Bloodshot Records In Limbo As Co-Owner Rob Miller Leaves Label

UPDATE: On Friday (10-23), it was announced that Exceleration Music has purchased the catalog of Bloodshot Records, and intends to actively promote the catalog while making sure artists get paid for any back owed royalties, though they don’t know at the moment if they will release any new music or sign artists under the label in the future.

“Bloodshot is a vitally important part of American music history, a genre-defining label founded on passion and vision, dedicated to bringing a unique set of artists from its musical orbit to the world,” said Dave Hansen of Exceleration Music. “It represents exactly the kind of company that fits Exceleration’s founding ethos, which is to preserve and enhance the legacies of extraordinary independent companies and artists. We look forward to working to keep the Bloodshot history alive and relevant for many years to come.”

Original article below.



None of this might be happening right now if it wasn’t for Bloodshot Records. And when I say “this,” I mean this website, you reading it, many of the artists featured here, a.k.a. the independent country music movement that has given rise to so many of your favorite artists, bands, and albums over the last two-plus decades, whether they were signed to Bloodshot Records or not.

Let’s not oversell it of course. Country and roots music was due for a reckoning, and a renegade record label that could rise up to offer support to artists who didn’t want to sell their souls just to make music. These days there’s Thirty Tigers, New West, and nearly a dozen other labels are operating out there under that charge. But Bloodshot Records founded in 1993 was the first to try and forge a home for artists that didn’t fit anywhere else, and to do so as a professional record label, and it worked.

Bloodshot helped to launch the careers of artists such as Ryan Adams, Neko Case, The Old 97’s, Justin Townes Earle, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and was the label of Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Ruby Boots, Robbie Fulks, Jason Hawk Harris, Laura Jane Grace, The Vandoliers, Scott H. Biram, The Yawpers, The Banditos, Murder By Death, The Mekons, and many more.

But the last 2 1/2 years have been like a slow painful death for this important insurgent country institution—not one of those sad but humane passings where someone goes quietly in their sleep. It’s been like that loved one that’s taken away by a smoldering cancer, and you have no choice but to sit and watch the life slowly leave them with no cure or recourse.

Issues began at the label on February 16th, 2019 when alt-country singer and songwriter Lydia Loveless came out with a statement claiming that Bloodshot Records did not properly address the behavior of co-owner Nan Warshaw’s partner, Mark, who regularly sexually harassed and groped her during label functions over multiple years. After a public outcry ensued, Nan Warshaw announced on March 9th, 2019 that she would be stepping down from her position at the company, and selling her 50% stake in the label to co-owner Rob Miller.

But that’s just where the trouble began. On July 20th, 2020, a letter from Bloodshot Records employees published publicly by Bloodshot artist Jason Hawk Harris conveyed that private negotiations between co-owners Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller had not reached a conclusion, with Miller possibly not being in a position to pay market price for the other half of the company. In lieu of Miller taking over full ownership, the catalog was then shopped to other labels.

Further troubling for Bloodshot Records artists, songwriters, and their fans, the employee letter also stated that they believed creators were not being fairly compensated due to Nan Warshaw not fulfilling her continuing role as 50% owner of the label.

Now for well over a year, the fate of Bloodshot Records has been in a strange state of limbo, not entirely shutting down, but not exactly continuing on with business as usual. Obviously, no new acts were signed to the label, and aside from a couple of compilations, no new titles released.

Then on Monday evening, October 19th, the remaining label owner Rob Miller let it be known that he would no longer be working at Bloodshot Records.

“Regrettably, it is time for this phase of Bloodshot Records to come to an end,” Rob Miller said. “I will no longer be a part of the label I started over 25 years ago as an impossibly ill-conceived hobby. It’s not what myself, the staff or the artists wanted, but few get to write their final chapter. That we lasted as long as we did—an indie roots label, too rock for country, and too country for punk, in Chicago—was nothing short of miraculous.”

Rob Miller didn’t exactly say the label is done entirely. Hypothetically, the Bloodshot Records catalog will ultimately end up somewhere, and the name may be revitalized by someone else. Saving Country Music poked around a bit to try and determine the current status of the label, and nobody seems to know. Perhaps Rob Miller doesn’t even know at the moment. But what we do know is that it is no longer a going concern in its previous form. Some of Bloodshot’s bands have moved on, including Sarah Shook and the Disarmers who signed with Thirty Tigers.

“I am sad there wasn’t a chance for a proper goodbye and that we weren’t able to whip up a wake, a celebration or one last party,” Rob Miller continues. “I seem to remember a few good ones over the years. I have no doubt forgotten a few of them, too. I hope we brought some fun into your lives over the years and were pleasant members of the community.”

Bloodshot Records was much more than just a record label. It was a rallying cry, a cultural movement, and a home for fans just as much artists. Their SXSW showcases over the years were things of legend. Their development of talent was pretty unprecedented. And their reputation as good people (at least Rob Miller and all the employees) was paramount to the popularity of the label. As other labels came online, Bloodshot ceased being the biggest hot shot in the business. But no other label conveyed as much street cred as Bloodshot.

And now all of that appears to be in the rear view. It truly is the end of an era, but one that resulted in a lot of excellent music, some critically-important and incredible careers, and a rebirth in country and roots music born off an independent spirit that will continue on, no matter where the Bloodshot Records catalog ultimately lands.

RIP Bloodshot Records. For now.


Rob Miller’s Full Farewell Letter:

A few words of thanks.   
Regrettably, it is time for this phase of Bloodshot Records to come to an end. I will no longer be a part of the label I started over 25 years ago as an impossibly ill-conceived hobby. It’s not what myself, the staff or the artists wanted, but few get to write their final chapter. That we lasted as long as we did—an indie roots label, too rock for country, and too country for punk, in Chicago—was nothing short of miraculous. It has been a humbling privilege to be able to intuitively concoct a record collection I really loved and have so many follow along for the ride. You trusted us, and that always meant the world to me. I personally never took that for granted. Thank you for all the support and good cheer, for enabling this strange endeavor, for letting us be a part of your lives and communities, and for being—as a friend and former Hideout bartender characterized Bloodshot fans—polite, sloppy, and good tippers.

Little did I know that a journey that started with having my brain rewired at a DEVO show in Detroit in 1980 would lead to such a wonderful and challenging life in the world of independent music. I am filled with nothing but gratitude for the artists on whose behalf I worked. I had a hand in releasing some truly remarkable music over the years. That artists would entrust me with their creations was a responsibility I took very seriously. I’ve made friends with some enormously talented people along the way, too numerous to mention, and some were even heroes of mine long before Bloodshot was even a drunken gathering of neurons in my head: Dex Romweber! Alejandro Escovedo! Rosie Flores! Graham Parker! Mekons! Barrence Whitfield & the Savages! It boggles my already boggled mind when I think about it. And that so many of them have reached out to myself and the staff with tear-inducing words of support the past couple of years—you know who you are—for that I am further in your debt.

From the early days of the Old 97’s, Lounge Ax and Delilah’s all the way through to up-and-comers Rookie, a new generation of cool venues like Sleeping Village, and, well, Delilah’s, it was never boring. Tedious? Sure. A giant pain in the ass? Often. A quixotic and sisyphean exercise? You betcha. But what a kick! What an absolute improbability! Often, I’d find myself standing at a show watching the crowd connect with the music—that special and thrilling two-way relationship between band and audience—marveling at the whole thing and that I was allowed, in some small way, to help. I was a record geek version of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.

Well, we had some fun, right? I am sad there wasn’t a chance for a proper goodbye and that we weren’t able to whip up a wake, a celebration or one last party. I seem to remember a few good ones over the years. I have no doubt forgotten a few of them, too. I hope we brought some fun into your lives over the years and were pleasant members of the community.

I would be deeply remiss if I did not offer praise and everlasting thanks to the former staff of Bloodshot who endured a great deal of undeserved and unrelenting darkness the past two and a half years. They remained steadfast to the core purpose of the label and shared my principles of integrity in supporting music and artists we cared about deeply. Hannah Douglas, Mike Smith, Nina Stiener and Josh Zanger (and even Lisa C and little Billie): They rarely got the spotlight, but they were as much in the fiber of what Bloodshot was as any music. Any label—or any business—is lucky to have them on staff; any artist is lucky to have them on their team; and I am so proud of the job they did under very difficult circumstances. Their kindnesses and fierce loyalty to the ideals of what I thought Bloodshot should be is something I will carry with me always. I learned so much from them about what is really important during this time. If you see them, thank them, buy them a delicious cocktail—or in Mike’s case, a Malört. They have the hearts of lions. I miss seeing them in the trenches every day; I miss watching them perform feats of creativity with the same dedication and zeal that led me to even consider starting a label. There will always be a big hole where what we could have done over the next few years should be.

Finally, whatever happens to the Bloodshot name moving forward, whatever form the company takes, and wherever the artists go, it is, as always, the music that remains important. Support the musicians you discovered or enjoyed on Bloodshot in any way you can, as directly as you can. Furthermore, keep supporting all independent labels, artists and businesses (be they record stores, book stores, presses, breweries, bars, restaurants, apparel shops, bakeries and beyond). They are what keep life interesting. They are what make our communities vibrant and unique. It is through them that we can keep the forces of Bezos-ization and Kardashianing at bay. We would all be poorer without them.

Take care of yourselves and each other, believe the women, work for justice and accountability in your neighborhoods and, to paraphrase the ever relevant Joe Strummer: Search out the good stuff, go underground and don’t buy what’s shoved in front of you.

Amen.

Thank you again, for everything.
Maybe I’ll see you again at a show sometime.

Rob Miller
Co-Founder
Bloodshot Records
© 2021 Saving Country Music
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