What's in a Label?: sixstepsrecords
Those are important decisions in an industry marked by losses and decline. While sixsteps forges ahead with consistency in staff and artists, EMI has suffered from downsizing over the years.
Worship artist David Crowder speaks for everyone at sixsteps when expressing disappointment: "It's been disheartening watching people [at EMI] lose jobs, especially since [we all] thought they're amazing people doing a great job and doing what they're supposed to do."
According to Louie Giglio, the music world as a whole may never recover from its recent turmoil. "The landscape of music transference and usage seems altered in an irrevocable way, causing people within the music world to cast aside every given and rethink things from the ground up."
How, then, has sixsteps stayed successful through all this? Its small size is important, but so are the label's focus, energy, and unconventional management structure. Typically, management of artists functions separately from the label. At sixsteps, Shelley Giglio manages all the artists on the label.
"On paper this shouldn't work at all," notes Crowder. "It's a glaring conflict of interest that should implode quickly. [On the other hand,] you don't have a manager coming in the middle of you and arguing for one guy over another. There's a collective interest that's at stake, as well as the individual interests. Probably due to the amount of relationship and the time we've spent with the other artists on the label, there's a genuine want for success, a collective shared interest that's probably due to the fact that management is rolled into the label."
With all the artists sharing the same manager and touring together with Passion, the word "family" applies more appropriately with sixsteps than perhaps any other label. "There's a definite father and mother figure," says Hall, speaking of the Giglios. "In my life, Louie and Shelley have helped me navigate through quite a bit over the last few years."
Tomlin likens Hall to the "oldest brother", and the guys are quick to jab Tomlin about his height, in a brotherly sort of way. For the record, Tomlin notes, "I'm taller than Charlie and [worship leader Matt Redman]."
Crowder calls the guys "a bunch of pals," and notes that experiencing life together outside of making music (particularly through the Passion conferences) helps foster those relationships.
By the same token, Crowder stresses the importance of individuality. "We can just be who we are. What was valued is what was being spoken or written from a particular vantage point. There wasn't any homogeneity that was either asked for or wanted."
Shelley Giglio identifies this as one of the label's major strengths, noting that each artist's individuality calls for customized marketing plans for each one. "Our guys are so unique. I try to take it case-by-case with our guys and each record—to figure out for each scenario what the best plan would be."
For Hall, that meant a very gradual rollout of his Flying Into Daybreak CD in 2006 that started with a single chain of stores in Texas and Oklahoma. "That's Charlie's definite stomping ground, where we have primary support," relates Shelley Giglio. "Then we took that, made it a success story, and had the trickle out from there. Eventually it was in stores everywhere, but at first, the best thing to do for Charlie was to make it a little bit harder to get, so that people were motivated to find it. It worked really well." [Hall has since released The Bright Sadness to much acclaim.]