The Orchard, a pioneering independent music, film and video distribution company, today announced its acquisition of rock/metal label Shrapnel Records‘ historic catalog. Spanning 35 years and representing many groundbreaking artists, Shrapnel Records has maintained a pivotal role at the frontlines of metal history since its launch in 1980 by producer Mike Varney as the first dedicated metal label, predating successors Metal Blade and Megaforce and bringing renowned guitarists including Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine, Richie Kotzen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jason Becker and Marty Friedman to worldwide attention.
The Orchard will now oversee digital and physical distribution for the label, making Shrapnel’s 3,000-song catalog available for streaming for the first time, including releases by Chris Duarte (“Lucky 13”), Paul Gilbert (“Stone Pushing Uphill Man”), and INDIGENOUS (“Time Is Coming”). In addition, a third of the 322 album titles included in the deal will be made available digitally for the first time.
“The distribution landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten years, requiring greater staffing with expertise in digital distribution,” says Varney. “Although the Shrapnel Label Group will continue making new records, the expanded distribution and accompanying administration of the back catalog was something we felt could be best served by a larger company. As a pioneer in digital distribution with a tremendous track record of more than fifteen years, The Orchard was in a stronger position to effectively realize this for our catalog.”
Varney founded Shrapnel Records at just 22 years old. By then he was already a fixture on the San Francisco scene, having been a member of THE NUNS — one of first punk bands in the United States — played guitar in the ROCKY SULLIVAN BAND with legendary QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE guitarist John Cipollina, and co-authored the rock opera “Rock Justice” (EMI) with JEFFERSON STARSHIP vocalist Marty Balin. He began a quest to find the next great American guitar player in the heavy metal genre, discovering many guitarists who would later rank among the best in the world. His popular monthly Guitar Player magazine column, “Spotlight,” aided his search for new talent and he recruited the cream of the crop for his label, eventually expanding into a label group that included the blues/rock label Blues Bureau International and the jazz/fusion label Tone Center.
“The Shrapnel Label Group was the first American label dedicated to metal and has pioneered the development of guitar-centric records,” says Jason Pascal, VP of catalog development and associate general counsel at The Orchard. “To get to work with a catalog of this size and scope is humbling and inspiring, and I couldn’t be happier that The Orchard will now serve as the steward for Shrapnel’s legacy.”