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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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Dusty Medical Records
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Interview with Indie Label Owner Kevin Meyer of Dusty Medical
May 2011
Dusty Medical Records

Name: Kevin Meyer
Label: Dusty Medical Records
City: Milwaukee, WI
Artists Roster: Goodnight Loving, Guilty Pleasures, Call Me Lightning, The Sugar Stems, The Midwest Beat, Drugs Dragons, Ramma Lamma, Head On Electric, Sticks N Stones, Red Mass, Greg Cartwright, A/V Murder, CPC Gangbangs, LiveFastDie, The Elephant Walk, France Has The Bomb, Strange Boys, Thomas Function, Plexi 3, Tuff Bananas, The Mistreaters, Hot Machines, The Hunches, Black Lips
Websites: dustymedical.com

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Kevin – I put out the first release (Black Lips live album) in January 2005. The records were pressed in Detroit & that was where the band I was in at the time was starting a tour. A friend picked up the records from the plant & brought them to our show, where we loaded up 500 records in the back of our van & proceeded to drive cross country literally selling the records out of the back of our van. We met up with the band down south for a few shows & I gave them their copies. Luckily the records made it to Milwaukee intact, I was a little nervous about them all getting destroyed or stolen. The record itself was basically the reason I started the label, although originally when the band & I talked about releasing something, the first idea I had was a video compilation DVD (this was before YouTube), but then I heard this live recording & convinced the band that a live record of it was a good (enough) idea, & that’s pretty much how & why it all started.

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

Kevin – Credit cards.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Kevin – I’ve put out 24, have 3 more coming out in June, & at least 2 more soon after that.

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

Kevin – 1 a month seems pretty ambitious, but I could probably handle it if I budgeted my time better.

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

Kevin – Hard to say what is label time & what is general internet timesuck, but I work on something related to the label every day for sure. I’d prefer to get it down to a couple nights a week, but with more getting done than how I do it now, if that makes any sense.

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

Kevin – definitely would have to say being able to help bands get the most out of their efforts - however they want to define that.  Along those same lines, knowing that people in the far reaches of the globe are listening to the band you just saw at a basement show the other night is pretty cool too.

QRD – Have your motivations for having a label changed?

Kevin – No, the main thing has always been to just put out records that I think are great & deserve to be heard & that’s no different today than it was when I first started.

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

Kevin – Procrastinating.

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

Kevin – Trouble In Mind, HoZac, Goner, Floridas Dying, etc - people who just put out what they like & don’t follow too closely to a formula.

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

Kevin – Probably booking & promoting shows, but I couldn’t really nail down in any specific way why

QRD – What makes you label special& unique?

Kevin – The fact that I said it is.

QRD – Has your physical location effected your label?

Kevin – Yes! Milwaukee has a great many talented musicians who play in multiple bands & frequently outshine touring bands. It’s great to be able to work with great bands right in my backyard.

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

Kevin – I don’t think I have a choice in the matter; music has always, & continues to, consume most of my waking hours so the label if anything is a great outlet for me to apply that to something constructive.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Kevin – Demos are accepted, & in theory I’m still waiting for one I like enough to put out.

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

Kevin – Lately I haven’t had to look outside of Milwaukee, but with the non-local ones I’ve worked with in the past, it’s just been meeting them when they come through town through booking their show or people I’ve known for a long time through playing in bands & touring myself.

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

Kevin – Probably The View or Oprah? How does anything become a household name?

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

Kevin – Greg Cartwright “Live At The Circle A” & it was because it was by Greg Cartwright & it was a very unique release (solo acoustic live show recorded immaculately).

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

Kevin – Probably the first Goodnight Loving record, because it was a pretty elaborate affair & none of us including myself really knew what we were doing (with the exception of Greg probably), & I really think we knocked it out of the park.

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

Kevin – Having songs that hit me just right is basically the only prerequisite I have, but being people I respect & could handle being in a smelly van with on a 3 week tour is a big plus too.

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

Kevin – If they revealed their true selves to be total douchebags.

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

Kevin – Great songs & a common American rock & roll - testament to that is the one & only time LiveFastDie (a NY scum punk band) performed the b-side to their Dusty Medical LP “By The Time These Flowers Die”, they recruited members of Goodnight Loving (an American Roots punk band) as their rhythm section.

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?

Kevin – As much or little as the band needs me to be, with the starting point being “not at all”. I prefer to let the band do everything, mostly because I am putting all my trust in them putting out great music, & it’s rewarding to see what people deliver to me fully realized.

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

Kevin – See above.

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

Kevin – Anywhere from 6 weeks to a couple months based on how busy I am with my home life, to be honest. & sometimes if the label is out of money & waiting for payments from distributors, but hopefully that doesn’t happen too often!

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

Kevin – I’d like to think it wouldn’t affect what I do at all, but I also don’t have a huge promotional budget I have to worry about recouping or anything like that.

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

Kevin – TOUR as much as possible without wanting to break up the band because you’re touring too much.

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

Kevin – Sleepwalk by Santo& Johnny.

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

Kevin – Put it out anyway

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

Kevin – Bands usually pay for recording & I pay to get the actual records made

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

Kevin – I work it out with the band before we get the ball rolling & it’s none of your business!

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

Kevin – Handshake deals. Extremely complicated handshake deals.

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

Kevin – Not that I’m aware of.

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

Kevin – It’s important, & encouraged, but not a deal breaker.

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

Kevin – Always have handled in house, but would look into looking outside if it seemed to make sense to do so.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Kevin – Ineptly.

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

Kevin – Nope.

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

Kevin – Just me & my patient & lovely wife. We’re having kids in an attempt to build up a loyal staff. We have 2 so far but they’re not trained yet.

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

Kevin – Try to put out records they want to sell! & not take it personal when they pass this title or that title.

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

Kevin – Try to remember to send them promos, especially if they’ve reached out to the label as opposed to vice versa.

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

Kevin – Try to contribute advertising dollars to the ones I believe are doing it for the right reasons & contributing in a positive to exposing good bands & not following a formula or trend (see above comments about labels I respect).

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

Kevin – I accept the get ripped challenge http://www.gettinripped2011.blogspot.com

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

Kevin – Hopefully a reasonable mix of both.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Kevin – Help keep records available as widely as possible so as to keep my job more on the side of MAKING records rather than selling them, while getting fairly compensated for that work.

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

Kevin – A mix of how well known a band is & how records have been selling in general.

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

Kevin – It varies from release to release.

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

Kevin – Not yet, but I have plans to, as I expand my online store & mini-distro.

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

Kevin – See above.

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

Kevin – It’s kept me involved in music in a productive way rather than a passive one as I’ve transitioned out of being in a full time band to being a full time family guy.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Kevin – I’m not against it, but it seems like cheating or something? Like it would be more validating that someone else would want to do it..?

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

Kevin – Encourage trading shows, playing together, etc, etc, the usual stuff...

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

Kevin – Huh?

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

Kevin – Probably not often enough, but that’s not why I do this.

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

Kevin – Huh?

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

Kevin – I stopped making CDs of full-length releases.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Kevin – Not a chance.

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

Kevin – Cassettes, yes. Vinyl, not so much - it’s been around forever.

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

Kevin – It’s important, but having said that I’d be open to doing a digital-only release if a band wanted to, it just seems bizarre to me.

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

Kevin – Novelty releases.  I’m into them as a vinyl junkie, but don’t have an opinion about them from a label owner standpoint. I understand when it makes sense to do (i.e. you have leftover sleeves & the first pressing sold faster than you thought it would) & when it’s a gimmick.

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

Kevin – Not familiar with the term.

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

Kevin – In an ideal world you could stream anything & would have to pay to own it, but I am aware that is a complete fantasy & deal with the reality of it accordingly.

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

Kevin – Try not to think too hard about it, I can do about as much about it as I can affect tomorrow’s weather

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

Kevin – Not doing anything to distribute a record that the band worked hard to see through, only to have the box of records sitting in some guy’s closet collecting dust.

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

Kevin – Triplets?

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

Kevin – Don’t quit your day job.

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

Kevin – Digital sales & touring (& that’s not saying much).

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

Kevin – Labels, along with zines & some promoters, still manage to unify a “scene” nationally & internationally, for lack of a better term. I don’t see that changing soon.

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?

Kevin – Good question. I’m very much out of the loop myself & not what I think you’re referring to as a “normal” person looking for new music... the music junkies will continue to go to shows & regular bars & basements & find out about new bands that way. Everyone else I think just goes to Pitchfork, which I would say makes the outlets that I had when I was growing up (120 minutes, spin magazine, zines) seem downright righteous. I don’t relate at all to most “popular indie music” of today.

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

Kevin – The label that launched Goodnight Loving, one of the best bands of all time.

QRD – Anything else?

Kevin – Listen to Slayer.