QRD - Current Issue   About QRD   QRD Archives
QRD #52 - Indie Label Interview Series
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
about this issue
Indie Label Owner Interviews:
Bar la Muerte
Cape & Chalice 
Dusty Medical Records 
Gilead Media
I Had An Accident
Listen Loudest
Low Point 
Prairie Fire Tapes
Saxwand Records 
Silent Media Projects 
Sloow Tapes
Tompkins Square
QRD - Advertise
Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Cerebus TV
Silber Kickstarter
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
I Had An Accident Records
Interview with Indie Label Owner Justin Bieler of I Had An Accident
June 2011
I Had An Accident Records

Name: Justin Bieler
Label: I Had An Accident Records
City: Annapolis, Maryland
Artists Roster: Walter Gross, Tenshun, Coyote Clean Up, Shh... This is A
Library, Tim Kinsella, Julia LaDense, FRKSE, Asiatic, Heart Heart Julia,
Andrew Felix, Worthless Waste
Websites: www.ihadanaccidentrecords.com

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Justin – The label started in August of 2006 when Justin & Seamus - two friends - were now living on opposite sides of the US (Oregon & Massachusetts respectively).  The two friends wanted to find a project that would bind them together - & as they had recorded music together a label seemed most appropriate.  Considering a DIY ethic & initially set to release music of friends as well as their own projects it took a short time until Seamus disappeared & Justin united with long-time friend Julia LaDense & relocated to Annapolis, MD to continue the label.

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

Justin – Justin was able to use his savings to pay for the first major release - Tim Kinsella’s Field Recordings of Dreams.  That release brought in enough money to fund a few other releases - & the chain began.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Justin – 57 to date.

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

Justin – 4 solid releases, but we always get caught into doing a bunch more.

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

Justin – The label is a constant project - my mind is never not thinking about the label.  We tend to spend most of our time with packaging.  I would love to spend 40 hours a week on the label & have it be my full-time job - instead I work all day & spend all evening trying to promote the label in one aspect or another - usually via Facebook.

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

Justin – Seeing a finished product is the best part.  Having worked on something - putting your blood & sweat into it & finally seeing it all put together - its beautiful!

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

Justin – Of course - initially we wanted to do homemade packaging & were not serious about it at all - we also started by releasing CDs & CDRs.  After a few years we realized that you could still buy bulk cassettes & in many different colors & we shifted to cassettes & took a more serious approach.

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

Justin – In some weird metaphysical way I guess all of it.  I am not sure what I really get out of it, seems like more work than its worth - & every time I tell myself I’ve had enough some new record shop will e-mail me wanting to get involved or an artist I admire will contact me & I melt & we start right back up again.

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

Justin – Cooler than Cucumbers from France - Felt Cat Tapes - they inspired me to do much of what I do - I think there are plenty of other labels that have shown support & we are happy to have met & gotten to know many people involved in this DIY scene.

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

Justin – I guess getting a master’s degree helped with my logical processing of everyday challenges to the label.  I think the label has prepared me for other life experiences more so than life experiences prepared me for the label.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

Justin – I think we stand out due to our integrity & our connection with our customers.  We have met people that have been frequent buyers of our releases & have gone as far as released their material.  Most of our friends we met through the label.  It’s a real experience & we value the connection we make with the fans.  We also run a tape label, which is unique at times.  I think we have released more variety of color tapes than any label I’m aware of.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

Justin – Oh yeah - I think if we lived anywhere other than Annapolis we’d be better off.  There is no music scene in this city at all.  I have never sold anything to anyone in this state other than a few to Baltimore & Ocean City.  Most of our artists are from SoCal or elsewhere.

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

Justin – Music is a job for me now.  People are always asking me to listen to stuff & ask if we can release stuff - at this point it takes enough of my time that it’s hard to find pleasure in music - I am also thinking of it as a business deal.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Justin – We really don’t have one - we prefer people send us a link to soundcloud - that seems easiest - if it’s worth it we would ask for more.  We really don’t have any money so usually we can’t fund any projects outside of what we are already involved in.

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

Justin – Word of mouth - Walter Gross introduced us to a large amount of the people we are working with now - & through those connections we have been able to bridge out to other people.  Rarely do we ask an artist we don’t have some connection to to do a release.  I think Babelfishh was the strangest one because we weren’t sure if he knew us when we asked - he did - but it was one of those things where you don’t know how well perceived you are until you ask.

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

Justin – Word of mouth probably - I am not sure.  I wish I could figure out better marketing skills - that don’t require money.

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

Justin – The Coyote Clean Up release sold quickly – it’s really good music & it gets airtime on Chill XM - a lot of hip blogs were talking about it - we got lucky with finding him before anyone else & it was real hot.

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

Justin – I remember in 2004 I wrote down a list of things I wanted to accomplish in life, one was release an album by Tim Kinsella - in 2007 I did just that.  That meant a lot to me.

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

Justin – It’s like the saying I love a woman who loves me - if the artist is down for what we are all about, we like them already.  We want to work with bands that are not about money but about passion - getting their music out & enjoying the process.  We tend to look at things as a do it together way - we want the artist to want to be involved in the whole process.

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

Justin – We had to stop working with people that we were unsuccessful with selling their music.  That is tough on us.  We also expect a certain level of respect that is important to us - those that cannot deal with that end up on our shit list... which is quite small.

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

Justin – Each release has a personal touch to it.

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?

Justin – I allow the artist to have full control.  I’ve been asked to select track titles or mix things however I want - but I tend to let the artist handle that.

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

Justin – Different artists have different ideas.  Some are great with Photoshop & send me printed j-cards, others give me ideas & I work on the release.  Halluciphile, for instance, told me he wanted me to create something that would surprise people & I used a photo of a toilet with a hanger next to it & pink hearts bubbling out of it.  I have gotten to know Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator quite well & work with the artist as necessary.  I love doing the artwork & have done so for many releases.  Tenshun & Psychopop do their own artwork & Walter Gross did his too - it all depends on what the artist wants.

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

Justin – It all depends on scheduling & money & various other things.  We sat on one release for over a year before we finally got it together.  Sometimes an artist will send us something way before we planned them to be ready.  We like the process to go as such - the final music is sent to us - we create a master tape & send it to the artist for approval - then we dub all the tapes - complete the artwork & send the artist their copies (usually half) - & we release the tape within a month of that time.  Some artist will ask us to rush things because of an upcoming tour - or a special date - but we get real stressed when we have to rush so we take it easy & whenever we get around to it we get it out.

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

Justin – This happened to us once - we already ordered the tapes  & completed the artwork, but the music was only half completed.  We were able to get the artist to agree to have the second half of the album be remixes & we released it anyway.  It was a limited to 30 release so it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway.

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

Justin – Spend their time promoting the label.

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

Justin – This band Yes Please from Washington State/Northern California released two CDR EPs.  My dream is to release them on vinyl, but I’ll never have the money & they probably wouldn’t like the idea anyway.

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

Justin – We do a very short run to try things out.  We did this with Coyote Clean Up - limited to 10!  & we had trouble selling them then suddenly the right person heard the CD & suddenly everyone wanted a copy.

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

Justin – We cover the cost of the release - unless the artist wants something special that is outside our budget we cover it all.  Sometimes an artist will do their own artwork & sometimes they’ll even send us the tapes to use - but usually it’s out of our pocket.

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

Justin – We split the copies of the tapes - unless the artist says otherwise we send them half of the run.  They can do whatever they want with them.  If we made profits or money doing this we’d give the artist money, but we are always in the hole desperately trying to get out.

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

Justin – No deals - it’s all whatever.  We haven’t had any problems yet - hopefully we won’t in the future.  We allow the artist to do whatever they want with the music - if they decide to re-release an album we say go ahead.

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

Justin – No...

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

Justin – We had an artist tour all through Europe right after a release - then tour all of California.  We didn’t sell any CDs during this time.  We have artists that never play live that we sell tons of tapes of.  It’s not important to us.

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

Justin – We handle in house because we can’t afford it otherwise.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Justin – Facebook & e-mail.  Sometimes we send post cards to our biggest fans.

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

Justin – Nope - wish we did.

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

Justin – We have myself & Julia - two person team - wish we had more.  Maybe two more.

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

Justin – We offer very low rates for bulk items to help encourage them to buy from us.  If they make more money off the release than we do, then it works out when they return to get more stuff - & we toss in some free stuff when we can.  We are about getting the music out to the public more than making money, so anything we can do to make their life easier we do.

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

Justin – We haven’t.

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

Justin – We try our damnedest to get in contact with different magazines & websites, but it’s hard.  Most places want you to send physical copies of stuff & when you have a limited to 30 release it’s hard to send a bunch to different magazines, you end up sending all your copies out as promo material & no money left over.  We have a few places that will always talk about some of our bands - but it’s a hard sell always - wish I knew more people.

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

Justin – Constantly bother them with e-mails of new releases.  I really wonder how often they actually listen to what I send.  It is so hit or miss - I can have something I’m really confident in & no one will blog about it, then I’ll have something I’m not strong about that everyone will love.  I have a few places that will review & write about just about anything we do if I ask nicely.

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

Justin – I find it as a way to spend money & get nothing in return.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Justin – I am the distributor.

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

Justin – We work together with the artist - but we make the final decision.

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

Justin – About 2%.

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

Justin – Nope.  We sold buttons once.

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

Justin – Yeah - not often, but sometimes we come across stuff that other labels couldn’t sell.

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

Justin – I just released my own material & the release sold well  - the label allowed me to expand my career.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Justin – I mean, I do - but it’s mostly because I don’t know who else would do it.  Also it allows me to have full artistic control of packaging.

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

Justin – Most of us know each other anyway - but being so distant from everything we have to use social networking to help each other out.  As a result I think we have had a few people really bond well that would not have without our assistance.

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

Justin – Everyone wants a big vinyl release & a super glossy cover - so we always have to talk about not being able to afford that.

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

Justin – It’s a constant battle we deal with - we are always working on being more creative & looking at different ways of saving a buck.

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

Justin – Never really think about it.

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

Justin – Plan before starting a project & recycle materials as necessary.  We also have become friends with the right people to get better pricing on materials.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Justin – Very much yes.

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

Justin – It never left – it’s just that people have been more exposed to it recently.  I’m sure it’ll go at some point.

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

Justin – I prefer to do physical releases because I enjoy the finished product as a whole.  I find that real important - a lot of thought goes into each release & we labor over it to make the product outstanding.  A digital release is just thoughtless.

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

Justin – That’s all we do - so I think it’s great!  If we were bigger & had more than just two people doing this, then I’d want to do bigger releases; but right now this is what is manageable.

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

Justin – It is cool - but not my thang.

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

Justin – We do free streaming of all our releases.  We always felt bad when people would buy a release & not like it, so now they can see if they like it first - no guilt!  I think that is a good level of free.  If we could produce the tapes for free, then we’d give ‘em out for free too - but it’s a world led by money.

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

Justin – We don’t really say anything.  If I go to a torrent site or a forum & see someone had posted a link to one of our releases, I feel proud that someone liked it enough to want to share it & that someone is able to take advantage of that & listen to it - more ears will come across it that way - & as a result they may come back & check out our other releases - or they may not.  But I understand from a consumer’s point of view - that being broke sucks & when you are broke you can’t buy music - & that’s not fair.  If people have money they’ll buy a release - if they don’t have money they’ll steal it - & I hope they steal our shit & enjoy it.

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

Justin – I guess it is weird to see other labels charging double or triple what we charge for a tape & notice the lack of quality of the product.

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

Justin – Lack of interest in the label of course.  Also - increase in prices that goes above the demand.  It’s tight already.

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

Justin – Think of a “theme” & a specific genre & stick to it.

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

Justin – What do you mean?

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

Justin – For some artists that are not familiar with some of the resources out there it allows them to get their music to more people.  Some people will buy a new tape from us from an unknown artist just because we released it - that’s something an artist can’t do.  Also - it saves them money if we pay for it all.

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?

Justin – MySpace’s decline was inevitable - look at soundcloud & bandcamp - places where artists are able to be more expressive without slow drowning sites full of ads.  I’m not sure what MySpace was thinking, but I think with the amount of blogs & how connected the social networks are, it is easier to follow new music via facebook & twitter & tumblr & all the others out there.

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

Justin – I think it won’t be remembered, but I hope it is just remembered.

QRD – Anything else?

Justin – I believe this question is here just to say you have 69 questions - that’s kinda perverted don’t you think?

Label Owner Follow-Up Interview Series