of toneVENDOR Interview July 2004
For those of you who don't know toneVENDOR is a mailorder store & distributor as well as a physical store. We heartily endorse them
QRD Why did you decide to start a record label & why expand it into a store & distribution company?
Dan I wanted to start the record label as a means to give more exposure to some bands that I really loved - ones that didn't have much exposure as it was. Not that our tiny label would make them household names, but our goal is to do the best we can. The mail-order actually came to fruition about the same time as the label. That was just a way for my friend Josh (who started Claire de Leon! with me) and I to provide a nice outlet for people to obtain hard to find independent music from international labels as well as domestic ones.
QRD Of all the potential ways to try to get the word out about a record (radio, press, advertisement, live shows) what do you think actually generates sales?
Dan Most importantly seems to be perseverance!
If you stick with it, you will slowly gain a label "fan base" - seems to
have worked for us that way, anyhow. as for the above-mentioned things,
they al work on their own levels. I used to think radio was kind of a waste.
But if you get one or two stations (or - imagine - a whole BUNCH of them!)
to latch on to one of your records, it produces tremendous exposure and
generates lots of sales. We've been lucky on a few of our records with
a few key radio stations. Press is great if you can get it, but we have
yet to get any that's pushing exposure to the next level. These days, Pitchfork
Online seems to be the way to go - if your record gets a good review in
there, plan on a 2nd pressing! Advertising is a tough
QRD Do you feel like the musician-label-distributor-store-consumer chain is threatened by digital distribution through the internet? Why & why not?
Dan I have always thought digital downloads helped small labels like ours. It brings a wider audience to the music and thus translates to more sales. At least we like to hope and think it does. There will always be the cheap stingy bastard out there who will download everything and never buy anything. But that's not a collector, and not even really a fan. They don't care to support the artist. It's the same guy who tries to sneak in shows, and probably tips minimally at a restaurant, if at all. The true fans will download stuff and buy all the good stuff they hear. It's the same as going to a record store and listening to records there, in my opinion.
QRD What are the best things a label can do to make your job easier as a distributor?
Dan Lots! They can inform the public that their product is available through us. They can contact stores and tell them we carry the product. When they provide us with all the key elements - a full and helpful description, cover art, mp3 samples, etc. - it helps a lot too. Direct web links to purchase product on our site works nicely as well.
QRD Who's easier to deal with & why, stores or record labels?
Dan Both are quite easy to work with - so far. It's kind of comparing apples to oranges though. A pain-in-the-ass label will harass you for payments when they aren't due one, whereas with stores it could be us harassing them to pay their bills. In general we like everyone we work with on both levels, and have surprisingly minimal problems or conflicts.
QRD How has the label/store/distro business effected the music you make?
Dan It hasn't, really. I currently play in a band but the way that band works, it's mainly one songwriter, which isn't me, so I guess it's not too relevant to me. However, one way it does affect me is to drive me crazy a bit - I often hear so much good music that influences my ideas of music to create, and I often crave to start a new band (or two or three!!) but I just don't have the time - because I'm always working. So in that way it's bad and frustrating.
QRD What's the smartest thing you've done with your business & what's the biggest mistake you've made?
Dan Smartest thing = getting it out of my house. When it was in my house, I couldn't escape it. Now I can go home and leave it all behind. Biggest mistake. Hmm. I have thought long and hard about this question and honestly no one single mistake pops out more than any other. I feel that all the little mistakes along the way are a nice learning tool and a necessary part of the process. So any mistake that I make twice would be the biggest one, I guess!
QRD Would you recommend people to try start stores & labels as potentially successful business ventures or would you suggest they only do such things as a hobby?
Dan Definitely better to do it as a hobby,
because then you'll be less disappointed if you reach failure! To do things
as a business and be successful, it's really difficult and you have to
have a lot of patience. I started out doing it as a hobby, and it took
years to get to the point where we are now. Perhaps that's due to taking
it slowly, but I don't believe in taking out loans or going into debt to
start up a business, so it's bound to be slow-going anyway.