Zyla is a new multidisciplinary (meta)label for experimental arts. A metalabel expands the conventional (record) label concept to encompass multiple forms of creativity and methods of release.
Unlike traditional labels, Zyla is not limited to one form of creativity (e.g. music), nor only a single means of distribution. Our releases span myriad realms of cultural activity and modes of presentation. This unfolds on both macro and micro levels.
macro: the label has multiple strands, each emphasising a different artistic medium (see below);
micro: we specialise in projects in which the exploration of connections between disciplines is a core aspect of the artwork itself.
We use this term not to denote a particular aesthetic but in the literal sense that our projects are experiments. In a scientific experiment, there is typically a hypothesis, a methodology, and a result. In our projects, these three aspects translate to vision, process and artwork. Crucially, the outcome of an experiment (scientific or artistic), by its very nature, is unknown at the outset.
Everything we do at Zyla is led by the artists we work with, not by financial incentives or a desire for mainstream popularity. Fundamentally, we emphasise qualitative connections between artists and the community we are nurturing around them.
In contrast to the rigid structure of traditional labels, Zyla will remain fluid so as to adapt to the needs of each project. This might engender creating highly specialised teams for different releases, or collaborating with other labels and organisations. This kind of organisational flexibility has previously been difficult to implement, but with the advent of smart contracts, auto-splits, multi-signature wallets, and other web3 tools, labels can now evolve in real time.
With these values at the heart of all our work, we aim to empower artists to push the limits of their creativity. Audiences will come to trust us to deliver extraordinary artistic experiences, regardless of the medium being explored.
Zyla comprises the following strands:
music: recordings in digital formats: streaming, downloads and NFTs.
visual art: physical and virtual exhibitions featuring “fine art” practices like painting and sculpture as well as photography, film and natively digital work.
live performance: live music, dance, theatre, installation and other events in both physical and virtual spaces, with a particular focus on work that connects two or more of these practices.
literature: text-based publications as well as work that explores how narrative and story-telling can feed into other disciplines.
creative studio: bespoke art projects on behalf of other value-aligned organisations and in collaboration with a fluid pool of creatives.
Zyla’s particular focus is on projects that connect two or more of these disciplines.
Zyla exists to provide a space for art that doesn’t comfortably fit anywhere else. It grew out of an idea to set up a record label for music that begins life as part of multimedia projects: dance performances, film soundtracks, theatre scores. Some amazing music gets created for these contexts but it rarely gets properly released in its own right. Zooming out from the music sector, it became clear that all around the world there are artists of every kind working in the shadows. Zyla aims to bring this work to the audience it deserves.
Part of the reason many creatives choose to remain independent is that, especially in the music industry, traditional labels have developed a reputation for exploiting artists, either directly (through offering unfavourable deals) or indirectly (through cutting deals with third parties that undermine artists’ interests). Similar problems are evident in relation to visual art galleries, literary publishers and live event promoters. Independent and artist-run organisations are generally more favourable to creatives but often lack the resources they need to best serve their rosters.
The concept of founding a creative organisation like Zyla was difficult to envision in a web2 environment. With a few notable exceptions, existing models for labels are essentially either commercially oriented or involve subsidisation from third parties (often bigger labels). With this comes financial agendas that compromise curatorial integrity.
Web3 provides an opportunity to do things differently. NFTs have reopened the question of art’s value in contemporary society. However, just as before, many artists are struggling for visibility on over-saturated marketplaces. This problem will only become exacerbated as more and more artists enter the space. One answer to this is improving discoverability through curation, something that is currently lacking in the NFT space.
Zyla brings to web3 a level of curation that will set a precedent for the next generation of cultural practitioners. By focusing on under-represented kinds of music and art, Zyla will play a crucial role in on-boarding artists working outside the mainstream and improving their discoverability, contributing to a more diverse NFT ecosystem.
Zyla is introducing a new blockchain-based model for artistic sustainability and collective prosperity.
Our projects are curated in seasons (called Scenes), each of which consists of a string of collaborations between artists across the label’s various strands. Together, the artists involved in a particular Scene form an ad hoc collective based on collaboration, mutual support and shared success.
In Zyla’s economic model, artists receive 80% of a release’s primary revenue, a significantly more friendly offer than the 50% (at best) usually on the table. The remaining 20% is split in two: half (i.e. 10% of total revenue) goes to Zyla’s treasury to support future releases; the other half is shared out among all the artists in that Scene. This initiative acknowledges the value artists bring to a label and rewards them for entrusting their work to Zyla. At the same time, it celebrates what’s best about labels: the sense of belonging to an artistic community.
A big part of the idea behind this model is to sustain artists over the long term, nurturing relationships with each other and with Zyla beyond a single release. Sharing profits out among all affiliated artists means that in a very real way everyone on the roster shares in each others’ success, which aligns with our notion of what a collective should be.
Scene 1 launched in September 2022 with the release of Alex Roth and Alice Purton's Inpouring EP and a multidisciplinary showcase event at IKLECTIK in London. A season of NFT drops is currently under way.