International independent pioneers Michel Lambot and Kenny Gates received IMPALA’s Outstanding Contribution award to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the [PIAS] group. The award was announced on Tuesday (July 4).
Over the last four decades, [PIAS] has grown from a vinyl record importer on behalf of UK independent record labels into a key European and global recording, marketing and distribution outlet. [PIAS] currently has 19 offices and 280 employees active globally.
Lambot and Gates also founded IMPALA in 2000 to develop a single voice for the independent music sector in Europe. They were instrumental in creating Merlin as well as Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), with a view to supporting and expanding the independent music ecosystem internationally.
Lambot and Gates were presented with their awards by Helen Smith, executive chair of IMPALA, at their BXL CENTRAL – CHEZ [PIAS] record shop and office located on Rue Saint Laurent in Brussels.
“Michel and Kenny’s story is an inspiration to all emerging independents starting out in the sector,” Smith said in a statement. “The contribution of [PIAS] to the European music sector is totally unique. [Their] amazing 40th-anniversary re-releases speak for the artists and great music, and IMPALA, Merlin and WIN speak for their approach on collaboration making everyone stronger.”
“Back some 25 years ago, we had the idea to combine forces of a handful of independent companies to increase our market leverage and playing field,” Lambot said in a statement. “That sounded crazy and naive: trying to unify independent companies owned and run by people fiercely independent was antinomic… And now getting an award by IMPALA which has become a kind of institution makes me feel so proud and so happy. The recognition by our peers of what we did all these years and are still doing, Kenny and myself, as [PIAS] on one hand, and for the independent world on the other hand, is very moving”.
Gates, who serves as CEO of [PIAS] added: “Our goal at [PIAS] has always been to expand our dreams by creating a company of holistic values that reflects a pan-European diversity. It’s been an incredible journey of constant adaptation, and we couldn’t receive this award without thanking all our staff and friends.”
IMPALA’s Outstanding Contribution Award is designed to put a spotlight on European independent music and those who drive it, as well as initiatives that deserve particular recognition. Previous recipients include Tony Duckworth, Didier Gosset, FONO, Kees Van Weijen, Keith Harris OBE, Tom Deakin, Love Record Stores, Music Declares Emergency, Markus Tobiassen and newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, Jonas Sjöström, Plus 1 Refugees welcome!, Alison Wenham, Label Love, Eurosonic Noorderslag, Sabine Verheyen MEP, Armada Music/Armin van Buuren, Martin Mills OBE, Mary Moneyball MEP, Charles Caldas and Mario Pacheco.
Lambot and Gates previously received the Indie Champion award at the AIM Music Awards 2022 in London.
Late British media journalist Juliana Koranteng previously invited Lambot and Gates to share their story on her 20MinutesWith podcast. In this episode, the two executives talked about their ambitions, successes and challenges in growing the [PIAS] network over the years. (Sadly, it turned out to the last episode Koranteng recorded. The journalist died in February at age 64.)
IMPALA was established in 2000 and now represents nearly 6,000 independent music companies. The organization’s mission is to grow the independent music sector sustainably, return more value to artists, promote diversity and entrepreneurship, improve political access, inspire change and increase access to finance.