Owner Interview with Adam Barringer of Champion Version
Name: Adam Barringer
QRD – When & why did you start your label?
Adam – It started in 2010. I collected Trensmats beautiful limited edition 7s & after they shut down, I sat down one day & decided to start Champion Version to try to carry on their good work.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Adam – I sold a few bits & pieces, but the first releases were by Mugstar, Whirling Hall of Knives, & Machinefabriek so these magnificent 7s really sold themselves.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Adam – Eight so far & there’s a lot planned in 2011 too... as well as a new label called Slow Fighting where 10s will be the focus.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Adam – Between the two labels, there’ll be between 12 & 20 I think.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Adam – I work maybe 30 hours per week, on top of a full time job, a wife, & three children. It’s really a labour of love.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Adam – Hearing & being able to put out amazing music by great bands on a wonderful format.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?
Adam – It’s too early to say right now.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Adam – I’ve been in advanced talks with quite a few bands & it’s ended up coming to nothing, which is a bit of a waste of time. When you get artwork, tracks, etc. & don’t get a release out of it, it’s a bit of a shame.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Adam – As mentioned above certainly Trensmat. But overall it’s really not labels so much, but great bands. The Designers Republic has been a massive influence too, along with other designers like OriginalFake, etc. Mo Wax have been an influence too from a design aspect.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Adam – I don’t really think much can prepare you for this, but I think it’s imperative to be organised.
QRD – What makes you label special & unique?
Adam – We concentrate wholly on releasing stunning music by bands we love on limited edition 7 vinyl that’s never repressed once it’s sold out.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Adam – Shipping is probably the worst thing, but I guess it doesn’t make much where you are if your customers are all over the world.
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Adam – The label hasn’t been going that long, but so far absolutely.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Adam – We’re currently unable to accept demo submissions, but we hope that this policy will change in the future when we’ve more spare time.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Adam – We go through our record collections & contact bands & see whether they might want to do a 7. Word of mouth too, a current artist will recommend someone, etc.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Adam – We send out promo copies of our releases, but our records sell out mainly because of the quality of the bands making the music & so fans find out about us through them really.
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Adam – We press the same quantity of 7s per release, so they’re all the same.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Adam – Oh, good one... Mugstar was massive for us because it was the first... & they’re incredible.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Adam – That they’re music is uncompromising & very, very good.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Adam – If they were idiots or made stupid demands.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Adam – They’re all sold out.
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?
Adam – We leave everything with the artist. They have full control of their music.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Adam – The artists have complete control of their releases with only our label name, web URL, slogan, & catalogue number included somewhere.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Adam – We don’t release albums on Champion Version of course, but turnaround on a 7 is about 12 weeks. That gives time for manufacture & a bit of promo.
QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Adam – It hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t envision this ever affecting us.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Adam – Make more incredible music for me to hear.
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Adam – Loads, but specifically In a Silent Way by Miles Davis. If I had to choose one record, that is probably it. I’d love to do a 7 with Tarentel too, I’ve contacted them twice but to no avail... maybe one more time?
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Adam – Release it anyway.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Adam – We pay for everything & pay the artist with 10% of the records pressed.
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Adam – We make next to nothing. After mastering, vinyl, sleeve & label manufacture, promotion, & postage are taken into account there’s pretty much nothing left at all.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Adam – All handshakes.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a bands publishing?
Adam – No. In fact the bands retain 100% of the rights to their music 100% of the time.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Adam – It’s not important to the label at all.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Adam – Everything we do is in house.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Adam – Through the bands themselves, our mailing list & our website.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Adam – No we don’t have one.
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Adam – There are three of us. I’m closely involved with everything. I bounce ideas off of Jude & Tim. They also act as quality control sometimes I might be to close to something to be able to give a proper opinion on it. I trust them both implicitly.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Adam – We’re not dealing with stores. We’re lucky enough to sell out of everything through our mailing list pre-orders.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?
Adam – We don’t send anything to radio stations.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?
Adam – We send promotional material to people, but that’s about it really. There are so many out there & I think they’re pretty saturated with music submissions too, so we also ensure we send them the actual record.
QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?
Adam – We haven’t done any advertising & we don’t have the budget for it unfortunately.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?
Adam – Again, we don’t have this, but I don’t really feel that we need it right now either. I guess we could sell more records this way though, but we like it being limited edition.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Adam – It’s always the same & unless more emails are received from people pissed off at missing a 7 or records start going up on eBay for exorbitant amounts of money the quantities will be kept as they are.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Adam – We send out 20 promos per release.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Adam – No, just lovely 7s & that’s all we’ll ever sell at Champion Version.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Adam – No.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Adam – It hasn’t made any difference at all so far.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?
Adam – We will in time I think. Tim & I are in Cut Iowa Network & we’ve released music on other labels in the past, but we’ll do a 7 at some point next year.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Adam – We specialise in 7 vinyl & that already has a strong community of fans. We’ve also got great bands & a brilliant customer base through our mailing list.
QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Adam – We’re very up front with what we can do & offer. There really is no money in this for us; as I said earlier, it’s a labour of love.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Adam – I think if we looked at this purely from a financial point of view, then we’d certainly change it. But we love being a vinyl only label & as long as we remain in this area I think we’re best placed to keep things as they are right now.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Adam – Not at all, not until I just answered that question anyway...
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Adam – We’re months into our operation, but Stephen from Trensmat has been very helpful indeed.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Adam – No, I buy 12s all the time.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Adam – I hope not!
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Adam – For us it’s critical. If it was just digital we wouldn’t bother with the label at all.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Adam – They’re cool.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Adam – For us it’s all about the vinyl.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Adam – I think an artist is entitled to charge whatever they think their record is worth. Of course that may well mean they make no money...
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Adam – Luckily we’re not really impacted, but I don’t do piracy at all. Unfortunately it’s there & I don’t think it’ll ever go away.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Adam – I’ve not gotten involved with other labels, so I can’t answer that really.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Adam – If we couldn’t press vinyl I think we’d stop completely.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Adam – Make sure you release music by artists whose music you really, really love. If you do it for any other reason, I think it probably wouldn’t last too long.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Adam – Touring I guess. I think labels are pretty much screwed nowadays. As I said, we just about breakeven.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Adam – I don’t think they are really.
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?
Adam – Great question, too good for me. I don’t know how to answer that. I hope I can read some of the other responses you get & learn something myself.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Adam – Releasing great 7s.