gray dot, inc. operates as the parent company to three subsidiaries &endash; gray dot records, Bulletboy Music (both record labels), and gray dot songs (a publishing company). gray dot incorporated, gray dot songs, and gray dot records were founded in 1994 by Marty Bush, David Vanderpoel, and Sam Walton after the three had worked in varied backgrounds including Christian music journalism, performance in Christian and mainstream bands, club ownership, Christian print journalism, and having chaired artist/label co-op programs. At its inception, gray dot records' mission was and remains today:
- To provide, present and support in the marketplace current, relevant, quality music.
- To conduct business as a music company with integrity that reflects a Christian worldview and lifestyle.
- To provide to the music industry an operable example of an alternative, mutually-beneficial artist/label cooperative relationship, with cross-involvement in the areas of merchandising, tour support and management.
Through its mission, gray dot records has a unique approach to signing and promoting Christian and mainstream artists both within and outside of the Christian marketplace. It is gray dot's belief that quality music addressing issues relevant to Christians specifically and to people generally should be cross-promoted on its own merit, and gray dot records provides its artists that opportunity. All artists on gray dot records are candidates for marketing in both mainstream and Christian pop markets.
gray dot records' first series of full releases shipped on May 20, 1995 when the label released the CHR/pop-rock eponymous debut by Third Day (produced by Dave Mardis) and the alternative praise debut by Sunday Blue, Breathe (produced by Steve Hindalong, Derri Daugherty, and Bill Campbell.) Sunday Blue's release also marked gray dot's first video release, with the single "Breathe" airing on Z-Music Television network.
On July 4, 1995 at Cornerstone Festival, gray dot released Breakfast with Amy's Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, a re-issue of the classic garage punk release, remastered with an extensive booklet and four new tracks. Later that same month, gray dot released its first mainstream-only release with Urban Shakedancers' Let 'er Dig (produced by John Briglevich.) Urban Shakedancers then toured opening for the Black Crowes for sixty-four dates, as well as playing the HORDE tour and appearing on the HORDE CD-ROM prior to gray dot's release of the band from their contract in order for them to enter into negotiations with Elektra Records.
In January 1996, after an extensive bidding contest, gray dot sold Third Day's contract to Reunion Records and also entered into a new distribution agreement with Word Records. Prior to this agreement, gray dot was distributed by Spring Arbor, CMC, GMI, and MRA into the Christian marketplace and by INDI/Big State into the mainstream market.
April 1, 1996 saw the release of L.S.U.'s swan song, Bring It Down Now (produced by J.C. Richardson of sundays child), a 74-minute masterpiece that included 4 new cuts, 6 live cuts, 5 remixes, and 8 reissued cuts previously unavailable. Stations and stores across the country broadcast the release in it's entirety, hosted album listening parties, and gray dot sponsored an online chat with L.S.U. leader, Mike Knott. L.S.U. went on to chart on CMJ (mainstream) charts for the first time in the band's history.
June 1996 saw the release of gray dot records' fourth sampler CD, the first available as a retail item. Titled ... same three chords, gray dot sponsored a cross-country tour where over 50,000 copies were given away, including giveaways at four major Christian festivals. The project showcased new gray dot records artists, independent artists, and information about Feed the Hungry, gray dot's designated charity to receive the project's net profits generated by retail sales.
September 20, 1996 saw the first release from gray dot records distributed by Word Distribution, Age of Faith's Embrace. Embrace also received strong release support, including sneak radio previews, in-store listening parties, a guitar giveaway, an online chat, and an album release concert weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina that included a skating rink live concert, unplugged sets, and a live performance at Carowinds Christian Music Festival. Embrace saw a $70,000 ad campaign and a long-term marketing strategy that involved re-establishing familiarity with the band with initial singles and releasing more significant singles after a groundswell of support has been generated.
In December of 1996, gray dot records and Reunion Records' distribution contracts were transferred to Zomba's Brentwood Distribution, concurrent with the sale of Reunion to Zomba. Brentwood began distribution on Age of Faith's Embrace and on Loudflower's Happy Now? (a release that is receiving strong cross-marketing) for gray dot records.
In January of 1997, satisfied with its pace of penetration into Christian Hit music, but not with its advances with artists that played more challenging alternative music, gray dot, incorporated formed its second label, Bulletboy Music, designed to fully support and promote Christian alternative bands breaking new musical ground. Marketing exclusively to the Christian market, Bulletboy as a label operates from a distinctly different mission from that of its sister label:
- To produce, provide and support in the Christian marketplace quality, relevant, modern music by Christian artists.
- To support its artists' missions of evangelism and exhortation through quality promotions, booking, and merchandising.
- To offer the Christian marketplace rock music that advances the overall perception of the market as current, challenging, and a worthy alternate to modern mainstream music.
That January also saw the inception of Bulletboy's distribution deal with Diamante Music Group, and the transfer of L.S. Underground and Breakfast with Amy from gray dot records to Bulletboy.
Bulletboy's first two signings occurred in February of 1997, when the label inked deals with ska-core sensation Squad Five-O and old-school punk rockers Spudgun. Both bands entered the studio that month with Squad Five-O under the production hand of J.C. Richardson (L.S. Underground, Exeter Flud, Fled movie soundtrack) and Spudgun with producer Jan Nehrud (Keith Sweat). Both bands are being booked in-house by an expanded staff of gray dot, inc. and both releases are scheduled to ship in May of 1997.
Bulletboy is scheduled to release 8-12 releases per year, roughly twice the amount released by sister label, gray dot records, and its roster is comprised of artists focused on making music for the Christian consumer. Bulletboy artists, while consistently more focused on their faith lyrically, seek to break new ground musically -- and are more ripe for development through consistent touring, merchandising, and overseen development.
Since 1994, gray dot, incorporated has sought to release and fully promote innovative relevant, Christian-oriented music with particular devotion to its artists by promoting releases until the artist releases another release, fully surrounding tour dates with publicity and promotions, and working closely with the artists on development. The same A&R department that showed vision in signing Third Day, Age of Faith, and Loudflower now also signs more innovative and modern acts for Bulletboy. The same staff that showed label devotion in breaking Third Day (at nine months of promotion) and in breaking Age of Faith (at three months of promotion) now also supports Bulletboy's roster with the same level of intense tour support and innovative advertising.
We at gray dot/Bulletboy are proud to operate record labels that approach their artists and their art with commitment, integrity and vision. We are thrilled to now be working with a distributor who shares our vision for modern music, who seeks the highest level of excellence while maintaining the aggressive edge that is central to the spirit of independent labels. We believe that as much as Diamante can do to take Bulletboy to the level of a leader in Christian Rock, Bulletboy will advance the cause of Diamante among its peers as the only alternatively structured, label-oriented distribution company.