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Oliver Geywitz of Schnitzel Records, 08/2015

Schnitzel Records - record label logo

Schnitzel Records is an independent record label based in England. The label serves as an international platform for several high-profile artists, such as Ween, Nick Oliveri, and The Moons. Schnitzel also presses high quality vinyl records, for both initial runs and reissues. In this world premiere text interview, Iris speaks at length to candid label head Oliver Geywitz about the music industry, Schnitzel, connections, accountants that aren’t rock and rollers, and much more.

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Before this thing crashes again, I should start up with the interview.

Sweet! Kick it off.

Okay! How and why did Schnitzel Records come to be? When did you start? Did you start totally new, or did you have some prior experience, like running a distro?

There’s the first album – we started in 2003. Before I started Schnitzel, I was working in the music industry, and sort of got every kind of job of the music industry. After I gathered all this experience, I thought ‘now is the time to start a label.’ So, I quit my job at another label, and then just went for it! I’d been working in record stores or whatever, (in the) music industry since I was 15. I’m now 42. I think back… by the time I was 20, I knew I wanted to run a label. So, whatever work I did, leading up to starting Schnitzel, was sort of well-planned. I had a master plan, as such.

Oh, that’s good.

In a weird way, sort of. And a lot of determination. A lot of ‘working for free’ bullshit. But it all paid off at the end of the day. Not as well as I thought when I was 20 or 21, but… you know.

Back then, also, it was still the “big label, original format” without all that digital distribution.

Exactly, right. It was a total different ballgame when I started.

You know, you could sell 500 records without a problem. Just pressing up a record, they would shift. Nowadays, selling 500 records is quite alright. You know, in the UK charts today, within the top three in the charts? I think 300 records more or less would have made a chart position difference. It gives you a glance, or a glimpse, of what the music industry is like, these days. And you’ve got to do a lot more than trying to sell records. You’ve got to look for sync deals. You’ve got to look for revenue everywhere. To filter through the money, and be persistent doing so. And then, I guess, as a true indie, you can still survive these days.

It’s cool you’re still ‘getting by’. Greg Frey seems pretty instrumental, behind the scenes.

Definitely.

He’s managing about one third of your artists. Is he like the “fifth Beatle”, so to speak?

(laughing) He’s a bit like it. It’s a bit of a backwards and forwards with us, as well. If I knew an act that didn’t have management, I would put Greg forward to it. It fits, for example, with Peasant. (He) comes from his back yard, so I said… ‘Greg, would you be interested?’, and he said ‘yes’. I really enjoy working with him. And of course, Greg was a milestone for us, a real stepping stone, with bringing Ween to Schnitzel, and inking that deal. So, kudos to him. He’s fantastic.

I know that he was managing Ween. When I was looking at The Waxwings discography though, and back-tracking that, it looks like Dean (Fertita – ed.) found Pat Frey, and he met Greg at some point well before they signed with you guys.

Yeah. This was well, well before that. Greg ran a recording studio, as such. He wasn’t really a ‘manager’. He was a producer / engineer back then. So, that’s how… he met Dean when (Dean) was really, really young. He immediately saw his talent, as well, and worked with him. When I signed The Waxwings, Greg was not their manager or anything. He didn’t “come on scene”, yet.

He was ‘just there’.

Like somebody in the background, y’know. He was just floating about. Then I met Greg through Dean. He introduced me. Then, at a later stage, that’s how that relationship sort of sprung up.

That is *very* cool. And that’s one of those really good connections, that just ‘happens’.

Oh, sure. Absolutely. So, I’m very lucky to have met Greg. And of course, Pat, too. He’s a top guy. (So is Pat, too.)

He seems to be in the background, the “fifth Beatle” kind of guy. That’s always good to have those.

He’s a bit older then me. He’s got a really good audio background. Like… I will never get involved with a band’s recording in the studio. I’m not a musician; I’m not that type of guy. Like: ‘you’re the artist, I’m the business guy and let’s liase together to foster a creative and fruitful partnership.’ Where, Greg’s more like the studio guy. He will have an opinion about a song, where I will just shut up and not say anything.

There’s a big difference between somebody who has a lot of talent, and somebody who can “sell”.

Definitely. Look at the Billboard charts or whatever. It’s mostly crap.

Some of those people don’t even attempt to write their own music.

Exactly. Then you get people like Ween, being slagged for being comical, or trying to be some sort of Tenacious D, acting like … ‘no, they’re not! They’re really, really good musicians.’ ‘They do funny lyrics too!’ Sorry, but that’s not the whole picture.

I didn’t know that they wrote funny lyrics, too. I just watched the Guitar Moves episode with Dean Ween a couple days ago.

‘Below the dick, or above the dick…’

(laughing hard) Yeah. ‘That’s a $500 lesson, right here.’ (laughing)

I really enjoyed that one. I keep watching that, every couple years. It still makes me laugh. I mean, Mickey’s such a talented guitarist. That guy who (did the interview, Matt Sweeney – ed.) – they’ve known eachother since they were like 20 or something I think.

Ween as Easter Bunnies

Who did you sign first, and how did you find them?

The first signing was a band from Berlin called Ragazzi. (Ragazzi) were signed to Buback Records in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Buback is a really long established independent label, a super credible label in Germany. I knew the owner of Buback. I said to him, ‘I’m starting a label, I’m looking for X maybe…’ They said, ‘yeah, you’ve got international expertise’ because I’d already set up the whole distribution, marketing, the whole network for the label before having the first act.

So I said to them, ‘this is what I have, this is my experience, I’ve known them for quite a while…’ and they said ‘Well, sure! Why don’t we do a split release with Ragazzi, and we’ll do it in the home countries as such, and you can have it internationally.’ I had a good go at it, and it worked out quite well, and I think we had some really good times.

For a German band, for *any* band, the international aspect of the business layout for Schnitzel has always been appealing. We don’t really sign any bands just for one territory. It’s either worldwide, or, for example, in the case with Ween, European-wide, and Japan. If we don’t go for the big picture… our business model doesn’t really work.

That’s actually really good, because nowadays, a lot of labels are doing compartmentalized, territorial stuff. Like – only the USA, only Canada…

That’s not us. I’d rather do more, and be not as defined, as to what type of music we need to put out. Because we have a bigger sales base, then trying to go for one genre and honing in on that, and then being just in that market. That gets a bit boring, you know.

Yeah. You don’t want to be pigeonholed as the one-genre label.

Exactly. I think nowadays, music is much more diversified. And, ‘unfortunately’, I like all sorts of music, not just one genre. I used to work with reggae musicians for a long, long time. I still love reggae, but after a while, it gets a bit boring.

Yeah. Any time you end up immersed in a genre, I think, it starts to lose it’s luster.

Yeah, exactly.

That’s kind of how I am with metal. I’m a little bit jaded about it, because I’ve been listening to it since 1986.

Very true. I picked up some records the other day, and I really used to be into metal in the 80s as well, and the old stuff’s still good. And some of the new stuff is quite alright too, but a lot of it’s just awful, y’know.

It’s a lot more hit and miss.

I agree. Back then, everything was pretty good. (laughing) At least it seems that way.

Back then, everything was really exciting.

Back then… (laughs)

It seems like everybody was really ‘fighting’ (to be heard) back then, because, at least in America, we had the PMRC and all the censorship problems.

I know the Megadeth song that talks about that.

I also remember listening to Kill ‘Em All for the first time. I was just… ‘wow!’. This is gooooood, this is good.

That was a total ground-breaking album. Mind-blowing.

Exactly. Or seeing Motorhead in 86, for the first time. That was the loudest show ever. My t-shirt was sort of vibrating from the bass. Just recently, I got to meet Phil Campbell from Motorhead, at Nick Oliveri‘s show, backstage. It was like… ‘bloody ‘ell’! I was like ‘I was there in 86 when you stole rock.’ You’re ‘God’, in that sense.

They’re still one of the loudest bands around.

(laughing) Of course. So, good on them. So few bands survive, and stand the test of time. I think, where, when it comes to Schnitzel, artists like Ween are a bit like that. They’ve got a killer following, and people are really into them.

Yeah, they’ve got a cult following.

Exactly. It’s really nice to be working with people like that. Also, The Moons are a bit like that as well. When you go to their shows, you see a lot of the same faces that come out every time, and follow them around. It’s very nice and very humble.

Agreed. To get that kind of fan is really, really difficult. So when you have that cult fanbase that goes to every show, and they know all the words, that’s great!

They appreciate it!

The Moons sold out on those 500 limited’s!

We could have sold a lot more then that, but that wasn’t the point. We wanted to give something back to the fans, really. And that’s that. Now, people can listen to it on Spotify or whatever, and get into it. But a lot of people were bitching at us, because ‘Why couldn’t we have more records? We could sell more.’ Sorry – this is what it is, you know. Look at Record Store Day. Like nobody ever gets the records they want.

(laughing) Oh, like the ‘sold out’ Record Store Day torture album? (Hello=Fire / Moistboyz split 7″, issued for RSD 2013. That it was unavailable was the ‘torture’. -ed.)

Exactly, right? It’s a joke, right? That’s why we did (The Moons : Live At Bush Hall) outside the Record Store Day format. More on a direct sales basis. Only a very few copies went to the distributors. Most of them were sold directly from Schnitzel’s website. The band didn’t get any copies to go on tour with them, or when they played the three shows last month.

You’re doomed if you press too many; you’re doomed if you press too few. So… it is what it is.

It sucks, because if you’re doing something good, then at least you should be acknowledged for that.

Schnitzel’s always been in the background, as a label. Always, the artists are most important. So we’ve never run a PR campaign about the label, or anything like that. It’s just… the resources that we have, we put into the artists, and that’s that. Other labels might operate a bit differently.

You’re one of those businesses that doesn’t make waves. You just do your thing, and you do it well.

Exactly. We try, the best that we can. For example, The National. A friend of mine once brought that band to us, if we were to sign them, and I said no. Then, of course, they signed to Beggars Banquet and became quite a huge act. And I thought – ‘well, good on them, because we could not have done that good of a job as Beggars Banquet did, for that band.’ It’s tough to say no, as well.

It was one of the situations where if the situation was perfect, you would have said yes, but…

Exactly. It wasn’t that good of a fit. I don’t want to get into arguments with an artist, down the road. I don’t want to sell somebody something that we can’t perform, or do. I know what we’re good at, and if we find the right band, like Ween, or The Moons, or Peasant, it just works. It works brilliantly. People are really happy, and that’s that.

How did you find each one of these bands to sign? Did they come to you?

Mostly through people in the music industry that I know – ninety nine percent. The only time I ever signed a band where the band contacted us, was The Moons. I had a conversation with Andy, one evening: he sent me an email straight away. I got in touch with him, and I told him about what Schnitzel’s really about, and I think we signed very shortly after. On a full moon. Or on a blue moon. I forget now.

That’s an interesting story; just a really nice piece of trivia to have.

(laughing) It’s the truth! I think Andy, or The Moons, might think they’ve done that on purpose. I’m not sure. I think it might have been a coincidence, that that happened. Who knows. I don’t know what’s going on in Andy’s mind all the time anyway. So, I should ask him next time I see him.

So it’s all from music industry connections.

Yeah. Besides that, an email from Andy Crofts. That’s it. I mean, we get quite a lot of emails from bands, and so forth. We’re also trying to work with more established artists. Not just with any old artists. Somebody really has to have conviction, and belief in music, and the talent to come with it. I’ve seen so many bands almost getting signed, and then breaking up. Or, the bass player moves away, or the drummer’s got a child, or got a job offer with his father in law. Something like that. That’s no good. We need a full time committment on the artist’s side, so we can match it with full time committment on the label’s side. If the gears interlink, then it’s great. When one gear falls out, it’s crap.

(laughing) When I was looking at your signings, when I was going back through everybody, it looked like everybody had been in a previous successful band, or they had gone on to something else that was also successful. In addition to the stuff they did with you.

Yeah. Right. It’s a weird one, you know. Sometimes I think it’s quite something. I think Jack White covered Hello=Fire, one of their songs…

Last October, and that was great! You know, five years later, down the road. It (was nice to find) somebody who knew just how good of a tune that was. Not a lot of people knew about that. Like we’ve never sold that as a marketing ploy. It was just a word-of-mouth thing. There’s a lot of stories to be told, that we left out of any marketing or PR things, because it was sounding too much like a second-hand car sale.

Right. And sometimes it starts to read like a gossip column, if it’s not really “all music”.

Yeah. It’s a weird one, you know. You’ve got to be really careful. Like when Paul Weller was on the second-last Moons album, with “Something Soon”, and they did a video, and so forth: we were so greatly appreciative of that, but no big fuss was really made around that. Or, when Paul opened up for The Moons at the 100 Club, a couple years ago, at the December show. Nobody knew that was happening, and I think if we’d told anybody, he would have not done it, anyway. So, sometimes you’ve got to give the big guys a bit of breathing space. Like Paul Weller, he’s a super icon over here in the UK, at least.

The Modfather.

Well, there ya go! Who doesn’t like The Jam?! I’m sorry, man. It’s a good thing, you know.

And it’s nice that you have focused on music, because it keeps everything really pure. It seems.

I guess so. I’m not sure how it is perceived from the outside.

Very dedicated. It just seems really dedicated.

It’s a labor of love, honestly. Other labels, like Bloodshot Records – Nan does it because she loves it. That’s the same idea. Or, Corey at Touch And Go. I think he really liked it.

It’s nice that sometimes you make money doing something you love.

Well, that’s the biggest bonus of it all. It’s very nice when you make money with art. Which I think is one of the hardest ways to make money, to be honest.

It’s like impossible!

(laughing) Yeah! It’s a pain in the neck, you know. All these hours that you’re doing some work on something… you can’t calculate your hourly wage, in trying to sell art! You’ll go mental!

Start working at a coffee shop and make twice as much money.

Right! If you *do* calculate your hourly wage, it turns out to be like 15 cents an hour.

(laughing) Exactly!

You can make more money, being in jail!

Yeah, absolutely. (laughing) So, you’ve got to really like what you’re doing. But it pays off, and it’s really nice when you can give money to the artist, so they can do something with it.

Or, in the case of Dean Fertita for example, if he moves on to bigger and better things with The Dead Weather and Queens of the Stone Age, that is great! I applaud him for that.

He also came back to you, for the Hello=Fire project. I mean, he never left.

Yeah. He never left – we’re still talking right now, you know. It’s really nice to have friends like that, to have musicians like that, that I’ve become friends with through the years. And have loyalty towards the label.

It seems like you’re really loyal to your bands.

Yeah. I mean, we don’t sign many bands – but the bands that we sign, we really work. And for long, long times. It’s not like a product cycle at the major labels – half a year, maybe nine months, tops.

(wryly) Then you get dropped.

Exactly: either it happened, or it didn’t happen. Now, you’ve got to be persistent, and maybe the third album, or the fifth album, will make it. That’s the lottery you want to be in with. With the dedication and love for it, maybe there’s something around the corner. You never know!

That’s what’s so strange about music in general. You never know what’s going to sell. The same with art: you never know what somebody’s going to want to buy.

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been in the music industry for 22-plus years. Seriously – not counting the days at the record store when I was 15. I think you get better at it. When people say to me “ah, I could start a label”, I say “yeah, you could”, but, it’s the expertise that comes with it. The gut feeling that all these years accumulated. A ‘nose’, or that gut feeling… that works.

How did you transition to digital delivery? Were you pulled along ‘organically’ at the same time as the bands, or did you have sort-of an advance warning? Could you see it coming?

I was involved with the digital setup with iTunes for a different label, before I started Schnitzel. Quite early on. It was quite a powerful label, so I had a really good insight into what was going on with the movers and shakers at the time. I think it was quite easy to do, if you knew the right people. If you didn’t, it was very hard to do. That was just dumb luck on my part.

You’re very, very fortunate. A lot of these labels got… taken for a ride. There was a lot of dissolution.

Yeah, there’s still dissolution out there, right now. I think you’ve got to be very careful where you tread. When it comes to the dot com and digital world, I never liked doing deals with anybody that was trying to sell a company, off the fact of ‘if they become successful’. I don’t like that business model. It doesn’t bring anything back to the people, to the employees as such. Not all the employees, anyway.

So, you’ve got to be treading very carefully. There’s a lot of companies in the digital world that went bust. We stayed away from (them). It’s a bad business deal. They’re trying to sell their own company. Why give them our intellectual copyrights? I’m not interested in that. I’m not getting paid for that. We’re not getting paid for their sale. It’s somebody else’s content that they’re trying to make a buck with. I think it’s a shady thing, you know? The music industry was sexier without the digital side, that’s for sure. I sort-of miss these days, where it was a bit more hard-core. If you meet digital company people now, they’re not really rock and rollers. Or very few of them.

They’re like accountants, or lawyers.

Yeah, exactly, you know? Oh great, another smashing presentation of some sorts about your digital models. Like… whaaaa?! I’d rather focus on the art. I’d rather be around the art, and a lot of people with that vibe.

It seems to be when a lot of labels do their digital stuff, they’re just looking for the largest exposure.

Of course. I mean, it really helps. The thing is, for example, with companies that we work with, that give us that exposure, it works great. Because we get on to the front page of iTunes. Or whatever… We get that positioning, right? Moreso now, out of a credibility issue, because the people that are working with us to do that, know it’s credible music, and I think that iTunes might think that too. We give it the love and exposure, and that’s great. That’s why we’re good at what we’re doing, because we can get there without trying to sell too hard, you know? At this stage.

You’re not ‘trying too hard’ to sell – you just let the music do the talking.

Yeah. Let the music do the talking, but you also need exposure. For your artists, out there. Whoever believes that a good record sells because it’s a good record is a fool. You can have the most brilliant album together, and if there’s no marketing, no promotion, anything behind it… it’s not going to sell. Simple as that. So you’ve got to find the right balance and the right mixture to keep the artist credible, and to portray the artist as best as possible for them, because it’s their art. At the end of the day, it’s not mine, or Schnitzel’s, art, in that sense.

It seems like you’re doing pretty well, which is good, because a lot of labels are going bust. How are you maintaining that forward momentum?

How do I maintain that? The right expenses being paid. For the right services. And in a worldwide scenario. I think that’s sort of the trick to it. You can’t overspend on an artist. To that end, you need to make money for the artist. So, you can’t buy a billboard advertisement. Because, probably nobody will see it. Nothing will come to fruition from that. If you sell a zillion copies more because of the billboard ad, that costs a fortune. So, I think it’s a fine line. And, to make smart deals, y’know. Having the right distribution partners is very important.

Having the right promo companies to work with, which you have long-term established connections with. They give you the right price, and they know why. So they’re happy with working with something credible, and you’re happy because you’re making the artist happy in the right sense. It *can* fall in to place, you know?

The flip side to the pure digital seems to be the pure analog. You’ve been involved with pressing vinyl for a long time.

Yeah, for sure.

What do you think the allure of vinyl is these days?

I think from an audio standpoint, it’s the best format to listen to music. If you’ve got the right stereo, too. From my stance, that’s why I think vinyl is great. What the public thinks – why vinyl’s the ‘reason’? Because it becomes more collectible. I bet a lot of people buy vinyl out there, and don’t listen to what they just bought.

They just keep it on their shelf?

Yeah. Like, it was a good shopping experience. It makes you feel cool, or good about yourself, buying vinyl. I’m not sure if it’s going to last or not, but I still think it’s the best music format, so that’s why it should survive. What I don’t understand is labels putting out tapes, or people buying tapes. It’s the worst form, the worst format for music, so why do it? That sort of hipsterism about the tape thing… fuck that. I’m sorry…

No hipster stuff!

The hipsters are all right, but be sensible. Buy vinyl. It’s great. Spend 40 bucks on a piece of vinyl, if you think that makes you cool. ‘Be my friend’, you know? But tapes? What a joke.

The audio mix on the latest Moons live album was fantastic.

Yeah! We had a pretty good sound engineer, and we always do a really good job on the mastering side, with Metropolis. Mr. Davis, there, who mastered it – he also just re-mastered Led Zeppelin. It gives you an idea of where Schnitzel spends some money. I’d rather not have a billboard, but have John master one of our artists.

The Moons - promo photo

Because the music is going to be the stuff which stays immortal. Like – that’s timeless.

Exactly – that’s a timeless thing. I think if you’re an artist, and you want to put something out, and you come back to it and think ‘it could have sounded much better; this sounds crap, what have we done here?!’ – I never want that, for any of our artists. To happen, to think that way. I’d say all the stuff that we put out is high fidelity stuff.

It also seems high quality.

Yeah. It’s like the Ween reissues, for example, that we did of Chocolate and Cheese and so forth, were all mastered specifically for the vinyl format, different from the CD format. People pick up on that now. That’s a good thing – that’s the name of the game.

We don’t want to sell it ‘too expensive’, either, because we want people to enjoy it. You should be able to afford good art. Think about a CD or LP – ten or twenty bucks or whatever. It’s such a good deal for art! You get a full-blown package of something great. Whereas if you spend ten or twenty bucks on something else, it probably gets you a couple burgers and a couple beers, you know?

Yeah. It’s a good investment, if you’re interested in art.

Yeah.

I like it. I’ve seen the vinyl resurgence, and I’m interested.

I think, for me, if you have a record player, a good record player, a valve (audio) amp, and a couple of great speakers put together, it’s a heavenly experience. Really when it all comes to life. It’s just one of those things I was always really in to. Like hi-fi stuff, and having a great listening experience. Making sure the amps are good!

Same as for the musicians. It makes a difference, when you play a good valve amp, rather then a cheap counterpart. Listen to AC/DC when they play live. They’re valve Marshall stacks. They cost a fortune, and they need to be maintained, but that’s how they get their ‘sound’. If they didn’t have these amps, AC/DC probably wouldn’t sound that great, either. They need two of each amp. Just in case, for a backup. That shows dedication. I think that’s great. It’s good on them, you know.

Who toured on a Schnitzel release? The ‘net has not produced many details.

I think, a lot of people did. For example, in 2008, Ween toured La Cucaracha over here in Europe for us at Schnitzel. Or, The Moons toured Mindwaves – part of that as well. Or, Peasant toured Bound For Glory… You name it. Ragazzi even toured. Or, The Waxwings… back when we put the record (Shadows Of… – ed.) out. They came over for the first time.

Coming back to Nick Oliveri real quick: he did an acoustic tour, right. As a PR solo tour, as a set-up for the Leave Me Alone tour with the band. Then, that tour did not happen, but the acoustic tour happened. Yes, the record was out, and he was on tour, but he was not solely touring that. He only played two or three songs from that record on that tour. He’s finishing up the tour now. He did… 23 shows in 26 days. Stupid, right?!

I remember looking at the dates and thinking ‘He has no days off. What if his voice goes?!’ It was crazy.

It’s a solo act as well: it’s quite hard on him, you know.

It’s totally crazy. I have no idea how they do that.

I think he’s a different kettle of fish when he’s got a band behind him. I really enjoy his acoustic stuff – it’s a weird experience, let me tell you that.

The electric stuff is a lot more energetic, it seems. The punk stuff.

Yeah. If you ever get a chance to see him live, if you get to see him with the band, you know why he is a great entertainer. He is just brilliant onstage. He can pull you in. It’s an art form. That’s why people search out for him, and want him to be in their band. Because he’s got that thing, y’know. I don’t know what you’d want to call it.

Charisma.

Charisma, something. He’s just a rock star. He’s a true rock and roller. I can’t say anything better about him. In the right environment, it’s unbelievable.

There are very few of those left.

Definitely.

Everybody’s playing it safe now.

Yeah. He’s not, that’s for sure. That’s why I appreciate him. He’s like a true rock and roller, like I said earlier. He certainly does not work for a dot com company. (I hope I’m not pissing anybody off, really badly.)

You probably won’t make anybody angry, which is good. It’s been said of art, though, that ‘if you’re not making somebody angry, then you’re not creating ‘true’ art’.

I agree.

Maybe it’s good to make somebody mad! (laughs)

Yeah, maybe! Somebody once said (better), ‘a bad review is better then no review’. Fair enough. Art is subjective.

Right. Plus, there’s an inherent bias in it. Like, if you do a review, you already know if you like or don’t like it: there’s already a bias there.

Exactly. It’s already in your mind. It is what it is.

Has your role as ‘the record label’ changed much in the past 13 years or so?

Of course. I’m trying to find a way to sum it up in a couple sentences, because it changed so much. So many different environments. What kind of label you are. I mean, I used to work for (a major), and it’s a total different experience, then to work for an independent. I like the much smaller environment with a label. The closer you are to the artist, to the art, at least, the more rewarding it is, and the better you can paint a picture for them. Rather then working for a big label.

It’s tricky. It changed a lot. Like I said, I don’t know where to begin. A lot of people got cut out of the music industry. Around 1999, that was quite an interesting period because some people lost their jobs in the industry, but they were also the people who didn’t deserve the job. So it’s had a lot of weeding out, in the initial stages. A lot of bullshit-ism in the recording industry, getting paid for – what, I don’t know. Then it sort of thinned itself out. A lot of people that saw the music industry as a full-time hobby got left behind, because they didn’t have the stamina, or they just couldn’t find the time, or whatever reason. I think that was quite good. To have a more professional outlet, or people professionally working on art.

On the other hand, the Internet blew up. So, all the sudden, you had a platform for Joe Schmoe to release an album, or to put out some music, through the Internet channels. Which brings back the sort of weeding-out thing: it was exactly the opposite. You didn’t have a filter, like an A & R man or producer.

Right – there’s no gatekeeper now.

Like a label, filtering the crap out. Now, look at today’s music, or music in the last ten years, at least. How many outstanding bands or artists are there? Not very many! But there’s a lot of output! I think the music output has never been higher then now. Guitar sales, never been higher – all of that. Everybody thinks they’re a little star. It’s certainly not the case. I sort of don’t like that. There’s too much crap floating about.

There needs to be more filtering; more gatekeeping.

Right. On the right side of things. It’s a weird one. We, as a label, tried to apply a filter. We have people that buy every release that we put out, and that’s really nice!

That’s great, wow!

That’s really satisfying. That’s super rewarding, you know.

Here’s a bonus. Every time somebody (at a record label) gets a Reddit AMA session, this is the top question. The readers always ask “how do I get a job in your industry?”

I think: be around creative people. Or, creative environments. Or… I know a guy in Germany who was quite a good journalist, who started a label and made a killing. You’ve got to be around the arts. Either one way or the other. And you’ve got to try every avenue. Try to make some success of *something* that a record label appreciates paying for.

For example, if you start touring with a band, and doing really nice displays, and selling tons of merchandise, you might get a tour manager job at one point. Or, if you are really good at interacting with people, and you know the right people in the media scenario, and you’re really good with online marketing stuff…

Then you would get into PR.

Exactly. So, there’s different avenues. I mean, like the intern that we have right now. He’s a really nice guy, and I really like him. Last time he was in, we had a little discussion – to give him a bit of feedback about where he wants to go, and what he wants to do. He doesn’t really know – he just wants to be in it. That’s cool, but the more specific (area) you have a focus to, the easier it gets.

Maybe a recording studio environment, setting something up like that, is a great way to get into A & R’ing, you know? Record great music. Make a stamp for yourself out there. You can always study it, as well. There’s music industry courses out there. I think part of the internship scenario at record labels is a great way too. If I look back at some interns that we had: some were studying, and they were really good, really smart about it. Others didn’t study. Not to say they weren’t as good, but maybe they weren’t as dedicated towards something. Or they didn’t have the drive, nor the educational background. Sorry to say. If you can’t write well, that’s a big problem. If you’re not Internet-savvy, that’s a problem. If you can’t communicate, that’s a problem.

That’s got to be key! Because so much of this is about knowing the right people, or having the right connections.

Right. It’s a weird one. It’s tough. You’ve just got to know what you love doing. Then pursuing that, no matter what. I think that’s my best advice. I don’t know – there’s not a secret formula to it.

Record labels might look sexier from the outside, then from the inside. That might be a problem, because a lot of people are disillusioned as to what it really is that you do at a record label.

None of this is easy, which is why they call it work! At least it’s fun, or gratifying, right?

Right. Of course.

So you’ll keep doing it.

Right.

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About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!
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