The music industry always seems as though it is a slightly darker place when a record label goes out of business…and when that label has brought some of the most prominent musical acts in the business to date, it feels as though music has taken a substantial blow beneath the belt.
Record label ‘Lookout! Records’ have officially closed it’s doors, ending it’s 25-year battle of releasing bands who the label believed could make a difference in this world of conformity and churned out pop music.
Lookout! Records was formed in 1987 by Larry Livermore and David Hayes, who had one mission, and that was to sign musicians who they thought had a distinctive sound. To begin with they only releasing punk rock bands, but soon went onto release a variety of genres such as; Ska, Pop-Punk, Reggie Fussion, Pop-Rock. Acoustic Rock and Indie Rock.
The label signed many bands, some went on to greater success and others were not so lucky. One of the main reasons that ‘Lookout!’ started losing money and declining in popularity was because many of their signed acts left them for other record companies such as; Screeching Weasel, The Dollyrots, The Queers and Enemy You all left and signed with other labels and some had their previous records re-issued and re-released. The reasons for them leaving was down to non-renewal of licence agreements, distribution and breach of contract over unpaid royalties.
Lookout! did sign some bands who have gone on to achieve great success in the music industry, three of the biggest are Greenday, Alkaline Trio and Operation Ivy. The most widely known being Greenday who were signed to the label in 1987 after Larry Livermore saw the band play one of their early shows. The band, made up of lead singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, Bassist and singer Mike Dirnt and Drummer Tre Cool, released their first two EPs through the label in 1987, 1000 Hours and Slappy. The band’s debut album ’39/smooth’ was also released through Lookout! Records in 1990, as was their second album ‘Kerplunk’ in 1992, which sold 50,000 copies.
Greenday then signed to Reprise records with which they achived world fame in 2004 with their rock opera album ‘American Idiot’, not to mention six other studio albums with the label before that. However the band did not officially leave Lookout! Records until August 1st 2005, where Bassist Mike Dirnt explained “I feel we’ve honoured our handshake agreement with Lookout! Records, I think that’s fair. There comes a time when you’re like ‘okay, how long do you want to support your record label.” It was later revealed that the band left because of unpaid royalties, but they had no intention of taking legal action against the label which gave them their first major break.
Operation Ivy then left the label on May 4th in 2006, after which the company stopped releasing music and started selling it’s back catalogue until Christmas.
In December 2009 Lookout! Records went into a major financial reconstruction period, however it seemed it wasn’t meant to be as the funds continued to decline, and in January 2012 the record company officially closed it’s doors for good.
In a final blog posted on the companies website which was entitled ‘Hard To Say Goodbye’, it was stated “It’s best to get the hard part out of the way first, what was mentioned recently is true. Lookout! will be closing it’s doors over the next few months.” The post goes on to thank everyone who has helped the company “Thanks for listening to our music, forming bands, sending us demos, buying records, signing to our label and playing our records”.
The Punk Rock genre would truly not be the thing which it is today if not for Lookout! Records, the label signed bands who paved the way for and inspired many bands which have been formed over the recent years. It is true that Lookout! Records will never be forgotten.
A tear could be wiped away from the eye as you read the last line in the final post from the company “For inspiring us and for all of the memories…thank you.”