Independent labels

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:

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

If you run a label and want to answer the questions yourself, feel free to email your answers to me cos this feature is intended to grow over time.


A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H, I-K, L-N, O-Q, R-Se, Sf-Sz and T-Z

Roman, Raspberry Records

1. I had some experiences with German, French and English Artists, had a lot free time and thought to help them, in earlier days. I was for them in 'deepest' contact to the top-addresses in the Music-Business and had painfully to realize, that most of them, the so called 'Major-Labels' are meanwhile run by simple little napkin-wearers, with wet dreams, trying to dictate their tastes to the Generations. Forgetting, that the main part in this 'game' are the Musicians! So I had the idea to create for all the self-confident Artist's in the World a really independent Record Label, with NO limits, with an independent Distribution network, with independent Radio-Shows, with NO fees and costs for no Artist!...

2. Our first release was "STOP the war" a song from our Artist "A". The Message was and is still the main-thing, why I love this song, and obviously a rising number of A-Fans. Meanwhile, it's for the forth consecutive (after we established this unique Vote/Winning-'game' in our Internet-Empire) the No. 1---Song in our weekly "Top of the Raspberry Records Tops", and was voted, last week, from exactly 2.837 listeners. I think, that's great for the Internet and our activities there! But we are really proud about all other releases, because we identify in our Company with each product! We are not only doing the Production, the Multiplication, we are doing all the Artwork and the Printings, in co-operation with the Artists.

3. We are pleased to bring out as much as possible Music-pieces! Since the 1st February 1998, as we delivered (promoted) "STOP the war" to all the Governments in the World (188) [and received only from Downing Street No 10 a "Thank You", believe it!], more than 300 Radios and more than 300 Newspapers and Magazines worldwide, we've done actual, I think 83 CD's and nearly the same productions in Tapes . The only dream I have, that all our meanwhile about 40 Artist's (and we want to double this number till end of this year) from all over the World, can make a living out of their Music! And if not only with their own Music, than, later as a well-settled Raspberry Records Boutique-Owners, if they want, with all the products, we have created for all our Artist's. Stupid or not, we are starting the day with Raspberry Records Marmalade and have over the day the most tasteful sweets in the World, LM-becker Marzipan. For sure, our Logo in Marzipan. etc. But this is only one little example, why we are really unique!

4. There is really no limit for no-one. If someone feels the need to do the (not so expected!) hard job, to listen to a lot, sometime awful sounding Music-pieces, he should do. Normally, if they finally don't have 'more' to offer to the Artists, like all the others do, the market is full of a lot of 'crooks'. Mostly created in America, there are some special examples, by first view looking seriously, but the Artists have only to pay! And they really take money for every little step. On the other hand, the future belongs NOT to the established Record Labels! Our created unique "OPD-System" (Order-Print-Delivery) will be the winning strategy, I really believe! We offer NO limits to our Artist's, we create and produce as much as possibl e products from each Artist and at the end, after a fair and open calculation, each Artist receives 80 % from the profit of each sold product! We have NO concurrence and we don't fear real, fair competitors!

Daniel, Reincheque

1. Since I'd failed miserably for 13 years to convince someone else to release my material, I felt the time was right to do it meself. The advent of the internet, affordable digital audio recording and CD-R technology made everything possible..

2. My own debut CD, TANTRUM EGO, has got a lot of positive critical reaction. It was great fun recording the album...very educational (I even learned how to yo-yo during the mixing sessions). My next release will be even better...

3. My favourite group is XTC, and my dream album would be proper studio recordings of all the execellent songs that haven't made it onto their official albums. It would be truly awesome...

4. Find lots of people willing to buy your releases...:-) Seriously, though, take every possible opportunity (within the bounds of netiquette) to promote your label. It may take some time, but eventually people will come looking for your material. Oh, and don't forget "word-of-mouth"...

Andi, Resonant

1. well me and the other half of resonant just really like our music, he works for a distributor and i do mail order so it was too tempting to refuse. obviously to be playing music is the best thing but putting it out or bringing a new band to peoples attention is a close second

2. the only one weve done so far, do make say think 'besides' ep

3. for me it'd be either a triple live godspeed you black emperor set or a spiritualized single. two of the finest bands to grace the '90's

4. god knows, i'm still begging tips from everyone i know. don't put a release date out until the records started its production run

Tom, Reveal Kestrel Business Centre, Private Road 2, Colwick, Nottingham, NG4 2JR

1. To release a quality record for Johnny Domino.

2. Musically and format-wise, Johnny Domino.

3. Replacements, "Skyway".

4. Quality before quantity, with one eye on the cost of it all. Make sure you get a distribution deal first.

Gary, Rice Pudding

1. 'cause no one else would have me..sob sob, and I wanted to get my music heard.

2. I suppose my latest is my most satisfying

3. Hmm PJ Harvey with one of my tunes!

4. Don't (sorry) be put off, open a bank account (1st year free), and away you go (well it must be that easy to someone)

Henrik, Rocket Number Nine c/o henrik kihlberg, tellusborgsvagen 64, 126 37 hagersten, Sweden

1. I'd thought about it for a long long time, then I heard this absolutely fantastic cassette with "Sagor & Swing" and I felt that they just have to be on vinyl. And so on...

2. "Sagor & Swing"

3. Oh...hmmmm... I have a project that I'm working on a little. A collection where a whole bunch of totally different swedish artists play Syd Barrett songs. It all depends on if the songs will be good and special and personal. I don't want totaly plagiarism.

4. Start small... and keep it small. Small is where the fun is. Small is beautiful. Make small editions, and reprint it later if you like. Answer every mail, letter, cassette you get. Poeple put there souls in there music. The least I can do is to answere them nicely and honestly.

Stewart, Roisin PO Box 289, Swindon, SN1 3UE

1. Just a natural progression thing really. Started listening to a lot of underground indie/space-rock a few years back and thought (as I can't play any instruments) well I could do that [release 7" singles]. Got in touch with Keith at Wurlitzer Jukebox and Dom at Earworm, and it just went from there.

2. I have been most pleased with the Portal 7" I put out last April because it has sealed a lasting relationship with Scott (Portal) and myself who has now comitted to releasing most of his subsequent material with me - which is great!

3. Well even off the top of my head I'm gonna have to pick three: Red House Painters 'Katy Song', Low 'Words', Godspeed You Black Emperor! ANYTHING!

4. Make a lot of contacts before you start, especially with distribution companies and mail-orders. Sometimes these things can be very difficult to shift (especially in terms of debut releases).

Richard, Rotator (Shifty Disco) PO Box 2000, Oxford, OX1 2XX

1. To release music I felt deserved to be out there that no-one else would have.

2. The Mystics album---a perfect classy slab of music that still blows me away.

3. Albums: Ziggy Stardust, Revolver, Either/Or (Elliot Smith), Never Mind The Bollocks, Veedon Fleece (Van Morrison), If You're Feeling Sinister, London Calling. Singles: The Teletubbies.

4. Basically - release great records, try to stick to one area of music if you can to build a following for your label. Keep costs to a minimum - "it's the music, stupid" - don't even think of copying the majors' tactics - the only reason it works for them is because of the cash, and that's the one thing you haven't got. You're only chance is to do what they don't - or better still, can't. Also; don't expect any release to even pay for itself from sales - it probabaly won't. Don't release what you think you ought to rather than your favourite song, like minds will agree with you and want more - and that's what a great label is about.

Robb, Saddle Creek PO Box 8554, Omaha, NE 68108-0554, USA

1. I decided to set up saddle creek because I feel that some of the best music being made today is coming out of nebraska, and it is unfortunately not getting the appreciation that it deserves.

2. I am proud of everything that we have done, and at the same time I think that our releases keep getting better and better. So, at this point in time, I am most proud of the Bright Eyes record entitled 'letting off the Happiness'. It is our most recent release, and it is the best record that I have heard all year.

3. I do not have a 'dream release' per say, but I owe alot of my musical upbringing to the Replacements. I would have loved to have been putting out their earlier twin/tone records, and also sire's 'tim' and 'pleased to meet me'.

4. do it, and love it, and don't expect to make any money or have any spare time. there will never be too many records.

Rob, Second Skin U36,99-109 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5QL

1. because we were fed up of dealing with other labels and people who simply didn't understand the underground or for that matter the music business - and we wanted complete control over our releases (30 to date).

2. the latest one - Grand Unified's "Goin' On" EP - created a lot of awareness for Second Skin.

3. The Pope singing Leftfield's "Open Up" complete with drum'n'bass/breakbeat remixes to be promo'ed in religious countries only.

4. forget any time for yourself - give up the notion of sleep - get a serious amount of money - then multiply that by 10 and you're nearly there.

Jonathan, Secretly Canadian Records 1703 North Maple St. Bloomington, IN 47404

1. I knew I wanted to do something in the music business and my dreams of being a rock star faded pretty fast. I met some guys who felt the same way I did and we happened to get along very well, so we decided to go for it.

2. Honestly, all of them. I think just organizing all the processes that go into a record in order to produce an album is an incredible feat. Although the Dave Fischoff cd/lp "Winston Park" was absolutely smooth. No problems in the recording, duplication of the music and the artwork process was flawless.

3. Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rythym Band with PW Long(Mule/Reelfoot) on guitar, John Curley (Afghan Whigs) on bass Fontella Bass and Atretha Franklin as the back up singers and me playing the miracas. Peter Howson (Contemporary Scottish Artist) does the artwork and my long lost rich brother comes out of nowhere to pay for it all.

4. Research, research, research. I'm still learning as I go along. The more you know about manufacturing, distribution, press, booking tours..whatever you think may occur...the better. If you believe in the music and band and you think it should truly be heard then make it so.

Tim, Semi-Roar Suginami-ku, Ogikubo, 3-39-7 Hirokawa-so #102, Tokyo Japan 167-0051

1. Influenced by Shrimper the idea was to release some of my home recordings on cassette and then hopefully expand to releases by others. This is exactly what has happened and we have now released 23 tapes now. Actually from release 21 we'rve now becaome a limited release CDR label as releasing CDRs is now cheaper and easier than cassettes.

2. Hard to say but I'm quite happy with the latest Warser Gate release "Look me in your eye". I think that the music that they've created and the design that Semi-Roar has put together work very well well together. Every release has been great fun though and I wouldn't part with any of them. It's a great feeling to be able to get wonderful music out of a 4-track and into the hands of appreciative people, even in the limited manner in which we work.

3. No dream release but I'm looking forward to putting out loads more great Japanese releases.

4. Yes, just go ahead and do it. Take your time and go at your own pace and have fun. My favorite home-made labels are the ones that have fun with homemade packaged, lo-budget limited releases. Homemade releases are always so much more expressive and personal than mass produced big label stuff. That's what it's all about I think and the lesson that I learned right off the bat from good old Shrimper: It's fun and anyone can do it.

Derek, Seminal 82 Oswald St, Falkirk, Scotland, FK1 1QL

1. No one else would touch my recordings with gloves on. To see how much money I could lose. Delusions of competance. Lack of music out there that I wanted to hear. Dreams of being an all-powerful, world famous svengali.

2. The International Pop Assassins seven inch single "Lo-Fi Elvis On Acid". Mainly because it was recorded on four track and released for a minimal amount of money, given away free, and it still managed to pick up airplay on John Peel etc. as well as great reviews all-over. I guess I'm just a punk at heart.

3. Mmmmm. Good question. I would love to have released "Witchita Lineman" by Glen Campbell first, but now I'll settle for that epic that shall be the first International Pop Assassins album. Or a Duke Benson album...a band that I have a great deal of difficulty even persuading to record.

4. Start off small and build up slow. If your first single sells out it's 500 copies, then press 750 next time. Send copies to everyone that you can think of. That means that every single journalist on the NME and Melody Maker should get one. Make sure your artists register with the PRS if they are going to get radio play. Even one play on the John Peel show pays well. Be careful who you sign. Never sign anyone that sounds like anyone else that is getting any success at that moment. By the time you get the record out things will have moved on and they'll be out of date and competing with a hundred other bands who sound the same (If I hear one more Verve-a-like...) Always go on gut reaction. If you believe 100 per cent in a band but no-one else likes them, don't worry. Tastes shall change and you'll be proven right.

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?

David, Seriously Groovy 3rd floor, 28 D'Arby St, London, W1V 3FH

1. Several reasons. When I was only 4 years old I was mad on music, my first top tune was Little White Bull by Tommy Steel. I would play that sucker over and over again and jumped about on the sofa conducting it, until I wore out the grooves in the vinyl. I got through several copies! At the age of 4 that is pretty mad stuff.

When I got older, into my teens, I became a pro muso.

Having a bit of a gift for this music lark, having "perfect pitch", playing countless instruments, and shit like that, I started writing and recording my own music. I eventually found it frustrating working with people on my own ideas because although I could play several instruments, I could not verbalise my thoughts to people who played instruments I could not. My ideas changed, and this was difficult for me to deal with, as my ideas were so personal. After much struggle I came to realise that these other peoples ideas, although different were really valid. I became fascinated. So I learned not to struggle, and took an interest in try to encourage other to produce their ideas, not mine, which I could do myself if I really wanted. A record label became the perfect way to let other people present me with their own ideas taken to their logical conclusion. That's why!!!!!!!

2. I am really pleased with all our releases. It is easier to tell you the ones I don't like so much, but as there are real people with real feelings making our records I prefer not to tell you which I am least happy with.

3. Another good record to follow the last one we have done. It is sort of a dream to be able to do what you love.

4.Lots and here goes: Do your figures and at least attempt a business plan. If you can't do this, get help or take a business course. Put your accounting system in place as a first priority. If you think something is going to cost M-#1,000, expect to end up paying M-#2,000. If you think something is going to take 1 week, expect it to take 2 months. If you think getting your deals in will be easy, think again. Multiply by a factor of 10. Keep your costs down to rock, rock, rock bottom... 500 black & white photocopy posters for M-#25 can convey the same message as a double crown print run for M-#900!

Here is an example of raising a distribution deal (making one standard M-#5 retail sale) in the UK, or any other major territory: Budget at the very least 400 sample pressings to give away per territory. Target your recipients as carefully as possible. Of those 400, only 250 packages hit the bulls eye... maximum! If you can afford the time and money you can improve this hit percentage by confirming you contact list first (email is good for this, but not everyone responds). You will have to follow every single sample with at least one phone call to see if it is a go-er (400 to 600 calls). It will then take at least 6 months from now to finalise your first offer (sign a contract), 4 months to put the deal in place (ship out information, biographies, raise an order, send stock, raise press and do your pre-release routines), add a minimum of 100 promos for stores and press and usually a further 4 months before you see your first payment (up to 90 days accounting plus a customary 1 month delay in actually paying you!)!! A Grand Total commitment (adding a tiny bit for allowances) of 16 months of your life and at least M-#8,000+++ direct expenses to get your 1st paid legitimate sale. Income around M-#5!!!!

However, it is a rags to riches industry and if you make a few thousand sales (very difficult to achieve) your numbers become mad and life becomes very interesting for you and the bands / artists................

Erik, 75 Ark 77 Chambers Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10007, USA

1. We set up a label to work with outstanding artists, those with vision, that might otherwise live on the sidelines. Our goal is to act as a launch pad for artists, taking the underground in to the mainstream without compromise.

2. We are pleased with all of our releases. Success is measured in many ways, not just by sales.

3. Dream release - all of our releases!! That is why we release them.

4. If you are strating a label, just do it for the right reasons: the music. Success will follow when you are 100% dedicated and have absolute belief in what you do. Have good A&R and a kick ass sales manager.

[1] why did you decide to set up a label?
[2] what release have you been most pleased with?
[3] what's your dream release (any band, any song)?
[4] tip for anyone starting their own label (don't just say "don't")?


A-B, C-D, E-F, G-H, I-K, L-N, O-Q, R-Se, Sf-Sz and T-Z

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