Author Topic: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101  (Read 7625 times)

jkn

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Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« on: August 24, 2010, 07:18:55 AM »
I just posted a new blog - stemming from a few offhand comments I made on twitter earlier in the month that I tagged with "Running a Label 101".   I hope you enjoy it!

http://relaxedmachinery.ning.com/profiles/blog/list?tag=kinetoscope

I've linked to the blog index if you want to skim through past blog posts as well.

John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

drone on

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2010, 07:31:17 PM »
If I were asked to give advice on running a label (from a customer's point of view), I'd make these suggestions:

1) Use good quality media/manufacturing of whatever you sell.  Lately I've been running across so many defective products (that were either mastered wrong and then pressed, or CDR's that mistrack/skip) that it makes me not want to even deal with those labels again.  Music consumers dont want to pay for or waste their time on unprofessional products.  If you're in the business of releasing music, better make sure the product's solid before putting it on the market. 
2) Don't release too much music.  Release only the best material.  Some of the smaller "bedroom" labels (run by one person) tend to release literally hundreds of titles of filler with only a few being "Grade A." Assuming most small labels aren't doing it for the money, why release so much stuff if a lot of it is only going to sell a few copies, anyway?
3) Avoid "download only" releases.  If they're not good enough to issue with a physical product why bother?
4) Get others' opinions on possible releases.  If you (the label) think it's amazing but few others do, it might not be a good idea...
5) Don't release stuff as "a favor to a friend." I'm sure this advice could've saved some labels the embarrassment of bad reviews and selling only two copies.
6) Listen to your listeners. Take constructive criticism.   

jkn

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2010, 05:52:54 AM »
Really good advice! 

I disagree on #3 - digital only releases - since I as a listener album exclusively buy digital now and rarely buy physical discs unless it's the only way to get an album (and then it goes into storage after I rip it.).  If you had asked me 2 years ago?  I never bought digital, and mostly bought cdr's and cd's.

Of course - that's just a personal choice. 

I know there are labels that will release only on CD, some only on vinyl, some only on cassette, and some only digital. 

With my label - I'm focusing on downloads and CDR's made/sold/shipped by Hypnos.  This makes both the download and the physical disc people happy (well except the ones that want pressed discs...) - but it offers variety at a level we can afford to maintain and I'm grateful to Mike and Lena for making Relaxed Machinery cdr's possible.

I totally agree on your other points - all good ones.
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

runningonair

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2010, 09:01:16 AM »
Some good advice there John. Thanks.

mgriffin

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2010, 09:06:07 AM »
Really good advice! 

I disagree on #3 - digital only releases - since I as a listener album exclusively buy digital now and rarely buy physical discs unless it's the only way to get an album (and then it goes into storage after I rip it.).  If you had asked me 2 years ago?  I never bought digital, and mostly bought cdr's and cd's.


But he didn't say "don't buy digital releases," he said stay away from releases that are digital ONLY.  I don't disagree with his suggestion, actually.  You might miss the rare digital-only release of very high quality, but you'll also avoid an awful lot of careless stuff that never would have seen the light of day if a label was giving at least the minimal amount of investment necessary to create a CDR release.

I really believe many artists and labels release their best work on pressed CDs, slightly lesser works on CDRs, and the "ah, what the hell, why not?" stuff as download-only.  Of course there are some exceptions to this, but very often you can gauge the relative worth of the material by what the gatekeeper is willing to invest in it, as far as time and money.

That doesn't mean downloading an MP3 version of an album is worse than buying the CD!
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

jkn

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2010, 12:27:33 PM »
I did misread it...  why did I think he said "pressed CD's"... ?     My bad, not ashamed to admit it.  :-)

Gatekeeping / curating / label owning / running...  easier sad than done.   Actually that's where the whole "running a label 101" seed came from... I was lamenting the fact that a couple of specific artists seem to have (and I could be wrong, but...) developed a bit of a grudge for me turning them down and/or critiqueing their music. 

Part of gatekeeping is saying no - and I feel a couple of people are bit resentful.  That spawned my first twitter post - and then I just kind of ran with it. 

To me this is a really tough one... I can't say "don't buy download only releases" because I truly believe they can be just as good.  There's the key - they *can* be just as good.  Not that they are...

The threshhold to release music has reached an all time low of *nothing* beyond a web connection and some webspace (and you can even get that free...) - so literally anyone with garageband or acid loops or whatever... can "write" an album and release it on the unsuspecting world.

That's where building a reputation, marketing, word of mouth, releasing consistently good product, etc... all comes into it.  Doesn't matter what the music format - whether it's vinyl, cd, cdr, download, 8-track, cassette, etc...   there's good and bad.

in the old days... it cost a couple thousand to press a disc, or at least some serious time to make a CDR release.  Now it's literally an upload and it's out.
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

jkn

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2010, 12:33:01 PM »
And to clarify one last point...

Since it used to cost an arm and a leg to get a pressed cd out - not only in the pressing costs, but getting the artwork ready, mastering, etc...  there's a ton involved which means a lot less music made it past the "gatekeepers".

CDR's lowered the threshhold - now a lot more people could do it.   No longer was there the huge pressing cost - but there are different production issues with CDR's we don't need to dredge into ...  let's say it still costs a lot - but the costs are spread out and if the album doesn't really sell that well - than - a lot less money is lost...  easier for gatekeepers to take a few more risks.

With digital labels... whether commericial or CC/netlabels...  threshhold is virtually nothing.   So the level of painfully bad releases increases dramatically - and it takes a new layer of gatekeepers and curators who might not necessarily be the label releasing them...  it might be a blog writer now that curates and recommends (they were always there of course - but now those reviewers have maybe a more important role of finding the good stuff.)

John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

jkn

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2010, 12:41:04 PM »
Speaking of label advice - I really enjoy @displatypus "Dear Netlabel" posts on twitter.  (his blog is here:  http://disruptiveplatypus.wordpress.com/ )

One of my favorites which I can't seem to pull up in search right now... involves gatekeeping...   paraphrased:

Dear Netlabel:  If there's only 4 good tracks on a 10 track album, release a 4 track ep instead.

here's a couple I could find:

Dear #Netlabel: Silly me for thinking ur latest release would be at the top of the page. I much prefer it hidden away
Dear #netlabel: Plan appropriately so you do not exceed bandwidth limit. Hint: Sonicquirrel.net and archive.org.
Dear #netlabel: Please don't auto-play music when I visit your site. If I want to listen, I'll play it myself.
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

Kaarinen

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Re: Kinetoscope .: 028 :. Running a Label 101
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2010, 11:22:40 AM »
Hi,

Interesting post - thank you jkn - and some good replies here on the forum as well. I basically agree with mgriffin and others on the release treshold raising effect of a physical copy but I have doubts on the size of the effect. Since, as jkn also said, making a CDR release isn't really that difficult or expensive these days (in terms of producing the physical disc, not the whole process of making the release ;)). This is especially true if the releasing label does not put too much effort in the artwork of the album.

I personally find it hard to value a  CDR with an unoriginal, basic one page booklet  more than a properly documented web release with decent artwork. That's of course a black-and-white exaggeration but maybe makes my point clearer. And, well, I've also come to question why I hold a real CD in so much higher acclaim than a CDR*. Maybe it's just because I know that it costs more to make so I make the unconscious evaluation that it must be better in musical quality as well. Heavy vinyls raise this effect to the upper limit for me... Which is silly.

Releasing some interesting bits of music in the future has been on my personal agenda as well, which is why the question of format is also of practical interest to me. I know I personally would not want to take the route of releasing a CD/vinyl just to guarantee more serious attention. But releasing an album on an unknown netlabel probably goes easily unnoticed if I don't come up with any royal ideas on making a name for the artist/musician in question (myself or some other).

So far I've enjoyed the idea that a limited special release, for example a CDR in a handmade neat-looking recycled-material sheet (maybe in collaboration with some artist capable of realising this really well), would go in combination with a high-quality download option. The limited run - maybe just 50 copies - serves as a well-crafted physical item for the few initial fans and maybe creates more interest in the music in general. This would clear the way, so to speak, for people to take the mp3/flac files more seriously.

Best wishes,
Kaarinen

* I understand there are some technical issues with CDRs not working in some audio systems or that they might physically deteriorate more quickly. I haven't run into these problems personally but I understand that some of you might have.