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Vans, Pennywise Singer Form Record Label

Footwear company Vans Inc. is making one more giant leap into the music business, teaming up with Pennywise punk rocker Jim Lindberg to form Vans Records, a label that will mine the lucrative skateboard, snowboard and surf culture.

The Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based firm is no stranger to the music world, having sponsored the Warped Tour for the past six years. The road show drew more than 450,000 fans in 2001, and has helped Vans capitalize on the synergy between music and the seven “core sports” for which it makes footwear and apparel: skate-, surf-, wake- and snowboarding, as well as BMX, freestyle motocross and supercross.

Over the years, Vans has formed relationships with many acts, and is in the process of signing a few so-called “baby bands,” which it will unveil at a Hollywood party on April 25. The first two Vans Records releases are expected to hit stores this spring, in time for the summer 2002 Warped Tour.

Pennywise, for which Lindberg sings lead vocals and writes the lyrics, has played on several Warped outings, and will fly to Australia later this month for a second Down Under version.

With worldwide record sales to date of two million copies, Pennywise recently released its seventh album, “Land of the Free?” (Epitaph Records), which debuted at No. 67 on the U.S. pop album charts last June.

“We’re going to create a label that is very artist-driven,” Lindberg said in a statement. “I’ve been on an independent label for over a decade, and I plan on treating our bands with the same respect and creative freedom that Pennywise has demanded over the years.”

Lindberg will head Vans Records with Steve Van Doren, Vans’ vice president of promotions, while Kurt Soto, Vans entertainment marketing manager, will handle many day-to-day activities.

Initially Vans will use its existing infrastructure to distribute Vans Records product in its 158 company-owned stores and factory outlets as well as among skate and surf specialty shops, Vans Skateparks and at Vans events such as the Warped Tour and Triple Crown Series. It will also distribute through traditional music outlets.

A Vans spokesman said the company was not looking for the label to be a huge moneymaker – at least not initially. Rather, the label was a great way to reach consumers with a relatively small part of its marketing budget, he said.

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