Kenny Gates is the co-founder of [PIAS], one of the world’s leading independent music companies.
in 1981 passionate music fan Kenny, then 17 years old, met his future business partner Michel Lambot at Michel’s Brussels based record store ‘Casablanca Moon’, which specialized in selling records from independent labels. In 1982 the store closed and Kenny and Michel teamed up to launch a music import company, which became ‘Play It Again Sam’.
Play It Again Sam, which was originally based in the basement of Kenny’s parent’s house, started importing records from UK independent labels and quickly evolved from being simply an importer/wholesaler to becoming a hugely successful record company and distributor offering a wide range of services to third party labels including promotion and marketing.
Over the intervening 35 years, [PIAS] has remained proudly independent and has grown to become an international music company with a flourishing label culture at its heart while offering distribution, label services, music publishing, live music nights and much more. The company now has offices in every major music market around the world and has almost 300 employees.
“When we started what became [PIAS] making money was not our driving ambition. We loved music and wanted to get the music we were obsessed by - particularly artists on independent labels - heard by a wider audience. We always felt that music could make the world a better place and change people’s lives and knew instinctively from the start that success would only come if we always tried to do the right thing. Creating a business with profit as the sole motive is just too one dimensional, if you don’t create something meaningful the motivation won’t be there to keep building it.”
“[PIAS] has been built on a solid foundation of integrity and we have been unconventional and uncompromising in our vision for what the company stands for. We have always taken a collaborative approach to the way we do things but at the core of what we do is a set of ideals that we live by. We want to have a successful business because that means the artists and labels we represent enjoy success but we also have a strong moral code that we abide by.”
[PIAS] owns the imprints Play It Again Sam , Different , Harmonia Mundi and [PIAS] recordings or ‘Le Label’ for local European labels. It has partnered up with the following labels : Bella Union, Heavenly, Transgressive, Mute, Phantasy, 37 adventures, 1965 recordings, Infectious, ATO, Sunday Best, Wichita and DFA.
[PIAS] also distributes labels such as Beggars Group - including 4AD, Rough Trade, Matador and XL – Ignition, Union Square, Nuclear Blast, Ninja, Infectious, Ipecac, Ace, Warp, Domino and Secretly Canadian among many others.
“One of the things that I reflect on with real pride is how, as a business, we have adapted so well to the fast-changing global landscape of the music industry over the last 35 years. We have always embraced innovation and have, I believe, been important thought leaders in our field. We have also evolved from being primarily a distribution based company, something that is still core to our business, to one that is now made up of over 50% of our own projects or projects we directly control. We will continue to adapt to the changing needs of the artists and labels we represent to help them reach as wide an audience as possible and to offer them the best service we can.”
“Our mission is not accomplished. I still find coming to work and interacting with amazing creative people really inspiring and there is still plenty more I want to achieve with [PIAS].”