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QRD #47 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
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Label Owner Interviews with:
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Auricular Records
Fake Four Inc.
Gizeh Records
Reverb Worship
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Basses Frequences
Velvet Blue Music
Three One G
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Fan Death
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At War With False Noise
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Record Label Owner Interview with Justin Pearson of Three One G
January 2011
Name: Justin Pearson
Label: Three One G
City: San Diego, California
Artists Roster: Antioch Arrow, Arab On Radar, Asterisk*, Black Cat no. 13, Black Dice, The Blood Brothers, Camera Obscura, Cattle Decapitation, The Chinese Stars, The Crimson Curse, Das Oath, Ex Models, Fast Forward, Festival Of Dead Deer, Geronimo, Get Hustle, Ground Unicorn Horn, Head Wound City, Holy Molar, Jaks, Jenny Piccolo, The Locust, Love Life, Moving Units, Orthrelm, The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, Quintron, Rats Eyes, Some Girls, Spankorzo, Swing Kids, T Cells, Unbroken, Zs
Websites: www.threeoneg.com
Three One G's Leg Lifters 2010 Mix

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Justin – 1995 San Diego, CA

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

Justin – A combination of SSI, working odd jobs, & being a criminal.

QRD – How many releases have you put out? 

Justin – 60.

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

Justin – I don’t want to set goals like that for the fear of over saturating. Good things will come when the time is right.

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

Justin – Way too many hours. But what has to be done, has to be done.

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

Justin – Sharing what I feel is relevant art with the world. Doing things ourselves, on our terms. Also creating a progressive art community.

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

Justin – Sure, over the years they got more & more serious. Then in current times, we have been looking for ways to reinvent what we do, & making sure what we do is relevant.

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

Justin – Social networking sites.

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

Justin – Gravity, Discord, Skin Graft, Vinyl Communications, GSL, Vermiform, etc.

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

Justin – Playing in bands since I was 15 & working with labels that sucked was all I needed to get Three One G underway.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique? 

Justin – Awe, I’ll leave the ego boosting to the critics. To me, it is what it is? Family.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label? 

Justin – Being located in one specific city can be limiting, but San Diego has its fare share of creative elements so we reaped the benefits of that. I.E. Antioch Arrow, Holy Molar, Crimson Curse, Some Girls, Get Hustle, Rats Eyes, Swing Kids, Cattle Decapitation, Unbroken, etc. But also the fact that I was able to tour so much & meet artists all over who I ended up working with or putting music out by has really shaped the label over the years.

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

Justin – I have always enjoyed music from as early on in my life as I can remember. However, over the years, my taste or appreciation has been fine-tuned. Not sure that running a label has much to do with that; I think it’s more so understanding music & art that has made me have more of a specific taste.

QRD – What’s your demos policy? 

Justin – Family.

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

Justin – Typically they are friends, or we will tour together, or do a project together.

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

Justin – Beats me. I suppose in the past it was due to my affiliation to The Locust.

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

Justin – There are two, one is the Swing Kids “Discography”, which I suppose is due to a few factors, such as timing, members, & geographical location. The other is The Blood Brothers “March On Electric Children” which was due to the band signing to a major & getting a lot of attention & a rigorous tour schedule. But in recent years, the band took the LP from us & sold it to Epitaph, so it is not such a good seller at this point.

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

Justin – Almost all of what we have done is up to par with each other. There are some releases that have flaws, or restrictions in what we could afford to do, that make them less “important” in some respects. But over all, I appreciate every release we have done.

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

Justin – The people involved in the band or project.

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

Justin – Egos, unreasonable expectations, that sort of stuff.

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

Justin – There is not one thing in common with every release, thankfully.

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? 

Justin – It depends on the specific release. Sometimes we get the final product & have no involvement with production. Other times, we are there for the writing process, all the way until the product is released.

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

Justin – Again, it really depends on the album & the extent of the album. For the most part, we don’t have a common thread with our releases.

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

Justin – Again, it all depends on the packaging, the bands tour schedule, finances, etc. There is hardly set timelines with us.

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

Justin – It usually sucks.

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

Justin – Tour more often.

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

Justin – There was supposed to be a proper studio album by The Festival of Dead Deer that we wanted to do, but they were too messed up on drugs at the time. So we ended up releasing a live radio show they did since the band would never be able to function properly.

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

Justin – Release it.

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

Justin – Depends on the situation & the format as well as packaging of the release. As for royalties, we split everything 50/50 after costs are recouped.

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

Justin – Just answered that.

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

Justin – At first we had no contracts. But over time, we opted for contracts, just to make sure both parties are on the same page.

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

Justin – Nope.

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

Justin – Important for obvious reasons. However, we are not ones to encourage bands to do so.

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

Justin – Depends on the release & the budget.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase? 

Justin – Social networking sites, gossip, word of mouth, touring, email, random encounters.

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

Justin – Yes. They operate accurately. Sometimes slowly but you can’t be picky with free assistance.

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

Justin – 2 owners/shitworkers & 3 others who do specific things for the label.

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

Justin – Shopping at them & selling product as well.

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

Justin – Send promos.

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

Justin – Write to them via our publicist.

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

Justin – We don’t.

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

Justin – Not really.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors? 

Justin – To distribute, sell, push, & rep our products.

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

Justin – Factor in pre-sales after we put in our initial pressing order.

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

Justin – Depends on the release, the format, the packaging, & the band’s activity.

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

Justin – We do, but it’s typically limited edition stuff.

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

Justin – Yes.

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

Justin – I loose more money than if I didn’t run a label.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material? 

Justin – I do.

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

Justin – For Three One G, we strive on a sense of community or family. It’s important that we have a more personal relationship with the artists & bands we work with.

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

Justin – Those conversations are always different & always changing with the times.

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

Justin – We don’t.

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

Justin – Nope. But we should.

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

Justin – Quit paying ourselves, moved into a smaller office, & things of that nature.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead? 

Justin – Album as in CDs & LPs? If that is the question, no. Vinyl seems to be making a “come back.”

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

Justin – I don’t really care if it’s a fad to be honest. I prefer vinyl & always will.

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

Justin – Yes. The Art, lyrics, & other physical aspects all accompany the music.

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

Justin – Sometimes it’s cool. But I also think that it is a drag to not be able to get the music. So where a limited color vinyl run might be something we would do, making an album unavailable to latecomers is not something that we want to do.

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

Justin – I have no idea what that means.

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

Justin – You need to define “content” for me to answer this.

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

Justin – Give them a thumbs down & just hope they use lube in the future.

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

Justin – Where shall I start? Releasing stuff based on the fact that it could sell well, but not really getting behind the music, hence only making the label a thing about business & not art. Not paying bands royalties is another thing. Censoring or limiting art.

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

Justin – Illegal downloading.

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

Justin – I wouldn’t.

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

Justin – Beats me.

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

Justin – Well it depends on the label & the artist. Labels that I personally look(ed) up to made the bands relevant & vice versa.

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? 

Justin – Not to sound like a prick, but I honestly don’t pay attention to internet hotspots. I think with the internet it has made musicians & their music lazy & boring. There is an element lost by convenience & this sort of blogasphere attitude where things are only important & relevant for a moment in time.

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

Justin – I don’t know that any of us, the people who run the label or the artists on it care about what people will remember them for. In my opinion, we all do it for ourselves & that is one of the main things in making legitimate art.

QRD – Anything else? 

Justin – Thanks for the interest in Three One G.

Follow-Up Interview