 30 short of the label’s maximum amount. Although centred around a Scottish hub, the group includes members from Canada, Germany and several from England. Being a label with an ethos and defined community spirit has meant the comparisons to the likes of Factory Records soon arrived.

“In an age where people maybe don’t value bands as much as they did, we’ve taken crowdfunding and applied it to a record label. Straight away we know we have about 170 members for a band, who will receive that record, Tweet about it and talk about it. The confidence that gives a band is incredible. We can put shows on in Glasgow and there’s nothing like ‘pay to play’ or making them sell a certain amount of tickets. It’s all been very positive.”

Five releases are currently on tap for the rest of 2017, with TeenCanteen releasing an EP, Sirens, last weekend, a record they bring to Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh on Friday before the launch tour heads across the border.

The label has undoubtedly become more organised since that early whirlwind of activity. “We did fly by the seat of our pants last year,” admits Easton. “We’re a bit more organised now than when we first started. We’ve learned simple things, like getting the music and artwork in on time and setting deadlines. Artists don’t necessarily appreciate deadlines, so we’ve learned to set the them earlier than the actual one.

“And we have made mistakes, like at Mark W Georgsson’s album launch in January. The album was due to come two days before the launch party, for a Celtic Connections gig at the Hug and Pint, but it didn’t and we didn’t have any records for sale. That was immensely frustrating for us and for Mark. So it’s things like that we’re learning as we go along.”

Disappointments like that are balanced by the highlights. Easton points to how the label can help musicians, using the example of Glasgow band Medicine Men, slated to release their first album on May 26, with a gig at Glasgow’s Nice N’ Sleazy the following night.

“I’ve known their singer Ian MacKinnon for a long time, and he’d sent me their album through. He was getting ready to break the band up because he’d been through the whole thing of trying to get a record deal, only to be let down. Then we heard the album and it’s really good – it’s like the Small Faces balanced with Can and Kraftwerk. We were explaining to him how it would work and the profits he would get back, and Ian went ‘bloody hell’. That alone gave him a load of confidence.”

Ironically, given that Easton was looking at digital releases before Last Night came into being, the label has prided itself on physically releasing music, swimming against the modern tide of streaming and downloads.

“One of the real highlights from last year was those launch parties, where members of the label would come together, the band, the co-owners, the fans and they had something physical to show for their efforts. We had bands being asked to sign things, which for new acts is quite an incredible thing. They can look at it and go ‘this is what we’ve been working towards’. It was emotional at times and that was when we thought we had actually achieved something.”

The rapid early growth of the label does mean that they are now looking at where to take things next.

“We are a volunteer-led label, so what are the next steps?” ponders Easton. “We’d love to get beyond Scotland, to the bigger blogs, to the radio stations, because we are limited in our reach still. We need to relinquish control a little as time goes on, so it’s not just us doing everything, and that others can come in and take the label forwards.

“I guess that will be the next step. We’re not aiming wildly for the stars but some things up there should definitely be within our reach.”

Teen Canteen play Sneaky Pete's in Edinburgh on Friday and Medicine Men are at The Bungalow in Paisley tomorrow, supporting Neon Waltz, and the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh on Friday, supporting Miracle Glass Company.

More information on Last Night From Glasgow can be found at