Owner Interview with Mark Beazley of Trace Recordings
Name: Mark Beazley
QRD – When & why did you start your label?
Mark – In 2003. I was signed, as an artist, to Too Pure Records & after I left them I was encouraged to start my own label, mainly to release my own material. After the first two releases, I had a break until 2007 & since then I’ve been trying to keep it going.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Mark – All my own money & this has always been the case.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Mark – 15.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Mark – 2 physical, 4 or 5 digital.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Mark – It depends on what needs to be done. I do all the mastering, print layouts, press releases, everything pretty much; so sometimes 20 hours or more. I’d like to do it full time.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Mark – Making the artists happy with everything.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?
Mark – Not really. I’d like to somehow still try & create a bigger platform for the music & that’s what keeps me going.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Mark – I’m not sure any of it is a waste of my time. Chasing money perhaps, but then times are tight for everyone.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Mark – Lo Recordings, Authorised Version, Bio_H0p.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Mark – Being a bookkeeper & a musician. I enjoy paperwork, spreadsheets, etc & it’s important to figure out the business side & get your books in order. & with being a musician I’d like to think I understand a little bit of what an artist is looking for when it comes to having their music released.
QRD – What makes you label special & unique?
Mark – The bulk of all sales come directly to me, through mail-outs to folk who have previously bought music from the label or past Rothko releases.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Mark – Not at all.
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Mark – I think I enjoy music more.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Mark – I’m not accepting demos anymore. The label is now primarily for the artists who are already on the label. Sorry.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Mark – I usually see them live or know their work already.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Mark – Word of mouth, reviews in the press, radio play.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Mark – The first one, Rothko & BLK w/BEAR. Titled Wish For A World Without Hurt. I think it still defines to this day what I’m trying to do with Trace.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Mark – The main things are drive & not being vague. I can’t work with folk who are flaky.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Mark – Flakiness.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Mark – Outright individuality & everyone is purely following their own path.
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?
Mark – At the end of the day, the artist has to be 100% happy. That rises above all else. Some of them let me master their work & I can do the artwork layouts for them too. But, as far as artwork goes, that is the domain of the artist. If I’m not sure of a mix, or a particular track, I’ll say so.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Mark – It has to fit. But, again, it has to be the artist’s wish.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Mark – If the album is all done, artwork, mastered, I’ll send it off to manufacture that week & then I make it available the second I have copies back from the manufacturer. But for physical distribution, we have a two-month lead-time here in the UK; so, it’s available from day one from the label, or two months down the line in the shops.
QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Mark – Not at all. If it’s a good album, it’s a good album. I’ll still put it out. It actually happened with The Slow Life, but it didn’t stop the album from doing well.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Mark – Just be themselves.
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Mark – The next Radiohead album.
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Mark – Make a super limited edition, 100 copies.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Mark – For physical, I cover all costs of manufacture/press/etc personally. I try to keep costs down by doing the mastering & print layouts.
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Mark – For physical, 50/50 after I recoup costs; for digital, 75% to the artist.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Mark – Handshake, most of the times a virtual one.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?
Mark – Some of them, yes, but that’s a brand new development for me at the moment; so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. 75/25 in the artist’s favour. & the deal is for just three years, then all copyright reverts to the artist.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Mark – Not that important.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Mark – I’m going to start dong events next year, hopefully with a bit of help.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Mark – On a very occasional basis. I never spam. & only send out emails when there is a release.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Mark – Not applicable.
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Mark – It’s just me.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Mark – N/A.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?
Mark – They know me from being in Rothko & a couple of stations in the UK still very graciously give me their support.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?
Mark – Same as above.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?
Mark – Not applicable.
QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?
Mark – I tried advertising & it had ZERO impact.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?
Mark – Just to make people know that I have releases available & to get it out to as many stores as they can.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Mark – Everything is 350 copies or less.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Mark – Maybe 30 to 50 copies, sometimes more, sometimes less. I.E none.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Mark – No.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Mark – Yes, the Rothko back catalogue, which I bought from Lo Recordings & Bip_H0p.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Mark – It’s made me want to do more music, more collaborations.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?
Mark – That’s why I started Trace & I have a few things coming out very soon.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Mark – I think everyone on the label likes the other artists material, we all live in different parts of the globe, so it’s not that easy to get together for a chat & a drink.
QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Mark – Again, I wouldn’t work with anyone who wasn’t a singular talent with total artistic integrity. The viability bit doesn’t really apply. If we can break even, that’s a bonus.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Mark – I just need to break even.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Mark – No.
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Mark – Doing all the mastering & artwork/print layouts. & mainly doing the press too. Saved me a fortune!
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Mark – Absolutely not.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Mark – No. Vinyl here in the UK is doing really well & a lot of folks are talking about cassettes again. Who knows!
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Mark – I think we have to embrace both, or in fact everything.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Mark – I’m all for it. I’ve done a few & they’ve been well received.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Mark – I’ve done this also, with a boxed release, when an order comes in, I’ll put it all together.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Mark – Some I think. As tasters for what it is to come. & maybe to draw them to the rest of the catalogue.
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Mark – I’ve been in touch with a couple of sites, but you could spend your whole life trying to deal with this issue. I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it. It hurts the small labels a lot. Even 15 to 20 downloads could mean the difference between a label breaking even or not.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Mark – I have no idea, sorry.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Mark – Me dying.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Mark – Be yourself. Love what you do, & love the people you work with.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Mark – Through the hope of getting some synch.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Mark – We can give them a place where folks can find them. Even if it’s on a tiny scale. It’s all about cross-pollination.
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?
Mark – I don’t know about any of this kind of stuff, sorry.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Mark – Great music with no compromise &
for standing outside of the crowd.