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The History of Dualtone Records

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Author: Jackson Randleman

Music is important to everyone, whether it’s hard rock or metal, too rap and jazz music leaves its impact everywhere anyone is willing to listen. And behind every one of those musicians is a record label full of execs who try and tell them what they should be creating. But there is other record label like Dualtone records that have humble beginnings, a growing folk and indie rock audience, and some of the biggest bands in the country. They prove to me that not every record label care about the money, they instead show us that the art is more important.

But every story has a beginning. Let’s go back to the year 2001 Scott Robinson and Dan Herrington founded Dualtone records. According to The East Nashvillian Dualtone was started up next to a Krispy Crème on Elliston place in Nashville Tennessee. When they started the label, they both already had many years of experience in the industry. Both had worked for artisia records helping manage artists and other creatives. And as the industry grew and the money became more important than the artists, that is when Dualtone records was born. And from the very beginning Scott Robinson and Dan Herington wanted to be different from other record companies. According to Robinson “The whole concept of Dualtone was to give artists a home where there is not a lot of pressure to deliver a massive hit.” Instead of feeling like they had to adhere to these contracts and churn out lots of half-baked music, they were instead given “support rather than instructions.” According co-founder Robinson in an interview with Spotify he states “This is like building a business” …. “This isn’t like playing the lottery. Let’s build these careers and build some revenue the old-fashioned way, which is hitting singles, doubles, and triples, and if one goes over the fence, we’ll high five.” This business method has led to over 21 years of success, Dualtone has a very specific kind of artist that they look for. With their Nashville roots they have become one of the number one record labels in the Folk, and Indie Rock scene.

Folk music as defined by the oxford dictionary is “Music that originates in traditional popular culture or that is written in such a style. Folk music is typically of unknown authorship and is transmitted orally from generation to generation.” Folk music tends to be slow moving with a heavy use of acoustic guitars and harmonies from one or more singers. Some of the more well known older folk artists are Bob Dylan, John Denver, Leonard Cohen, and even more. Now a days some of the more popular folk singers are The Lumineers, Gregory Alan Isakov, Shaky Graves, and Hozier. Folk songs tend to be more personal and with more intricate arraignments. While the music of Indie rock bands proves to be experimental with intense distortion. Indie Rock is defined by Wikipedia saying it, “Characterized as having careful pop balance of pop accessibility with noise, experimentation with pop music formulae, sensitive lyrics masked by ironic posturing, a concern with authenticity, and the depiction of a simple guy or girl.” It is a genre dominated by heartbreak and redemption that allows listeners to relate with the artist on a level that some artists dream of achieving. Some artists to note are Mt. Joy, The Back Seat Lovers, and Peach Pit. The freedom that they are allowed when writing music gives the listener the most authenticate experience possible. And unlike most record labels Dualtone has provided that freedom from the very start,

And that has allowed many artists on the label to become nationwide, with some going on to become internationally known.

The labels most renowned artist The Lumineers signed a one album deal back in 2012 according to NPR. That same year they released their self-titled debut album “The Lumineers”. They hit the main stream with the release of their number one single “Ho Hey” which at this time according to Spotify has over 900 million streams. This single provided the stepping stone for the band to become known around the world. They have since released 3 more albums since 2012 and according to they have sold a total of 5,152,500 units worldwide. With a monthly listener count of 15 million. They are by far the biggest artist involved with Dualtone. There are still some amazing artists involved with the label as well. Renowned folk singer Gregory Alan Isakov has only worked with the label once. This was on his 2018 LP “Evening Machines”. But has since talked about licensing out to Dualtone for the first time and his thought process when making the decision he went on to say “Well, I’ve never tried this. This could be really fun”. And according to Dualtones website he has sold well of 370,00 copies. While it is not close to the Lumineers, Dualtone has kept true to their promise of art over money model for the last 21 years.

And from humble beginnings in Nashville Dualtone has grown into one of the most creatively free labels in the industry. With an artist base consisting of small personal folk artists like Gregory Alan Isakov, to a world renown folk indie rock bands like The Lumineers and Mt. Joy. They give the artists the platform to do what they do best. Create good art.

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