Owner Interview with Dylan Magierek of Badman Recording Co.
Label: Badman Recording Co.
Artists Roster: the innocence mission, Lovers, Starfucker, My Morning Jacket, Mark Kozelek, Lanterna, WEINLAND, Patrick Park, Mark Mallman...
QRD – When & why did you start your label?
Dylan – I was recording a band called the Cherries in my house & somehow it sounded much better than the demo I had in mind. I was working at Universal Music Distribution at the time & thought I could get it into stores. So, I started Badman.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Dylan – Credit cards mostly.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Dylan – Maybe 65 or so.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Dylan – 4 is pretty much a max these days. Badman has done as many as 12 in a year & that was a bit crazy.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Dylan – All the time & I usually enjoy every hour.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Dylan – Well, I love to see a band happy with the outcome of releasing their album. A band like Starfucker started out being a great house party band in Portland & now a few years later they have had songs in Target & IBM commercials & have sold a lot of albums. That’s a great feeling to help a band be able to do this full time.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?
Dylan – It is more difficult to release music I really dig & know that it will likely cost me thousands of dollars that we’ll likely not recoup.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Dylan – Everything is important, actually.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Dylan – Matador, 4AD, & some of the labels of the 80s like Sire & Elektra. The boutique & mini labels like Casablanca, Jet, Swan Song, Stax are also quite interesting.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Dylan – Working at Universal in sales & marketing. Recording bands & playing in them too.
QRD – What makes you label special & unique?
Dylan – We started as a production company. I have recorded many of the albums that are on the label. Every release has excellent song writing & a unique voice on it.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Dylan – I am signing more Portland bands. Three of the last four releases are from here.
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Dylan – I listen a lot less than I used to. I go back to a lot of albums from my past - like Led Zeppelin & Neil Young rather than reaching out for something brand new.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Dylan – It’s usually best for a manager or booking agent to reach out to us, rather than a band we’ve never heard of. Bands need to have an audience established & get a taste of what this is all about before seeking us out. Then they will realize how much we do & can appreciate the assistance.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Dylan – My ex-wife, Sue Kim, has been doing A&R for us with me for years. She is a great source. I keep my ears & eyes open & check around the internet often for good music. I see who is getting a lot of accolades & if I like their music.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Dylan – Through the artists mostly I would imagine. We have so many outstanding ones!
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Dylan – My Morning Jacket’s album Chocolate & Ice & the innocence mission - Now the Day is Over are probably tied for the biggest sellers. We started with My Morning Jacket back in 2002 & they quickly built a huge following by playing tons of shows & having such powerful songs. the innocence mission have a large fanbase & that album in particular received a great deal of press & radio. It is an album of traditional songs sung as lullabies & has continued to sell well every week since 2005.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Dylan – That is a tough one. Though recording & releasing Mark Kozelek’s deconstructed AC/DC cover album What’s Next to the Moon was incredible for me & really put Badman on the map.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Dylan – Great songwriting. Excellent attitude. Motivation.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Dylan – Bad attitudes. Lack of appreciation for the good work that their team does for them.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Dylan – Every release has excellent song writing & a unique voice on it.
QRD – How involved are you with a band for acting as a producer as far as hearing demo ideas or selecting tracks to be on a release or mixing & mastering?
Dylan – That depends on the band & where they are in the recording process. I am very involved if the band wants that sort of influence or feedback. I nearly always assist in the sequencing of an album & feedback on mastering. If I get the band in the studio they are going to hear an earful - usually very positive, I promise!
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Dylan – There was a time that I was very involved with that. If the band was into it we had Nyree Watts doing cover art photos for nearly every early release. She’s amazing; though I think it made some folks think of 4AD when they saw our releases. & that made sense. The albums were all very striking, much like most of Vaughn Oliver’s work for that fine label. These days, a band is usually pulling together the artwork themselves & I am just giving a bit of feedback.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Dylan – Usually around 4 months. 3 months is the minimum period a publicist will need to set up an album with press folks for review.
QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Dylan – Not sure I have dealt with that one & do not look forward to it.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Dylan – TOUR!
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Dylan – The National. I’d love to re-issue a bunch of LPs from the 70s & 80s.
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Dylan – That’s a tough one. Sometimes I will offer to help them in another way - like trying to get their music placed in TV/Film & commercials.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Dylan – Sometimes it is 50/50 payable as the bills come in. That depends on the deal we have for that album. A band starting out these days should probably expect to come up with some $$ to cover the promotion of the album.
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Dylan – 50/50.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Dylan – Handshakes get things started & an agreement keeps everyone on the same page.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?
Dylan – Only if we sign a co-pub deal with them. & we do more for them if we are in that position - such as expanded work on sync placements.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Dylan – Touring is the one thing a band can completely control once their album comes out. You want more folks to find out about you & dig your music - get your ass out there so they can see you.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Dylan – We hire out for publicity & radio on nearly every release. I add on to that through a network of Badman friendly folks out there.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Dylan – I’m not great with Facebook or Myspace, so I make sure our website is updated & I constantly reach out behind the scenes to make things happen that will lift up the bands & Badman as a result of that.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Dylan – Yes, we do retail & tour support through a small staff of part timers here.
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Dylan – Since we hire out for a lot of our team for each release, & we have international retail & digital distribution - it is a bit like having a huge amount of folks working together.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Dylan – We call them, send in-store play CDs, & do advertising with the ones that have good opportunities. We also set up in-store performances at the better retailers that have them.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?
Dylan – Mainly through our radio promoters. We have released great albums consistently, so I think folks are familiar with our quality & commitment.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?
Dylan – Through our publicists & once again, we have released great albums consistently, so I think folks are familiar with our quality & commitment.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?
Dylan – Same as above, but add in the opportunities that our digital distribution partner IODA provides.
QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?
Dylan – I think there was a time when advertising made a lot more sense. The cost hasn’t gone down too much though, & sales have dwindled to about 10-20% of what they were 5 years ago, so we are pretty choosy about where we spend ad dollars.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?
Dylan – Support our promotional efforts by getting music out to the people. & hunting for special promotional opportunities for us: like a listening station at a retail store or an iTunes “New & Noteworthy” feature.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Dylan – That is always a tough guess. I look at previous sales history on Soundscan, talk to the band about how many CDs/LPs they think they can sell at shows... & then still guess too high usually.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Dylan – Wow, it can be as high as 50%.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Dylan – We don’t.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Dylan – Not so far.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Dylan – It made it very challenging to finish my own album of recordings that started about 10 years back. It came out last year & is called Misc. - Happiness is Easy.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?
Dylan – Yes. I did.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Dylan – I try to get folks to tour together & contact each other regarding providing help to one another around venues to contact, folks to visit at retail or radio...
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Dylan – I slowly adjust each year.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Dylan – Not too much, as I think it has been decent for us & we tend to sell music through our webstore daily, so I know folks are finding us.
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Dylan – Make less CDs, pay less for publicists, & do far less advertising.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Dylan – No.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Dylan – To some degree, but it is a good one.
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Dylan – YES! How will you ever find out who recorded the album, who played on it, or what label it is on? Gotta see the artwork & get absorbed in it! God, those were the good ol’ days when you’d get a new LP, cassette, or CD & just pour over it & keep revisiting & discovering more seemingly essential info on how it came about.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Dylan – Sure, if that makes sense for a band or label. I like holding something physical.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Dylan – The pay back for artists/labels isn’t very high. But, better than nothing to hold.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Dylan – A
lot. Let’s get folks into
these bands & build something that can grow naturally.
Dylan – A few songs is fine. I want people to discover our bands & love them.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Dylan – Paying their artists too low of a royalty % / not sending their artists royalty statements / not returning masters to albums that have never been released or are deleted.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Dylan – It becoming too difficult to maintain - either financially, legally, or due to a lack of need or interest from listeners.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Dylan – Contact me directly. There’s a lot to discuss.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Dylan – Sync placements, touring, & merchandise.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Dylan – Experience. Reputation. Teamwork. Love.
QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace, LastFM), but with MySpace’s decline, what do you see as the place where “normal” people go to find out about & get excited by new music?
Dylan – It’ll probably come through their phone or cable provider as a subscription or as an incentive to join their plan.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Dylan – Excellent albums, the importance of good artwork & quality recordings.