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QRD #52 - Indie Label Interview Series
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Indie Label Owner Interviews:
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Interview with Indie Label Owner Bruno Dorella of Bar La Muerte
June 2011

Name: Bruno Dorella
Label: Bar La Muerte
City: Milano, Italy
Artists Roster: Le Singe Blanc, Daniele Brusaschetto, ?Alos, Zeus!, VeryShortShorts, Nadja, OvO, Jealousy Party, Don Vito, R.U.N.I., Plasma Expander, Bologna Violenta, Mar Nero, Si Non Sedes Is, Koonda Holaa, Claudio Rocchetti, Fuzz Orchestra, Inferno, Psychofagist, Almandino Quite Deluxe, Smut, Cock ESP, Bron Y Aur, Allun, Motorama, KK Null, Pin Pin Sugar, a034, Ronin, Rollerball, Christian Rainer, Jacopo Andreini, Bugo, Larsen, Mr Bread
Websites: www.barlamuerte.com

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Bruno – I started in 1999, because I was young & immortal. I didn’t know I was doing something really unhealthy...

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

Bruno – From a band I used to play with, they were called Wolfango & they’ve been successful in my country for a couple of years. I was living with my parents at the time, so I saved money. When I quit the band & I noticed I wasn’t very good at knocking at doors, I decided to start my own label.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Bruno – 55, at the moment.

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

Bruno – I would like to be able to keep it as small as 3-4 a year. I’m usually not strong enough.

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

Bruno – This is really hard to tell, cause I work during my free time from tours (I mostly play music). When I’m at home I work the whole day, but I work on my bands & some booking at the same time.

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

Bruno – Can you believe me if I say that I don’t know it anymore? It’s closer to an addiction than to some real fun, & for sure in 2011 there’s not a lot of reward...

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

Bruno – As I said, I don’t make any money, & my bands are now released by other labels, so it’s more because of the addiction...

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

Bruno – Working on consignment, dealing with the distributors, updating the promo lists... there are quite a few.

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

Bruno – I admire eclectic labels, like Ipecac for example, or labels that give the impression of a family thing, like Neurot, or labels that created a scene that was there but had no name before, like Load or Southern Lord. & I love Relapse. Even if I didn’t release a lot of metal, I’m a metalhead.

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

Bruno – None! I was completely naive...

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

Bruno – The eclecticism.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

Bruno – I don’t have a warehouse, so I have to get rid of the copies pretty soon!

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

Bruno – This is a big question & I have to be honest replying. Listening to thousands of bad demos made me enjoy music less. But when I listen to a well done record, some great music, I’m still very touched, especially cause I have to listen to bad music the whole day. I miss not being able to choose WHAT I want to listen to & when.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Bruno – I would like to be able to say No More Demos. But it would be too hard to explain to a 17-year-old guy why I just can’t deal with it anymore. So now I just hope to get less stuff, but better stuff; I change my address enough times to be almost unreachable. & I don’t accept digital demos. So it means that bands have to make a little effort to find me. It’s enough to select a little bit.

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

Bruno – Playing live all over the world.

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

Bruno – I guess online.

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

Bruno – OvO “Cicatrici”, because we played all around for 2 & a half years.

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

Bruno – The first, the Allun 7”. Everything was absolutely naive & absolutely pure.

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

Bruno – Being unpretentious & nice people is definitely necessary to be on Bar La Muerte.

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

Bruno – Politics (I would stop immediately if I would know that a member of a band is fascist, racist or so) or attitude (pretentious assholes are banned), for example.

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

Bruno – I don’t think there’s much in common beside a laughing skull on the back...

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?

Bruno – None. I don’t even say a word about the artwork, even when I don’t like it. I actually recently thought about changing this last statement... but in general I’m not the artistic producer of the bands I release. I want what they are; I don’t want my own idea of them.

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

Bruno – As I said, I don’t even wanna hear about it, but I’m thinking to be a bit more careful now.

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

Bruno – This is too hard to say, many things can happen, it can be 3 weeks or one year...

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

Bruno – It’s never happened, but I don’t think I would still release the record.

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

Bruno – Get on a better label.

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

Bruno – Neurosis playing as a backing band for a Tom Waits & Diamanda Galas collaboration album.

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

Bruno – This has been the case with most of the bands that I released, but I have no more money for that, so nowadays I wouldn’t release it. & I don’t feel guilty, cause I paid a very high price for good music over these 11 years.

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

Bruno – They pay the studio, I pay the press.

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

Bruno – They get 20% of the copies for free, then we split 50% after the pressing breaks even.

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

Bruno – Bar La Muerte only releases real people. Handshakes must be enough. No one ever complained about me, I never complained about any band.

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

Bruno – No.

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

Bruno – I only want touring bands, we’re talking about music, it must be played on a record & it must be played live.

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

Bruno – Usually I do it in house.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Bruno – Mostly touring myself.

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

Bruno – No.

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

Bruno – I’m D.I.A. Do It Alone.

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

Bruno – It’s really hard nowadays, & it’s one of the things I like the least.

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

Bruno – I send lots of promos, & over the years I found out that weird music can be played on the radio too!

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

Bruno – Again, I send promos, but I don’t do a lot of advertising.

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

Bruno – I don’t have much time for that, you have to be online a lot to know that world. If someone is interested, I send them promos. I’m a nice guy.

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

Bruno – It’s both. & sometimes, especially on magazines, it’s the only way to be sure to be reviewed, unfortunately.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Bruno – To spread interesting music in a world that wants uninteresting music.

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

Bruno – By intuition.

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

Bruno – 10% usually.

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

Bruno – No.

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

Bruno – No.

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

Bruno – It helped at the beginning. But lately I found some bad reviews about my bands. They sounded strange, they were almost a personal attack. I got suspicious. I googled the journalists name & found out they were in bands that sent me demos that I didn’t want to release. Funny, isn’t it?

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Bruno – I have, & I would do it again.

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

Bruno – I don’t need to do it, we’re friends already.

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

Bruno – I don’t think that such a small label has much to explain about it.

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

Bruno – I forgot about these things long ago...

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

Bruno – No.

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

Bruno – I became more careful with the bands I released.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Bruno – No, but I worry for it.

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

Bruno – It is, maybe. Especially cassettes.

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

Bruno – I’m old school. I like physical releases. But I’m okay with digital too.

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

Bruno – Why not?

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

Bruno – It’s a big world, do you want a “print on demand” disc? Get it!   

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

Bruno – I did it when I was a kid, I had thousands of recorded cassettes. It helped to create my wide musical culture & 360° taste. They download my music now, but maybe they’ll like it, & they’ll buy the next record, or they’ll come to the show. That’s what I did when I was a kid.

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

Bruno – A son.

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

Bruno – DON’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

Bruno – Publishing now, publishing & legal downloads tomorrow.

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

Bruno – Are they?

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?

Bruno – This is a good question. I still have to see the next MySpace. Too bad though, it’s been great for a while...

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

Bruno – I hope most of the artists I released will have a solid reputation.

QRD – Anything else?

Bruno – I’m exhausted!!!