When Andy Serrao joined longtime Southern California label Fearless Records as president in 2018, he noticed a shift in the industry — and that there were resources the label hadn’t properly tapped into. . So he decided to reinvent Fearless as a youth culture brand, not just a pop-punk/hard rock/metal label.
“With the Warped Tour departing [in 2019], there were a lot of opportunities not to be so marked in a certain way,” he says. “And with the resources that Concord had [after coming onboard in 2015] do some things for the best.
He pushed to expand the label from his “scrappy DIY” foundation and smash success in the early to mid-2000s into a wider sound palette – and an attempt to break into the rock and pop charts. Having spent time in the A&R departments of Atlantic/Roadrunner Records and Pure Noise before joining Fearless in 2018, as legendary founder Bob Becker returned to the position of Chairman Emeritus, Serrao was well suited for the role.
Serrao, 38, is also willing to let people vote with their wallets – something he learned early in his career as owner of the beloved all-ages club in Anaheim, Calif., where he cut his teeth in the early 2000s. “I could see when a show went on sale and it was moving twenty percent capacity and the band wasn’t signed that I had to call label friends and tell them to come,” says Serrao, who has OneRepublic, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco and The Offspring, all early regulars at the club he still calls home.
Now, amid the current pop-punk resurgence, led by disparate second waves like Olivia Rodrigo, Girl in Red, Machine Gun Kelly and The Kid Laroi, Serrao is doubling down on his mission to “let people decide what the label themselves,” he says. “I like having a very diverse roster… so it’s never about one genre or another. What I want to prove and show as a label is that we’re a great partner.
This proof can be found in the wide range of new acts that Serrao has signed and are slated to debut during 2021 and early 2022, as well as the mainstream rock and pop success of label stalwarts such as The Pretty Reckless, I Prevail and more -and-comers I don’t know how they found me and Starset.
The Orange County, California-formed label was launched in 1994 by Becker and had great chart success with its popular Punk goes…. series of cover compilation albums – which have sold nearly three million copies and generated a quarter of a billion streams to date, according to Fearless.
Formerly distributed by RED, the label’s distribution moved to Universal Music Group after the 2015 purchase by Concord Music Group, whose chief executive, Jill Weindorf, says Fearless’ tireless work to build a profitable brand prepared them for the greatest large-scale success envisioned. by Serrao. “We have a world-class team and we needed to partner with like-minded labels to create the same commitment and services as most independent labels, but need to evolve to compete in an otherwise very competitive landscape. “, continues Weindorf.
This meant giving Fearless full access to Concord’s nine-person promotional team, in-house art department, and all other resources necessary to carry out Serrao’s plan. Additionally, as Weindorf points out, it was equally beneficial for Concord to have Serrao involved, citing his “good connections in the touring business. [He] can call promoters and get bands on the right tours.
From the start, Serrao knew Weindorf, another longtime former A&R member, intimately understood the Fearless audience as it is, but also knew how to grow and expand beyond the two million die-hard fans who already follow his YouTube channel. “They were known for pop-punk, which is definitely having a moment right now, but if they were still doing what they were doing four years ago – serving a niche audience – I don’t know if they would. so excited,” she said. .
After riding the wave of Warped-adjacent successes with hardcore and metal bands such as Alesana, A Skylit Drive, Blessthefall and Motionless in White in the early and mid 2000s, Serrao began to reshuffle the cards, earning the label’s first back-to. -#1 comeback by a band on mainstream rock radio in 2021 with “Death By Rock and Roll” and “And So It Went” by The Pretty Reckless, fronted by Taylor Momsen.
The high rating followed the label’s first-ever No. 1 in mainstream rock radio with I Prevail’s “Hurricane” in 2020, as well as its first No. 1 in alternative radio with I Don’t Know How They Found Me’s. 2020 alt-pop hit “Leave Me Alone”. The label has already scored breakthrough chart successes from bands such as Plain White Ts, with their 2006 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Hey There Delilah”, as well as The Aquabats (“Super Rad”) and Sugarcult (” Pretty Girl (The Path).”)
Never static, Fearless have continually pushed the boundaries of the genre, also releasing seminal albums and singles by post-hardcore bands At the Drive-In, Bigwig, Glasseater and Anatomy of a Ghost. He also branched out into electro-rock with the 2011 success of Breathe Carolina’s top 40 Hot 100 single “Blackout” and Mayday Parade’s 2007 RIAA Gold-certified emo classic. A lesson in romance. Successes continued with platinum-selling bands such as metalcore band Pierce the Veil and Grammy-nominated hard rockers I Prevail, Underoath and August Burns Red.
Serrao laughs saying he’s willing to spend “more than I should” on a dedicated in-house video and animation team and digital marketing team to keep the ball rolling.
The global pandemic has undermined the results of many labels and bands, but that hasn’t stopped Fearless from having some success, including The Pretty Reckless setting a record for the most No. 1s on Billboardof the Mainstream Rock Airplay charts by a female or a female-led band, when “And So It Went” became their sixth chart-topper since 2014.
And in keeping with Serrao’s optimistic take on fans’ insatiable thirst for new music as the world begins to open up, he points to some of Fearless’ rising acts as proof that a new dawn is dawning. Hard rockers Starset have racked up over a billion views on their videos to date, and one of the label’s most promising bands, Australian trap-pop band Chase Atlantic, have already garnered over 12 million streams. , according to Fearless.
Their successes are all the more remarkable because, like many of the new multi-genre artists now on the Fearless roster, they built their fanbases with little to no U.S. touring available. Weindorf says there’s so much heat on Chase Atlantic now that the trio are already booked to tour 3,000 venues before any of their singles even hit US radio.
In addition to Chase Atlantic, which has nearly 300,000 TikTok followers — its songs are the basis of hundreds of TikTok videos — Serrao and Weindorf foresee a bright future for Florida progressive metal band Capstan and punk pop American Teeth. , the latter of whom they believe could benefit from a potential Machine Gun Kelly-style breakthrough. As for Starset, which already has a strong fan base, Weindorf once said “you add radio and touring, that’s an amazing recipe.” She thinks they’re one step away from breaking out at the level of a Coldplay or a Muse., saying, “They have the ability to be as big as each of those bands.”
Plus, Weindorf notes, there’s a possible third consecutive Pretty Reckless slated for summer 2021, all proof that Serrao’s vision for a bigger Fearless tent already seems to be paying off. While the label boss was mum on details, he promises the coming year will be massive as most of his roster returns from lockdown with what he humbly promises are their best records yet.
“It’s jaw-dropping,” he says, adding that he still enjoys looking back at his A&R roots and keeping tabs on writing sessions and what producers are up to during the pandemic. “It’s just stunning music from bands that used to tour eight months out of the year.”