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QRD #47 - Record Label Owner Interview Series
about this issue
Label Owner Interviews with:
Turned Word
Denovali Records
Hand/Eye & Dark Holler
Unread Records & Tapes
Artizan Music
Auricular Records
Fake Four Inc.
Gizeh Records
Reverb Worship
Cohort Records
Fedora Corpse Recordings
Basses Frequences
Velvet Blue Music
Three One G
Bad Elk
Compost & Height 
Dreamland Recordings
Fan Death
Public Guilt
Wantage USA
At War With False Noise
Powertool Records
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
QRD - Advertise
Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Cerebus TV
Silber Kickstarter
Record Label Owner Interview with C. Fischer of Unread Records
January 2011
City:  Omaha/Chicago/Lancaster/Philly/Roswell/Alpharetta/Baltimore
Artists Roster: Simon Joyner, Chauchat, Kids of the Atomic Age, Charlie McAlister, etc.
Websites: www.unread-records.com

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

C. – Beginnings are fuzzed & flawed, but around 1994 I started dubbing cassette tapes to pass around & leave in awkward places.…

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

C. – Packing groceries at a giant supermarket.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

C. – I think we are up to #107 although 4 or 5 past releases never made it past the conceptual stage. Maybe more. I would say around 100 releases. Most kept in print...

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

C. – Well, that would just depend. I am not about flooding any market, but I do have a backburner of items I think should see the light of day... & they all probably will in good time. Unlimited monetary funds would skew perspectives.…

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

C. – I probably work on it way too much. Most of my day job is filled with daydreaming. I don’t know if that counts as work or not... then I probably put in a good 3 hours after work a night.  I wouldn’t mind just staying home all day & working.  That would be just fine.

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

C. – The folks I have met throughout the years.  Really.  Good people.

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

C. – Not much surprisingly. I still enjoy & am motivated. I like boxing shit up.

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

C. – Emailing... sorry... but I don’t really enjoy being on the computer. & most of how it all works these days has to do with being on the computer.  I would just stick to writing real letters, but people rarely respond anymore.…

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

C. – Shrimper / Catsup Plate / Sing, Eunuchs! / Flannel Banjo... too many to list.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

C. – Ho-made. Correspondence. Breathing.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

C. – I have moved around quite a lot.  Seems once feet are planted & things get going, I have to uproot, which makes for communication breakdown.…

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

C. – Sure I do.  Always will.  Probably.  Hearing too much, but not enough.  Need balances.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

C. – Feel free.  But the plate is full.  Be more human.

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

C. – Word of mouth.  Phonebook.  Newsprint.

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

C. – You tell me?

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

C. – The folks who play outside of their bedrooms tend to sell a bit more.

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

C. – Everything put out is by artists I admire.  So I am glad to just take part in all/any of it.

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

C. – Spontaneity.  Flares.  Juice.

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

C. – Punches in the face.

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?

C. – I would say most artists are open for suggestions... but I’m no one to be compromising the statements.

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

C. – I try to consider myself a visual artist, so I especially like working with that end of the deal.  But again, it’s not really up to me. I try to give my 2 cents & be involved for sure.…

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

C. – Depends on many factors.  Mostly cash in hand versus chunk of dirt in hand.

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

C. – Usually broken up years before the actual release gets going.

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

C. – Eat right, exercise, worship.

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

C. – Sounds from the Mariana Trench.

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

C. – Make less.  Give away.  Leave under tree.  Send off to oblivion.

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

C. – Contracts drafted from verbal yelling.  Turned into the state department & treasury handles the rest.

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

C. – Artists make their own profits.

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

C. – Contract is authorized, crumpled into ball, & placed into hand. Handshake firmly delivered.

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

C. – Don’t know what that means.

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

C. – Oh yeah, getting artists out in front of a crowd is encouraged.  It usually falls apart quickly though.

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

C. – In house.  Because.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

C. – Starting in 2011 - paper mailing.  Write today for newsletter subscription.…

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

C. – Kinda.  There are a lot of people in dark corners of the world attempting to spread the word.  I tell them the word to spread... they may or may not.

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

C. – One.  One. 

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

C. – Write letter.  Send promo.

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

C. – Write letter.  Send promo.

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

C. – Write letter.  Send promo.

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

C. – Write email.  Send promo.

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

C. – It works both ways.  Doesn’t it?  Push & pull.  Pull & push.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

C. – To advertise.  Lift bricks off my back.

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

C. – Roll a 6-sided die.  Multiply.

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

C. – 3 percent.

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

C. – Yes.  Lots.  Shirts.  Paintings.  Experimental pickles, meat pies.  Pretty much anything.  If you want it I will make it for you.

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

C. – From a select few.  Yes.

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

C. – Probably much more than I know.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

C. – Kinda.

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

C. – This is lost on me.

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

C. – Once.  Last year.  Will probably do again in another decade.…

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

C. – Not in particular.

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

C. – Experimented with making my own magnetic tapes from scratch.  Invested in a large quantity of rum & caustic soda.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

C. – Not in the least.

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

C. – Not for everyone.

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

C. – I think the act of buying a physical product makes some real sense.  But then again I am not the smartest person in the world.  Consuming is consuming regardless... I barely know how to download something.  So I may not be the best person to speak with about that.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?

C. – I try to avoid it.  But if the margins are slim, you can always re-press.

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

C. – This makes sense to me.  For some formats.

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

C. – I am not the one to ask.  Ask the artist.

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

C. – I don’t delve into that too much, although I know you can probably find just about anything on this vast internet... it’s pretty petty & cheap, but may have its advantages in the long run?  I do nothing.  I just stay seated.

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

C. – Flipping music like flipping a house.

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

C. – Everyone gave up all at once.

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

C. – Same advice I got.  Get it to anyone who is interested.

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

C. – Spreading the word by playing shows.  Salary caps.  Abandoning all hope.

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

C. – Most artists are no businessmen.  & most businessmen are no artists.  Some artists don’t even think they are artists.  Other artists have to tell them they are. & sometimes the businessman will buy you lunch.

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?

C. – I would have no real clue.  Pop up ads.

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

C. – Dying a slow death & rattling the chains with a wimper.

QRD – Anything else?

C. – Thank you.

Follow-Up Interview