Label Owner Interview with EFK of Hikikomori Records
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.
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.
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,
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