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QRD #45 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
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Label Owner Interview with Willy Winky of Lagunamuch Records
November 2010
Name: Willy Winky
Label: Lagunamuch Records
Artists Roster: 0id, Abstract Avenue, Alexandroid, Ariu Kara, Cast, Dub Constructor, Flexkiks, Gods Delusion, I/dex, In A Nutshell, Insulator Project, Lazyfish, Martinez Gonzalez, Mewark, Nightech, Oloolo, Riverz End, Selffish, Unit 21
Websites: www.lagunamuch.com, www.myspace.com/lagunamuchrecords, www.lastfm.ru/label/Lagunamuch

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Willy – Lagunamuch is an experimental music label, based in Moscow, Russia. The label was formed in 2004. We made a lot of acquaintances with musically gifted people & we couldn’t help but publish them, that was a good reason to start the label.  The first release Dub Constructor - Ulitka Zen made us known in the music world.

QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?

Willy – We had some money we’d earned selling experimental electronic music in record stores, so we added up the necessary sum & published several opening releases.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Willy – We’ve produced 28 releases for the time being, most of them are CDs, also there is a deal of net-releases available for free download & listening.

QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?

Willy – It depends on music quality. We are always ready to publish it, but we are concerning ourselves about the unique aspect the most. It could be 1 or 2 or 3 releases a year, the most important is our musical particularity & also we want the audience to listen it for a really long time.

QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?

Willy – We are fond of running the label. Quantity of days & hours are not a matter. Sometimes it takes more time, sometimes it doesn’t.

QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?

Willy – We are observing the development of our efforts, how our ideas are becoming the reality, in fact we are composing our own world & it’s not only about music; it’s also about the culture, the art, the life vision.  In addition we can see the results, it gave rise to our roster expansion.  Of course the main part of succeeding is the attention of audience, the greatest feedback is new people, new emotions, new ideas & we can collaborate with different people in order to create something new or just to exchange some ideas. So, our progress depends a lot on how it is going on.

QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?

Willy – For the first time we were keen on publishing & looking for new musicians, now with the time past the promo side of our activity became general, we are ready to work hard in that direction, but it doesn’t mean that we are less focused on the music; it’s just a new level of development, but we are still sure THE TRUE MUSIC CAN FIND ITS OWN WAY TO SUCCED.

QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?

Willy – Getting rid of spam-letters in my email inbox is the most time consuming & useless activity. All other work is more or less useful.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?

Willy – There are so many labels that deserve our mentioning, that we are learning too much from, for example such labels as Ipecac records, Staalplaat, Mille Plateaux, Ant-zen. 

QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?

Willy – Such a long term working in the record store like we had was the key to organize our own label. After those days we knew enough about music industry & we had our plans for how to realize our ideas & what ways of development to go on.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

Willy – I can describe it like a total creative & inner freedom. We can make independent decisions, we aren’t concerned about the economical situation, because the priority is to look for & publish new Russian electronic music. Doing something new is always an experiment & it doesn’t matter how much time, effort, or something else it needs. We are still keen on our work.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

Willy – At the beginning we were located at the center of Russia’s capital & it was a great help emotionally & it gave us a capability to start very easy, but now with the development of modern technologies it’s really no matter where you are, you can run your label from every place on the Earth. Internet erased all limits.

QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?

Willy – Yes, it’s the real effect, when you have the label all music you are hearing is the product for paying attention, examination, & profound studying.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Willy – Oh, it’s rather simple. Most often if we receive 10 demos, we are listening to it & make 1 or 2 releases.

QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?

Willy – We are always exploring the internet in order to find new names & if we are interested in any musician we can address to him directly. That’s how we found Riverz End, the first time we’ve heard his music we’ve made an acquaintance with him at once. So we are plunged into the music industry & we are receiving all necessary information from our surroundings.

QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?

Willy – It should be better to ask the audience. We could just guess. Different people who help us in the musical promotion deserve our merits, they are working in musical stores, web-zines, radio stations, or somewhere else scattered worldwide. All of them want everybody to know about our music because they just like it & they are waiting our development & want it to go on. So that’s how circle effect works.

QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?

Willy – The absolute leader is In a Nutshell - Ultraviolet Test. The circumstances were favourable for this album. Just the right balance of abilities & circumstances made the ideal conditions for the debut of In A Nutshell.

QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?

Willy – Frankly speaking, as for me the most important & serious became the release of Main Control Board, we’ve been working on it for a very long time; it’s concerned about some personal themes, but it should be better to listen to it once again than to chat about it.

QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?

Willy – There are some strict rules for being published on the Lagunamuch label. First of all the music we are intending to release must possess the FORCE, the BEAUTY, the CHARACTER, & the BREATH; it also should touch the innermost of our hearts. 

QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?

Willy – The discord between musician & us. If a musician feels he can cope with all situations by himself or he just has only his own regards on every aspects of publishing, or maybe our help became useless for him or we just have different mutual conditions to terminate our terms. 

QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?

Willy – With every release we make a step to the upstairs. All of them have the same vector, but with a huge spectrum of movement. There is a great likelihood that carrying away with experiments we are building such a big common house based on art, experiments with the form & content, individuality, psychedelic, industrial & intellectual components.

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?

Willy – We are working very carefully in a scrupulous manner. There is no need to be in a hurry, we can listen to demos for several weeks & then begin to work on mastering & after doing some versions we can stop the work & remake it all if we don’t like the results, such a way of work could be useful at every level of producing & it allows us not to be ashamed & to enjoy all our releases. It depends on the situation, sometimes it requires all of our attention at every aspect of publishing sometimes it doesn’t. 

QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?

Willy – We are usually intermediaries between designers & musicians. It’s very important that every side (musician, label & designer) will be pleased with this collaboration. It could take a lot of time, but we are keen on this complicated process. Everything should be of the highest level. 

QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?

Willy – We want to go further with every release, it can’t be the step to the same place. That’s why it depends on musical material, sometimes it takes much time to find the perfect combination for making a release but we always try to do all the work efficiently. There were situations when we spent enormous time (about a year) for design (music & cover); the time passed & we can say it worth doing it. 

QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?

Willy – It depends on the specific causes, most likely it will freeze.

QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?

Willy – Musicians have their occupation, there is no need to create something new, everybody should do their job with the best intentions.

QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?

Willy – Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks.

QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?

Willy – You should take into account that your own musical taste isn’t that similar with your label’s. & every time you should think over how to react - to go past or to linger. It depends on circumstances.

QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?

Willy – Lagunamuch takes all expenses on publishing & promo.

QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?

Willy – Of course, every thing has the value & our musicians gain benefit from promotion, concerts, & a certain percentage of selling CDs. 

QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?

Willy – We used to write contracts but; now it isn’t required, because of trust. Musicians are confident in agreements we’ve spoken about & we don’t want to destroy this partnership.

QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?

Willy – All in all the profit is invested in new releases, except the musicians part, I suppose those sums are spent on new musical stuff.

QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?

Willy – As for musicians nowadays, it’s absolutely necessary to play gigs. We are ready to discuss any invitations.

QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?

Willy – We don’t hire any staff, preferring to manage it all on our own.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Willy – Anybody can ask us through the mail on our site lagunamuch.com or find our pages in social sites like Facebook, LastFM, Twitter, & others. We are keen on answering adequate questions.

QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?

Willy – No.

QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?

Willy – For the medium label our staff is big enough, it consists of 7 members.  Arthur Berent is our designer & administrator of the site, Dub Constructor is a mastering-engineer, also two persons make connections with distributors & promo actions, a financial director, & me - the man who is an art-director & organizes all this work. There is no need to add people to the staff.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?

Willy – We are writing e-mails.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?

Willy – We are still writing e-mails.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?

Willy – We are writing a lot of e-mails.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?

Willy – We haven’t made any relations with bloggers.

QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?

Willy – There are so many resources, we are interested in supporting our favorite webzines & websites. 

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Willy – As far as I know they do their best in order to make it possible people could have a chance to listen to our releases; they (distributors) make free samplers, podcasts, & spread it all around the world.

QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?

Willy – Nowadays for the majority of labels there is a standard of 500 CDs, now we can’t produce more as it used to be in the old good times.

QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?

Willy – It depends on release. We are trying to use maximum available percentage of promo CDs it’s between 20-40 copies.

QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?

Willy – No, all our attention we turn to the music itself. Maybe in future we will think it over & make some steps toward this regard.

QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?

Willy – No, we don’t.

QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?

Willy – I’m not a musician at all!!!

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Willy – No way.

QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?

Willy – There are so many variants. You can organize a common party for all musicians of your roster, or you may follow the policy of making remixes, covers, or compose a uniting compilation.

QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?

Willy – It’s always about musical aspects.

QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?

Willy – We have no business models, big companies have them.

QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?

Willy – Yes, we are really concerned about such questions.

QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?

Willy – Yes, we found the optimal hosting, I have an impression that we did our best in this direction.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Willy – No, it’s more likely that people who think like that are dead. It’s no matter what time we are living in, the Middle Ages or Modern “Oil & Chemistry” century, authors works always had, have, & will have great value.

QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?

Willy – It’s the reality. We were listening to cassettes for a long time, vinyl too.  It doesn’t disappear; it’s just music became more versatile. Now there are still releases for cassette listening, another for vinyl, & others you can only perceive in digital formats. Different music requires different forms of reproduction.

QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?

Willy – I’m sure that if the product pretends to be significant & deeply serious it should be published on a physical medium. Mass & amateur art always tends to be easily available.

QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?

Willy – There is no sense in such an edition. Why make releases if the prospective audience is less than 100 people?

QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?

Willy – It’s absolutely unreal for the time being.

QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?

Willy – It should be the maximum quantity of information, but with the reasonable limits.

QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?

Willy – We just ignore them.

QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?

Willy – We’ve seen nothing like that before.

QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?

Willy – Music should be over or exhausted of all its resources; or it could be something unexpected, some force majeure circumstances.

QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?

Willy – I hardly believe in creating something originally new, nobody is able to do it. Money, abilities, wishes, relations, it’s not enough. You should have pure vision on music & life. Now the world is totally glutted with music, every corner & niche has already been occupied. If you want to release any record, it should have a great potential.  Only in such conditions the risk is justified, otherwise it will be just one more experience for a person who created his own label & wants to make releases.

QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?

Willy – I think this time is for gigs, it becomes preferable to publishing because of constant development of this musical aspect.

QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?

Willy – Every serious label is as important as a lighthouse, not only for the audience but for musicians too. Label sets the direction of musical development for everybody; in that case it becomes a serious vector.

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?

Willy – Technologies are improving faster than we’ve ever seen before. There are so many variants of development. They create something new, a mass social network or something like this, for sure.

QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?

Willy – It depends on how we spend this 20 years. Of course, we’ve already had records that will be listened to in 20-30 years. For example, Oid - System of Mercy. This unpretentious release was made duly (in such a way) for years to come. I hope future people will appreciate it as well.

QRD – Anything else?

Willy – Thank you for the opportunity.