The independent label 1988–2007

Days gone by

The beginnings of the independent label

1988: Cornel Hillmann and Carl Erling found the indepentent label Gymnastic Records (EFA Medien Distribution). The company is in the tradition of the (at this time new) Industrial-Electronic wave, but also of the Wave Rock.

Carl D. Erling at the Berlin Indepencence Days Music Conference (Photo Ernst Horn)

1989: Split of the label into the American Gymnastic Records (Los Angeles, CEO Cornel Hillmann) and the German Gymnastic Records (Munich, CEO Carl Erling).

Carl Erling founds his own sub-labels (Gymnastic classX, Daydream) to be able to present a modified musical concept and program, beeing A&R manager himself. This new program more and more dominates the international picture of Gymnastic Records. A main reason for this is the signing of Deine Lakaien, who have become one ot Germany’s most respected Independent Electronic bands.

1991-1996: The new musical direction of the German label is now more and more presented by band names like Qntal, The Eternal Afflict, Silence, Distain! and others, next to Deine Lakaien. High entries in the German Charts improve the standing of the label also internationally.

Chrom Records

chrom records 1999

1996: A year of great changes: Foundation of the new label Chrom Records GmbH by Carl Erling. Gymnastic Records closes down. Newer productions from the German label branch and the complete German crew change to Chrom Records.

1997: First Label-Fan-Convention at the “Manastir-Baroue”-party in Munich.

Moving to a bigger location in Munich.

First decade

1998: A reason to celebrate: 10 Years!

1999: Co-operation with COLUMBIA/Sony Music and the release of a new Deine Lakaien albums is just one of the highlights of this year.

2000: Turn of the millennium. The clocks do not stop, computers and keyboards work normally so the End of the World is postponed officially. Deine Lakaien reach new peaks.

2001: We move to Berlin


2002: A new distributor: INDIGO MUSIC. - The former distributor, EFA, closes down, one of the first big victims of the rapidly changing market (“digital revolution”).

The times are difficult for record labels, this is the “perfect storm”:

  • The darkwave trend is at its peak. Good. But this means that some bands now have utopic demands for budgets, marketing and royalties, although the market has already started declining. This makes it harder to sign new talents. Also promotion costs explode as there are more and more media.
  • Pirating songs is the new trend. Often, songs are leaked online even before they are are in the stores. Copy protection cannot stop this.
  • The market for records is also weakening because of the dawn of DVD-movie sales. The retail stores have less and less display space for CDs.
  • Online shops and legal download platforms are not fully accepted by the audience at that time and cannot (yet!) replace the fading CD sales.

The new business plan for this time of changes is the strengthening of the already existing back-catalogue and the investment in the Chrom webshop. New signings are postponed.

2005: Label owner Carl Erling’s work for the new design studio takes up to many resources. As a consequence, the label stops artist development and concentrates on the back-catalogue and fan item sales.

2007: The Deine Lakaien back-catalogue moves to Soulfood.

Chrom Records becomes an artist’s label.

2007: The company, Chrom Records GmbH, Berlin, is shut down and Carl Erling leaves the music business. But Chrom Records isn’t dead:

Chrom Records will be continued as brand and artist’s label by Ernst Horn, featuring his own projects, including Deine Lakaien and Helium Vola.

(The link to the “new” Chrom Records is

We would like to thank all our friends and music lovers for the wonderful (almost) 20 years!

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