Putting the Artist First

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Indie Lauretta Records has major-label power
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Katrina Frye feels like an outsider in the music business. She’s trying to change that with Pasadena-based Lauretta Records. 

“There are not a lot of Black women who own record labels,” Frye says. 

“This category, independent music, has finally gotten the legitimacy and the power that majors have. A lot of people see the value of indie music more than ever.”

She is hosting Lauretta Records & Friends in partnership with Los Angeles Performance Practice at Frankie: Mission Road Studio from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, November 7, with Marieme, Davie, Meaghan Maples, Kesha Shantrell, Jordan Frye, Revel Day and Sascha Andres. 

Frye has been in the music business for a decade. In her short time, she says she’s had to explain to family or friends, investors or colleagues, what is sustainable and what money can be made. 

YouTube and TikTok have proven that. 

“I’ve never seen so much money invested in music,” Frye says. “I’m trying to ride that wave. The Black Lives Matter movement is finding a lot of legitimacy. I thought I couldn’t talk about it anymore unless I’m doing it.”

The talent pool is wide, but there are so many gatekeepers, she says. Music executives are unwilling to sit down and talk to artists, which is “atrocious and disgusting,” she says. 

“I hope I’m empowering my artists,” she says. “If they don’t stay with me forever, I hope they stay on the course of advocating for themselves.”

A music professor at night at California Baptist University, Frye is a Black Independent Music Accelerator Fellow.

“Lauretta Records is my ode to the artist, “Frye says. “I wanted to create a label that was reflective of what artists need — transparency, accountability, without exclusive commitment.” 

The label is focused on bringing artists’ work to life through television and film licensing. The current roster of artists spans across genres like the soulfulness of Revel Day with his latest single release “Get Up,” the dark synth pop of Lavendel with her debut single releasing later this fall, and the R&B lyrical charm of Kesha Shantrell’s recent EP “Phase.”

“Revel Day is a phenomenal artist,” she says. “His parents are LA musicians. His family has been in the music scene for a while. He was doing really well as a background singer. Now was the time for his own artist project. I feel honored to have met him at this exact time in his life.”

Day adds, “Having a team that sees me, sees my goals and says yes, we want to align with that and help you get there — that’s the dream. Being able to find it in a place like this that I trust, it just excites me what the future can be. I think my dreams are coming true and Lauretta is a big part of that.”

Shantrell sang background for several artists in LA and around the world. Like Day, she led church services around town. 

“They’re the call you get when the A-lister wants to arrange a choir and a background vocalist and layer them quickly. She’s doing what a lot of Black women haven’t figured out in the music industry — just to be herself and explore outside of the genre. 

“Right now, the music industry is a new place for Black women to be. I’m happy to have a label that can house a range of complexities no matter what the background, race or ethnicity. The talent should hold and speak for itself. I’m really proud of her as well. She’s the typical ‘20 Feet from Stardom’ story.”

“20 Feet from Stardom” is a 2013 documentary about the lives of background singers. 

On signing to Lauretta Records, Shantrell says, “My eyes have been open to just a whole other part of myself. I never thought I could write this kind of music and be who I am and be able to dream and set up a future for myself. Lauretta has already set my future up by encouraging me and pushing me to continue doing this.”

With Costa Rican and Mississippi roots and years of background singing for artists like Leona Lewis, Andy Grammer and Kanye West, Shantrell’s vocal range shows in songs like “Fire” and “Brand New” from “Phase.” 

Lauretta Records gives her energy in other ways. The feeling of being the only woman in boardrooms — the only woman of color or person of color in the room — is joyful. 

“I cheer myself on in those moments and channel all the great people who have come before me and my mentors,” she says. “It shows that yes, I’m qualified, and I know what I’m talking about.”

Lauretta Records & Friends in Partnership with Los Angeles Performance Practice w/Marieme, Davie, Meaghan Maples, Kesha Shantrell, Jordan Frye, Revel Day and Sascha Andres 

WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, November 7

WHERE: Frankie: Mission Road Studio,
300 S. Mission Road, Los Angeles

COST: Various tiers

INFO: laurettarecords.com

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