Growing up and participating in musical theater and observing his father’s work as a jazz pianist, Jake Saunders’ life is closely linked to music.
“I just like weird music,” Saunders said. “There aren’t many people like me.”
Saunders, a junior communications student, devotes his time to helping independent artists by running Ramp Local, a small record label that represents more than 30 artists and markets their albums, CDs, tapes and merchandise.
Saunders took over the label in January 2016 while living in New York and is now expanding it to Philadelphia. Its aim is to promote artists and it strives to represent unknown, unique and experimental music.
A shelf of Ramp Local artist tapes and other merchandise hangs in the home of Jake Saunders near Larchwood Avenue and 51st Street on January 15. | JEREMY ELVAS / NEWS FROM THE TEMPLE
Saunders started working in the music industry in 2013. He studied music at Bennington College, in Bennington, Vermont for two years where he hosted shows for local bands. He eventually dropped out of school to work as a freelance promoter in New York City while working in fast food restaurants to keep himself afloat.
Saunders hosted a benefit show in 2015 for his own compilation tape titled “Eclectic Sessions,” an album featuring artists he worked with. There he met Trip Warner, co-owner of Brooklyn-based record label Wharf Cat Records, who was impressed with the number of quality bands at the show.
“It was one of the coolest things happening in New York at the time,” Warner said.
Wharf Cat Records had a few bands that Saunders was also booking, and Warner asked Saunders if he could market the compilation tape through Wharf Cat. Saunders agreed, and Warner began teaching him about distribution and promotion.
“He taught me everything I knew in the beginning,” Saunders said.
From there, Warner wanted to create Ramp Local as a small label within Wharf Cat and asked Saunders to run it.
Saunders eventually became unable to afford to live in New York, which brought him to Philadelphia. He began establishing Ramp Local in the city and enrolled at Temple University in the fall of 2019.
While Warner arranged most of the music, he eventually gave Saunders full control of Ramp Local, which shifted the label’s focus from industrial noise to rhythmic punk rock, Saunders said.
“It was easy to fall into it because people see there’s someone out there who’s willing to push the weird shit they do, which makes them want to work with you,” he said. -he adds.
Yet the label operates on a shared mission statement of releasing music they enjoy, rather than releasing what they think will make them money.
“There’s an impulse to stream what you know you can make and make a lot of money, and then there’s the choice to stream what you love and push it as hard as you can,” Warner said.
Within the label, Saunders primarily manages PR campaigns for artists: securing photos for the press, raising assets for vinyl production, and making sure the artist’s vision is on track.
“What I really help bands do is bring their story together,” Saunders said.
By taking care of logistics and media for bands, it gives artists more time to focus on their music, said Billy Brett, frontman of Buck Gooter, a rock band signed to Ramp Local.
“[Saunders] is also a big promoter and I’m not, so it’s nice to have someone like that in your corner,” Brett added.
As he has taken on more of an administrative role in the music industry, Saunders believes it’s important to empower artists to be themselves.
“If you don’t have someone on the back burner who pushes you, motivates you, and supports you, and makes sure things are on the right track, it’s harder for artists to stay creative,” Saunders said. .
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Billy Brett’s band name. The correct spelling is Buck Gooter.