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Chicago record label led by all women team helps promote, market artists' works

Chicago record label Kingdom Records Inc. helping artist reach their potential
Chicago record label Kingdom Records Inc. helping artist reach their potential 04:11

CHICAGO (CBS)— A quiet giant in the music industry has been representing Chicago artists for over 20 years - boosting local musicians to multiple gold and platinum albums. 

What began as a way to produce gospel albums in the early 2000s has since grown into a music publishing house and creative consulting agency, housing dozens of artists.

Nothing that happens in the studio, whether it be layering tracks or singing them, gets on the airwaves or on stage without the four women behind it all—an entire record label run by Black women distributed through Universal Music. 

"We produce the project, we market it, we promote it. We have public relations, and so, we package that together for all of the artists, and that's how we help to move them to the next level," said Joan Sullivan, Kingdom Records. 

Sullivan sits at the helm of Kingdom Records — one of the four independent record label imprints nested under their umbrella company, Urban Ideas Limited Partnerships.

"We started with Kingdom Records, and that was because we couldn't find a label that wanted to understand praise and worship music, and so we created our own label, and we were distributed by book distributors," she said. 

The days of working through book publishers didn't last too long, with Universal Music Group's Christian imprint picking up Kingdom Records' music for distribution.

"And we've been with them ever since," Sullivan said. 

"What's really cool is that even though we're a small indie label, we have this huge engine behind us, and we work seamlessly together," said Lindsey Evans, accounting manager. 

Wanting to represent more artists without diluting the gospel arm of the business, the group added three record label imprints—  enabling them to expand into new genres. 

"And artists just started coming to us. They were, you know, excited about the opportunity," Sullivan said. 

While signing with a small local, independent may come with smaller advances. It also allows artists to retain more ownership, not just of their image and music, but their money as well.

"We try to make sure that they know you got to get you a sound exchange. That's a way for you to get paid. If you write, then you need to get your writers in publishing," Sullivan said. 

"Some artists have to work for a very, very long time. So when you get with those bigger labels, they owned your life, everything you did so that they could get their money back," Evans said.  

"What I don't want is that they, you know, spend years and years doing this, and they walk away with nothing," Sullivan said. 

They say it's much more of a symbiotic relationship than most artists can find in larger music groups.

"We don't own you. We actually partner together, so that's the advantage of us. We're partners. We're not, we're not owners. It's weird," Evans said. 

From the booth to the Billboard charts, their artists' autonomy is at the center of everything they do.

"At the end of the day, we go with our artists because it's their art, it's their creativity, and we just kind of are the vehicle, the engine that puts it up," said Sherree Lee, creative director. 

Kingdom Records was named one of Billboard magazine's top indie record labels in 2009 and 2010. Multiple albums across its four record labels have gone gold and platinum, and they're always on the lookout for new talent.

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