Oglio Entertainment was launched in Redondo Beach in 1993 and has survived the roller coaster music business as CDs are being phased out and digital forms of music dominate sales.
Founder and CEO Carl Caprioglio went from being the co-owner of a successful disc jockey business, which he started with high school friend Scott Ramsay, to running the independent label, which includes Oglio Records under its umbrella. Its newest project, “In Elven Lands,” which is inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and the world of “Middle-earth,” was recently released.
Caprioglio and Ramsay, who both graduated from Torrance High School, had the DJ equipment, since Ramsay’s father had started his own DJ business, but they had no way to get the equipment around. So Caprioglio bought a van and they started doing high school and backyard parties. By 1992, they were doing hundreds of events, but Caprioglio was ready for something new. One of the last things he did at his DJ business was convert its music library, which was vinyl, into CDs.
“There were a lot of things I couldn’t find on CD and especially the dance mixes, like the 1980s KROQ stuff ... we looked all over the European record labels, Japanese record labels, anybody that might have these dance mixes that we like so much on vinyl, but we couldn’t find,” Caprioglio said. “When I sold my half of the DJ business to Scott, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to make all of these dance versions available and start putting out these 1980s compilations.”
As the company celebrates its 20th birthday on Jan. 1, the Oglio Entertainment Group, Inc. has expanded its family to include Oglio Comedy, Oglio Kids, Glue Factory Records (alternative rock), DMAFT Records (rap and hip-hop) and the joint venture Crappy Records.
But it was with those 1980s compilations that helped jumpstart Caprioglio’s new business. He had been a sound equipment supplier for KROQ from 1985 until he left the DJ business. That relationship led to some of the early compilations featuring KROQ personality Richard Blade. The six-volume “Richard Blade’s Flashback Favorites” was a big seller for Oglio, but its biggest success was the 1994 release of “The Coolest Christmas,” which featured the David Bowie and Bing Crosby duet, “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy,” that had not been available on CD in the U.S. at the time.
“We sold 250,000, which is enormous for an independent label,” Caprioglio said.
Oglio also struck gold with its comedy branch, releasing four George Lopez albums, which became the company’s best selling single artist project, as well as albums by “The Howard Stern Show” writer Jackie Martling, also known as “The Joke Man.”
As the CD reissue wave improved business for Oglio in the 1990s, “heritage artists” like Cyndi Lauper, Brian Wilson and new releases from Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger (whose solo album on Oglio received a Grammy nomination) of The Doors fame, have given a boost to Oglio throughout the years as CD sales have plummeted.
“There have been good times and lean times ... but each one of them was like a turbo boost that kind of keeps things going,” he said.
He added, “We’ve had no massive hits, but a string of base hits that kept us going while numerous indie labels have folded. Twenty years is a long milestone in the record industry.”
But Oglio did go into the digital realm fairly early with iTunes in 2003, when they were invited to be one of the first independent labels to test out the service.
“First they signed up all the major labels because in order to attract interest you had to have the hits, you had to have the big stuff,” Caprioglio said. “Once iTunes got all the major labels on board ... then they thought, ‘OK, before we open this up to every independent record label in America, why don’t we try this out with a few and try to iron things out.’ I was lucky to be one of those first few. As soon as we started with them I knew the game was over, that no one needs me to tell them what the greatest hits of the 1980s are anymore. They can do that for themselves. They can build their own compilations.”
The company has also shifted focus with the artists on the label.
“The future of the record label now is less of a gatekeeper of what’s worthy and more of part of an artist’s team,” Caprioglio said. “The artists are trying to do everything themselves. Every artist needs a team, and needs to spend as much time being an artist as much as possible. We’re more of a service-oriented company for our artists rather than just manufacturing and distribution and being the gatekeeper. I think our artists are happier.”
He added, “The evolution of the record business is that if you’re an artist just starting out, you really don’t need a record label, you can distribute music on your own.”
But Oglio continues to release original material, which started in 1996, with Wesley Willis’ “Rock ‘N’ Roll Will Never Die.” That continues with the second edition of “In Elven Lands,” which is performed by The Fellowship and first conceived by composer Carvin Knowles.
“It’s kind of a niche project, but man that guy put a lot of work into it and it’s a really fascinating audioscape,” Caprioglio said. “If you’re a Tolkien fan and a ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, it’s definitely a fun listen.”
Caprioglio said that even with its challenges, he has enjoyed 20 years at the helm of Oglio.
“As a local kid, how is it that I end up in a room backstage with Brian Wilson, sharing a bagel?” he said. “It’s a really, ‘How did I get here,’ moment.”
For more information, visit www.oglio.com.