Zum: An Oakland Avant-Rock Label That Isn't Going to Give Up

Many local labels are offering obscure reissues and innovative new releases on all conceivable formats. Label Sampler is a new column that will profile a different Bay Area record company each week.

Name: Zum Record Company

Headquarters: Oakland

Owner: George Chen

Founded: 1997

Creation story: Similar to independent labels like Sub Pop and Touch & Go, Zum began as a fanzine. In 1997, George Chen and his sister, Yvonne, released a compilation as a companion disc to an issue of their zine, and their label was born. The musical climate of the late '90s was naturally much different than it is now, and Chen reminisces fondly over his memories as a wide-eyed, young label founder. “We never thought that we should split the magazine and the label into two things, because we thought that we would do all of these things forever. At that time, the distribution model was very different. You would see these lemonade-stand distros at shows where people were selling their friends' records or things that they had picked up maybe five copies of. It was very entrepreneurial in that sense, but that world has shrunk a lot.

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