Owner Interview with Michael Anderson of Bluesanct
Name: Michael Anderson
QRD – When & why did you start your label?
Michael – November of 1996, to release music & art by my friends.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Michael – Out of my pocket... same goes now.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Michael – Around 85 releases on Bluesanct, plus a couple In Gowan Ring CDs on Lune & another dozen or so on Orphanology (a sub-label of Bluesanct)
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Michael – Depends on how busy I am doing my own music... two or three max.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Michael – Around 5 or 6 hours a week, would like to do none.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Michael – Being on tour & people asking me what other bands on the label are up to.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?
Michael – At one point, briefly, I thought I would like to run the label full-time as a job. I quickly realized such aspirations were killing my enjoyment of the label, so I now only do it when I want to.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Michael – Caring about what other people write/think about my releases.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Michael – Morc Records is like a sister label to Bluesanct. I generally feel connected to other labels run by one or two people with strong personal tastes imbued in their releases, the classic example being 4AD back in the day.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Michael – When I went to college (briefly), I spent all my time at the radio station. That, plus being in bands & touring, has helped immensely.
QRD – What makes your label special & unique?
Michael – My own personal tastes.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Michael – My friends live where I live, so those are the artists I tend to work with the most.
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Michael – Yes & no. It hasn’t effected it much at all.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Michael – I can’t guarantee anything... anything.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Michael – I let my whims guide me.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Michael – All sorts of ways, I guess.
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Michael – LOW - One more reason to forget CD, because Low rule.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Michael – CINDYTALK - silver shoals of light 10”, because I have dreamed of working with Gordon Sharp since I was a teenager.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Michael – If I like them personally & if they have realistic expectations of what is happening.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Michael – The opposite of the last answer.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Michael – I like them.
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?
Michael – I have recorded some of the releases on Bluesanct, but for the most part I just get the finished audio product & that’s that. I am more involved in the art design side of releases.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Michael – I do most of the design for the releases on Bluesanct, as well as all (what little there is) of print ads & web media.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Michael – Usually a long time, because I am slow & forget stuff a lot.
QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Michael – It makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time & money.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Michael – Keep on keeping on.
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Michael – The new Coil album, because they’re both dead.
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Michael – Make less copies.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Michael – It depends on the release & the artist.
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Michael – There are no profits to split.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Michael – I prefer the term, “gentleman’s agreement.”
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?
Michael – Nope.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Michael – Especially now, it is the most important thing a band can do if they want to get the word out & let people know they exist.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Michael – I don’t do any promotions. I occasionally send copies to people who write & ask for their show/blog/whatever... other than that, I don’t do anything.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Michael – I have a mailing list that I send out newsletters to once in a while.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Michael – I had an intern once. He drove me to the post office, & then sometimes we talked about forming a band. Sometimes he drove me to lunch. I had another intern once. She promised to do a bunch of stuff, but wound up just driving me to the post office.
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Michael – Just me. Occasionally I ask a friend to help put something together or drive me to the post office.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores, radio stations, magazines, websites & bloggers?
Michael – I don’t.
QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?
Michael – Both.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?
Michael – To sell my records to people who want them.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Michael – I find out what the minimum amount of copies I can make is.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Michael – None.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Michael – I make t-shirts sometimes.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Michael – I sell releases by the artists on the label which are on other labels.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Michael – It has decimated my output for years.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?
Michael – NO.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Michael – I have slumber parties & mini-fest weekends where all the bands can hang out & collaborate. Also, getting bands to tour together is a great way.
QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Michael – We don’t talk about finances very much.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Michael – I don’t. Once a release is paid for, I just focus on finding people to hear it. I assume everything is a loss, & that way I am always pleasantly surprised by any little successes.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Michael – No, I leave that to you to worry about.
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Michael – Pressed less copies of releases.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Michael – Only if you are a hip-hop artist.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Michael – I think it is a reaction to the fracturing of the album format. Too many people thinking like hip-hop artists.
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Michael – I only want to release physical items. I have nothing *at all* against digital releases, but Bluesanct is not a digital label.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Michael – This is my ideal.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Michael – I think that would be great, *if* the discs were real glass mastered CDs & not CDRs disguised as such.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Michael – As much as they will listen to.
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Michael – It is unavoidable, so I don’t worry about it. It’s like worrying about dying. It’s going to happen, so fuck it.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Michael – What other labels do is none of my business.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Michael – I finally come to my senses.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Michael – Only do it if you are doing it to share music. If you start a label to make money, you don’t need my advice because we are not on the same page.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Michael – Labels = licensing, artists = touring/licensing.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Michael – People like to feel like part of a family.
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?
Michael – A record store, hopefully.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Michael – As the label that released that live Low CD & as a label that loved its friends.