Owner Interview with Stephen Judge of Second Motion Entertainment
Name: Stephen H Judge
Stephen – May 2008.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Stephen – Private investor & myself.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Stephen – Close to 30.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Stephen – 5-8.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Stephen – How many hours are in a week? I have no idea 55+.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Stephen – Working with my heroes, meeting great people & traveling across the world.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?
Stephen – Motivation has never changed.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Stephen – Drama.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Stephen – Yep Roc Records (worked there 7 years), Merge Records, Twin/Tone, Sub Pop, SST.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Stephen – I have a degree & years of experience in accounting in the music business for a distribution company & label, priceless experience.
QRD – What makes you label special & unique?
Stephen – It’s pretty much the artists & myself, so we have to be artist friendly. We know nothing else.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Stephen – It has not I can be anywhere with a laptop & phone.
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Stephen – Absolutely, it’s the reason I do this; I can’t listen to as much music as I want to because I’m too busy, but I get enough.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Stephen – I don’t accept unsolicited demos; just not enough time. Work more on getting out there & touring, developing a following, etc.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Stephen – Colleagues, travel, etc.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Stephen – Thru the bands I work with, publicity, touring, etc.
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Stephen – The Church, because they are a legendary band & have a loyal hardcore following.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Stephen – The current reissues of the Church catalog, Heyday & Starfish are two of my favorites records of all time, so pretty special to have them on my label.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Stephen – Intelligence, work ethic, realistic expectations.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Stephen – Ego, drama, poor work ethic, substance issues.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Stephen – Good 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?
Stephen – Not involved I let them decide. It’s their music.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Stephen – Pretty involved, but again it’s their record so it’s their call. I comment where appropriate & where asked.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Stephen – It varies 4 months to 2 years just depends
QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Stephen – It has never happened to me, but if it did obviously it would be a problem. I avoid situations like that & try to work with bands that are obviously in this for a career.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Stephen – I wish some would tour more often, but most are fine. I wouldn’t ask them to do anything different.
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Stephen – U2.
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Stephen – Tell them exactly that; I like it but I am not sure. Finances are just as important, both have to work or it’s not a smart move.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Stephen – It varies, usually 50/50
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Stephen – 50/50 in most cases.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Stephen – Written contracts always.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?
Stephen – In most cases no, but it varies
only if the band needs it & wants it. I would never assume or ask them
to, in some cases bands need administrative help with it so I can do it
when that is in place. I always tell a band to keep their publishing, but
that always requires work.
Stephen – It’s critical, most professional bands understand this.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Stephen – Both, just depends on the scope & budget.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Stephen – Facebook, emails, twitter; you know, the usual stuff.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Stephen – Yes. They put up posters, post to Facebook, help manage blogs, SXSW parties, etc.
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Stephen – Just me.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Stephen – I worked in stores for 10 years & ran a distribution company for another 7 years so I know most of the stores. Don’t need to worry about that, find a good distributor & you will have that covered. If you wanted to take it further & felt like it was worth your money & time you can go to conventions like NARM, which I’ve been to in the past; but best to just find good distribution.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?
Stephen – Hire a good promoter, have a
direct relationship, attend CMJ, things like that.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?
Stephen – I own a magazine (Blurt), so this is easy. Same thing just stay in touch, send them stuff they want, meet them at conventions, whatever.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?
Stephen – Same as above, also have an intern on this.
QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?
Stephen – Its promotion & awareness.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?
Stephen – To distribute records.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Stephen – Just knowing the marketplace, how many the last record sold, being aware of how things are going, the distribution companies will help with this if you don’t know.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Stephen – It depends, smaller records/developing artists you can have more promos than you actually sell of the records. For larger records they can sometime sell themselves so you can be more picky about promos & control it. So no real answer to this.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Stephen – Yes, t-shirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses, books, painting, whatever. Anything & everything.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Stephen – Yes.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Stephen – I have no idea. I am not an artist; I am a business person.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Stephen – Have the bands tour together, play showcases, common denominator is that I like to work with good bands, who are great live & just good genuine people, put them together & they will like each other & get along & support each other. Fans too, creates a community.
QRD – What‚s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Stephen – Every conversation is different I don’t know.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Stephen – Every time. Every day.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Stephen – Yes, it’s important to have lots of traffic & be up on search engines. I don’t worry about it too much; if I create good content it will come.
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Stephen – Spend less money.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Stephen – No.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Stephen – Cassettes maybe, but vinyl no. Vinyl will never die. It never has. It’s not like it returned; it was always here.
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Stephen – It depends. Every situation is different, both are important.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Stephen – If it serves a purpose, then sure.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Stephen – It’s great for live shows.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Stephen – You have to limit it to an extent, but I’m all for it if it has a specific purpose.
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Stephen – Doesn’t bother me. It sucks, but what are you going to do? As long as you have good music, hopefully some people will buy it too.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Stephen – I don’t really know, can’t say I’ve seen this other than maybe at some major labels where they just sign a band & then never put a record out or stop taking their phone calls, doesn’t make sense to me.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Stephen – If everyone just stopped buying records, then obviously it would have to stop.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Stephen – Be sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Study accounting, don’t be naïve.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Stephen – TV/film placements, merchandise, publishing, etc.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Stephen – Depends on the definition, someone still has to bank roll things, work the publicity, marketing, etc. Records don’t sell on their own.
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?
Stephen – It changes constantly & will continue to.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Stephen – Good music.