For the last decade I’ve helped to run isle of Eigg-based Scottish independent record label Lost Map, and been part of the exponentially growing creative collective and community which has sprung up around it. I was there at the label’s beginning, back in August 2013, when it was formed suddenly out of the unhappy ending of another label. We’re somehow still here now, as Lost Map celebrates 10 years spanning countless releases and events. Including our (roughly) biennial Eigg festival Howlin’ Fling, the latest instalment of which took place earlier this month in a life-affirming delirium of electronic beats, ceilidh dancing, sweat, tears, beers, sheep dung and hugs.
I hope we’re still here in another 10 years. Not just because Lost Map has led me to some of the best times and friendships of my life. But because it’s taught me more than anything else about what’s important and what’s possible in music, during an age when streaming has stymied traditional revenue sources and pessimism too often seems to reign. I thought I’d try to gather up some things I’ve learned here, in a spirit of hopefully inspiring others who might follow Lost Map’s resolutely DIY path. A path paved with love, and sheep dung.
At the heart of the label is its founder-director Johnny Lynch, who also goes under the artist alias Pictish Trail (six albums of infectious psychedelic croft-pop and counting). Lynch lives on Eigg with his partner Sarah Boden, an ex-London music journalist gone back to her roots as a sheep farmer. I’m part of a small core team who support him remotely from different corners of Scotland and beyond. My role mainly being composing press materials, plus regular nonsense-filled newsletters (208 instalments and counting).
The wild and magical Eigg has a population of only around 100, and has been in community ownership since 1997 following a groundbreaking buy-out from a neglectful laird. Sustainability, egalitarianism and creativity are guiding principles of life – principles which in turn shape Lost Map. Through the power of broadband internet, a semi-reliable CalMac ferry service, and a lot of tea, I am endlessly amazed at how much Lynch achieves. Far from a major supermarket, much less a major music industry power centre like London.
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Our roster – which like our events, is based on an even gender split – is a playlist shuffle of stuff we simply like, bound together by shared ethos more so than genre. Everything from LT Leif’s hushed alt-folk to Alexia Avina’s swirling dream-pop and the beatific acid house of SDF. Sometimes new artists find us, by sending in demos (all of which are listened to). More often we find them by pulling on a kind of invisible thread binding one musician to another. Many of our best discoveries come via recommendations from other trusted artists. Nobody knows music like musicians. Who’d have thought it?