We had a record label. Folks would introduce us to new people and say, “They have a record label.” At first this was great. We were excited. We were new. We were young. We were invincible.
There were bands to call and tours to go on and press releases to write and orders to fill and questions to answer. There was art to be made. The day job led into the night job of hand packaging the CDs and getting reviews and charting the college radio play. Scoresby was in charge of the bands and the manufacturing, I was in charge of the marketing and the orders and the vibe.
Surprisingly, it didn’t get old fast. Not even the hand-numbering and packaging. Our living room assembly line worked hard.
This is number 92 of 1000. Hand packaged by Tina! Don’t forget to eat your veggies.
This is number 677 of 1000. Hand packaged by Jeff! I like my sneakers.
We must have made 4000 CD packages including 500 Xmas ornaments for one CD, and 300 hand painted whale-shaped refrigerator magnets for another before we even thought of putting out a normal jewel cased release. That CD would cost us three times the others and didn’t bring half as much joy.
I had been sending my record label’s little releases to Punk Planet for two years when they finally wrote a review of our first normal CD, Winterbrief’s “Complaints from the Beauty Class”.
"I sacrifice sleep to listen to this CD. Who needs it? This can fuel me. Imagine the best possible music described by the phrase 'synthesizer pop duo with female vocals.' You are imagining this album If you're sad, it will make you happy. If you're already happy it will make you happier. It's art. It's practical. They took that Gang of Four influence and ran to a perfect sunny place with it. They'll take you there, too. No RSVP neccesary, just a stereo."
My heart raced as I read it at the magazine shelf at the Borders. Finally, they reviewed something! What I wouldn’t realize until later was that they weren’t talking about my work. We were really just paying for someone else's art. And if you don’t trust or love those people whose art you are paying for, it doesn’t matter much. These are the things I thought and said when we quit our record label. And I know they are true, but that doesn’t change the way I feel now.
It is two years after my 5-year stint as an indie record label owner and I am finally in mourning. Past the fatigue of hand-packaging nearly 8000 individual records, past the anger at how self-centered some bands can be, past the bullshit of paying people to promote your products. I am mourning the other things. I am mourning the hidden cash that used to come in the mail. I am mourning the long letters from college freshmen in Halifax or Maine or Florida who wrote that I was an inspiration. I am mourning the love that you share with someone whose art you are supporting. I am missing seeing my bands play live with a crowd and being thanked from the stage. I am missing brainstorming sessions with people half a world away. I have to admit I am missing the narrowest sort of fame. But mostly, I am mourning the loss of community and connectivity.
We had a record label.