CMJ Music Marathon: Glassnote's Daniel Glass Spells Out Label's Winning Philosophy

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Daniel Glass

"We don't want to be big, but we want to be great," says the music industry veteran who signed Mumford & Sons and Phoenix.

Daniel Glass is not afraid to show his affection. The veteran industry executive and president of Glassnote Entertainment Group acknowledged as much while relating his first conversation with Grammy Award-winning band Phoenix in a Parisian brasserie in 2009.

"I walked in, and sitting there were the four coolest guys in the world," said Glass, relating how he convinced them to sign with Glassnote after three and a half hours. "These are not guys that hug," said Glass. "But after our conversation, we got up and hugged."

The story emerged out of Glass' keynote presentation at CMJ Music Marathon on Friday -- during an interview by renowned radio DJ and MTV personality Matt Pinfield -- and was just one example of Glass' familial approach to his business. The interview traced Glass' career from his roots as an R&B and soul DJ at his Brooklyn College radio station through his forays into the music business with Chrysalis Records and SBK Records, both of which were eventually sold to EMI, before founding Glassnote in 2007.

Those early days at Chrysalis and subsequent work with SBK founders Stephen Swid, Martin Bandier and Charles Koppelman, he said, helped inform Glass' outlook and provided the blueprint for Glassnote: stay small, help the artists, and always keep the door open for managers, producers and agents. SBK's global success, in just under four years of operation, also taught him that it was possible to create a worldwide brand from nothing. "There wouldn't have been an Interscope or Giant Records without SBK," he said, "Because it proved you could create a global company from scratch."

His Glassnote philosophy, he said, is simple: sign a band, nurture the band, put out an album and go out on tour. Yet with its artists, the company promotes patience -- sometimes involving long climbs up the charts -- rather than forcing bands to reach levels they're not ready for yet.

He also preaches family, revealing how close-knit his crop of artists and his label team is. Bands like Mumford and Sons and Givers, Glass said, were signed based on both their talent and their close relationships with other Glassnote artists. Glass had developing band Two Door Cinema Club open for Phoenix for the first few dates of their tour, so the older band could mentor the youngsters.

His forward-thinking stance also let Glassnote dive headfirst into the digital space as it developed. "I love getting free samples," Glass said, explaining the concept of leaking or giving away free music. "People should get a taste. So we make a little bit less money, so what? Let's have fun."

"We don't want to be big, but we want to be great," he said. And the acclaim bestowed upon both his artists and his company itself - in 2011, Rolling Stone named Glassnote its Best Indie Label -- suggests Glassnote is getting there.

Fittingly, as Pinfield and Glass wrapped up the interview, Glass ended it in typical fashion -- with a hug.