By Jamie Roberts
In its first 25 years ROADRUNNER Records has grown to be one of the largest international independent labels in the music business and has re-shaped the public’s view of hard rock music.
The worldwide company, which was founded in 1980, forged a name for itself early on by licensing U.S. hard rock repertoire for European release. The company’s early catalog featured albums from some of the most important names in the American hard rock genre, including Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and many more. While hard rock and metal were the company’s life-blood, Roadrunner also represented some seminal U.S. rock, punk, and alternative labels, including SST, Taang!, Triple X, Twin Tone, and Relativity – home to artists as broad ranging as Black Flag, Janebs Addiction and more. The diversity fostered in those early years lives on to this day, with successful artists in all rock subgenres- as well as some surprising catalog items.
It was in November 1986 that ROADRUNNER first opened its US office in New York City. The office was opened for two reasons: to sign, record, produce and develop the most cutting edge U.S. bands for worldwide release, and to directly handle the marketing of those acts in the U.S. The U.S. office has since become ROADRUNNER’s most significant A&R source and de-facto headquarters.
The level of success the label enjoys today is built upon a solid foundation of trendsetting artists that became staples of the company and of the genre and its culture. King Diamond, with his operatic vocals, epic lyrical story-telling and ghostly white face paint, ushered in a sound and image that can still be seen and heard in todaybs biggest artists from Marilyn Manson to Evanescence. Seminal metal warriors, Sepultura, took the genre to a whole new level by integrating musical elements from their homeland, Brazil, and taking it to a world stage. The late 90s saw the great success of bands that Roadrunner had been developing for some time. Brooklyn-based TYPE O NEGATIVE broke big off the single “Christian Woman” that popped at radio and eventually went on to become Roadrunner’s first Gold-certified act. Following in Type-O’s Gold-plated footsteps were Coal Chamber, with their own brand of “spooky-core” and Fear Factory’s genre-defining electro-thrash. Topping it all off were the mask-clad masters from Des Moines, Iowa called Slipknot. Not merely a band, but a movement, this nine-headed amalgam of brains, brawn and barely-contained chaos rode a million-strong wave of “maggots” to Roadrunner’s first Platinum certification.
2001 saw another step forward for ROADRUNNER, when the label entered into a partnership with Island Def Jam for distribution in many territories through Universal Music & Video Distribution (UMVD). The arrangement with Island Def Jam was such that the major would complement the inner workings of the label and, if needed, provide support. At the same time, Roadrunner experienced success with the release of Slipknot’s sophomore album, as Iowa shipped Platinum and debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200. Only a month later, Nickelback stormed into the Top 200 with a #2 debut for their 6-times-Platinum breakout Silver Side Up.
Nickelback ushered in a whole new era for the label, allowing Roadrunner to flex its muscles not only as the pre-eminent metal label, but also as a rock force to be reckoned with. Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” became the most played song of 2002 across all formats at commercial radio and set the stage for the triple-Platinum success of their follow-up, The Long Road. It also opened the door for other radio success stories like Stone Sour and Theory of a Deadman.
ROADRUNNER’S means of doing business continues to evolve as technology has, placing a great deal of importance on what online activities can cultivate. Case in point, the label website – www.roadrunnerrecords.com – has grown into an online community centered around ROADRUNNER bands, with its traffic having increased tenfold since 2001. Contributors like the popular news source www.Blabbermouth.com and the irreverent Infernal Combustion have drawn a great deal of traffic to the site.
The label currently boasts the following RIAA U.S. certifications: Nickelback SILVER SIDE UP (6-times platinum), Nickelback THE LONG ROAD (Triple Platinum), Slipknot DISASTERPIECES Home Video (Triple Platinum), Slipknot SLIPKNOT (Double Platinum), Slipknot Iowa (Platinum), Slipknot WELCOME TO OUR NEIGHBORHOOD Home Video (Platinum), Type O Negative BLOODY KISSES (Platinum), Nickelback THE STATE (Gold), Type O Negative OCTOBER RUST (Gold), Fear Factory OBSOLETE (Gold), Coal Chamber COAL CHAMBER (Gold), and Sepultura CHAOS A.D. (Gold). With five of these twelve certifications coming in the past two years, and a record five Grammy Award nominations in 2004 (a staggering 3 out of 5 nominations in the Metal Performance category were Roadrunner titles), ROADRUNNER has been enjoying more success and market dominance than ever.
Along the way, the label has methodically made the ROADRUNNER name a brand unto itself, to which consumers, artists, and marketing partners alike are drawn to so they can plug into the best hard rock in the world. Fierce determination to honor the label’s core base, and a knowledge of the rock genre on a broad scale that can only come from experience, have kept ROADRUNNER RECORDS at the crest of the rock wave for a quarter century and counting.
In 2005, Roadrunner Records has been marking it’s Silver Anniversary with initiatives across every aspect of the music business- from special re-issues of the label’s cornerstone titles, to tours that present the best of Roadrunner’s future, to exclusive music and performances by the label’s biggest names, and much more.