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Cheap as Free?

November 21st, 2005 Posted in Music

The other day at the Oranges Band show I ran into Chris Applegren (the President of Lookout! Records) and had a great conversation with him about record labels, Lookout!, and the future of music and media in general. Talking with him inspired me to do something I’ve been wanted to do for a long time: start a small record label. And since salad days are back, I’ve decided this is as good a time as any, and it’s time get the ball rolling. I sent this email today to a bunch of friends who are either interested in music or work in the industry in some fashion or another:


i’m seriously interested in starting a record label as a personal side project. at this point, “cheap as free records” (working title) is just in the brainstorming stages, but my current thinking is as follows:

- get a website going

- start going to shows early to see opening/unsigned bands

- start playing shows so we can meet other new bands

- find a band i like that is unsigned and offer to make a record (most likely an EP) with them. i definitely don’t want to start with a band i am in because i want my first project to be completely objective.

- get studio time and possibly someone with recording/producing experience to help record and master the album.

- try to get the album distributed by the orchard, or cdbaby, which will get it on emusic, itunes, rhapsody, napster, etc. possibly sell only digital versions of the music (no actual CD pressing), depending on how it comes out and the cost involved.

- market and sell the record; use search engine marketing, see how much advertising on pitchfork/stereogum/tinymixtapes/etc costs. possibly myspace as well.

- rinse and repeat.

any comments, suggestions, ideas? most importantly, i was hoping you guys could keep your eyes and ears open for bands. please feel free to forward this on to anyone you think might be interested in 1) helping out, even just with advice, or 2) sending me a demo.


Any ideas or suggestions? I’d also love any advice, assuming you have some idea what you’re talking about. I’m aware this will most likely end up being a money sink but it should be a blast and hey, you never know until you try.

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  • alex

    I have one comment... which is thus: bands are _very_ finicky social groups. The dynamic is hard to impress upon folks unfamiliar with music but the combination of ego, musical talent, sexual drive, and everything else that goes into why people get together and bang on shit weekly is hard to predict, control, or understand unless you are in a band (or two). I suggest trying to focus on exactly 1 aspect of helping bands along, either recording, promotion, marketing, distribution, etc. Your tech skills can go a long way in one of these areas. Trying to tackle more than one will probably wind up marginalizing your effort. Figure out which one appeals to you most right now, and go for that one. The skills involved in being a recording engineer, and the interaction with the band, are completely different than being a promoter or marketing records. There's a lot of old hands in the industry picking out talent when it crops up, but very few that understand anything about the internet. Partnering with someone who has the offline knowledge to complement your skillset might just be the quickest way to get the ball rolling.

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