In the midst of corporate mergers, raging debates over the Internet, and a stagnant CD sales market, W.A.R.? - What Are Records? Ltd., founded in 1991, has quietly developed a new business model. Out of Boulder, Colorado, former EMI A&R executive Rob Gordon is doing good business for quality, career oriented artists such as Maceo Parker, Stephen Lynch, the innocence mission, The Ocean Blue, Lloyd Cole, Sally Taylor, Melissa Ferrick, Glenn Tilbrook, Tim Finn and David Wilcox among others.
Gordon established his successful business utilizing innovative marketing initiatives, many of which have now become part of the normal vocabulary of the record business, some of which remain W.A.R.?’s alone. In the early days of the label, W.A.R.? pioneered fan base development, harnessing fan enthusiasm to exponentially increase W.A.R.?'s marketing reach and efficacy. Impressed by W.A.R.?'s success at reaching music listeners over the years, major labels such as RCA, Capitol, Arista and A&M have employed W.A.R.?'s retail and tour marketing wizardry.
Perhaps Gordon's most significant contribution to an evolving paradigm shift in the record business has been to invent a new approach to working with artists that provides a sustainable and profitable alternative to the traditional royalty deal. Developed over the first seven years of What Are Records?, Gordon constructed an arrangement whereby the artist receives the "variable profit” so coveted by labels, with W.A.R.? taking a fixed percentage fee.
W.A.R.? and the artist mutually agree to marketing expenses (adjusted by sales plateaus) in order to create a responsible sustainable relationship. What Are Records? is currently developing a new arm of the label, called “More Than Records”. This division addresses the inevitable changes within the music industry, while providing the guidance and resources necessary to develop a career that is mutually beneficial for both artist and label. Although What Are Records? has danced successfully to it's own beat for the past decade, Gordon is modest about his achievements: "It is all about hard work, great albums, good ideas, a great team, some chemistry and a bit of magic."