From its humble beginnings in early 2000 as a tiny operation run out of founder and CEO Ashley Sellers’ lounge room, Inertia has grown into one of the country’s most dynamic and multifaceted independent music companies.
Inertia may have garnered wide-ranging commercial success in its first decade, but the Sydney-based company has built a name on quality, independence and camaraderie, rather than indiscriminate quantity. The ethos of its small, close-knit team (or as Sellers often puts it, “the Inertia family”) translates directly to the acumen of its roster and the reputation of its licensing, promotions, management and merchandising services.
The Inertia family – which includes founder and CEO Ashley Sellers, Managing Director Colin Daniels and Head of A&R Justin Cosby – hold personal and professional relationships with some of the world’s most influential and iconoclastic labels, artists and musical minds. It’s no mistake that they have become synonymous with breaking some music’s most progressive artists to the Australian and New Zealnd markets.
By the close of the ‘90s, a clear schism was emerging in the Australian music market. With major labels still booming, the majority cutting edge, independently released music was going without. Some of the world’s most revered independent and experimental imprints had no representation on the Australian music landscape.
Sellers, who was working for a major label at the time, knew he had to do something. It was a then virtually unknown Sigur Rós and their 1999 record Ágætis byrjun that pushed him over the edge. “Sigur Rós was one of the acts that was pivotal in me making that decision to start a distribution company,” he recalls.
Amid pivotal early releases like Chicks On Speed’s Chicks On Speed Will Save Us All (2000) and Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights (2002), the Beggars Group joined the Inertia stable via a partnership with Melbourne’s Remote Control records. As a result, the company has been responsible for dropping standout records from legendary labels of the likes of XL Recordings, Matador, 4AD, Young Turks and True Panther.
These days, the Inertia label roster includes the likes of Warp, Sub Pop, Soul Jazz, Ninja Tune, Secretly Canadian and Bloodshot, and the company has also forged partnerships with some of Australia’s leading independent labels. The likes of Elefant Traks, Speak N Spell, Sensory Projects, Popfrenzy, Dot Dash, Mistletone, Cartell, Soulmate, Boundary Sounds, Two Bright Lakes, Siberia, Cross Section, Future Classic, My World, Preservation and Invada all call Inertia home and the team have helped push artists such as Sia, The Herd, Midnight Juggernauts, Bridezilla and Dappled Cities into local and international markets.
It was only a matter of time before Sellers and co took up the challenge of releasing records under their own imprint. They founded Inertia Recordings in 2002 as a vehicle for imparting the best of what Australia and New Zealand had to offer, soon having great success with Ben Lee’s double-platinum, multi-ARIA Award-winning Awake is the New Sleep (2005).
Meanwhile, Inertia inaugurated Rogue Records in 2003, with the aim of better supporting the string of stunning records drifting up from a new generation of folk, alt country and left-leaning indie artists abroad, such as Bon Iver.
In 2006, Inertia founded yet another label in Pod (Point of Difference), with some of the global indie and electronic community’s most respected minds on board. The imprint has gone onto release a host of remarkable records by the likes of UNKLE, David Byrne & Brian Eno, The Soft Pack and Girls.
Perhaps one of Inertia’s most distinctive traits has been its ability to diversify its business model to suit the rapidly changing music industry landscape. As the touring and festival boom began take shape in the mid 2000s, Inertia team decided to apply their love for live music to their already burgeoning business model. With Sellers at the helm, they launched touring division Civil Society in 2006, which has since gone onto work with nearly all the major festivals in Australia and toured acts form across the entire scope of the music industry, including Grizzly Bear, Sia, Santigold, Metric, The xx, The National, Pink Martini, Girls, Bear In Heaven, Darwin Deez and !!!.
In an exciting development in 2010, Civil Society merged its business activities with renowned Melbourne-based company Handsome Tours, inturn creating a new touring entity under the Handsome Tours name. With original Handsome Tours directors Mat Everett and Dave Chatfield teaming up with Civil Society directors Ashley Sellers and Colin Daniels, the new-look division has an unprecedented wealth of experience and talent to match the incredible esteem of its touring acts.
The Inertia family may have first made their name for breaking cutting edge artists to boutique markets, but they have developed into Australia’s most dynamic, full-service music company. Bringing the work and product of the world’s most iconoclastic artists to vast a Australian audience via an ever-diversifying palette of channels, their distribution, licensing, product management, marketing, promotions, merchandise and rights management services have made them one of Australia’s most influential tastemakers.
Having played their part in ensuring the Australian success of artists of the ilk of Radiohead, The White Stripes, Sia, Interpol, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, MIA, Dizzee Rascal, The National, Grizzly Bear and countless others, Inertia have proven just how far fierce independence and a love of good music can take you. A bright future awaits.
(words by Dan Rule)