Why the hell would anyone want to start a label? Why would they want to spend their every waking hour wondering whether Spangle Sparklytrousers fanzine was into their latest three chord thrash wonderteens? or whether the boss will notice them running off another 10000 flyers on the photocopier? or if the NME will slag them off in an even vaguely amusing way this week? or if they can squeeze another box of unsold records ("ahead of their time, mate") into the *ahem* back catalogue stored under their bed? Can they go without food three days this week to get a bit more studio time for their latest proteges? Will hiring the Camden Falcon on the same Monday night as the UEFA cup final turn out to be a financial disaster? Can they stomach another trip to the post office to send this record to another 20 journos who'll claim it's shit now but love it in 3 years when the band's huge on Sony?
All will be revealed as we speak to the people behind labels ranging from the might of Beggar's Banquet, through the credibility of Che, the anti-music biz of Org and the fledgling tape-only labels Crash the Luau and Best Kept Secret. The same four questions were put to everybody:
why did you decide to set up a label?
If you run a label and want to answer the questions yourself, feel free to email your answers to me firstname.lastname@example.org cos this feature is intended to grow over time.
1. OddManOut was started because I felt there was a need for an edgy contemporary label that reflected underground music making. I also wanted to have a bit of fun.
2. my debut album Gay In The Life is a real showcase of queer underground talent and it was all recorded at home and sounds better than most studio albums.
3. Sydney band CODA will commence an electronica meets classical strings for a Cafe Del Mar series which should rock the boat.
4. do! It can be rewarding, frustrating and even financially rocky but ever so much fun.
Dafydd & Ruth, Oggum Highgrove, Sunnyhill, Llandysul, Ceredigion, SA44 4DT email@example.com
1. because we thought (a) it would be fun and (b) that we could put out our own stuff quicker than the labels we were then sort of involved with [we're pretty slow unfortunately so we were wrong on that score...but it is fun]
2. this one...the electroscope/longstone one... and the next one...things have always gone a bit wrong doing them [colours got screwed up at the pressing plant etc] but we re getting a bit more together..this one sounds nice, a winter warmer...even though its fleshy pink rather than pudding-pink
3. cant really answer that without sounding very stupid.
4. most importantly check that youve got some money to burn, it takes less than you think though especially if you dont bother with things like barcodes etc, dont expect to make money either,,also its probably best to know that there are at least *some* people who take an interest in what you do...don't press up loads of 'em..otherwise they will languish in your cupboards and under your bed [s], it goes without saying youve got to be into the sounds yr putting out also...find a nice friendly distributor that you can get on with [it is easier than doing it yr sel which is possible but you have to take into account the added postage you will incurr this way cargo pick them up from our place so it saves on alot of money]...take your time and dont panic..
John, One Louder PO Box 1NW, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE99 1NW firstname.lastname@example.org
1. To give some USA and Canadian bands exposure in the UK, who might otherwise have been overlooked.
2. My first release the Man or Astroman? "Mission To Chaos" single. History will prove it to be a very important release in the development of music. It took instrumental music into a completely new direction. It spawned a miilion sound-alikes.
3. Had I been doing this earlier I'd have killed to work with Husker Du and the Dead Kennedys.
4. Make sure you can afford to lose money because you will.
1. When i started I didn't know what i was doing. I was in a band that had recorded music and I wanted to see what people thought of it. Instead of sending out demo's to labels I figured I could just start a label. People like Ani DiFranco and Guided by Voices had been getting a lot of press about how they had started out by just releasing 4 track recordings they made in their basement, so I figured that if they could do it, I'd give it a shot. So I sent out a bunch of cassettes and some people actually liked it.
2. Usually the one that i have put out most recently. With each one i've learned a lot more and gotten a little more exposure that the previous ones.
3. I'd like to have Bob Dylan write some songs and have them recorded in a group effort by Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Sleater-Kinney and Public Enemy.
4. Don't let the fact that you have no idea how to do it stop you from doing it. Work hard to learn everything you can about how to do it. Ask lots of questions. I usually only get a response from 1 out of 10 people that I e-mail or call but i've learned a lot when people do respond. Don't expect to make money in the beginning or any time thereafter. If there is music you really like that isn't being noticed (even if it's your own) figure out a way to get it out there. Quit if you aren't having fun.
Philipp, One Touch Opochinina 5-20, St Petersburg, 199106, RUSSIA email@example.com
1. Just enjoy myself.
2.'Washing Machine Project' (4 washing machines from 4 european countries.
3. Washing machine or vacuum cleaner sound by John Holmes.
4. Everybody wants to read, nobody wants to listen, so it would be better for you if you'll start a zine.
1. to help get music out there that wouldnt otherwise go anywhere. make a whole bunch of money. help the underground artistry annihilate the "cover band" scene. make more money, as said before.
2. since were sending you duf davis, we'll say duf davis. actually everything is really good. otherwise we wouldnt put it out.
3. we have many dream releases, and we release them all.
4. do it legally. we almost got in a bit of heat for that. definitely do it. its worth it. you dont make any money. but trust me, it's so worth it.
Sean, Org firstname.lastname@example.org
1. iT KIND OF EVOLVED ITSELF when we weren't looking, there were just so many good bands being igonred by the mainstream---and still are, we just started putting out tapes and it went from there and turned in to the monster that it is now..... and it's far more fun than working for a living.... it's my punk rock upbringing... blame it all on Civilised Society? and Discharge and Conflict and Cardiacs
2. Impossible to say! Usually the latest one I'm working with so it's probably the FX Huberman single and the forthcoming Knuckles album... The first Huge Baby single was very pleasing as was Gog Magog, and Cay are great to work with just becasue they love what they're doing so much and they're happy to admit they're ripping off King Crimson riffs. The new Cynical sMILE Single is particulalrly pleasing because we hid 12 extra tracks from 12 new bands on there---73 minutes of music which in turn means Cynical Smile fans will get to check stuff like Monkey Boy and Tommie Griggs and Speedvark---bands they'd probably never listen to if they hadn't encountered them on the Cynical Smile single. The most pleasing thing I've ever been involved in was the recording of the Sea Nymphs session for John Peel last week in the BBC studios, that was probably the one of the finest days ever, everyone just stood and hugged each other at the end. The SEA NYMPHS new album is the most pleasing thing ever because they just do it for themselves and they look so happy when they've completed something and you can really hear it in their music... they're a very very special group of people
3. Actually getting Sea Nymphs on my label is something very very special.... if you're talking about old stuff then my dream release would be a new live-in-one-take-version of Plague Of Lighthouse keepers by Van Der Graaf Generator, or maybe a really good Cardiacs live album or maybe getting some of the Ring stuff out on CD or Lilian or U Boat Commander or LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT!! (L.A.M rule, I'm going to call them again now, I call them every three months) or Black Rock or Evil Knievil, I'd really like to get them in a studio...
4. Go for it, ignore any rules anyone tries to throw at you, don't let ANYONE TELL YOU it can't be done becasue we're the proof that it can! This all evolved out of a small fanzine that started in 1986 and now it's a full time worldwide thing. And most of all always make sure you're releasing something you really really love because when you get home and yuo've had a really shit day and the radio won't play your record and the people you owe money to at the pressing plant are on your case and you're getting hassle from every corner and the fuckers at the NME tell you not to ever bother sending any of your releases in becasue they can't be bothered to take any notice, when all that has happened you can get home and throw the record on and say YES! This is why we do it, you can just sit back and buzz off your own releases, you can't top that feeling.... whenever I feel like packing it all up I PUT ON this moNth's epic by Inaura or the first track on the Cynical Smile album or the Cay single and I think yeah, the bastards can't beat us
Jod, OSKA 20 Dale Crescent, Patcham, Brighton, BN1 8NU
1. The OSKA label was started many years ago to release copious bovine over sussex w material without the hindrance of quality control etc. We are prepated to release other artists material on the prestigious OSKA label if they are prepared to pay over the odds and do all the work themselves.
2. Our favourite release to date is "anonymous brand lite" the many moods of bovine over sussex w (kihosk:006) also of note are "solid space/inverse universe," "carpark attendant playset," "if only they could make microscopic people...well that would be fantastic." all of these are excellent examples of contemporary sound automation.
3. Our dream release would be a quadruple micro-grooved extended player pressed onto rhodium discs, by that freate family favourite instrumental band...bovine over sussex w.
4. Top tips for anyone starting a label are firstly make sure you have lots of space to store all those unsold records (a large warehouse is best but a garage or shed would be OK to start with). At least once a year post an expensive DAT tape (preferably the only master copy) to a complete stranger in a foreign country... Most important of all, never trust a printer.
1. As a means to releasing the unreleasable.I wouldn't expect any other label to want to put out stuff like The Inside Ov A Coffin CD,but having said that the Rough Trade shop's label For Us have put out the "Carnage live" CD.
2. The Masonic Youth ep by The Freed Unit,of course! All of the stuff we've put out is on a very small scale;all home burnt CDs,etc.The beauty of the lathe cut records is they are also home made.I once phoned Peter King in New Zealand and a girl answered the phone,when I asked for Mr King she shouted "Dad".Peter really worked hard on The Masonic Youth eps;hand shaping the records into a triangle shape.It must have taken him hours.
3. Scott Walker singing Nirvana's "All Apologies" with a backing band made up of Thighpaulsandra on synthesisers, Megan Childs on violin, Zappi of Faust on drums, Kim Gordon on bass,and Maurice Deebank on guitar.The promo video would be shot on Imax film.The releases would be formatted on 3" CD,10" pink vinyl (with flourescent yellow labels),7" flourescent yellow vinyl with pink labels and packaged with a free badge and sticker set.
4. Release some uninspiring crap with some talentless nobody whining in a false American accent.Hopefully some major label looking for some "indie cred" will buy you out,giving you loads of money to continue putting this crap out.You will fool yourself that you are the coolest label on the planet,when in truth you are no more than a tax loss.
why did you decide to set up a label?
1. Friends of mine were in a band and I really liked what they were doing. There was a lack of labels in town that would release that "genre", I thought it was a quality release, and I had been toying with the idea of starting a label ever since I was a kid.
2. I really like my "Self Portrait" vinyl compilation series. No one really does vinyl anymore, so its cool to do something (even though its not profitable) that no one seems to do anymore. They are the releases that fully represent the work I put into the label: I selected the bands, did the design, etc.
3. I would do "Self Portrait" #3, featuring Nirvana, Guided by Voices, The Beatles and hushfeed. :)
4. Take your time with each and every release. Always give yourself 2-3 extra months to fit in any delays that may happen. Never lose your integrity and release only what you love. And don't forget: you're running a label for the love of the music....never lose track of that.
1. Mmmm.... that's a good question. On the one hand, it's a really anal and egotistical thing to do.... like a public extension of your record collection. It's probably, in part, the frustrated musician inside of me, trying to get out. It's something I've been thinking of doing for ages, but only recently have I had the necessary resources (and it is expensive running a label), and.... well let's say that the connections have come together at the right time.
It's also, in part, a reaction to all those so-called "bedroom" labels that seem to be springing up everywhere (in bedrooms, presumably - and for the record, I mostly run my label from work... outside of work's time, of course!). It struck me how mediocre most of these labels are (there are a few good ones---Earworm, Wurlitzer Jukebox...), many of which just seem to release the same bands in rotation, and I just thought that I could do better than that. And I believe I have! Maybe I've discovered my true vocation...
2. All of them! I wouldn't release anything I didn't like..... can't see the point. And clearly I have impeccable taste! I suppose putting out the first Daniel Johnston record in over four years is something of a coup for Pickled Egg, and I'm particularly proud of that. But I guess if I had to single out one release---and that's what you're asking, right---then I'd have to go for the Pop-Off Tuesday ep and album (OK, so that's two, but who's counting). I rate this band amongst the top 4 or 5 in the world right now. I find their work genuinely moving and highly original. The trouble is, as so often the case with bands this innovative, it takes a while for record buyers and the press to catch on. They recorded a Peel session last year, and what I find so incredible is that no other label picked up on them. Still, everyone else's loss was my gain. I suppose this in itself was reason enough to start the label.
3. I'd love to release something by Neutral Milk Hotel, or Dymaxion (I hold out some hope that the latter might yet happen). They'd both fit in quite well with the Pickled Egg ethos---"weird pop", was how one review of L'augmentation described it, and I'll go along with that. Neutral Milk Hotel are, for my money, the best live band in the world right now, and another example of an innovative group who've taken a while to establish themselves (thankfully now they're at least starting to attract the kind of attention they deserve). Likewise, Dymaxion, a largely studio-based duo, who employ samples in a most intelligent and original manner (but still very much within a POP context).
4. It can take over your life, so don't go into it half-heartedly (it's time-consuming and a huge drain on your financial resources, but can also be most rewarding). And go with your own instincts, rather than be swayed too much by what other people are doing. Also, don't expect too much attention from the mainstream British music press (Spainish yes, Italian yes, Belgian even..... in fact anywhere but so-called Cool bloody Britannia). They're basically afraid to voice their own opinions (if indeed they have one) about genuinely new music, for fear of saying the wrong thing. Instead, our wonderful British music press just cover the same old (conservative) ground, like some club where everyone reinforces each other's "opinions". I seriously don't think they even like music any more up at King's Reach Tower. Sorry.... this is turning into a bit of a rant!
1. We started Pigdog because we could; We had the equipment and just thought why not. It began with just selling stuff at gigs and then we started to realise that there was a niche, at least in Manchester, for music that doesn 't take itself too seriously, that isn't about looking cool or even being that technically proficient, but is all about inventiveness and fun. The response we've got kind of shows we were right. Also by releasing stuff on CDR it cuts out a load of hassle, we only burn as many as are needed, and don't have to deal with anyone saying what to put out and when.
2. This has to be the Robot CD. Robot are a pretty hot property around Manchester at the moment and to be involved in that is pretty cool (even in such a limited role) it's also the release that made us realise doing Pigdog was a viable proposition
3. Robot featuring Jad Fair and Calvin live in new york would be cool, or maybe Cho'pin as interpreted by Sun Ra, or something in a format that contains its own hardware like a Robot greetings card that plays a tinny version of Rude Boy, or a toilet that plays vok tunes when pissed in.
4. Probably the only tip we can give at this stage is to just go for it; there's nothing to stop anyone doing what we do, the hardware's getting cheaper and its getting easier to make contact with like-minded people, and the more people who do this the better. just don't expect to make any money.
Karl, Plastic Head Unit 15, Bushell Business Estate, Hithercroft, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 9DD email@example.com
1. East World, Blackend, Rhythm Vicar and Golf are part of Plastic Head Records which was formed last year as a side label of Plastic Head Music Distribution Ltd. One of the leading UK exclusive distributor in the punk, metal and Indie genera.
2. Hard to tell. Plastic head music Distribution worked in the past with Epitaph, for example, introducing bands such as The Offspring and No Fx for the UK market. PHD also distributes the Candlelight label worldwide (1999 top release was Emperor "IX Equilibrium", probably the best black metal album of the year) and the Go Kart label for all Europe (1999 releases include: Down By Law "Fly The Flag" and The Lunachicks "Luxury Problems" ) and much more.....
3. Uhmmm... we are happy with what we are doing....
4. if you don't have huge budget, get a manufacture and distribution deal with a serious, reliable medium size company (see PHD) interested in what you are doing and get some good records out... simple, uh??
Tom, Plastic Noise 21 Droitwich Road, WOrcester, WR3 7LG firstname.lastname@example.org
1. A combination of pure anger at the unimaginative dross I could find even at my local "indie" store and a desire to put together records by artists of ANY genre rather than the usual specialisation found in the music industry.
2. I've only made one so far, so it'll have to be "Ataraxia". It was so good to see the result of a year's work in the shopds, with four artists I really love all on one piece of vinyl.
3. This may sound awful but my dream release has always been something by 70 Gwen Party whose music has never failed to entrance my imagination. To actually have released their last record has been a real privilege.
4. You must be willing to devote all youe human virtues to the label: love, patience and generosity are all vital, or your label will never get off the ground.
1. You spend your life working with your mates and the music you love instead of being sat behind somebody else's desk working for them. Piss poor money most of the time though...
2. Our latest - "Growler" by Phantom Beats. Wicked breakbeat monster!
3. Stevie Wonder playing mad funky synths over some fat Raygun breakbeats....or something!
4. Believe in what you are doing. Do what you wanna do. And....it doesn't always costs lots of money to make an impression - when we started (with no money) people thought we were funded by a major label because of the mad shit we were doing
1. Purely to get our own stuff out on record. Nobody else takes risks it seems on unknown quanties.
2. PH03 Montana Pete 7" 'An Outreach Program'
3. Three opinions here: (1) Drive Like Jehu's grand reunion album, (2) Bon Jovi / Montana Pete split single (!), (3) Probably some old prog rock nonsense. He's overseas. Actually, probably euro-prog-rock.
4. You can't take it with you, but that is no reason to throw money at stupid ideas you haven't thought through properly. 500 CD singles = 500 drinks coasters.
Dave, Polygraph email@example.com
1. The label came about because we didn't like what anyone was offering deal wise ( not just UNLIMBO, I researched other bands experiences with the same or similar labels ). I didn't want our music to end up on warehouse shelves for 18 months while a company who owned our music spent all their budget on their ' pet ' band / investment. Unfortunately the only companies with any bargaining power already have a ' harem' of other bands who've spent their advance & can't do anything more until the company can be arsed to release their product. It's taken some time to achieve but we're just in the process of registering Polygraph with companies house as a ltd. co, this does not bring any immediate benefits, but in the long term gives strength to anything UNLIMBO or any other act under our wing cares to do. We would never create any contract with any band where a) they lose the rights to their work; b) their release was delayed anything longer than a calendar month; c) they were not permitted to do anything else if we were not keeping them satisfied promotions wise. Most of the big companies are folding like pancakes - all because it's just business to them, there is no apparent appreciation of any art. Greed is the only aesthetic compulsion here, nothing else. More & more artists, composers, writers, etc. are taking hold of their futures with a large dose of help from ever expanding technology. The only way forward is with small labels again. In the late eighties we saw many small organisations spring up & do very well for all their clients. The same is occurring again.
2. Prahna Fish. It was the summit to a long project where everyone involved was pleased with their contribution - the energy involved in producing it just seems to ' shine ' through.
3. Little Fluffy Clouds, The Orb.
4. Make sure you have ways of distributing your product. Sale or Return is the most direct system - there is a lot of legwork to be done, but you're not paying anyone else for simple time.
Phil, Ptolemaic Terrascope 37 Sandridge Rd, Melksham, Wilts, SN12 7BQ firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Because we felt the bands we were writing about were *still* being unfairly ignored, because we cared about them enough to hopefully bring their music to a wider audience.
2. The "Succour" double CD compilation, no contest. It was, and remains, a perfect snapshot of what the Terrascope was and is all about.
3. This won't mean anything to anyone other than maybe half a dozen Terrascope addicts, but I've got tapes of a song by Help Yourself entitled "Eating Duneburgers" from their unreleased 4th album in 1974 which I'd give almost anything to get a master of and release on an unsuspecting world. The band were absolutely pivotal in changing my whole conception of what popular music's capable of.
4. Start a label because you consider yourself the biggest fan of any given band in the world and you think everyone else is an idiot for ignoring them. And once you've done it, never release something by a group of friends or locals who you owe a favour to but don't really believe in. Follow your head as well as your heart, in other words. Take care of the packaging, make the artwork as unique as the music, and allow for a ceiling of 3000 copies at the most.
why did you decide to set up a label?
Stan, Pumf 25 Ivy Avenue, Blackpool, FY4 3QF
1. Originally to put out tapes of the band I was in, then other recording collaborations containing me, and then the occasional "other band" who interested me. It's been mainly tapes over the years (since 1984) but there has also been the odd flexidisc, 7" single, video, CD...
2. "Psychiatric underground" CD by Ceramic Hobs---because all that fucking hard work eventually paid off and we released the CD of the Century, no contest.
3. A soundloop of a dog being slowly eviscerated over a punk backing track, pop guitars and 3 part harmony vocals. With a sitar.
4. Shoot for the moon but keep your feet on the ground, in for penny in for a pound, just start with 100 and see if all's well, but don't be disheartened, when 90 don't sell.
1. I was bored with running studios and wanted to go into a different area in the Music industry - I thought setting up a label would let me learn about the other area but still keep me in the job I had. For Howie it was seen as an outlet for his music without having to go through the majors.
2. For me the best fun I have is doing the compilations - I believe it is an artform in itself getting good compilations together. My favourite to date was 'Fish Smell Like Cat' our Japanese compilation - Great tracks.
3. Don't really think like that me and Howie just listen to new material and if we both click we will release it - doesn't matter what it is.
4. Be very careful financially, build up slowly starting with small distributors etc. and don't expect to get paid for the first year or so !!
1. I wanted to keep everything my band did as in-house as possible. After finding out how much some major lable acts got paid per CD sale I was set on the DIY path.
2. Well, quasi-pop has only had 1 real release and I'm very pleased with the way everything turned, but still finding out what has to done to make the release a successful one as far as a labels is concerned.
3. Sunny Day Real Estate or Jeff Buckley, anything from them. One because I love their music and two becuse I feel like they a strong grasp on something that is beyond trend and hype, something real that we all admire, appriciate and respect.
4. Realize that this is business and that as much as you love it treat it that way.
1. There are three of us who started the label together and we all did it for fairly similar reasons - i was managing el Mopa and we'd started sending out CDs, and basically getting not much of a response. I knew then and am still aware of the fact that the music that they play is a little difficult to get... not formatted etc etc, and i just came to the realisation that there has to be independent based labels to put out the stuff that isn't necessarily so marketable. At the same time Stef and Dave were coming to the same realisation, and they'd heard the SLP recording and wanted to put that out (i knew Stef from working at the Annandale). I sort of intended to start it on my own, but Stef presented an argument to me as to why i should do QSR with him and Dave (cost cutting, shared workload etc), and it all made sense... hence Quietly Suburban Recordings was founded in approx May last year... it took us a while to figure it all out, but it's the best and most constructive thing that i've done. It's an outlet to put out the music that we like, for other people to hear, and to provide a starting platform for the bands that we are putting out. If a major came and offered them a bunch o' money for an album - then great, our job is done. If not, then we continue to have the privelege and honor of putting out their recordings. It's a labour of love, but undoubtedly a win/win situation.
2. We're still so small - 2 releases so far and one more in the next month (a split 7" with Sounds Like Sunset and the Lassie foundation), and i am so incredibly impressed by both of them, and of the upcoming split. Honestly, i feel like a proud mum, and everytime i get a good response (review, personal comments, radio play, people like yourself recognising the label in this way) i get the most incredible feeling - can't be beat. I am proud of everything about our releases - the way they sound AND ther way they look - it's a real credit to all involved.
3. A Catpower live recording would be nice... failing that, i'd love to be putting out 2nd, 3rd, 4th releases for el Mopa, SLP, SLS in 6 years time to rave reviews and sales that soar into the thousands in the first week.... No really, i want to put out the music that makes the bands happy, so that they don't feel like they have to play a certain (marketable) way to get a release or recognition.
4. Yep - talk to people who've done it before. We got so much useful info from other small indies... i know a lot of these labels wouldn't put out our bands or couldn't b/c $$ were tight, so they were happy to offer advice so that the music gets released by someone else. It's good to pick their brains for tips - suppliers, manufacturers etc etc. Email us, we'll help! Oh, and get the artwork sorted onto the same programs etc YESTERDAY. The artwork was the most difficult thing to sort out, believe it or not. I almost lost my mind over it...
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