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QRD #47 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
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Record Label Owner Interview with EFK of Hikikomori Records
January 2011
Name: EFK
Label: Hikikomori Records
Artists Roster: STØJ, KARMAKUMULATOR, GENTLE JUNK CO., ORDER OF THE BEAK, LUMINOUS, NRYY, HAIKU FUNERAL, MMW (Ben Miller, Roger Miller & Matt Weston), HEIMAT, HYPERACTIVE ORCHESTRA.
Websites: www.hikikomori-records.com
     
QRD – When & why did you start your label?

EFK – 2008. I wanted to release my solo EP (STØJ - EvilPoliTics1) & I thought it would be best if I did it myself. I always wanted to learn how a record label works & it was also a natural extension of what I have been doing all my life. Playing & listening to music. 

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

EFK – From my day job.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

EFK – 8.

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

EFK – Not too many. 3-4 is my limit. Less is more.

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

EFK – It depends. Sometimes I work many hours & sometimes I do nothing at all. I concentrate on some other things. I would definitely like to spend some more working for label.

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

EFK – Getting positive response from artists & fans. 

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

EFK – I take it easier these days. I have learned a few things.

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

EFK – I don’t think any time spent on running the label is wasted, but some things are less interesting & take time that I would like to spend on more creative things.

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

EFK – There are too many, but I would like to mention a few small labels I like & have had positive experiences working with: Listen Loudest from Croatia, Circumanalis Records from Croatia, Guranje S Litice from Croatia, CORE:BACK Records from France, Toxic Industries from Italy, Dumpsterscore Home Recordings from USA, etc.

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

EFK – I didn’t have any previous experiences, but I knew I could do it learning by doing it. 

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

EFK – Music.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

EFK – Not so much for now. Denmark is an expensive country to run label from.

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

EFK – Yes I do. I still listen & explore all kinds of music as I always used to.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

EFK – I don’t have any. Artists are welcome to send me demo CDs, MP3s, etc. & if I like it & have time & money I will release it.

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

EFK – Normally artists are contacting me & asking if I would be interested in releasing their work. If I like it I release it. It’s simple as that. 

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

EFK – I don’t know. Probably through bands I release. I’m also trying to promote the label as much as I can. 

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

EFK – Haiku Funeral - Assassination In The Hashish Cathedral.  I think there are many different reasons. First of all it is a very good album & we have done a lot of promotion. William Kopecky who is playing bass is also known in progressive circles & there are obviously a number of people who are following what he is doing.

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

EFK – First 2 releases. STØJ - EvilPoliTics1 & KARMAKUMULATOR vs. GENTLEJUNK CO. - Obstetric Amenorrhoea. But I like all the releases & they are all important & special to me.

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

EFK – Their music & personality.  

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

EFK – I haven’t experienced it yet. Probably their personality & unrealistic expectations. 

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

EFK – All releases are printed in very limited editions (30-50). 

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?

EFK – It’s different. Sometimes I get a finished album & I only have to release it & sometimes I’m involved in mastering, track selection, artwork, etc.
 
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?

EFK – I’m trying to get involved as much as I can because I have always been interested in graphic art, photography, & design. Besides playing music & running the label I also do a lot of graphic art like stencils on canvas, DIY synth designs, photography, etc. But if an artist has a specific idea & I can see that they know what they are doing I let them decide.  

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

EFK – It depends how organised we are. 2 months.

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

EFK – I haven’t experienced it yet, but I think it will not have any effect. I have released some demo tapes from Order Of The Beak who stopped playing some 15 years ago. I didn’t have any problem with that. I liked their music & I thought it should be released. I also spent a lot of time on remastering of tracks that were recovered from old tapes. 

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

EFK – I wish they would promote their releases as much as they can.

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

EFK – There are too many. 

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

EFK – I will release it! I’m trying not to speculate too much about the economy. Then again, if I know that artist will not sell many copies & I don’t have money to finance the release I have to say no or release it in very limited edition.  

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

EFK – Label finances everything. 

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

EFK – Unfortunately I don’t make any profits, but I would like to be able to pay artists because they really deserve it. Even if we made some profit it would not be much. 

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

EFK – Handshake deals!!! No contracts!!! I don’t own any rights. Artists do. They are free to do whatever they want with their music. 

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

EFK – No.

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

EFK – I think it is more important for artists to play live as much as they can.

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

EFK – All promotion is done by the label & artists.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

EFK – Homepage. MySpace. Facebook. Forums, etc.

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

EFK – No. I operate alone. 

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

EFK – I’m the only person handling everything & I could use some help.

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

EFK – Nothing. For now all releases are sold from our homepage & discogs.com.

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

EFK – I send them promo CDs if they are interested.

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

EFK – If I like what they do I send them promo CDs of new releases.

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

EFK – Nothing.

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

EFK – I don’t do advertising. It’s too expensive for this size of label, but I would like to be able to support some of the magazines & websites I like.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

EFK – I don’t have any distributors.

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

EFK – I only release limited editions of 30-50 copies.

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

EFK – 5-20%.

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

EFK – No, but I would like to. I have some ideas.

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

EFK – No.

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

EFK – It has not changed anything at all, but sometimes I have less time to work on my own music.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

EFK – Yes. I did it & I will do it again.

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

EFK – Nothing.

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

EFK – We don’t have these kinds of conversations.

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

EFK – Very rarely, but I know that I’m constantly losing money.

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

EFK – Not too much. 

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

EFK – Nothing worth mentioning.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

EFK – Not yet.

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

EFK – In my eyes they never went away.

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

EFK – It matters for me. I’m a music collector myself & I only collect physical releases. For the casual listener it doesn’t matter. I think they even prefer digital releases. 

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

EFK – That is reality for many underground labels & artists.  

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

EFK – I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it is a good idea. I assume CDR labels could save some money & space this way.

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

EFK – I don’t know. I put 1 minute previews of all tracks on the homepage & whole tracks on MySpace. 

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

EFK – Nothing, as long as they are not making a profit out of it. If people really like an album they will also buy it. When I was growing up in ex-Yugoslavia in late 1980s there were not so many possibilities to buy original records. We were exchanging tapes & they were very valuable. You had to know the right people & you had to make a lot of effort to get an album you wanted. I’m still nostalgic about those times. People really respected music & they were much more into it than today. MP3 blogs are fine as long as people are listening to what they are downloading. 

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

EFK – I don’t know.

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

EFK – I have considered it a few times. Money & time. 

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

EFK – Just do it if you are in it for music & can make a difference, but you have to expect a lot of hard work & you have to be prepared to invest some of your money. 

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

EFK – I don’t know. I’m trying not to speculate too much about money. But I think artists can make the most money by playing live & selling CDs & merchandise at concerts.

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

EFK – They are promoting the music so artists can concentrate on doing music.

QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups,
MP3.com, MySpace, Last), 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?

EFK – I don’t know. MySpace was a really good place to promote & discover new music, but it became too difficult to maintain because of they’re making some illogical & unpractical changes all the time. It also became too commercial. 

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

EFK – I don’t know, but I know I will have some nice memories. & who knows, maybe I will still be running the label.