Shabs Jobanputra is the MD of Relentless Records and launched KT Tunstall. His was also the first label to break Joss Stone.
He is involved with Outcaste Music Publishing, Media Village PR, Notting Hill Arts Club, Notting Hill Academy of Music.
He is a rare Asian at a senior level in mainstream music. He said,
“I was DJ-ing for many years. In 1992, I got my first break in the business when I was a junior manager to Rebel MC and Shut Up And Dance Records - PJ and Smiley's pioneering London breakbeat label.
My background is PR and promotion. Over the years I’ve worked on many big campaigns including Jamiroquai and The Fugees. In terms of making records, the big thing early on was when we had our own record label called Outcaste Records, which was formed in 1995. It was a home for British Asian music. I learned about making records cheaply and promoting them on a budget.
Artists that I’ve worked with on that label were Nitin Sawhney, Badmarsh and Shri. That all helped me to understand the business. Not so much from a PR and promotions level, but from a recording and publishing level.”
Relentless Records was founded in 1999 by Shabs and Paul Franklyn, whom he knew from university. “It started then because we felt that there wasn’t any new urban music coming from Britain. It felt like a fallow period.
One night I shot the idea to start a label and soon after we started consultancy to see, on an exploratory level, if this could come true. Luckily the first record we signed was “Re-Rewind” by Artful Dodger, featuring Craig David. This first record went to number two, sold 700,000 singles, and was a hit in many areas. After that, it definitely felt as if there was a place for Relentless.
Relentless is 50% owned by EMI Records UK. We are an eclectic, music orientated label with a wide range of genres. We’ve done anything from So Solid Crew to Joss Stone to KT Tunstall.
Relentless is the label that has broken many new artists in the past. How come?
“We try and sign things that are completely distinctive, since we can’t compete with a major. We always try to do things differently than bigger labels such as Interscope and XL, and we operate in different music areas. We try to find things that no one else wants to do, because we believe in them and we can see a market for them.
And also us being able to focus all our activity has made it a bit easier for us. We never had a big roster. We can concentrate on things we actually believe in. That’s why it’s worked so far,” he said.
Shabs recently helped launch the Notting Hill Academy of Music, a brand new institution that could change how artists come into music in the UK.
It’s a new music industry school backed by Patron Trevor Nelson MBE, the BPI, SONY Music, Warner Music, SJM Concerts, Method Management (Disclosure/Sam Smith), Metropolis Management, Relentless Records and SONY/ATV Music Publishing.
The Academy aims to educate, elevate, inspire, and develop its students. With the ambition to become a disruptive force in music education, the Academy will open its doors to new students in January 2016, with a unique offering in music industry courses designed and delivered by award-winning professionals and top educationalists in the field. It is also supported by major music industry body BPI.
The Academy is a boutique finishing school in the creative cultural hub of Notting Hill, designed to encourage innovative thinking and above all, employability. Class sizes have been kept small in order to attract and deliver the best talent through the limited spaces available, where the Academy’s aims will be achieved through a unique provision of quality content, knowledge and contextualised learning via unrivalled access to industry placements as part of the programme.
Courses will range from 6-12 months, and award MAs in Future of Music, as well as Certificates of Higher Education in Music Business Entrepreneur from September 2016. The Academy will launch the first of its short-term courses in A&R and Song Writing in January 2016, which will be taught and backed by industry experts. Applications for these are already open to all entrepreneurs, performers, artists, producers, songwriters and future business executives. The breadth of modules will mirror the diversity of roles within the world of music.
“We try and sign things that are completely distinctive”