Joseph Rojas, frontman for Christian rock band Seventh Day Slumber, has been a staple on the Christian rock scene since the band formed in Texas in 1996. The band released its debut project on Tooth & Nail/BEC Recordings in 2005. Along the way the band, earned No. 1 albums on the Billboard Top Heatseekers and Top Christian & Gospel albums charts, with signature songs including “Oceans From The Rain” and “Inside Out.”
Now, with more than two decades of industry experience, Rojas is using those experiences to help other bands via his Nashville Label Group, which launched in April. Nashville Label Group home to two imprints: Rockfest Records and Burtonwood Records.
In addition to Seventh Day Slumber, RockFest Records will be home to hitmakers Random Hero, who have charted two Billboard Top 30 mainstream rock singles; Indiana-based rockers The Protest; female solo rocker Zahna, formerly of ILIA; Nashville-based rock/metal band The Persuaded; and metalcore trio Amongst the Giants.
While Rockfest Records centers on Christian rock, Burtonwood Records caters more to the Contemporary Christian and AC formats. Burtonwood’s roster includes Brooke Robertson and Nathan Sheridan. Both labels will be distributed by New Day Christian, with digital distribution by Capitol Christian Music Group.
“I feel like it was a label started out of necessity, especially for the Christian rock genre,” Rojas tells MusicRow. “Over the past five years, it seems like outlets for Christian rock have dried up and radio is kind of leaned more toward the pop or contemporary worship type of thing, so where you would have stations that would add rock artists and a song that would be radio friendly. Now if it’s from a rock band, even if it is radio-friendly, it’s not getting played on those outlets. Then you have even touring is scarce but there are still a lot of great bands out there.”
Rojas says Nashville Label Group is an extension of City Rockfest, the music festival catering to rock fans he launched four years ago.
“There are big tours, one of the highest-grossing tours in Winter Jam and they do amazing, but they only have like one rock band, maybe two, on that tour every year. I decided I wanted to do something similar to that but for rock fans, with five or six bands on the tour. I expected it to do well, but it’s got a cult following. The same people that bought old-school Creed, those people still buy music, but they don’t listen to radio a lot because radio isn’t playing rock.”
While on tour, discussions arose around pay rates and benefits bands were getting from various label contracts. After 20 years in Seventh Day Slumber, the Rojas could readily relate to those issues.
“We’ve had issues in the past with a couple of labels we have been on,” he says, though he declines to offer specifics. “A lot of bands were like, ‘I don’t want to deal with the labels anymore.’ I understand that so much. Labels are offering 360 deals and I understand why they do it, but artists can barely make a living doing what they are doing now. After talking with these bands—and some have been on labels before—I said, ‘What if I started a label where you could have a base of distribution and you keep all your touring proceeds and merch, and I just give you a fair deal?’ Overwhelmingly, the bands said yes. So my talks with Capitol and New Day began and it just went from there.”
In addition to New Day and Capitol Christian Music Group, Nashville Label Group works with several third-party companies to work with clients, though the label also has three in-house staffers.
Rojas looks at the label as more than just a conduit to put new music in the marketplace, but as a way to encourage people and to bring positivity into their lives. After all, it was music that helped Rojas transition from a life of hardship and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
“I had a $400 a day cocaine addiction,” he recalls. “I was arrested over 20 times, and I was looking at 10 years in prison the last time I was arrested. I didn’t meet my dad until I was 14 years old. I understand people who are hurting so when I see bands that are bringing a positive message.”
Rojas is confident Nashville Label Group will continue to see growth and diversity in its offerings in the years to come.
“We’ve opened a publishing company so that when we offer a deal, the artist and label have a partnership on publishing,” he says. “We don’t take 50 percent of an artist’s publishing—it’s more like 25 or 30 percent of publishing, but we offer a lot with that, like a publishing administrator and things in the works where we can help writers and artists get songs placed. That will be a little bit down the road but we are thinking about this. The label expansion is going to probably happen fairly soon even into other genres. There are guys like NF in the marketplace, who are so talented and blowing up. The guy’s on [label] Capitol Christian, but he’s one of the most-streamed artists in the world right now.”
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