It was only a matter of time before Skrillex’s mighty OWSLA imprint elevated to the big leagues within the independent electronic circuit. Co-founded in 2011 by his manager Tim Smith, his publicist Kathryn Frazier, current director of A&R at OWSLA Publishing Clayton Blaha and Skrillex himself, the Los Angeles-based label has quickly become a goldmine for future sounds and breakout rookies in just over five years.
Both Skrillex and OWSLA claim the very rare, highly coveted Midas touch, by which anything even within arm’s length becomes a breakaway hit. An OWSLA co-sign today is a guaranteed seat at the cool kids’ table and a fastpass to the main stage: The label has helped launched the careers of buzzing acts like Mija, Valentino Khan and Aryay.
But by no means is OWSLA Skrillex’s vanity label; it stands its own ground as a sovereign entity not entirely reliant on his brand power. OWSLA is the yin to Skrill’s yang.
What keeps OWSLA miles ahead of the curve is its no-fucks-given approach to artist signings and A&R. A casual stroll through its deep discography reveals a plethora of diverse genres and styles: experimental art rock via Hundred Waters; sensual R&B via songstress Mark Johns; frenetic jungle terror via Wiwek; and good, old-fashioned dubstep from Bassnectar and ATLiens and Barely Alive. Most recently, the crew has been slanging house beats via ‘HOWSLA’, a 12-track compilation curated by Chris Lake and Skrillex that aims to pump new blood into the perennial house genre for the new rave generation.
And it’s this exact openness toward sonic diversity that proves OWSLA isn’t in the race for fame or fortune. By their count, good music over everything.
Still, to call it simply a label is to sell short its overall vision. From the get-go, team OWSLA aimed to shatter the paradigm by which traditional indies operate in today’s musical climate. Instead, they ride in their own lane and play by their own rules as a creative collective of thinkers, doers and influencers.
Beyond the music, the OWSLA experience extends online via Nest HQ, a media platform and “transparent vantage point” into the music, art and culture the team of gatekeepers is currently digging. The site also operates its own independent label, NEST, which discovers and releases, for free, untapped acts long before anyone else finds their remote SoundCloud pages. Past NEST artists include newcomers REZZ, Ducky and graves, as well as breakbeat OGs Stanton Warriors and bass-heads Zomboy and MUST DIE! OWSLA also recently expanded into the fashion and lifestyle game via the launch of OWSLA Goods, now a go-to destination for hipster threads, artist apparel and dope accessories. The move solidified their status as cultural tastemakers, and as a result, the iconic OWSLA logo is now a ubiquitous look on dancefloors worldwide.
The house that OWSLA built is founded upon family, as reflected in their daily mantra: Good people. Good times. Expect this family to continue to blossom as the years go by.
The other nominees:
My Favorite Robot
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