‘Just keep spinning’: Q&A with Spinning Top’s Kristy Pinder on the strangest of years
Kristy Pinder started her new role as Spinning Top’s label manager just before the pandemic took hold. Now, she’s running an independent label in lockdown in a year where everything feels like it’s spinning in a chaotic and unpredictable fashion. Here, she speaks to TMN’s Vivienne Kelly about the label’s nomination for Independent Label of the Year, the resurgence of vinyl and what she loves about her artists.
VK: Why do you think Spinning Top has been nominated for this award? What have you achieved to lead to the nomination?
KP: Well of course I’m going to say our artists. We’ve got such an amazing roster of artists.
In 2021, we’re doing Pond for the first time worldwide which is obviously a huge priority release for us, and something that we’re incredibly excited to do. But I think for the last little while we’ve had a really prolific release schedule, I think particularly over the last couple of years through the middle of a pandemic. Last year we released records from Gum, Peter Bibby, Haiku Hands, Bambi and then we also had an EP from Fascinator. And then this year we’ve got the Pond record, we’ve also got Shiny Joe Ryan who’s a member of Pond putting out his album, Children Collide and Haiku Hands releasing the album from last year on an LP.
So, it’s been a really busy time.
VK: And why do you think the independent record label sector is important to the wider music landscape?
KP: Spinning Top Records was basically created so that the artists on the management roster could release music outside the typical expectations of a major label.
I think for our artists, it’s really important. A lot of them aren’t able to promote an album like other artists can because they’re touring members of Tame Impala [for example], which dictates their time. So I think Jodie [Regan] as a manager has been incredibly supportive of her artists, and independent labels just give people a way of breaking the rules, breaking the models, making up your own ways of doing it, being flexible with our artists’ needs.
VK: It’s been a really tough year for the arts and entertainment sector, so what have you found has been the biggest challenge for Spinning Top this year?
KP: I mean on the label side, we put out all of our music on vinyl , so production timelines have blown out, freight costs have blown out, we’ve had to kind of rework the way that we manufacture vinyl, which has just been a lot of time, working out the best way to produce each release – whether that’s split-pressing vinyl, half of it in the US, half of it in Australia, and then working out how to move it around and it not cost the Earth.
But I think from the artist side, it’s been a good time to be a label that specialises in artists that don’t get to tour their records for the aforementioned reason. But we do have a bunch of artists that really, they thrive on live performance. And I think that’s been one of the trickiest things. We’ve had artists – say Peter Bibby, Haiku Hands, and to an extent Children Collide as well – who are all amazing live acts, and that’s really important to what they do. And I think there’s maybe then a sense of an anti-climax of not actually being able to tour those records and get that feedback from fans and it’s definitely been a thing that ‘s kind of been missing from the release timeline.
VK: Yea, it’s definitely not the year we were expecting or hoping to have, so how will you define success this year? What will make you think ‘Okay, all things considered, Spinning Top had a good year’?
KP: I guess being able to put out great music in a time where I think there’s lots of ears and lots of demand for that. In my daily life, music keeps me upbeat, so I hope that our artists can do that for people.
And I guess the industry as a whole looks to streaming numbers, so there’s that. And there’s also the fact that the sales for vinyl have gone through the roof as well.
So I guess selling vinyl, having good streaming numbers, but I think more than anything we’re just proud of our artists and the amazing work that they continue to put out that hopefully inspires people in harder times.
VK: So what’s the most rewarding part of your job day-to-day?
KP: Definitely working with our artists. I have a direct line with them, and they’re all amazing. They’re really prolific, they’re really hard working. There’s a really good variety.
VK: And what about the most challenging part of your role?
KP: I think at the moment, I’m the only person based in Sydney from the label. So our team is spread across LA, Sydney and Fremantle. And I feel like at the moment, one of the big challenges is not being able to be in a room with my people, having to do everything remotely, especially around big release times. Like you miss out on being in a room with your colleagues and being able to bounce ideas and get through stuff really quickly. And of course we can do Zoom, we can do WhatsApp, but it’s not the same.
And I guess I really, I’m quite new to the label. I started in January, 2020. And I would have loved to have had some more face time with my colleagues, but also the artists.
I was lucky, I got to do a couple of weeks in Perth in March, which was quite a snap decision, but I’m so glad that I did it. Jodie [Regan] was in Fremantle from LA, and I got to have a couple of band meetings with Pond and Peter Bibby, and I think it would have been tougher if I didn’t get to do that at all.
VK: And if you weren’t in this job in this industry, could you see yourself doing anything else?
KP: I’ve actually done lots of things. Before I was working at Spinning Top, I did six months working in a library. I started in music management and then I went off into festivals. I used to book all the music for Perth Festival and Sydney Festival, and that kind of led me into major events, but it’s really nice to be back artist-side, music-side.
And I’m really lucky, I think, Jodie [Regan] who founded the business and created the label, and Garth [Carwadine] run the label, are some of the best people that I could work for. They’re dear friends, super smart, big risk takers, It’s exciting.