Bloodshot Records co-founder Rob Miller leaves label following ownership and royalty disputes
UPDATE: Pitchfork reports: "A source close to the situation tells Pitchfork that, despite Miller’s departure, the label is not shutting down and that the Bloodshot catalog will remain available.
Bloodshot Records's Rob Miller has left the Chicago-based independent label that he co-founded in 1994 that was a key player in the '90s Alt Country scene.
"It is time for this phase of Bloodshot Records to come to an end," wrote label co-founder Rob Miller in a statement posted on the Bloodshot website on Monday (10/18). "I will no longer be a part of the label I started over 25 years ago as an impossibly ill-conceived hobby. It’s not the path myself, the staff or the artists wanted, but few get to write their final chapter. That we lasted as long as we did—a roots label, too rock for country, and too country for punk, in Chicago—was nothing short of miraculous. It has been humbling privilege to be able to intuitively concoct my own record collection and have so many follow along for the ride. You trusted us, and that always meant the world to me. I personally never took that for granted. Thank you for all the support and good cheer, for enabling this strange endeavor, for letting us be a part of your lives and communities, and for being—as a friend and former Hideout bartender characterized Bloodshot fans—polite, sloppy, and good tippers."
Variety noted that the label's website also says "Our office is PERMANENTLY closed."
It's been a rough couple years for Bloodshot. Co-founder Nan Warshaw resigned from her position at the label in March of 2019, following allegations of sexual misconduct made by Lydia Loveless against Warshaw's domestic partner, Mark Panick. As part of her resignation, Miller was to buy Warshaw's 50% share in the label, but financial problems -- including unpaid royalties to their artists -- and disputes between the owners continued to mount.
Bloodshot was home to early records by alt-country staples Old '97s, Ryan Adams, Waco Brothers and The Bottle Rockets, Neko Case, The Sadies, Justin Townes-Earle, and more.
Miller's statement does allude to the possibility of someone else buying the label, but whoever that might be would have a lot of baggage (and bills) to sort through. "Whatever happens to the Bloodshot name moving forward," Miller writes, "whatever form the company takes, and wherever the artists go, it is, as always, the music that remains important."
Read Miller's full statement below:
A FEW WORDS OF THANKS
It is time for this phase of Bloodshot Records to come to an end. I will no longer be a part of the label I started over 25 years ago as an impossibly ill-conceived hobby. It’s not the path myself, the staff or the artists wanted, but few get to write their final chapter. That we lasted as long as we did—a roots label, too rock for country, and too country for punk, in Chicago—was nothing short of miraculous. It has been humbling privilege to be able to intuitively concoct my own record collection and have so many follow along for the ride. You trusted us, and that always meant the world to me. I personally never took that for granted. Thank you for all the support and good cheer, for enabling this strange endeavor, for letting us be a part of your lives and communities, and for being—as a friend and former Hideout bartender characterized Bloodshot fans—polite, sloppy, and good tippers.
Little did I know that a journey that started with having my brain rewired at a DEVO show in Detroit in 1980 would lead to such a wonderful and challenging life in the world of independent music. I am filled with nothing but gratitude for the artists on whose behalf I worked. I had a hand in releasing some truly remarkable music over the years. That artists would entrust me with their creations was a responsibility I took very seriously. I’ve made friends with some enormously talented people along the way, too numerous to mention, and some were even heroes of mine long before Bloodshot was even a drunken gathering of neurons in my head: Dex Romweber! Alejandro Escovedo! Rosie Flores! Graham Parker! Mekons! Barrence Whitfield & the Savages! It boggles my already boggled mind when I think about it. And that so many of them have reached out to myself and the staff with tear-inducing words of support the past couple of years—you know who you are—for that I am further in your debt.
From the early days of the Old 97’s, Lounge Ax and Delilah’s all the way through to up and comers Rookie, a new generation of cool venues like Sleeping Village, and, well, Delilah’s, it was never boring. Tedious? Sure. A giant pain in the ass? Often. A quixotic and Sisyphean exercise? You betcha. But what a kick! What an absolute improbability! Often, I’d find myself standing at a show watching the crowd connect with the music—that special and thrilling two-way relationship between band and audience—marveling at the whole thing and that I was allowed, in some small way, to help. I was a record geek version of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.
Well, we had some fun, right? I am sad there wasn’t a chance for a proper goodbye and that we weren’t able to whip up a wake, a celebration or one last party. I seem to remember a few good ones over the years. I have no doubt forgotten a few of them, too. I hope we brought some fun into your lives over the years and valued member of the community.
I would be deeply remiss if I did not offer praise and everlasting thanks to the former staff of Bloodshot who endured a great deal of undeserved and unrelenting darkness the past two and a half years. They remained steadfast to the core purpose of the label and shared my principles of integrity in supporting music and artists we cared about deeply. Hannah Douglas, Mike Smith, Nina Stiener and Josh Zanger (and even Lisa C and little Billie): They rarely got the spotlight, but they were as much in the fiber of what Bloodshot was as any music. Any label—or any business—is lucky to have them on staff, any artist is lucky to have them on their team, and I am so proud of the job they did under very difficult circumstances. Their kindnesses and fierce loyalty to the ideals of what I thought Bloodshot should be is something I will carry with me always. I learned so much from them about what is really important during this time. If you see them, thank them, buy them a delicious cocktail—or in Mike’s case, a Malört. They have the hearts of lions. I miss seeing them in the trenches every day, I miss watching them perform feats of creativity and ingenuity in service of the music. There will always be a big hole where what we could have done over the next few years should be.
Finally, whatever happens to the Bloodshot name moving forward, whatever form the company takes, and wherever the artists go, it is, as always, the music that remains important. Support the musicians we associated with in any way you can, as directly as you can. Furthermore, keep supporting all independent, labels, artists and businesses (be they record stores, book stores, presses, breweries, bars, restaurants, apparel shops, bakeries and beyond). They are what keep life interesting. They are what make our communities vibrant and unique. It is through them that we can keep the forces of Bezos-ization and Kardashianing at bay. We would all be poorer without them.
Take care of yourselves and each other, believe the women, work for justice and accountability in your neighborhoods and, to paraphrase the ever-relevant Joe Strummer:
Search out the good stuff, go underground and don't buy what's shoved in front of you.
Thank you again, for everything.
Maybe I’ll see you again at a show sometime.
This post has been updated to clarify that Bloodshot Records' website writes "Our office is PERMANENTLY closed" and not that the label has shut down permanently.