National Geographic, who likes to shorten their name to Nat Geo to attract a hipper audience, is now taking it a step further and launching a record label. Considering they have webcast artists like Björk and Sigur Ros and regularly infuse introspectives from bands and artists from around the world into their programming, a Nat Geo label is not all that surprising. What is surprising is the timing. Despite a flailing economy and a sagging record industry, National Geographic has boldly predicted it can thrive where others are failing.
Heading up the label will be former ESL Music/Thievery Corporation manager Mat Whittington, who has already shown in an interview with Wired that he has a knack for bringing the sexy back to National Geographic. And we’re not talking about the kind of sexy that resulted in teenage boys stealing their parents copies for the naked tribeswomen.
“Music is a really great ‘cultural lubricant,’ if you will,” notes Whittington in the interview. “Music can make you feel things so immediately, regardless of what language you speak. For National Geographic, whose overall mission is inspiring people to care about the planet and being a vehicle for cultural exchange, I think there’s probably no better medium than music.”
And while the label will focus on “artists that are musical explorers and doing very modern music that would appeal to a wide group of people all over the world. Anything from Malysian DJs to Brazilian hip-hop artists to African funk and soul bands,” Whittington knows the record-selling business isn’t what it used to be.
“There’s a lot of doom and gloom about the business as a whole, but that’s the business as a whole,” he explained. Unlike certain other labels, “we don’t have two million dollars-worth of product sitting at Best Buy that we’re really worried about being returned right now.”
Neither do most labels have a magazine, television channel, and a newly-rolled-out music television channel. These resources will provide advantages not enjoyed by other labels, embracing the now ever popular 360 model where artists and their music can immediately be infused into our culture. Said Whittington, “if you can find a business model that works for you, then who cares what the rest of the business is doing?”
Who would have guessed ten years ago that MTV would be airing shows documenting America’s cultural ignorance while National Geographic gives us music programming? The four horsemen, that’s who.