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QRD #45 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
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Label Owner Interviews with:
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End of huM
Exotic Fever
Fluttery Records
Fourth Dimension/Lumberton Trading Company
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Moving Furniture
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Label Owner Interview with Sietse van Erve of Moving Furniture
November 2010

Name: Sietse van Erve
Label: Moving Furniture Records
Artists Roster: Ubeboet, Rose & Sandy, Erstlaub, Jos Smolders, Small Things On Sunday, Christopher McFall, H. Stewart, A Vibrant Struggle, Orphax & much more.
Websites: www.movingfurniturerecords.com, movingfurniturerecords.bandcamp.com, www.soundcloud.com/movingfurniturerecords

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Sietse – The label was started in October 2008 because I thought it was a shame that two releases by friends of mine weren’t available anymore. To this day the reissues haven’t been done, but we are working on it.

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

Sietse – My day job is the only way I finance releases (together with profits on sales).

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Sietse – So far Moving Furniture Records has 8 CD-R releases, 1 vinyl LP, & 1 CD (out at the end of November 2010).

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

Sietse – One every 2 months would be nice

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

Sietse – I really don’t know. But working on it 1 or 2 days a week would be fun.

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

Sietse – The fun part is being able to give all this lovely music a chance & getting new contacts.

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

Sietse – They didn’t really change that much actually. It still is about the fun of music.

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

Sietse – Going through rubbish demos is pretty much a waste of time. Also bugging distros & (web)zines sometimes is an annoying waste of time. If they would reply that would definitely change.

QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?

Sietse – I really love what Type Records is doing, but also really feel some connection to Digitalis Industries. Some other labels I quite love are 12K, ini.itu, Dragon’s Eye Recordings, Conv. Just to name a few. & of course I love my friends over at Broken20, which is still pretty young. But they promise to become something.

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

Sietse – Don’t really get this question, but I guess it has something to do with my music interest, knowledge, & me being a musician.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

Sietse – Whether it is really unique I don’t know. But I do ask the musicians (& don’t really accept demos although I do receive them). Also my focus on more experimental forms of ambient music is quite different compared with what is released mostly these days. Take for example Jos Smolders his release The Drone Gnome. It really has something to add to the whole drone experience.

QRD – How has your physical location affected your label?

Sietse – I don’t think there is an effect by me living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I guess if I had been in another city over here I would still try to do the same stuff.

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

Sietse – Running a label actually didn’t really affect my music listening experience. It might rather be the other side around.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Sietse – Don’t send me one without contacting me first, because I actually don’t want any demos. I will ask a musician if he/she wants to do something. Though, sometimes a demo does slip through & I do give everything a listening session. Lucky enough this has brought me some great stuff among loads of rubbish.

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

Sietse – I hear a lot of new music on the internet. I scroll around on quite a few forums & social media networks. Through this you get in contact with like-minded people & musicians.

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

Sietse – I hope they like the things I have released, but honestly I have never done any research of this kind. I know there are a few people who have bought about every release so far, but what they think about the label…no clue.

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

Sietse – So far I have sold the most of the Ubeboet vinyl Archival. This is probably because it got the most attention & isn’t a CD-R release. But I still would love to sell some more of those. It is a lovely record & really deserves more attention.

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

Sietse – Most important for me was the step going from CD-Rs to vinyl (& normal CDs) so that makes the Ubeboet release really special to me. Besides that I think it is the most lovely release so far, even while I like the others a lot.

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

Sietse – If I like the music it is a good start. Further people should be nice & not too arrogant.

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

Sietse – Arrogance & crazy demands. I hope this never happens though. & of course if I don’t like their new music anymore it is also an end of the story.

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

Sietse – That I like the music on it a lot. & so far they all experiment with ambient & drone sounds in some form. In the future this will change, because I want to release more experimental folk oriented music.

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?

Sietse – Actually, not too much. I want the musicians to have total freedom. For the Ubeboet album, though, I did pay for mastering. But I guess for the future I might have to work out something for that with the musicians. Especially if they have special wishes.

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

Sietse – Only for the Ubeboet I wasn’t involved. It was only me saying, “Yeah, that’s something I really like, well done guys.” All the others had my involvement either by making it myself or giving out ideas for what I would love to see. This last happened with the Rose & Sandy CD, which Michel van Henten made artwork for. He is a friend of mine who does some amazing art with wood, but also can draw very lovely.

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

Sietse – Always too long, but I can’t tell how long exactly. This changes with every release. It depends on the people I work with (record plants, artwork pressing) & my money.

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

Sietse – It never happened, so I don’t know about that.

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

Sietse – Help promoting their music & tell everyone to go buy the album.

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

Sietse – I would love to release music by Thomas Köner in the future & I think someday I will actually be able to do so. Don’t really see a reason why not. & my other big wish might already be arranged even (but I can’t tell too much about it now).

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

Sietse – So far only received one demo which gave me that feeling (which was after I decided to go for vinyl or CD & not CD-R anymore). I told the musician I liked the music & suggest him to contact another label more specialized in the kind of music he was doing.

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

Sietse – So far I have financed everything, which makes the artist just get a small amount. This might change in the future, but haven’t really thought about it too much. Maybe I will ask musicians in the future to pay for mastering of the music.

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

Sietse – Musicians get 15% of the copies of an album. They can do with it what they want.

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

Sietse – Contracts are so big business. So far it has always been handshake deals. Moving Furniture Records is all on a hobby scale at the moment. The future might see changes in that.

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

Sietse – What?

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

Sietse – Of course I encourage people to play live, but it is up to them. If they want to stay a studio project, that is fine for me also. Though, it is easier to promote releases with acts that play live.

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

Sietse – I actually have done both. I do some promotion myself & have worked with a nice promotion company in Germany. They did a great job so far.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Sietse – I send out an occasional mail, run a Facebook page which gets updated regularly & there is a Twitter account which people can follow. (http://www.twitter.com/MovingFurniture)

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

Sietse – That would be fun to have, but no. Moving Furniture Records isn’t really big enough to have that kind of promotion.

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

Sietse – It is just me running everything.

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

Sietse – I send out emails & talk with them when I visit them. But in this process I am still learning.

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

Sietse – There aren’t many radio stations who play the kind of music that I release. The few I do know I got in contact with a few times.

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

Sietse – Sending out promos, both digital as well as physical. Further I have a few in contact through Twitter.

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

Sietse – That is a bit of the same as magazines & websites. In these days blogs are often as good & as reliable a source as a magazine. Though you do have to make choices.

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

Sietse – I haven’t used any paid advertisements so far, though depending on the magazine I think in most cases it has no real use. I myself ignore almost all ads in magazines.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Sietse – Getting it out to the shops I guess. But most distros I work with are actually “normal” webshops who sell mostly to normal customers.

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

Sietse – Depends on how much I think I can sell & the medium it will be on. Eventually I still pay it all from my usual income, so that brings a huge limitation.

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

Sietse – Depends on the type of release. For vinyl I use CD-R & digital promos, for CDs I will use normal promos & digital. I try to limit the physical promos as much as possible because of it is a very pricey business. But some zines really only want normal promos (where they have a point of course).

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

Sietse – Nope.

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

Sietse – My own music, but that is not on the Moving Furniture Records website at this moment.

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

Sietse – I make less music myself now.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Sietse – In the new year I am actually planning to release my first normal CD & I am also working on a split LP with my friend Staplerfahrer. This might be released as a split between our labels.

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

Sietse – I have asked some people to do more music releases for me in the future. Like Christopher McFall who has done a CD-R now, but for whom I want to do a vinyl release in the future.

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

Sietse – I try to involve as little as possible in the artistic process. This is for me a very important thing. The only thing I say is “yes” or “no” on if I will release it or not.

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

Sietse – I try not to think about it too much. Sadly I haven’t managed to see a return of investment on the Ubeboet vinyl. What I try to do about this is dropping the wholesale price a bit so more shops are interested. Hope this works so I will at least get covered for the costs I paid.

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

Sietse – No, don’t really worry about it too much. Though, maybe I should look into it. With a name like this you might end up somewhere between all the furniture shops & such (they even spam me sometimes that they want to take my product in their shop. Love that idea, but when I reply I never get a serious answer back. Hahaha.).

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

Sietse – Haven’t been in business for so long now so I can’t really say, but I have been looking into different pressing plants & artwork developers & such. This is probably the best to lower costs.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Sietse – No.

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

Sietse – Vinyl has never really been away, though it is more back at this moment. Cassettes, I don’t know. I have the feeling it is a combination of factors that bring them back. Some people really love the format because it is so cute, while others use it more for nostalgic feelings or being all hipster about things.

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

Sietse – Yeah, I think the physical release is a very important thing. Eventually people still want to feel, smell, & caress a product. The music experience is so much different if you actually have to turn over a lovely slice of black vinyl.

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

Sietse – It is sad but necessary. I have done it myself & still a release of 200 vinyls or 300 CDs isn’t much either. I wish I could do a release of 1000 vinyls, but the truth is that at this moment I will never be able to sell that many.

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

Sietse – At some point I do understand it, but on the other hand it is kind of sad. I would rather see a proper release that eventually ends up in the shops.

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

Sietse – I hope in the future things will be available for streaming in programs like Spotify & that people are happy enough with that. But I do not mind people get some things for free like downloads either. As long as they understand that if they don’t buy a CD or LP that someday there won’t be any new music.

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

Sietse – Nothing. I am not against piracy & file trading. Here the above applies well enough. As long as people understand musicians & labels must be paid to keep on going.

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

Sietse – Can’t really think of anything.

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

Sietse – If I don’t have any money I can’t go on with releasing music. & when I don’t feel any fun in it any more it might also stop very fast.

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

Sietse – Try to get a good distro.

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

Sietse – Labels & musicians can make the most by selling as much as possible by themselves without anyone in between. This goes for physical & download sales. If this will change in the future? I don’t know. The only other option for musicians is to play live as much as possible, but it is an illusion that you will make enough money with this in the scene where I am playing. This is only for the happy few.

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

Sietse – If you are on a label in general you are taken much more serious as a musician. Also labels do promotional work for an artist.

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?

Sietse – Actually I think places such as Bandcamp & SoundCloud have a great potential, as well as Spotify. If you combine those with social media such as Facebook, you do get quite far already.

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

Sietse – I hope that in 20 years people will remember Moving Furniture Records for a lot of lovely music that they still listen to.

Follow-up interview