The founder of the North East's best-known record label is closing one door to open another, as he looks to develop some of the country's hottest up-and-coming musicians in his latest venture.
KEITH Armstrong started the Kitchenware record label in 1982 when he was only 21 and working as manager of HMV in Newcastle.
A quarter of a century on and the Tyneside label had grown from a back-room hobby to a highly-successful company, but recent years have not been kind to record companies both big and small.
The invention of the CD changed the industry beyond recognition, with companies getting rich from incredible mark-ups on a commodity that actually cost less to manufacture than a vinyl record.
But while busy counting their money, few labels could have predicted the sting in the tail ... the internet.
Not only has the worldwide web provided a universal window for new artists, it has also provided a means for stealing music digitally.
Armstrong realised that his days would be numbered if his business plan didn’t radically change.
“I decided to close down the label, Kitchenware, in May but promptly started a more modern version of the company in June,” he says
“We are still continuing to develop new acts, which has been our forte over the years. With the way the market was going, we weren’t in a position to make new records and promote them in the way they used to be made.
“This new venture, Soul Kitchen Music & Management, allows us to develop artists by working as their managers and publishers.”
Soul Kitchen’s first signing was Nottingham-based Jake Bugg, who is currently touring with indie-pop sensation Noel Gallagher in Europe.
Bugg’s debut album is the most critically acclaimed album of the year and is top 10 in the UK chart.
Armstrong says: “Jake comes from the largest council estate in Europe and he’s taught himself how to play the guitar and sing. He’s the classic ‘get out of the ghetto’ inspiration story and I’m sure he’s destined for massive things.
“For a while it hasn’t been as easy for musicians to make it because there’s so much focus on these talent shows like X Factor.
“There’s a lot of really talented people out there looking for a break and I want to empower those people and help them do well.
“We could also bring local managers under our umbrella, still working for their percentage, but making their brand stronger by joining forces with us.
“It’s important that people don’t think that what I was doing at Kitchenware has disappeared from Newcastle.
“I still want the company to be a focus for the city that can turn a musician international.”