In the ever-evolving tapestry of the music industry, independent labels often shine as beacons of innovation and artistic integrity. Among these, Partisan Records stands tall, a testament to the power of vision, collaboration, and an unyielding commitment to the artist's voice. Founded in 2007 by Tim Putnam and Ian Wheeler in New York City, Partisan began its journey in the modest confines of Putnam’s South Brooklyn apartment. This humble origin story, replete with the grassroots ethos typical of indie labels, is a key chapter in the label's rich narrative.
From these small beginnings, Partisan quickly gained momentum. The label's first release, Holy Sons’ ‘Decline Of The West’, set a precedent for the eclectic and quality-driven selections that would define its catalog. This was soon followed by the signing of Deer Tick, whose album ‘War Elephant’ heralded early success for the label. Such early victories were not just commercial but symbolic, establishing Partisan as a home for diverse, potent musical voices.
Partisan's narrative took a pivotal turn in 2008. While Tim Putnam served as the Night Manager at The Knitting Factory in Manhattan, a strategic partnership was formed with Knitting Factory Entertainment CEO Morgan Margolis. This alliance was more than a business decision; it was a meeting of minds and missions. Together, they not only reissued the Fela Kuti catalogue but also rejuvenated Knitting Factory Records, bringing to the fore Grammy-nominated artists like Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti.
The essence of Partisan Records, however, lies in its artist-friendly philosophy and genre-spanning catalog. The label has fostered a creative haven where artists across various genres can flourish without the commercial pressures often found in larger corporate labels. This approach has reaped rich rewards, as evidenced by the label's first-ever Grammy nomination in 2019 for Bombino's ‘Deran’, followed by two more nominations in 2020 for works by Fontaines D.C. and Laura Marling. Moreover, the success of IDLES’ ‘Ultra Mono’, which clinched the #1 spot on the UK album charts, underscores Partisan’s international acclaim and influence.
The recognition of Partisan Records extends beyond its musical achievements. In 2019, Zena White, the label's Managing Director, was honored with Music Week’s International Woman of The Year award, a fitting accolade for a label that not only champions artistic expression but also fosters leadership and innovation within its ranks.
Today, with Putnam at the helm as President and Wheeler's continued involvement through The Talkhouse, Partisan Records is more than a label; it's a cultural force. It extends its influence through sister labels like Knitting Factory Records, section1, and Desert Daze Sound, each operating under strategic partnerships and contributing to the label's diverse and rich musical offerings.