Baffin Records works to make music accessible

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Baffin Records works to make music accessible
Dave Klein co-founded Baffin Records in 2021.
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By Olivia Anderson | oanderson@alextimes.com

When one thinks of Alexandria, images of the town’s waterfront and quaint brick buildings might come to mind. Yet as with any city, there is also much more than meets the eye: A burgeoning arts scene has been simmering over the past several years, bustling with live music, open mic nights and even record labels.

Perhaps lesser known than some of the city’s larger attractions – but no less integral to the community – is Baffin Records, a label founded last year by two residents named Dave Klein and Matt Giles who wanted to elevate local musicians.

“I kind of have an idea of Baffin Records being the go-to [for artists]; if you have music and you’re making music and you’re doing something in Alexandria or the DMV region, Baffin Records could be a place where you could come and get advice, help producing, you may get hooked up with live venues or music publishing,” Klein said. “ … It’s just about bringing opportunities to the talent that is already here, and being part of the community that way.”

Klein’s introduction to the city came seven years ago, when he was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base while serving in the military. Upon moving, he found himself in the middle of a community he greatly enjoyed and noticed that a surprisingly large number of regional artists were creating original music. So, he decided to put down roots.

After retiring from the military last year following 10 different moves and 21 years of service, Klein dove headfirst into what he terms his “passion project.” The venture was originally formed to add more visibility to the region’s music, particularly in Alexandria, and the slogan became “Your hometown record label.”

“Really, our focus, at least initially, was to make sure that artists in the region were getting noticed, and to really get a wider audience for the bands that we knew about. … It’s [about] getting the DMV region’s upcoming [artists] a platform and a little bit of help and a little bit of opportunity that maybe they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Klein emphasized the importance of production quality when it comes to public consumption, noting that if music is not professionally mixed and mastered it runs a high likelihood of getting skipped.

“[We wanted] to find local artists who may have good songs, but they don’t necessarily have great recording equipment or they don’t have access to professional-level production. Our idea was that if we could bring the production level up to the level of where the talent is and the songwriting is, then those songs would be taken more seriously and could be released alongside every other commercial release that’s out there,” Klein said.

Klein was fueled by a desire to lift artists and equipped with a background in music production – the craft has always been his side project, even in the military – but the actual process of starting a business proved to be laborious. It required steps like starting an LLC, registering as a record label and being up to date with the International Standards of Recording Code in order to distribute music.

Baffin Records helps local musicians with
recording, distribution and song placement.

Fast forward one year, though, and Baffin Records is not only up and running, but also plays host to three acts – all of whom are local to the Del Ray neighborhood.

The first band Baffin signed is Hanoi Ragmen, an alternative rock six-piece inspired by M83, Bruce Springsteen and Queens of the Stone Age. With the label’s help, the band released their first eight-song album, “The Old Light,” in June.

Marian Hunter, another Baffin act, is a 17-year-old singer-songwriter who independently released a song called “Happy Fall” last year. Klein said the song gave him “goosebumps” and subsequently asked Hunter if she’d be willing to bring some of her music to Baffin, to which she agreed. Hunter’s next single, “@80,” is set for release later this year.

Baffin’s final name on the roster belongs to Elizabeth Lane, a singer-songwriter who self-released an EP, “Summer Passed,” with lyrics that Klein described as mature and wise beyond her years. She then joined Baffin, collaborating on a song Klein had started called “Ghost Town,” which was released in July.

“Each of these artists were making really great music, so we approached each of those artists and said, ‘Hey, we’re starting this label and we think we can help with your musical journey,’ and they were excited too, just to have the opportunity to have some assistance and hopefully have a bigger platform and some help with promotion,” Klein said.

Klein noted that Baffin’s ultimate aim is to continue growing, but it will take some time. Baffin Records is mostly a one-man shop; While Giles is Baffin’s go-to producer and mix engineer, he is no longer technically an official member of the company. Additionally, Klein has limited free time due his day job as an American Airlines pilot and dedication to his family.

One way to allow for this growth while simultaneously accommodating a wider number of artists is through music publishing, to which Baffin has recently expanded. While the record label’s primary job is to create and distribute quality recordings of songs, publishing caters to the underlying composition of music and lyrics.

Regardless of who records and distributes a song, the underlying composition is still owned by the original songwriters. So, generally speaking, a record label usually represents the recording artist, whereas publishing represents the songwriters.

“The publishing arm allows us to take on more clients, more artists,” Klein said, adding that the goal is to place Baffin’s songs in television, film and ad campaigns.

Baffin has recently signed two new songwriters and is currently speaking with others. It has also partnered with Blue Buddha Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based music placement firm that pitches music to be used. According to Klein, the two have created a great synergy because Blue Buddha possesses many industry connections, while Baffin introduces emerging East coast bands.

As Baffin Records continues to evolve and flourish, Klein emphasized that the label’s North Star is and will always be to support artists. A songwriter and musician himself, Klein knows firsthand the powerful – and at times mystical – draw of creating music. It’s something Klein said has enhanced his own life drastically, and therefore a pursuit he hopes to make more accessible to others as well.

“I would love to be the first person someone thinks of when they have a great song and they want to get it to more people. I would love for them to send it over to Baffin Records and say ‘Hey, what do you think? Let’s make this bigger in some way,’ and I feel like we’re making those connections, so it’s exciting,” Klein said.

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