History of Hopeless Records and New Exhibit Explained by Execs

History of Hopeless Records and New Exhibit Explained by Execs

Louis Posen’s journey into the music industry began on a whim in 1993. While directing a music video for the punk band Guttermouth, the band challenged him to release a 7″ single. With no business plan or funding, Posen embraced the challenge, driven by the belief that surrounding himself with good people would lead to success.

Fast forward to today, Hopeless Records, the label Posen founded, has collaborated with over 200 artists, including notable names like Avenged Sevenfold, All Time Low, The Wonder Years, Taking Back Sunday, and Yellowcard. The label’s diverse roster spans genres from punk to ska, metal to emo, and has collectively sold over 15 million albums. This year, Posen is celebrating the label’s 30th anniversary at A2IM’s Indie Week in New York, where he will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2024 Libera Awards.

Reflecting on his decision to dive into the music industry, Posen believes it was almost destined. A pivotal moment came in the fifth grade when he attended a punk concert, which left a lasting impression on him. This experience, among others, led him to the path of founding Hopeless Records.

To commemorate the label’s 30th anniversary, Hopeless Records has curated a traveling exhibit showcasing memorabilia from its history. The exhibit will be displayed during Indie Week before moving to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas. Posen and Ian Harrison, the label’s General Manager, discussed the origins of Hopeless Records, the challenges of condensing 30 years into a single exhibit, and the significance of the independent music sector.

Posen’s entry into the label world was spontaneous. While in film school, he directed a music video for NOFX, which led to another project with Guttermouth. The band dared him to release a 7″ record, prompting Posen to buy a book on running an independent record label and seek advice from Fat Mike of NOFX. The first 7″ record, featuring the song “Hopeless,” was released in December 1993, giving the label its name.

Initially, Posen juggled college and directing music videos. The label’s early releases, including a VHS compilation of music videos titled “Cinema Beer-té,” quickly gained traction. Posen soon decided to focus on the label full-time. Despite the initial success, Posen emphasizes that the music industry is ever-changing, requiring continuous learning and adaptation.

Harrison explained the process of creating the exhibit, which involved months of sorting through memorabilia and gathering items from artists. The exhibit features significant moments from the label’s history, displayed in music road cases with glass fronts, adding a unique touch. Items from artists, such as guitars and lyric books, play a crucial role in telling the label’s story.

Posen and Harrison highlighted some meaningful items in the exhibit. For Harrison, The Wonder Years’ workbook from “The Greatest Generation” album holds special significance. Posen cherishes a letter from Leonard Bernstein’s daughter, praising a punk cover of “West Side Story,” and a letter from the late Senator Dianne Feinstein recognizing the label’s charitable work.

Posen advises aspiring label founders to focus on principles like treating people well and surrounding themselves with great individuals. He believes the independent music sector offers a supportive environment for building careers and creating social mobility. Hopeless Records’ success, with 33 albums selling over 100,000 copies, exemplifies the potential of independent music.

As the music industry evolves, Posen and Harrison remain committed to preserving the legacy of Hopeless Records and supporting the next generation of artists and labels. The 30th-anniversary exhibit serves as a testament to the label’s enduring impact and the vibrant community it has fostered over the past three decades.

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