4 locals launch Key West record label

Have you heard?

Founders of Key West’s new record label, Conch Town Music — Danny Hughes, Ian Shaw, Ralph De Palma and Mat Smith — celebrate the new venture. CONTRIBUTED

Sometime each night, between the requisite “Sweet Caroline” and “Wagon Wheel,” a quiet offer comes from musicians on local stages.

 “Here’s a little something I wrote. I hope you like it.”

That’s when the magic happens. And four local pros recently created a new venture to help those musicians sell themselves and their songs, ensuring that the artists can make money in addition to music.

Calling themselves The Gents, Two Friends owner Danny Hughes, record producer Ian Shaw, engineer Mat Smith and photographer Ralph De Palma recently launched a Key West record label called Conch Town Music.

“By the time a local singer/songwriter writes music, rehearses it, records it and then plays enough gigs to live in Key West, there is no time to market their work. And that’s a shame, because some truly great original music rarely escapes the confines of Key West,” Hughes said. “We’re a true record label in the sense that we represent the artist and help market their music.” 

Conch Town Music already has signed local blues legend Bill Blue and Americana musician Juliana MacDowell, both of whom had albums “in the can,” that hadn’t been released or marketed.

“We had launch-ready music ready to go from the start,” said Shaw, an accomplished record producer and recording engineer from the UK, who owns Warm Fuzz Records and now operates a successful local recording studio.  

More to come…

Key West’s live music scene is notable both for its degree of talent and the number of live music venues.

“There are 55 such venues on an 8-square-mile island,” said De Palma, the fourth corner of the Conch Town Music foursome.

He would know. A talented music photographer, De Palma makes music look as good as it sounds and has spent time in every one of those 55 venues. He has compiled hundreds of images into three photography books, two volumes of “The Soul of Key West,” and one new volume, “The Soul of Havana.”

It’s go time…

The team is in place, the first two musicians are signed and records are being recorded and released.

Marketing has begun for Bill Blue’s latest album, “King of Crazy Town,” which will launch March 6, while MacDowell’s “Leaving Home” will drop March 13.  But there’s no need to wait when free downloads are available at BillBlue.online and JulianaMacDowellMusic.com.

“Also in the works is a performance by MacDowell at the Sunday Ramble Concert Series on Feb. 23 at the Key West Theater, just prior to her album launch,” Hughes said. “And while we don’t want to tip our hand, the Gents – as the Conch Town Music partners call ourselves – are pretty damn happy with how things are going.”

Since signing with Conch Town Music, Bill Blue has gotten airplay in France, Belgium, Italy, Holland, Australia and Tasmania of all places; as well as all over the U.S., Hughes said, adding that MacDowell’s promotion is starting to gain momentum as well.

So, what, or who, is next? 

“That is going to be a tough decision,” Smith said..  “We can’t work everyone at once, but how do you say ‘no’ to a truly talented singer/songwriter?”

“We need to get Bill’s and Juliana’s programs right, and we’ll worry about who’s next later,” Shaw said.

In the meantime, Hughes hopes everyone who reads this and other articles about Conch Town Music and local musicians will share the article and the musicians’ sites with everyone they know who loves music, Key West or both.

“Wouldn’t it be the ultimate in ‘cool’ for Key West to become known as a live music town that despite its small size has the same horsepower, talent-wise, as Austin, New York, Chicago, LA, and Nashville? Yeah, that would be really cool.”

Conch Town Music, Key West’s new record label, represents blues legend Bill Blue and will release his next album in March. RALPH DE PALMA/Contributed
The new Conch Town Music record label represents singer Juliana MacDowell, and will release her album in March. RALPH DE PALMA/Contributed


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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.