How to Survive the Music Industry: The Transgressive Story


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“In 2004, Tim Dellow and Toby L decided to take on the music industry with £1,000 and no real idea of how to do it.”

How to Survive the Music Industry: The Transgressive Story details the highs and lows of starting and developing your own independent record label, giving  you tips and tricks on how to survive and to keep it all going in the most ever-changing and ever-growing industry in the world.

It seems that the main ethos of the documentary, and every music documentary that exists from the BBC, spreads the message of “if you put the hard work, anyone can do it.”

Of course, with a shared amount of  luck and the will to carry on, too it seems.

Transgressive started with a mere £1,000 and now they are seen as the one of the most influential and dominant indie labels in the 21st Century. With such a plethora of signed artists, including Foals, Two Door Cinema ClubBloc Party and Pulled Apart By Horses over the years, it has played part to some of the greatest indie UK bands to rise, allowing them to headline festivals without any doubt beyond their talent. 

“Ambition beyond our means.”

Connections, Connections, Connections..

The story began when co-founder Tim Dellow managed to sneak into a Regina Spektor gig with Bloc Party supporting. Apparently, the guest list was particularly strict that night – and so, it just happened to be that Tim Dellow went to university with Bloc Party frontman member Kele Okereke.

Here, Tim found a connection with the soon-to-be other founder Toby L, who was so happening to promote The Subways. And so, soon after this, an amalgamation occurred when all become together to somehow sign The Subways to a label that did’t technically have a name or even exist yet.

Following on from this and their first transgressive signing with The Subways‘ single, “At 1am,” in 2004, the list began stockpiling and they were soon picking up momentum.

Plethora of artists from the early 2000s.

Like with most origin stories etched in the time of the music industry, it is all about “not what you know, but who you know,” and this story is certainly no different.

Transgressive Through The Years

2005Mystery Jets single release, “Zoo Time.”

2006 – Transgressive release first label’s full length album with Regina Spektor.

2006 – Transgressive begins to pick up the pace by signing bands across other genres – The Shins, Johnny Flynn, Young Knives etc.

2006Foals make their presence known by signing to the Transgressive label. Twelve years later, they hold their weight by agreeing a publishing deal with them.

2009 – Transgressive sign Two Door Cinema Club prior to their debut release, “Tourist History.”

From then on, they have blossomed into a roster of artists that cover worldwide genres from Africa to Copenhagen, like Flume.

The Transgressive Impact

With Transgressive included, there are over 600 indie labels in the country, which make and sell a quarter of all albums in the UK. For most upcoming artists, indie labels offer that management of expectations and ‘family values’ that the three major corporate record labels can fail to replicate. With less cogs to go through in the industry machine, it can often seem that indie labels are setting the trend to really know how to support artists properly.

Transgressive Records are doing exactly that. Creating a sort of family roster for their artists, it allows artist to not get blown over by empty promises, cash projections and hype men. Rather, they allow to give artists their creative space but when things get tough, you can be assured that they will be with you in the trenches.

With a combination of Management, Records and Publishing, artists can either sign up for one sector or if they feel like they’re up for it – all three.

After twelve years of initially signing Foals in 2006, Transgressive have signed a duel publishing deal with both Warner/Chappell and Foals, for a share in any decisions made for the content shared to their audience.

Majority within the Minority.

You can read the article on this news here – –

Transgressive Records seem to be setting the trend for a true cultural impact on the way the industry supports its artists. With an ethos of there being “no set way of doing anything” anymore, they have connected and re-connected with some of the biggest-selling indie bands of all time, whilst making friends and family along the way.

With that being said, the film ends on a positive note for some and an inspiration for most.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from .. it can happen.”

Transgressive, 2019

Whilst the origin story harnesses the power of “who you know,” – which makes the audience give a speculative eye-roll at the story – it still shows the nature of how two lads who knew nothing to come up with something, in an industry that changes every hour, and is still inspiring to watch as some venture into the unknown making new ground as they walk.

Almost unaware of there own success and significance, Toby ends it with a wonderful phrase that sums up the unpredictability of the music industry perfectly.

Music that feels like a barricade at times and anything creative or an adventure feels like it could be hard to get into. But it can happen … and one day it’ll happen for us as well.”

Toby L, Transgressive, 2019
Toby L and Tim Dellow, founders of Transgressive Records

You can watch the full documentary here:

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