Label Owner Interview with Andrew Maitai of Powertool Records
Name: Andrew Maitai
QRD When & why did you start your label?
Andrew I started the label around 2001, mainly as a vehicle for the band I played drums in. The band came to an end, Powertool continued on.
QRD Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Andrew My savings.
QRD How many releases have you put out?
QRD How many releases would you like to do a year?
QRD How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Andrew I live & breathe Powertool Records.
QRD What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Andrew Creating a finished product. Seeing an act progress & evolve.
QRD How have your motivations for having a label changed?
Andrew No. I am driven to do what I do.
QRD What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Andrew Email is very time-consuming... but necessary.
QRD What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Andrew Flying Nun, Kranky, Matador, Merge, Drag City, Parasol.
QRD What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Andrew I ran my own business selling Powertools for many years. Different industry, same rules.
QRD What makes you label special & unique?
Andrew Great music.
QRD How has your physical location effected your label?
Andrew We are on the other side of the world in a small isolated country of only four million people. Getting to the large markets is extremely expensive.
QRD Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Andrew Yes. Although I no longer have the time to search & discover new music as a fan like I used to. I seldom buy new music anymore. I am obsessed with my own releases.
QRD Whats your demos policy?
Andrew I listen to them all... really, I do.
QRD How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Andrew Artists approach me. I also run a regular weekly gig called the Indie Club that is designed to help promote new bands. I also tour a lot & get to see lots of new bands.
QRD How do most fans find out about your label?
Andrew From my live gigs I promote.
QRD Whats been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Andrew Surf Friends... because it has been well promoted & the SF have worked hard.
QRD What release that youve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Andrew Joed Out - Weirder Than Looney Tunes. I played drums in that band & those songs are very dear to me. Im also very proud of that album.
QRD What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Andrew Good songs, great live show, & a positive can do attitude. Commitment.
QRD What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Andrew Bad attitude, laziness, & dishonesty.
QRD What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Andrew Great music.
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?
Andrew Not very. I offer my opinion, but my artists have complete artistic control.
QRD How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Andrew Only if they require help.
QRD How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Andrew Two to three months. Its important to get some promo done before the release date.
QRD If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Andrew If they are unable to play or do interviews to promote, then I will very likely reduce the quantity I manufacture.
QRD What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Andrew Give a 100% commitment.
QRD Whats a record youd like to put out that youll never be able to?
Andrew A project written/performed by me. I dont have the time to commit.
QRD If you really like a band, but arent sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Andrew Do a short run release. My philosophy behind Powertool has always been to make good music available regardless of its commercial viability.
QRD How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Andrew The artist covers recording costs. I cover the manufacturing costs.
QRD How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Andrew 50/50. Our relationship is one of partnership.
QRD Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Andrew Handshake deals.
QRD Do you take a cut of a bands publishing?
QRD How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Andrew In these times, its more important than ever. I organise tours, I go with them, tour manage. Provide resources like vehicles & equipment.
QRD Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Andrew I do all promotions in house;
mostly because of a lack of budget, but also to maintain control &
QRD How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Andrew Regular newsletters via email. Our fanzine... Drill Magazine. Our website. Facebook.
QRD Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Andrew I have helpers with the Indie Club. I pay them if we have a good night & of course buy them dinner, drinks, & give them CDs. I also have a loyal friend in Germany who promotes our music in Europe.
QRD How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Andrew I am mostly a one man band. With more people I could achieve so much more. Finding the right people, with the same attitude, dedication, & commitment who are willing to work for next to nothing is not easy.
QRD What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Andrew Record stores in this country are dying. I have a strong relationship with my distributor.
QRD What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?
Andrew Regular contact. Touring is essential to build those relationships.
QRD What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?
Andrew Regularly send them review copies.
QRD What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?
Andrew Send them press releases & offer them free MP3s to check out our latest releases with the hope that they will request a copy to review.
QRD Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?
Andrew Adverts are a way to financially support magazines & websites.
QRD What is the job of your distributors?
Andrew To ensure a good relationship with record stores & to actively promote our releases to them.
QRD How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Andrew How active the artist is & how committed they are to promoting it.
QRD What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
QRD Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Andrew Would like to, but all my resources go into releases as that is my priority.
QRD Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Andrew Yes... through my retail shop & through the Indie Club shows I put on.
QRD How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Andrew It has stopped it. I enjoy playing with people, but dont have the time to commit.
QRD Ideally, would you release your own material?
QRD What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Andrew I get our bands to play together often.
QRD Whats your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Andrew It depends a lot on the artist. What they are trying to achieve. Often some bands think that their commitment ends at the point they finish their recording... they are tired & feel they need a rest. In reality the hard work is only just beginning. That is a common conversation I have.
QRD How often do you look at your return on investment & adjust your business model?
Andrew I recently changed my business model about eighteen months ago. Its less complicated, simpler, & a lot fairer. I am always thinking about how to improve my model.
QRD Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Andrew No... but I probably should.
QRD What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Andrew Bought a van. Live in a shitty warehouse. Put up with old, tired, slow computers.
QRD Do you think the album format is dead?
QRD Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Andrew Vinyl is important to collectors because of the superior packaging. People buying new vinyl normally already know & love the music they are buying so much that they want a quality product they can treasure & show off to their friends. Cassettes are a fad.
QRD Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Andrew It is important to have both. CDs are still the perfect piece of merchandise when touring... small, compact, beautifully packaged, & immediate.
QRD What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Andrew Good... in this day & age it is possible to make CDs to demand.
QRD What do you think of print on demand discs?
QRD How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Andrew The problem with free is that it has devalued music. If you pay for something you will very likely respect it. Im not a fan of giving music away for free.
QRD What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Andrew Its not normally a problem for us. In some respects they are spreading the music to new listeners. It is also something we have little control over so there is no point wasting time & energy worrying about it.
QRD Whats something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Andrew In this country there are many government grants that are given away to record companies to produce radio friendly hits. The result is a gravy train for mostly the majors, but also a number of money hungry independents. The unfortunate result is an industry full of mediocrity.
QRD What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Andrew If I died.
QRD What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Andrew First... ask yourself why you are doing this. You need to be totally committed & if that is the case it will take over your life. Do you really love the music you want to promote or is it just a cool job where you can make lots of money? For me, it is a lifestyle choice, something I am driven to do.
QRD Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Andrew From playing live & touring.
QRD Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Andrew Artists need committed labels to promote them. People that are passionate & have the contacts & experience to develop their musical careers.
QRD Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace, LastFM), but with MySpaces decline, what do you see as the place where normal people go to find out about & get excited by new music?
Andrew Nothing stays the same for long. The key is to keep up with everything & keep trying new models. Who knows what the music industry will be like in five years? At present Facebook is very important, as are bloggers.
QRD In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Andrew A true independent label that released great music without compromise. I want Powertool to leave a legacy & to inspire others to continue on my dream of making good music available.
69 Anything else?
Andrew I am interested in working with
like-minded labels in other territories. Maybe we could work together
to promote each releases? Maybe an exchange programme.