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Finding a label
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Author Finding a label
Trigga
I wonder how many of you guys are on a label or are running a label? These days days it's so easy to get your music out there with all the Badcamps and Soundclouds - but to me a label somehow still seems essential. In fact, I've finisihed a record now and it ain't easy gettin any reaction even from very small labels. So, really interested in how do you go about this.
jesselucas
A lot of people I know created their own labels and then put out their friends albums and their own. Now they are 'legit' and are on a label. Perception is everything? hmmm.....
Trigga
Hmm, that's also an observation I made. I have been signed to a little label years ago, but they called it quits and from that point on it was getting more difficult to get attention.
Social Media and the whole self made music biz seems like a vicious circle these days: You need friends, attention and the right communities to be recognized by the right friends and communities to get attention and vice versa.
Founding a label with no good social network embedding seems like dropping your album on Bandcamp where it's discovered by some freak every four months ...
jesselucas
It does seem impossible to stand out. I'm convinced the only way to be different is to have zero social media presence. Create a label that only releases physically and only deals directly with record store or distros. You might only sell 25 tapes but you'd know people actually wanted it. Seems better than having a bunch of virtual hearts or thumbs up is
Zube
Interesting thoughts here. to the OP's question, Yes to both (my try at a label in the early 00's failed miserably.) A label is a two way deal: they release and (hopefully) promote your music, your music makes them a profit -be it money or whatever else "profitable" means to you/them. A lot of people forget this. It's not them just handing you free money- even at the smallest level, it needs to be an equitable situation! You're asking someone else to put money and time into promoting and releasing your music- if they don't see something in it for them, why do it?

As someone who has never really had a social media presence, it is a tough slog to get any attention or anything distributed; unless you have a prior name, or tour relentlessly, you don't exist in 2017 without some type of online something. For physical releases, most labels will expect you to tour, tour tour.
listentoaheartbeat
I think sending out demos is outmoded. Most labels, especially the small ones, don't even do A&R work any more. That said, it is still possible to get signed – building personal relationships is pretty much mandatory though. More importantly, you are probably never going to be signed unless you already have something going, be it a strong musical presence online (talking about press and blogs here, not just your own social media outlets), a small label, your own club night, or a DJ residency.

When you see young talents skyrocketing into careers as a musician, you can be sure that they have either been very persistent and already done shitloads of stuff under the radar, or that they have made stand-out music fitting the Zeitgeist and managed to get it heard, either by meeting someone who took them under their wing, or by releasing it into just the right channel. It's really just a matter of always doing stuff, putting it out there wherever and whenever you can, and not being shy of getting in touch with people. Easier said than done!

I've come to realise that it is primarily the act of making a record and releasing it that interests me, merely for the sake of finishing pieces of music. If you don't put it out, it never really is finished, I feel. For this reason I have started a series of vinyl releases with a friend. Not that easy either, by the way, as it was an effort to even just find a distribution, and again, personal relationships helped a lot! It feels good to get something going though, even on a small scale. Obviously we need to sell a few records in order to be able to make more records, so hopefully it will gain some momentum after the first few releases.
Trigga
Quote:
If you don't put it out, it never really is finished,

Man, this is so true. I don't know, maybe it's a generational thing, but for me it's important to have it as a 12" or whatever you can touch. It's old school, but a soundcloud link ain't a proper release.

Quote:
it qas quite an effort to even just find a distribution, and again, personal relationships helped a lot!

Yeah, definitely, it's a social game it seems. Finding a distribution and a booking agent is the same as finding a label: You get nothing, when you haven't already built up a reputation. But getting a reputation is not easy when you have no label, booking agent and distro.

Quote:
It's not them just handing you free money- even at the smallest level, it needs to be an equitable situation! You're asking someone else to put money and time into promoting and releasing your music- if they don't see something in it for them, why do it?

This is one great truth. It's always a deal: You get something, they get something. What I've learned that it's not only money that's dealt, but also something like "charisma" or "hipness" or whatever.

another thought: the 2000s were a good age to find at least some outlet, as the structure of the music industry was completely revolutionized with all the blogs, micro labels etc. There were at least some "scenes" and digital spots, now even this seems gone. Most blogs have become real companies and they ain't that diverese anymore. Everyone posts the same stuff. This maybe good for those who are already in the game. It's interesting to see that even music at the margins of pop functions like this these days.
Zube
Trigga wrote:

What I've learned that it's not only money that's dealt, but also something like "charisma" or "hipness" or whatever.


Sure, but it can also be they're simply a fan of your work. Sometimes, a label will like what you do a lot and want to work with you, but are unable to for other reasons: their own finances, genre, others at the label not liking it enough, the artist is unable to tour. My wife and I just heard from a label this week about a new project we're doing: sorry, no money to do anything except keep the webstore going. oh well lol lol

Most of the time people get someone to put their record out, it's as simple as: they like it, and they want to do it; nothing more sinister than that. 9 out of 10 times with people I've known, it is the artist's inability to tour 4-6+ months of the year that screws them, as this is still the main way many smaller labels move physical albums. Understandable from both viewpoints, in this day and age...

Trigga wrote:
another thought: the 2000s were a good age to find at least some outlet, as the structure of the music industry was completely revolutionized with all the blogs, micro labels etc. There were at least some "scenes" and digital spots, now even this seems gone. Most blogs have become real companies and they ain't that diverese anymore. Everyone posts the same stuff. This maybe good for those who are already in the game. It's interesting to see that even music at the margins of pop functions like this these days.


The 2000's didn't feel any different than it does today, really, at least to me. It's the same struggles, just a different set of clothes. Musicians and labels still complain about the same things. I don't think anything really got revolutionized, just the players shifted sideways. We traded a few big record labels and a few big magazines, who weren't going to cover obscure music anyway, for a lot of small blogs and microlabels (all still owned by the same big companies.) Blogs were never really that diverse individually to begin with, all the current major players at one point had their own laser-point genre focus. That might be tough to remember since so many have been bought by big media companies, or those media companies made their own, thus started covering the same things.
Bojmir Raj Raj
I think a physical release- CD or vinyl or both- is still very important. It still imparts some kind of credibility. And it sure is nice if a label will foot the bill for that, so it's not coming out of your pocket (or your girlfriend's pocket).

I can't give any advice on how to get signed to a label, though, because my situation is very unusual and I'm in the EU where the arts are supported by the taxpayer (and my "day job" is "cultural producer", which means I'm one of the people who determines which artists get money). I did get briefly courted by a major label decades ago, after a live performance on college radio, but that was long ago before the internet took over, and those old-fashioned kinds of things still happened. I blew that opportunity because of what I thought of as "artistic integrity", but now many years later I realize that the label's plan to take the music in the direction of one particular, catchy, song wasn't some kind of evil anti-music oppression, but just good business thinking, and musical as well.

Meeting people in real life is extremely important. It sounds like a story from a movie, but it's true: years ago I picked up an old black blues musician guy who was hitch hiking; we got to talking and that's the advice he gave me: if you are looking for paid gigs, always meet and perform for people in real life, don't just send a demo tape or whatever.

And don't underestimate the power of a handful of like-minded people getting together and deciding to make something of their own, as someone else already suggested above.

As someone who is in a position to get people gigs, in literature and visual arts as well as music, and "get them signed", I'm always amazed at how lazy, deluded and greedy musicians and artists tend to be. There's an older guy here who was kind of a rock star back in the days of Yugoslavia and now wants to publish a book, he tells me: so, show me what you've written, i say. After all, i just sent a young unknown writer to a paid residence in another country for two months, where his only duty is to write whatever the hell he pleases and party with the literature people there, that's a pretty sweet gig! Well, this guy says, he wants a plane ticket to Cuba and party money to last a couple of months, *then* he'll start writing his book! LOL.
Trigga
Quote:
eeting people in real life is extremely important. It sounds like a story from a movie, but it's true: years ago I picked up an old black blues musician guy who was hitch hiking; we got to talking and that's the advice he gave me: if you are looking for paid gigs, always meet and perform for people in real life, don't just send a demo tape or whatever.


Very true!

Quote:
he 2000's didn't feel any different than it does today, really, at least to me
yeah, could be you are right. But somehow, I remember the 2000s as more open as all this digital marketing was rather new. It seemed also easier to get in touch due to the naivity and ultra-promotion of MySpace... In one of the comments I was even offered a record deal... couldn't imagine this today. But maybe this is just nostalgia.
Bojmir Raj Raj
Trigga wrote:
Quote:
eeting people in real life is extremely important. It sounds like a story from a movie, but it's true: years ago I picked up an old black blues musician guy who was hitch hiking; we got to talking and that's the advice he gave me: if you are looking for paid gigs, always meet and perform for people in real life, don't just send a demo tape or whatever.


Very true!

Quote:
he 2000's didn't feel any different than it does today, really, at least to me
yeah, could be you are right. But somehow, I remember the 2000s as more open as all this digital marketing was rather new. It seemed also easier to get in touch due to the naivity and ultra-promotion of MySpace... In one of the comments I was even offered a record deal... couldn't imagine this today. But maybe this is just nostalgia.


From about '97 to '07, the EU was basically shovelling money down the throats of multimedia arts institutions like the ones I work for and with (I'm president of one, called "X-OP"), money specifically earmarked for "cultural exchange" between nations and cultures. So in those days, I could have put an open call here on muffwiggler for any nutter anywhere in the world who caught my ear to come and wiggle on stage for an hour or so, travel, lodging, food, alcohol and a nominal performance fee paid for. Audiences in all the countries of former Yugoslavia, and in the formerly socialist countries now westernizing in general, are awesomely open to and appreciative of all kinds of music. I would guess that a noise show anywhere in the world usually has an audience of a handful of young men who all know each other already, but I saw a microtonal noise show at one of our sister organizations, A2 in Bratislava, Slovakia, with over a 100 people attending, and loving it, including a good number of hot young ladies!

That rain of free money has mostly dried up these days, but the network of multimedia arts institutions in this sphere, which would be Slovenia (where i am), Sovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania is still a great place for "outsider" musicians to tour, perform, and get "signed" as far as having someone else put out your CD rather than doing it yourself, and I'd definitely recommend any modular synth nut to get into this network, especially if they are in Britain, Germany or France (travel from the US or Canada these days is going to ream the budget of a small festival).

The more "outside" and non-commercial your music is, the better- the other day I went to a show at a friend's institution which was an hour of some French dude making god-awful screeching noises scraping objects on the head of a big bass drum, so bleeping and blooping on a modular would be downright "mainstream".

Of course you have to not be obsessed with the whole "riches and bitches and mountains of cocaine" concept of being an artist, and you have to be a good traveller in the old-school hippy kinda way, but you can still set up a paid tour, especially if you have, say , a little van and are willing to drive from for example France to Eastern Europe. When i hosted the awesome Jacques Dudon here, with his microtonal photosonic disks, he drove from France in his little truck/van thing and even slept overnight in it on the way, even though the guy is at least 60. Now *that's* the kind of artist that people like me are willing to bend over backwards for promoting, whereas wannabe star DJ's rolling house music are a dime a dozen and their network is about like anywhere else in the world, with its coke-front clubs and all that.

Here's a story about wanna-be stars and "outsider" music that I think it would be good for musicians to consider: I had a young DJ perform. I told him to play his own music, that he makes in fruity loops or whatever, and not worry about "popularity". He said his personal music is too weird, but it wasn't weird at all, really just some kind of "ambient trance" or something with a repeating mellow me-re-do figure throughout. The audience loved it, including a friend of mine who is also a cultural producer and concert promoter like I am. So this friend of mine hires the DJ for a bigger show and more money, and the kid decides to roll "popular" music, which in his conception is doontz-doontz-doontz kinda stuff played super LOUD. I went to this show and my friend who was putting it on said to me, man, this sucks, he was way better at your show! And that was the opinion of other audience members I talked to, too.

So, from my viewpoint on the "other side" of the original question, don't be afraid to be yourself and don't underestimate audiences and don't play the fool's game of trying to compete with huge commercial acts, unless you're already connected in that world. Keep in mind that nowadays a big record company's budget for a single video is higher than it is for recording an entire album- it's a very visual and theatrical world, not really a musical one.
stk
I've been releasing on labels for the past ~15 years. I also release stuff on my own as well.

Why do I work with labels?

1) Marketing. I hate marketing. I hate schmoozing. They have people who enjoy that kind of thing, and get paid to do it (and the result is reviews, interviews, increased audience, maybe increased sales).

2) Physical. I like physical releases. Vinyl is beautiful. I even like CDs (yes I still buy them). However I don't have the cash to front up for a production run, let alone postage and all that. The labels I work with do.
And even if I did save up to do a vinyl run, I wouldn't sell a handful without point 1).

3) Touring. Anyone can book shows, sure, but it's a lot nicer dealing with an entity that already has a long list of people on the ground who are willing and happily able to host and promote a touring band.

4) I admit it, there's also a nice warm fuzzy feeling that comes with seeing my releases surrounded by the other really great releases that my current, and past, labels have put out.

TL;DR: Record labels are not necessary. But they are enjoyable.

The first label I released on hunted us down. One of my all time favourite bands was also on this label so I was pretty thrilled. The second was an imprint of the first. The third also tracked me down. The fourth was a friend of a friend who wanted to expand his roster. The fifth (and current) I sent a demo to after playing with a local band who was signed to them.

Cheers!
Trigga
Quote:
So, from my viewpoint on the "other side" of the original question, don't be afraid to be yourself and don't underestimate audiences and don't play the fool's game of trying to compete with huge commercial acts, unless you're already connected in that world. Keep in mind that nowadays a big record company's budget for a single video is higher than it is for recording an entire album- it's a very visual and theatrical world, not really a musical one.
This is an interesting point. This may be the reason why I lose interest in many original artists after their second album once they were really sucked up by the commercial machine...

Quote:

The first label I released on hunted us down.
we're not worthy
Listened to your stuff, great!
Zube
Trigga wrote:
This is an interesting point. This may be the reason why I lose interest in many original artists after their second album once they were really sucked up by the commercial machine...


More often than not, I find the "second album slump" is mainly caused by the artist themselves. Think about it: most musicians, by and large, spend their whole musical lives writing, practicing, performing, the songs from the 1st album they make. The opportunity to make a second record is a rare one usually, and the artist usually does not have time between promotion, touring, etc. to actually spend the years (or decades!) they spent honing their first record into greatness.

Plus, a lot of artists, they suck themselves up into "the machine" chasing success. They quit their jobs to tour and promote that first record, then come home with nothing, so there is a lot of incentive to pay the rent at any cost for many musicians. Combine all that with the intense focus that many nowadays have with placement in advertising and TV as a revenue stream, and you have a bad storm for all to weather.
Trigga
Quote:

More often than not, I find the "second album slump" is mainly caused by the artist themselves. Think about it: most musicians, by and large, spend their whole musical lives writing, practicing, performing, the songs from the 1st album they make. The opportunity to make a second record is a rare one usually, and the artist usually does not have time between promotion, touring, etc. to actually spend the years (or decades!) they spent honing their first record into greatness.

Plus, a lot of artists, they suck themselves up into "the machine" chasing success. They quit their jobs to tour and promote that first record, then come home with nothing, so there is a lot of incentive to pay the rent at any cost for many musicians. Combine all that with the intense focus that many nowadays have with placement in advertising and TV as a revenue stream, and you have a bad storm for all to weather.

these are very good points... I went through my record collection the other day and I thought: uuggghh, those second or third albums are sometimes bad jokes. But then again there are bands and acts that become better over time, like good wine.
Zube
Trigga wrote:


these are very good points... I went through my record collection the other day and I thought: uuggghh, those second or third albums are sometimes bad jokes. But then again there are bands and acts that become better over time, like good wine.


yeah, very true. It's pretty easy to forget that some labels will try to market everything as "new" - so while it might say "debut album" on the website, maybe it is actually their 2nd or 3rd record. Also, if someone re-records their debut from scratch 3 times, changes the songs, is it still their debut record? I can think of at least 2 or 3 currently popular musicians whose "debut album" was not their first.
phase ghost
Bojmir Raj Raj wrote:
I think a physical release- CD or vinyl or both- is still very important.


I don't know about that. I mean, I like the romanticism of a 12", and I'm very nostalgic about the late 90's / early 2000's when cities had multiple record stores, and you could get a 12" for $7.

But, even the most hardcore "I'll never use CDJ's" vinyl guys I know are buying primarily digital releases. It's easier, and much, much cheaper. I fuckin' roll my eyes so hard at these "vinyl only" releases. Why dude? Your music is too cool to be in digital format? You wrote it in Ableton for fuck's sake.

Rant aside, I love vinyl, CD's, DVD's, old VHS tapes, all of it. But, I'm buying most of my music on Bandcamp or whatpeopleplay. I've got loads of vinyl, and still buy second hand stuff. But, I'll pass on anything new.
felixer
maybe i'm the only one here but i hate vinyl. the noise and the crackles ... and the fact that i have to turn it over after a lousy 20 minutes ....
long live cd's!
but then again i come from a time when vinyl was the only game in town. and we would hate all those cheap pressings! i'm not sure if that got any better, but i'm afraid not. too much recycling going on!
as for labels i've been signed to 1 or 2 in the past. it didn't help much ... and i think it would only really help if it was a biggy throwing all it's weight behind you. otherwise you're prob better of selling 'm at gigs etc ...
listentoaheartbeat
phase ghost wrote:
Bojmir Raj Raj wrote:
I think a physical release- CD or vinyl or both- is still very important.


I don't know about that. I mean, I like the romanticism of a 12", and I'm very nostalgic about the late 90's / early 2000's when cities had multiple record stores, and you could get a 12" for $7.

But, even the most hardcore "I'll never use CDJ's" vinyl guys I know are buying primarily digital releases. It's easier, and much, much cheaper. I fuckin' roll my eyes so hard at these "vinyl only" releases. Why dude? Your music is too cool to be in digital format? You wrote it in Ableton for fuck's sake.

Rant aside, I love vinyl, CD's, DVD's, old VHS tapes, all of it. But, I'm buying most of my music on Bandcamp or whatpeopleplay. I've got loads of vinyl, and still buy second hand stuff. But, I'll pass on anything new.


It's much easier to get recognition and coverage when doing vinyl (I can only speak for the club music scene). Day and night, actually. And the whole process of getting your music pressed on vinyl can be very rewarding, including the moment when you finally hold the record in your hands.

With Spatial Cues (a series of split-singles I've just launched with a friend) we are doing vinyl and Bandcamp, but I sympathize with "vinyl-only". It can be frustrating to see how music is presented and consumed online. Only doing Bandcamp is a great compromise, I think. It's a good platform and I have bought a lot of fantastic music on there.

I buy CDs for album listening, the occasional iTunes download for convenience, tracks for DJing from Hardwax and Bandcamp, and a vinyl here and there because I love the format and the handling. I avoid Spotify and other streaming services, they are just overkill for how I listen to music and I find them terribly distracting and overwhelming.
Trigga
[/quote]
It's much easier to get recognition and coverage when doing vinyl[quote]

I also think that Vinyl is a way of standing out. I just remember the success of the Giegling label. This really crazy regarding that the music is not so outstanding, but the hype is phenomenal.

For me doing vinyl is important not for the sake of getting attention, but for feeling a kind of relief, that a "true release" has been done. As I said, this is partly caused by nostalgia for a more haptic world and for the love of the medium. That is, this is not rational. Just as I buy vinyl and hardly ever listen to it. YouTube has become my listening habit ... crazy.

I'd like to get back to my intro question: Have you guys any strategies for finding a label? What works, what don't?
Post your success and failure stories ...
sparood
Already have something released by yourself or doing shows, so people know you are willing to put in some effort helps a lot.
felixer
sparood wrote:
Already have something released by yourself or doing shows, so people know you are willing to put in some effort helps a lot.

since this is a buyer market i think you need to know what labels want (is there a hole in the market? is there a 'me too' effect?). the last band i was signed with was hoped to be the new heavy band after the (then) current heavy band was showing signs of age ...
Bojmir Raj Raj
phase ghost wrote:
Bojmir Raj Raj wrote:
I think a physical release- CD or vinyl or both- is still very important.


I don't know about that. I mean, I like the romanticism of a 12", and I'm very nostalgic about the late 90's / early 2000's when cities had multiple record stores, and you could get a 12" for $7.

But, even the most hardcore "I'll never use CDJ's" vinyl guys I know are buying primarily digital releases. It's easier, and much, much cheaper. I fuckin' roll my eyes so hard at these "vinyl only" releases. Why dude? Your music is too cool to be in digital format? You wrote it in Ableton for fuck's sake.

Rant aside, I love vinyl, CD's, DVD's, old VHS tapes, all of it. But, I'm buying most of my music on Bandcamp or whatpeopleplay. I've got loads of vinyl, and still buy second hand stuff. But, I'll pass on anything new.


In the world I am in, working for and with multimedia art institutions, everything has been so virtual for so long that people really do appreciate having physical objects to hold and to have- This goes for printed-on-paper material as well, rather than just files on the internet.

Printing actual books and magazines, and CDs, and so on, is one of the things that make our institution "stand out". A very popular item, "everybody wants one", is a logo-stamped USB key, too, and I think that might be an ideal release format for electronic music, and it's the format I'd choose if I were releasing "electronica" music rather than primarily acoustic music as I do.
Trigga
Quote:

In the world I am in, working for and with multimedia art institutions, everything has been so virtual for so long that people really do appreciate having physical objects to hold and to have- This goes for printed-on-paper material as well, rather than just files on the internet.


I think this is true for many fields of culture. People do not want something "real". It's also with all these electronic instruments and cameras, the digital is practical and fast, but sometimes it lacks "soul".
orangehexagon
Trigga wrote:
Quote:

In the world I am in, working for and with multimedia art institutions, everything has been so virtual for so long that people really do appreciate having physical objects to hold and to have- This goes for printed-on-paper material as well, rather than just files on the internet.


I think this is true for many fields of culture. People do not want something "real". It's also with all these electronic instruments and cameras, the digital is practical and fast, but sometimes it lacks "soul".


by and large i think people want something real, it's a matter of convenience.

there's nothing less soulful about digital either.. 1's and 0's are really no different than magnetic tape when in the end it's about moving air. Burial makes all of his tunes by sampling off of "youtube" with it's horrible aliasing and it able to give it soul through his dynamics and sequencing
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