Panther records pioneer a new attitude in music

Pia Maria shares the ethos behind her independent start-up label

From small indie bands booking their first gigs at local venues to big household names, London has been nurturing talent in the music industry for decades. The country’s capital hosts some of the greatest producers and distributors of diverse and experimental music. This is thanks to the contributions of bands and artists from different backgrounds enriching the scene. Many have travelled from across the country and from other parts of the world to find their sound.

Entering the music scene in London is difficult without guidance. A lot of artists find the promotional aspects of the industry overwhelming. They would rather focus on their craft. Pia Maria, founder of Panther Records works alongside upcoming London bands. Lifting some of the burden off them, and helping them to land gigs.

Windowpane performing at The Waiting Room. Photo courtesy of Pia Maria.

Maria wasn’t planning on starting her own music label when she moved here from Germany to do her masters. London had captured her heart.

“Nowhere else can you meet humans from Angola, Iceland, Tonga and Kyrgyzstan in the same room. I’ve always been fascinated by how and why we develop our music taste. Why do we like certain rhythmic patterns? After moving homes a lot as a teenager, music was my way to feel included in a group again. I think deep down I probably created a label because of my urge for community, a sense of belonging.”

The East London based label started out with vinyl production and “a wild warehouse gig for Frankie Teardrop Dead.” It was clear to Maria that to find success in the industry, she would have to make it happen herself.

In 2021 Panther Records began to pick up. “I started to distribute vinyl to record stores all over London. Next Door Records were the first ones to invite me to put on a label showcase last year in May, and I’m still grateful for that.”

Maria takes a different approach from traditional record labels as she doesn’t sign any artists, giving them creative control. She says, “I don’t sign artists. I only work on specific projects with them as a team, so they can keep their independence.”

This collaborative approach has gotten a long list of vinyl releases under Maria’s belt. Her latest being Fez’s Bottled Chaos. She describes it as: “A journey from brutal post-punk through psychedelic to mellow, jazzy whispers.”

When considering new artists to join the Panther Records roster, Maria prioritises character and style. Working with creatives she resonates with, she says: “One of my main criteria is live performance. Do they have an infectious energy on stage that grabs the audience? How does the artist treat other bands and people working with them? Are they entitled or respectful? I enjoy working with the ones who have ‘random’ ideas because it makes the process more fun.”

Windowpane performing at The Waiting Room. Photo courtesy of Pia Maria.

Maria works closely with the artists to establish a personal relationship with them, supporting them in finding success. “I very much care about selling out gigs. I always push myself to pack them out to create a sizzling atmosphere in the room. I support vinyl releases by working my ass off at my other job. When I’m not exhausted I have bursts of ideas for growing artists’ audiences.” 

Most recently, Maria put on a successful night in Stoke Newington’s The Waiting Room. Featuring a line up of all female led bands, and closed with two piece DJ act, Drop Hymn. The standout act of the night was Ese & The Voodoo People, who Maria is hoping to release a vinyl with in the near future.

Ese & The Voodoo People performing at The Waiting Room. Photo courtesy of Pia Maria

As for Maria’s upcoming goals, she’s hoping to continue to work with all female bands and get Fez on a festival line-up.

Upcoming dates for her acts include Ese & The Voodoo People who are performing at the London Jazz Festival on November 11, and Fez who are playing The Victoria, in Dalston on December 7.

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