A Record Label Finds a Retro Niche

Plapinger and Davies, Neon GoldCourtesy of Lizzy Plapinger Lizzy Plapinger and Derek Davies.

Instead of trying to break into the music industry with new technology, one record company is looking back to the technology of the past to introduce new acts.

Lizzy Plapinger and Derek Davies started producing limited edition 7-inch vinyl singles for new and emerging bands through their record label, Neon Gold. Since starting in August 2008, when the now-23 year olds were only juniors in college, they have been credited for much of the early success of a number of indie bands and recently partnered with Columbia Records.

Ms. Plapinger and Mr. Davies are childhood friends, having spent summers together at camp in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. When summers came to a close, they returned to school in London and Washington, D.C. respectively but kept in touch about new music.

“It was always a pipe dream,” Ms. Plapinger said of their early talks about starting a record label together.

Though they had both held internships in the music industry and searched for new talent out of habit, they decided to start their specialized company in 2008 even though they were in the middle of college.

“We couldn’t really let this opportunity pass us by,” Mr. Davies said.

Years of being passionate music fans have helped the two to hone their preferences, and differentiate between one another.

“Derek is more into left-field pop and I am more indie and quirky left-field, so when our interests align, that’s when we know it’s something special,” Ms. Plapinger said.

“Think of it like a Venn Diagram — when we overlap, it works,” Mr. Davies added.

7 InchersMeghan Keneally Some of Neon Gold’s 7-inch records.

While their timing prompted some issues at points — like Ms. Plapinger taking one set of final exams at a recruiting trip to a music festival — their age has been an asset for the duo.

“Being the same age as the bands you’re working with helps because you’re doing it for the right reasons,” Ms. Plapinger said.

Columbia Records agreed, and signed with Neon Gold in December, giving Columbia the first choice in optioning full records deals from Neon Gold’s artists.

“Derek and Lizzie are young, smart, music heads with progressive taste who discover emergent talent really, really early which obviously excites us,” Ashley Newton, president of Columbia Records, said in a statement. “Columbia and Neon Gold have formed a partnership so we can support their growing reputation and identity, enabling them to acquire rights and really explore and expand their vision.”

The idea of basing a new music venture on an antiquated format is still an unusual decision, but the aesthetic and sentimental appealed to Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger. Each single is limited to only 500 copies which the duo hopes will create an instant “collectors edition” feel to each release.

“It becomes a tangible collectible for the fan,” Mr. Davies said. “It’s like owning a bit of your bands history.”

Mike Davis, who owns Academy LP record store in the East Village, said that this particular type of record is “the definition of a niche market.” Even still, Mr. Davis’ band just released their own single on 7-inch.

Davies and Plapinger, Neon GoldCourtesy of Lizzy Plapinger Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger at a music festival.

“It is a good way to call more attention to your band than just doing downloads like millions of other people,” Mr. Davis said. “Like records themselves, they” — 7-inch vinyl recordings — never went away entirely. People are discovering again that a 7-inch may be a better way to get your band noticed.”

A number of Neon Gold acts agreed, and credit much of their early publicity to the singles they put on vinyl. While a handful of their bands have made it to the mainstream — including the singer Ellie Goulding, who performed at the royal wedding in April and has appeared on Saturday Night Live — others are more plugged into the indie music scene.

“We come from New Zealand and although the world is connected online, that’s still a long way away,” said Campbell Smith, manager of the band The Naked And Famous. “Having a respected and influential boutique indie label and blog like Neon Gold want to introduce TNAF to a larger market was an important break.”

Instead of focusing their attention to the recent deal with Columbia, Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger are multitasking. There are plans for a new online magazine, a music festival, parties on the Lower East Side and ventures in television.

Then what?

“Are you saying that a Neon Gold Airlines is out of the realm of possibility?” Mr. Davies said. “Really?”