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Influential punk-rock label Lookout! Records shuts down, signaling the end of upbeat teenage angst

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You might not realize how Lookout! Records has shaped the landscape of the music industry, but to give you an idea, the label was responsible for classic releases like Green Day's Kerplunk!, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Hearts of Oak, The Donnas' Turn 21, and Operation Ivy's Energy. Unfortunately, Lookout! is officially defunct after twenty-five years of pop-punk poetry. Based out of the Bay Area, Lookout! Records was founded by David Hayes and Larry Livermore in 1987, with the goal of nurturing worthwhile punk bands that Livermore went to see perform in and around San Francisco.

By the 1990s, Lookout! was supporting bands that few other labels would have deigned to take a risk for: Rancid, The Queers, and the Potatomen (started by Livermore himself). In 1992, Lookout! altered the course of pop-music history by releasing Green Day's sophomore album, Kerplunk!, featuring the single "Welcome to Paradise." The success of Kerplunk! would, in turn, lead to the runaway success of Dookie and punk's (or pop-punk's) moment in the mainstream, typified by the label bidding war over bands like Rancid (lead by former Op Ivyers Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman).

Lookout! was dealt a series of heavy blows when it lost the rights to distribute the back catalogs of several of its prominent bands (including Op Ivy and Green Day), over a variety of reasons ranging from breach-of-contract disputes to allegations of unpaid royalties. Chris Appelgren, the current president, says that the loss of so many of its bread-and-butter bands was what forced the label to shut down; in his goodbye letter, he acknowledges that relinquishing acts like Green Day "meant significantly scaling down the business, which included letting the staff go and moving from the label's Berkeley headquarters and warehouse into a small office." 

Lookout!'s shuttering is emblematic of the way that smaller independent labels are struggling to stay afloat as the music industry forcibly restructures itself around digital music, and of the disputes that many bands have with former labels over the control of their product. But high-minded think pieces aren't a fitting tribute for Lookout!'s demise: instead, I'm going to put on Energy and pogo around my room like a lunatic.