Paul Piticco.

Starting out in 2002 as a two-man operation in a suburban home in Brisbane, independent record company Dew Process has grown to become one of the most respected labels on the Australian music scene.

Ten years, 11 ARIA Awards, six platinum albums and a whole lot of fun later, founder and owner Paul Piticco is marking the milestone with an impressive 45-track digital compilation, The Procession, highlighted by top local artists Sarah Blasko, Bernard Fanning, the Grates, Jebediah, the Panics and the Living End, as well as overseas acts such as Mumford & Sons, the Hives and J. Mascis.

Piticco managed Powderfinger from about 1991 to their split two years ago. A decade ago, he was busy with the chartbusting band, but still felt the overriding desire to start a label as an alternative to the majors.

"A lot of bands were signing record deals and not having the career they should have," he says from Brisbane, where Dew Process is still based, albeit with a staff of 12 in an office in the Fortitude Valley entertainment precinct.

"I thought, let's develop things, build on the musical reputation of an artist incrementally, rather than 'Bang, let's go, let's sell a million records and if we don't, forget it'."

After recruiting long-time friend John Mullen as chief talent scout or A&R manager, Dew Process kicked off with an EP from Texan post-hardcore outfit Sparta.

The label then signed young Sydney songstress Sarah Blasko, whose steady rise and platinum sales for three albums since 2004 best epitomises the passionate yet patient approach of Dew Process. Piticco is justly proud of Blasko's achievements.

He also rates the success of his close friend, Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning, among the highlights of the past 10 years. Fanning's 2005 solo album, Tea & Sympathy, is the highest-selling Dew Process release, with half a million copies sold across Australasia. Fanning is in Los Angeles recording a follow-up, which should be released in the middle of next year.

The evolution of young Brisbane indie pop band the Grates from "a bunch of 19-year-olds (who didn't know) their heads from their tails") to "consummate professionals and super talented" is another feather in the cap.

On the flipside, revitalising the careers of established bands, such as the Living, Jebediah and the Panics, is another point of pride for Piticco.

And there's the recent explosion of London neo-folk outfit Mumford & Sons, who were launched to the world on the back of their success in Australia. The band's hit single Little Lion Man became Dew Process' second song to top the Triple J Hottest 100 in 2009 (the other was Fanning's Wish You Well in 2005). As with the other international acts, Mumford & Sons' releases were licensed to Dew Process for Australia and New Zealand.

Piticco recalls that, after Mumford & Sons became humungous Down Under, the band's US label called him into their New York office to drill him on the dark arts that led to their Down Under domination.

"There was no great secret," Piticco laughs. "I just said 'Do not give up on Little Lion Man. That song will do the work for you. When people tell you that there's no room on their radio station for a banjo, you tell them they're wrong and you keep telling them they're wrong till they play it'.

"Which is what happened in Australia. I had a national programming director of an FM chain, who shall remain nameless, say 'There's no way you'll hear a banjo on this station'. Six weeks later it was their highest rating song."

Piticco says that "naive or arrogant or both" attitude has served him well. It's the same headstrong approach that helped make Powderfinger one of the biggest bands in Australian music history, albeit now applied across a diverse range of artists.

Dew Process never set out to be home to a particular type of music. "The label was going to be genre-less, it just had to be music that moved you and it didn't matter whether it was folk, rock, singer-songwriter, hip-hop, dance - whatever," he says.

"It was just about things that we felt were good and that would reflect our record collection.

"If we make great records and have great artists and feel excited and passionate about what we're doing, the business stuff takes care of itself."

The West Australian

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