Label Owner Interview with Timo Alterauge of Denovali Records
Label: Denovali Records
City: Bochum & Hamburg, Germany
Artists Roster: numerous
QRD – When & why did you start your label?
Timo – We started the label in 2005. My labelmate & I organized shows together & had the idiotic idea to support people with little releases here & there as well.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Timo – We both saved it from other jobs.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Timo – Currently around 85.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Timo – We don’t fix goals or marks. It depends a lot on the artists. It’s in average around 14 to 18 per year.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Timo – Currently too much. Less.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Timo – You’re always meeting a lot of interesting people. The main part is maybe working with people you like & supporting their ideas.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Timo – Packing records sometimes can be really annoying.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Timo – I think we both like a lot of music released by Constellation, Kranky, Thrill Jockey, Important, or Type Records. In addition we really respect a lot of DIY labels because of their attitude.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Timo – Running a label is pretty easy. Everyone can do it.
QRD – What makes you label special & unique?
Timo – The artists we’re working with. Some listeners maybe also would mention the packaging & design of our records because we always try to put a lot of effort into this aspect.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Timo – It’s not important 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?
Timo – We’re still rather fans of the bands than label owners. No real changes.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Timo – We’re getting a lot. We’re listening to some which are coming with an interesting description. In the end we just once added a band because of a demo.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Timo – Seeing bands live, getting recommendations from friends, a member of a Denovali band starts a new good project, accidentally finding interesting new things via the internet. For us it’s first important to find a personal basis with the artists.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Timo – Recommendations from friends, via other Denovali artists, via the internet.
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Timo – Our friends Celeste from France... because they’re a lousy band.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Timo – Daddy loves all his children.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Timo – Their quality & a solid personal relationship. Most of the artists on the label became friends after a while.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Timo – Arrogance, ignorance, missing loyalty.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Timo – Hopefully more or less quality.
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?
Timo – David Guetta does this job for us.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Timo – This is a very important aspect for us. We’re conferring with the artists until there’s a satisfying solution for every involved party.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Timo – It’s a pretty quick process - just money sometimes is a barrier.
QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Timo – Our bands are loyal enough to finish them. If not we wouldn’t care.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Timo – Packing the records they’re selling on their own!
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Timo – Nothing specific....
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Timo – We’re releasing the record. Money isn’t an important aspect for us - the art counts. & we’re happy enough to have some really allegiant supporters.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Timo – The label pays everything.
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Timo – The system of paying depends on the artist. I think in the end it’s always 50/50.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Timo – We started with handshake deals -- because of several good reasons we're now doing more & more written contracts.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?
Timo – Yes. We're also supporting our artists with our own publishing department.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Timo – Touring definitely helps the artists & the label to sell more records - but we never would request a tour. If a band wants to do one we’re just there to help with the organisation.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Timo – It's all done in house for a while.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Timo – We’re riding the social network horses, newsletter, forums, love letters etc.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Timo – We hate street teams!
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Timo – We’re just the two people from the start. Beyond that the friend who does promotion & another friend helps with booking from time to time. Maybe one day our street team will work better - then we’re able to hire an employee.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Timo – We’re mailing with a few smaller ones. Our distributors take care of the rest. If a reader runs a store & likes what we’re releasing, feel free to contact us. We’re especially fans of smaller ones.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?
Timo – We like bloggers more than bigger zines -- they’re presenting records they like & mostly with more passion. In a lot of big zines the writers think they’re more important than the music.
QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?
Timo – The whole promotion system is a farce.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?
Timo – To bring the wax to the lovely fans of our artists.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Timo – We’re a result of our past experiences.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Timo – It depends on the artist.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Timo – Yes. We have some shirts, hoodies, prints etc. as well.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Timo – We’re running a mailorder beyond the label.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Timo – I’m still singing in the pedestrian area.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?
Timo – I don’t think so.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Timo – We’re doing a family meeting called Swingfest once a year. A lot of the artists know each other from other shows, touring, etc as well.
QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Timo – We’re rather talking about good films, music, & funny tour stories.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Timo – It runs in our blood everyday. Never. But it’s surely important to at least gain the invested money of every release back.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Timo – No.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Timo – Definitely not.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Timo – In some way... for some younger people collecting colored vinyl seems to be trendy.
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Timo – Vinyl > CD > ... > Mp3
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Timo – Ha-ha. We sometimes need to do them because some artists never will sell more than 100.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Timo – Idiotic. A person who (A) isn’t able to save the money for a release & (B) isn’t able to estimate how many records should be pressed shouldn’t start a label.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Timo – We’re sharing a lot of complete records for free.
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Timo – It’s sad that generation internet doesn’t appreciate art anymore. But this isn’t a music specific or art specific problem - you have the same development in other parts of society as well. But I don’t want to write a summary of humans’ ignorance over here.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Timo – A lot of aspects. From selling pseudo-christian records in Bible stores to presenting bands with glossy antic MySpace pictures to ringtones to tons of other things labels are trying to catch new listeners.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Timo – Lack of money.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Timo – You shouldn’t do it.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Timo – We don’t care.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Timo – Even if you today can find every band which once played in a hut in the middle of nowhere via the internet, a good label is still important as a loyal patron for the artist & as an anchor of quality for the listener.
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?
Timo – Back in the days (those days without the internet) there was this little group called real friends who didn’t know the Facebook “like” button. Maybe they could help out. If not maybe over here: www.denovali.com
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Timo – We’re happy if there still will be some people around who appreciate the sound of the artists we supported.
QRD – Anything else?
Timo – Thanks a lot for the long interview.