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QRD #52 - Indie Label Interview Series
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Indie Label Owner Interviews:
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Dusty Medical Records 
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I Had An Accident
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Saxwand Records 
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Interview with Indie Label Owner John Crouch of Cape and Chalice
May 2011
cape and chalice

Name: John Crouch
Label: Cape and Chalice
City: Chapel Hill, NC
Artists Roster: Ghost to Falco, Wizzerds of Rhyme, The Club, Hazerai, Caltrop
Websites: www.capeandchalice.com

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

John – I started Cape & Chalice in 2004 as a way to document creative output, be it my own work or collaborative.  I was interested in making my music & art projects under one umbrella.

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

John – Working for it.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

John – At the moment, 10 music releases & countless pieces of visual art.

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

John – As many as I can afford.

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

John – Not much, maybe 5-10 hours per week.  I would love to work full time with C&C, but since I don’t intend on making a profit; it’s not really feasible.

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

John – Putting releases together, collaborating with people I admire, & promoting projects I am inspired by.

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

John – They haven’t.

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

John – Social networking websites & tracking down packages lost in the Italian postal service.

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

John – Lovitt, Thrill Jockey, Bull City Records, Cloak & Cup Records.  Too many more to name.

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

John – None outside of dealing with labels through bands I was in.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

John – It’s all about ME!

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

John – Being in the Triangle area has allowed me to have a nice variety of independent record stores to showcase my releases.

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

John – Yes, I still enjoy music to the same degree as before I started Cape & Chalice.  Music & art play a huge role in my life & that hasn’t changed in 28 years.  Since I’m only interested in releasing things that inspire or entertain me, & not necessarily moving units, I am free to enjoy music as it is.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

John – Open, but C&C is generally a place where records go to die.

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

John – By going to shows, through the internet/radio, or I start new bands.

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

John – By going to shows, record fairs, record stores, or by making www.capeandchalice.com your homepage.

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

John – Ghost to Falco’s “Exotic Believers”.  This is a phenomenal record that resonates with some types of folks.  GtF combines various respected styles of music, both traditional & experimental, in a very fresh way.  It took over two years & many revisions to complete this album & it’s a gem.

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

John – Wizzerds of Rhyme & The Club split seven inch.  This was a long time in the making & I’m particularly proud of the results.  It also marked my first attempt at a 4-color screen-printed cover.

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

John – If I enjoy their music & they’re nice people to deal with.  Simple as that.

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

John – If more is expected out of me than realistically possible.

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

John – I am involved in them in some fashion, be it performing on the release or having toured performing with the artist(s).

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?

John – Typically, very involved.

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

John – Typically, very involved.

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

John – Since I do C&C in my spare time & go lengths to make sure the artist & I are completely satisfied with the output, it can take some time.

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

John – It makes my job of selling the release much more difficult, but since this is more about documenting, it still gets done with the same attention as any other release.

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

John – Play as many shows as possible.

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

John – Even though it was two years ago, the most recent one I wanted to release but couldn’t was In the Year of the Pig’s “Jamon” on 2xLP.  I think it’s an important record, especially at the local scope, but I was not interested in taking a second mortgage.

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

John – Recommend them to another label.

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

John – Generally 50/50, sometimes 0/100.

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

John – It’s all split evenly.

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

John – No contracts ever.

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

John – Not applicable.

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

John – Having touring acts is essential to selling the records.  I encourage it by going on tour, performing with the artists.

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

John – In house because I can’t afford any PR firm.  I get little return, but I enjoy promotional campaigns from time to time.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

John – Through the internet or by playing shows.

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

John – No.

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

John – One person seems to work all right.

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

John – I support them by buying records from them.

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

John – I send them my releases.

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

John – Any review I’ve gotten in a magazine has generally come from knowing the folks who write the reviews.

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

John – Email seems to work.

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

John – I support magazines & websites I like.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

John – They play shows & go on tour.

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

John – Usually it’s a small percentage more than what a pessimist would think.

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

John – 0% - 10%.

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

John – Yes, t-shirts & other pieces of art.

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

John – No.

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

John – I don’t think it has affected my artistic career.  Maybe it’s a chicken/egg thing?

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

John – Yes.

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

John – We all benefit from our collective effort.

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

John – “Performing music you want to hear can be a money pit...Do what you want!”

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

John – Rarely.  This is a labor of love.

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

John – No.

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

John – Making/printing album art & t-shirts myself.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

John – Not at all.

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

John – Vinyl will be around “forever.”  I think people prefer the idea that they have a “permanent” copy of the music they enjoy.  Vinyl seems to be a lasting medium in that respect.  Cassettes are a lot of fun & an interesting format in that you can exploit its inherent sonic characteristics.  I believe its current resurgence is more of a fad, but I think we’ll be seeing cassettes in peoples’ homes & thrift stores for many years to come.

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

John – It is much more important to have a physical release.  A few years ago I created my own album download code application & I’ve used it alongside releases.  The downloadable material may contain some songs not on the release, but that material is more of an extension of the album itself.  Exclusively releasing an album digitally seems like art self-deprecation.  That said, I think digital releases can be very pragmatic.

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

John – Do what you can do with what you have.

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

John – I like the idea of “print on demand” being more of a custom/made-to-order type thing.  Otherwise, I am indifferent.

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

John – As much as the artist feels should be free.

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

John – It is unavoidable & counter-productive to worry about it.

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

John – Just about anything that inhibits artistic freedom or puts the artist under an unfair contract is borderline unethical.

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

John – 2012, mannnnnn.

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

John – Realize you will see very little return compared to the amount of energy you put in it.  Also don’t tell artists you can do something you cannot.

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

John – I think the money is in playing shows &, even more so in the future, in publishing.

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

John – The feeling of someone else believing in your art.

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?

John – I have no idea!

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

John – I hope it’s remembered by what I release, e.g. “they put out one of my favorite records.”  I also hope people remember that Cape & Chalice is a real thing.