Throughout its rich history, the recording industry has produced genuine and innovative independent label owners. It has been said, Fred Munao, founder and CEO of Select Records since 1981, is among the best of those urban and pop music pioneers. Over the last two decades, Munao has been responsible for breaking chart-topping, genre elevating acts such as UTFO, Kid ‘N Play , The Real Roxanne, Chubb Rock , Whistle, and AMG. Other past roster artists include the platinum act The Jerky Boys, revolutionary rap group M.O.P., R&B diva Nerissa, charismatic dancehall heartthrob Shawnie Ranks, and alternative rocker Mike Peters , ex-lead singer/songwriter of The Alarm . Select expects the next generation of artists to continue the ongoing success the label has endured.
“Our success can be attributed to an emphasis on artist growth and development, which was clearly reflected in the expansive careers of acts like UTFO, Kid ‘N Play, and Chubb Rock,” the Brooklyn, New York born and raised Munao explains. “For us, in addition to having hit singles and albums, longevity is also a key focus. When readying an artist for release we are always thinking in terms of artist staying power. Therefore, we constantly work on and encourage our artists to hone their writing, recording and performance skills. Some even develop strong studio production ability. All of this, he further informs, “adds up to distinctive, self-contained artists, whose true talent and mass appeal can be limitless.”
Munao’s pre-Select days were filled with memories and experiences that helped shape his current success. His father was a musician whose band became local favorites around the family’s close knit Brooklyn neighborhood. “My dad encouraged me to play an instrument but I couldn’t get into that, although I loved music per se,” Munao recounts. “The recording end of it fascinated me though. Even way back then I remember wondering why certain records were hits and others were not. I must have been vocal about it too, because one day a record producer friend of my father’s said I should be in the business.”
Although he didn’t respond immediately, a summer or so later, Munao went to work at his dad’s friend’s production company. He became its (non paid) general manager. However, in lieu of salary, the invaluable knowledge and experience he gained during his tenure there, and later working at music publishing companies, set the tone and the table for his next pivotal career move-artist management.
Munao successfully managed two rock acts in the late 70’s. The hottest was a Boston based group called the Atlantics, which he took from total obscurity to touring with such rock legends as Roxy Music, Cheap Trick, and Boston. Despite the group’s popularity during the “New Wave Rock” era, Fred’s dissatisfaction with the lack of label attention to the Atlantics planted the seeds for him to start his own independent label. “My feeling was that I could do it just as bad as the majors,” he advised. “Yes, marketing, promotion, and distribution all sound pretty complicated and difficult to do on your own, but I never thought I couldn’t do it. I knew good timing was also important, and that it’s hard for any label, major or otherwise, to work too many acts. From the beginning my focus was on the quality of the artist and the music, not the quantity of acts I could have on my roster.”
In 1981, in a New York City apartment, Select Records was born. The brain¬ child of Munao and Joseph Fleury, Select has since evolved into a force in the world¬wide record industry.
While searching for the perfect niche that would make Select what it is today, the label started out with its hand in a bit of everything. With the very first signings of such diverse acts like The Swinging Madisons (rock), B.J. Johann (country/ pop), Gary Private and Earle Mankey (pop), Select was making noise. About a year later, Fred Munao “hit the streets” and discovered what rap music was about. With a new direction in mind, rap being the focus, UTFO was signed.
UTFO, considered as one of the forefathers of rap, carved a path for many others to follow. Daring to mix rap with the heavy metal sounds of Anthrax, this group kept with the Select maxim of originality as well as accessibility. Practicing the early methods of the original A&R function, Select put its feelers out and quickly developed a roster impressive enough to catch the attention of public and industry professionals alike. Soon to follow was an industry explosion of rap records, with Select in the thick of things. Response records became the new rage. Select artist The Real Roxanne, hit the charts with her response to UTFO’s hit, “Roxanne, Roxanne.” With the right marketing techniques and the proper backing, Select made Roxanne more than a fad. She became one of the first female rap stars.
Select has nurtured and developed many acts, bringing them to the top level of excellence and notoriety. One of many success stories for Select is the group Whistle, a hit rap group with the smash single, “Just Buggin’. Whistle has accomplished the much desired position of a Top Ten/Crossover act. Whistle is now recognized as an influential R&B group and praised for their harmonizing talents.
One of the most familiar names in rap history is Kid ‘N Play. Kid ‘N Play have yielded many hit singles and gold records for Select. These stars of stages became stars of screen as well. With the “House Party” movie series came an even greater level of success, surely earning Kid ‘N Play the title of most recognized rap duo in the world.
Originally starting with the concept of producing EP’s only, Select had moved on to produce hit albums and singles as well as EP’s. In fact, Select had expanded so much that it started Active Records for its dance acts and Mondo Music for the heavy metal acts. Although Select has stayed in touch with its founding premise of diversity and originality, it has maintained a focus for marketability. Select product can be found in every major chain store, as well as popular “Mom and Pop” music stores. Select product is distributed through ADA and is well accepted in major cities internationally as well. Through the intense efforts of Fred Munao and the specialized staff Select has produced over the years, Select had risen from a concept to a reality. It had carved a name for itself in record history, and will continue to venture into new and exciting areas. As long as there are new and creative artists, Select will be there, influencing the course of music and trends for others to follow.