Recognizing 20 years of record label Friday Music – Goldmine Magazine

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Friday Music's Joe Reagoso (right) with the late Mike Nesmith of The Monkees.
Photo courtesy of Friday Music.
By Andrew Daly
The vinyl industry is volatile, with an outside perception that is oft-defined by issues stemming from quality control and tone-deaf releases. But for 20 years, Joe Reagoso has been excluded from that conversation. Instead, the east coast native has authored an imaginative story through Friday Music, a fans-first label setting a standard to be relied on.
Some 20 years ago, Reagoso could never have imagined that the record label would turn out to be the haven for collectors that it’s become. At its inception, Friday Music was forged through passion and reverence for music as a pastime.
“I’ve always loved music and started collecting records when I was five years old,” a nostalgic Reagoso recalls. “During my high school years, I wrote newspaper articles covering the concerts I attended. I began in Philly working for a one-stop distributor during my senior year, where I started as a warehouse returns manager and eventually became the import buyer. I took all that early knowledge of selling music to a whole new level after college and worked promoting for many record labels, eventually landing Senior National Promotion gigs at MCA, RCA, SONY, WMG and UMG, eventually turning my passion to creating Friday Music in 2002 and releasing our first records in 2003.”
In the present day, it's easy to envision an upstart reissue label thriving in our current nostalgia-backed market. But one needs to remember, back in the early 2000s, vinyl was a format mostly relegated to garage sales and thrift shops, that is, if people didn't simply dump their records at their curb come garbage day. As such, the early days of Reagoso’s venture were defined by grassroots and hard work. “It wasn’t overnight, but it happened out of my love for classic rock and prog-rock music,” recounts Reagoso. “I remember I was asked to help promote a weekend of Yes shows with the original core five era band in Philly, and I spent three great nights looking at this massive crowd of folks, and it just dawned on me, This progressive rock thing will never die. We released about 30 titles in the first year of business with classic music from Procol Harum, Triumvirat, Flash, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, The Guess Who, etc. Soon after, we began to focus on vinyl, and we haven’t looked back, albeit it was a challenge because there weren’t as many turntables out there as there are now. But it all comes down to quality and consistency, and I think we’ve given that back to our customers, and we continue to strive for the best of everything.”
The shift to vinyl as a label-wide focus was shrewd, to be sure, but if Reagoso has one thing going for him, it's his instincts regarding what his customer wants. Nostalgia, combined with the full spectrum sensory experience, has proved integral for Friday Music. While Reagoso couldn’t have known a revival was looming, he did understand how his fellow holdover collectors thought at the time. “Vinyl albums, cassettes, 45s, even 8-Tracks, they are an experience that can live on forever. It’s always been a cheap date, and it stays with you forever like a long-lost friend. I know people, like myself, that have moved their record collections many times back and forth over the years; it’s like family. I can’t tell you how many times I rediscover an artist or an album, and I have to go back and see what else I have in the wall on that particular act, getting me right back into the music again.”
While unexpected, vinyl did boom, and in a huge way, like any aspiring enterprise, challenges — especially with a commodity as volatile as vinyl — presented themselves over the years. At its core, vinyl records are a niche product, catering to a particular subset of an über-obsessive music-consuming population. Digging deeper, though, the rabbit hole only recoils into the innards of the earth, with collectors hyper-fixating on all sorts of sub-collectibles across a broad spectrum. Aside from the overall sound of any given platter, the most important and perhaps the most obvious is the packaging, aka the icing on the proverbial cake.
“Vinyl albums, cassettes, 45s, even 8-Tracks, they are an experience that can live on forever." — Joe Reagoso, Friday Music 
The idea that collectors only accumulate for the purpose of listening simply isn't accurate, and this is only becoming more of a reality as the popularity of vinyl continues to expand. As such, these realities are perpetually forcing the industry to find more inventive ways to expand on this increasingly popular, albeit once forgotten, but now-found relic from the past. Friday Music understands this, and there's an argument to be made that when it comes to packaging, Reagoso’s label stands up-top the mountain, thumping its PVC shielded chest. He explains: “I know when I manufacture any product, I want it to sound, look, feel and smell like it did back I when I first bought it originally. For instance, we most recently re-released School’s Out by Alice Cooper, in the original 1972 retro die-cut desk foldout cover, with a pair of paper panties inside. We did the original die-cut 1972 calendar perforated pull-out jacket for Alice Cooper’s Killer album. It just looks great to see these in the marketplace again.”
As with any niche, fad, or collecting arena, you'll find a wide cast of characters who populate the scene. And in this sense, vinyl's bustling collecting scene and Wild West aftermarket are no exception. You've got audiophiles, rare record hunters, 78 hoarders, 45 spinners, and more. While many fall into the middle ground, merging a love for music with a sometimes-obsessive desire to surround themselves wall-to-wall, there does seem to be common ground: FOMO, aka "Fear of Missing Out."
Yes, it does seem that for collectors, at times, the idea of "having it" outweighs the actual love for whatever genre of music their beloved PVC platter contains. To this end, waves of exciting developments, such as colored vinyl, have emerged. Looking back on its origins, Reagoso quips, "Well, you know, it's been around forever. There were always these crazy colored kiddie records on 78s, and you used to see promotional 45s on red vinyl for the DJs to have; maybe it was perceived as a 'red hot' release? In the '70s, it was more prominent in the disco era, as well as for imports of metal and punk rock releases. You would see a lot of colored vinyl and picture discs. Our fans and artists love them, so we will continue to offer color vinyl where we can."
As Reagoso alluded to, colored vinyl isn't the only novelty that collectors are after these days; picture discs present yet another option for hungry fans to chase, obtain, and sometimes listen to. Still, there are issues, and the format has been polarizing amongst audiophile collectors. While sometimes beautiful and undoubtedly unique, picture discs are oft-criticized. When asked about the success and selling potential of the sub-format, Reagoso comments, "We've done some, and they sold well. I remember we did all three Sons of Anarchy soundtrack albums, and we were fortunate enough to have released the final album on an exclusive two-LP picture disc. The final season was happening, and it really made these albums take off at retail. I am definitely thinking of some more picture discs in the near future."
With vinyl's popularity continuing to balloon year over year, the revival has bucked all conservative projections and flabbergasted its detractors, mostly leaving them in detracted silence. Wishful thinking has steadily turned toward a vivid reality. While the forgotten format's modern-day success was shocking initially, as the years have worn on, its nay-sayers have turned coat, now continuously thinking of ways to keep the train moving ahead at full steam.
That head of continuous steam has manifested in many ways, primarily through collectors who define their habits via nostalgia that defines their past. The result? Well, in recent years, we've seen more and more classic albums that we grew up loving, with "we" being a fluid term based on which respective era you were born into, of course.
With that in mind, Friday Music has seemingly taken a commonsense approach, making long out-of-print releases from the 1960s through the 1990s available to its hungry consumer base. “Take The Monkees, for example. The Monkees are a phenomenal story; there are so many layers to the band and to their catalog, and they still resonate more than ever,” Reagoso excitedly recounts. “I first met Micky [Dolenz] and Davy [Jones] in 1977. They played a show in Wildwood, New Jersey, at this great place called The Penalty Box. I'll never forget; I was playing the hell out of Instant Replay all summer in my first car, with a shoddy cassette deck that had one speaker that worked in the front. (Laughs) I was writing for this local Philly newspaper at the time during my high school years, and I was connected to do an interview with Micky. He was such an incredible and nice guy to actually spend a good half hour answering in detail about all things Monkees. But more importantly, we became fast friends all those years ago, and here we are, releasing Monkees records on a continual basis on my label. We've re-released all their official albums and rarity-type collections over the past 15 years. One of the big surprises to the fans was the Missing Links CDs that we released on vinyl, all three albums were on different color variants of vinyl, and they sold out immediately."
"The Monkees are a phenomenal story; there are so many layers to the band and to their catalog, and they still resonate more than ever.” — Joe Reagoso
On the more polarizing yet still popular side of things, the general population has endlessly harbored a fascination with all things the '80s, and that most certainly includes the decades big-haired, lipstick-stained rock music. Many fans will remember, though, that the '80s was the beginning of the CD era, leading to many fans tossing their records like frisbees out the window or, more realistically, into nearby dumpsters. Major labels followed suit, and the likes of MCA, Geffen, Atlantic, and Columbia steadily tapered off their vinyl releases, eventually forgoing them altogether. For collectors of this music, this bred a bleak and expensive reality should they want to have their favorite '80s rock albums on vinyl.
What's a glam metal lover to do if they want to spin some Dokken, Poison, Skid Row, or Guns N' Roses? Don't worry; Friday Music understands what you're going through; they love this music, too, "I worked at Atlantic at one of the subsidiary labels during Winger's run of amazing success in the late '80s into the early '90s," says Reagoso. "First of all, this band is made up of very talented musicians, all from different major bands like Alice Cooper, and they recorded some top-notch songs and albums. Hair metal was more of an extension of what the '70s brought us with [David] Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, and other notable bands. The '80s bands took these rudiments and added heavy guitar and rock sounds from bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Van Halen, and achieved platinum success almost immediately, thanks to rock videos and major arena tour exposure."
So, what's Friday Music doing to level the playing field and bring this beloved niche of outrageous guitar-driven machismo back to the forefront? Well, in short, a lot, and certainly more than nearly any other label out there today, "Friday Music champions hair metal with releases from greats like Twisted Sister, White Lion, Cinderella, Poison, Queensryche, Dokken, Skid Row, Ratt, KIX, and many others," Reagoso says. "Look, I worked with most of these bands over the years; it was a no-brainer for me to revisit them on vinyl. A lot of these acts were on CD and cassette at the time when vinyl records were on the decline at retail, and their scarcity has made them more valuable to the collector and to the fans over the years."
Reagoso continues on, "For instance, in 2023, we are going to be releasing a super deluxe vinyl edition of Twisted Sister's classic Under the Blade (working title Before and Under the Blade), which will feature the original U.K. mix for the first time here in North America. It will also feature different alternative photos, with a ton of extra tracks, artwork, archived materials never seen before, as well as Jay Jay French's liner notes, making this a must-have for any serious glam metal fan. The late Pete Way of UFO produced this hard rocking effort, and Jay Jay French has all these great memories and unreleased tracks from their beginnings, including, get this; three live cover tracks from Led Zeppelin's first album and more gems that have never been out there anywhere. It's a real labor of love for all of us."
"A lot of these acts were on CD and cassette at the time when vinyl records were on the decline at retail, and their scarcity has made them more valuable to the collector and to the fans over the years." — Joe Reagoso on hair metal's collectibility
Twenty years on, Joe Reagoso’s unlikely journey from a music lover to the owner of a premier reissue label catering to ravenous fans amongst a swarming scene has been an explorative journey. For Reagoso, in 2023, Friday Music will continue to do what it’s always done: release quality music on vinyl for those who love the format.
Still, there’s more, and surely, a 20th anniversary is worthy of commemoration, “A lot of things are in the works as 2023 will be the 20th Anniversary of Friday Music,” Reagoso says. “It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has moved and all the albums we’ve brought out to the marketplace over the last two decades. All I can say is thank you to all our valued fans and customers and, of course, to the artists.”
When asked about the specific releases he can reveal for the label's twentieth year, Reagoso thought carefully, saying, "You will see great re-releases and surprises from some of our dear friends like Chicago, Daryl Hall, The Monkees, Canned Heat, Buddy Guy, Twisted Sister, Todd Rundgren, Dionne Warwick, Jefferson Starship, Tommy Bolin, Carly Simon, the Ohio Players, Queensryche, B.B. King, Winger, White Lion and more. It's truly a nice assortment of some of the greatest records ever recorded. We are also planning to release more 'first time on vinyl' soundtracks and rare concert-type album releases in the months ahead."
When prodded, Reagoso revealed which releases he's most anticipating for in 2023, "Well, I am excited to announce our upcoming Sparks recordings, which will be a really nice addition for the fans that missed out on these Bearsville era recordings years ago. We are looking forward to a first-time vinyl release of Daryl Hall's BeforeAfter anthology three-LP set, which will be offered in two color variants. Dionne Warwick will be getting the deluxe treatment with Her Biggest Hits Anthology, having a first time on vinyl release here, covering the Scepter Records era. And, of course, in 2023 and beyond, you will see more great surprises from The Monkees on Friday Music. There is a lot of music from the original Colgems and Rhino Records archives we will continually release. We plan to keep giving the fans the music we all love so much."
For collectors of physical media, lovers of music, and the fine folks at Friday Music, vinyl isn't about any particular "thing," that is to say — this "thing" is eternally hard to pin down. Perhaps none of us will ever fully understand why we collect en masse. And maybe, just maybe, the "need" to obtain more and more is a deep matter that simply doesn't need to be defined.
What we do know is that the world's fascination with vinyl is ongoing. The music-consuming population harbors a continued love and reverence for nostalgia, as harkening back to one's past can be comforting in oh-so-many ways. But what does that mean for the future of the format? Like most of us, Joe Reagoso doesn't have a crystal ball revealing all the all-knowing truths concerning the vinyl revival and its endurance. Still, Reagoso does have his own thoughts on the matter, "Records provide something to help fill our hearts with the love of music. It brings back memories, and it makes us feel great. Sometimes it provides a background to soothe our souls. I think my dear friends Brian Wilson and Mike Love said it all with 'Add Some Music To Your Day.'
As for what lies ahead for Friday Music, Reagoso keeps it simple, revealing his steadfast focus on both his creation, his commodity, and most importantly, his community, "I've lost count of all the fine releases we've covered over the past two decades," recollects Reagoso. "All I know is that a commitment to something you like doing makes it that much more demanding, but at the end of the day, it's all about the music and continually looking to break new ground every day. I just keep moving. I don't know; there are no real rules; if I feel like doing something that in my heart is something that I feel needs to be out there for the fans, I do my best to get it released. Music and memories are a huge part of what I do with Friday music. I take a ton of pride in combining the two, as music has been so meaningful in my life. When I look back on 20 years, I can only hope that it’s been as meaningful to the fans as it has been for me."


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