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QRD #52 - Indie Label Interview Series
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Interview with Indie Label Owner Adam Bartlett of Gilead Media
October 2011
Gilead Media

Name: Adam Bartlett
Label: Gilead Media
City: Oshkosh, WI (formerly Toledo, OH)
Artists Roster: Thou, Krallice, Ash Borer, Fell Voices, Hollow Sunshine, False, Barghest, Mutilation Rites, Northless, Arms Aloft, Get Rad
Websites: http://www.gileadmedia.net

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

Adam – Initially to release music by bands I was involved in. It quickly grew beyond that, though.

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

Adam – Credit card, which is easily the dumbest idea in the history of awful ideas.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

Adam – By the end of this year it will be 40.

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

Adam – I’d like to do 5-10, which is about where I’m at yearly.

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

Adam – I wish I could do it as my only job, I love it. But I can’t, so right now I work about 20 hours a week on it.

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

Adam – When good PR comes through, when people email you just because they’re stoked on a band. That’s the best. When a band tells you that you’ve made them happy, also great.

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

Adam – They essentially have not. I’m just more critical about potential releases now so I can ensure the label makes money that can then be reinvested in future records.

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

Adam – Honestly, not a lot. I partake in every single aspect of operating the label & I love it all. But if I had to pick one thing that drives me nuts, it’s probably cutting fabric to print patches.

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

Adam – Robotic Empire, Profound Lore, Hydra Head, Deathwish Inc., Utech Records, Land Of Decay, 20 Buck Spin, Halo Of Flies, Init Records... there’s so many more. That’s what’s great about running a DIY label, the other labels you meet & grow to become friends with.

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

Adam – Working for a music distributor in sales & marketing was huge. Gave me a lot of the information & skills I needed. Working at a record store for a few years.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

Adam – I have a hand in every aspect of the label. Creating the website, writing everything in the email updates & blogs, doing layout for releases, printing tshirts/patches/slipmats, pressing buttons, packing mailorder, talking to customers, overseeing production, finding new bands. I love adding little bonuses to releases that make people excited to pick up a record.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

Adam – The only effect it has had is that it allows me to be entirely & totally isolated from the vast majority of the music I relate to. It’s like I live in two worlds.

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

Adam – I definitely look at everything from a much more business-y standpoint now. I wouldn’t say I enjoy it less, I just enjoy it differently. & I’m much more critical.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

Adam – Send me them, but don’t expect a response & don’t ask for my input about your band. Do what you want.

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

Adam – Word of mouth, perusing the internet, via other bands I’ve worked with, friends’ labels.

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

Adam – If I knew the answer to that, I’d be exploiting it to the fullest extent that reality would allow! No idea, really. I’m just glad they do!

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

Adam – The MeWithoutYou LPs, mostly because the CD versions have sold huge & the band is extraordinarily popular. After that, THOU & Krallice records. & those sell because the bands are incredible & groundbreaking... & because people that listen to metal are still actually happy to pay for music.

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

Adam – I feel very connected to every release I’ve done, they’re all incredibly special & important to me. That aside, one release does stand out beyond the rest in terms of my personal connection to it. Summit, by Thou. There are a lot of reasons; I could go on all day. But that’s my favorite album ever.

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

Adam – If they write groundbreaking, invigorating music. If they’re doing something that moves me or captivates me. & especially if they’re genuine, kind, & fun people.

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

Adam – If they’re unappreciative of the immense amount of time & work I put into their records. If I lose a LOT of money on a release.

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

Adam – They’re all records I sincerely enjoy. I never release a record just because it will make money.

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?

Adam – I help with mixing & mastering, but that’s only because I want the best creative piece for myself & for the band. When it comes to other aspects, I want the bands to be the creative force making art. I don’t provide any input as far as song selection or telling them to change things.

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

Adam – I design almost every record I release, I love it. I wish I was a better original artist... but there are many visual artists at my disposal that I enjoy working with.

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

Adam – There’s so many variables it’s hard to pin down. It’s literally different for every release, & the delays are always something different.

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

Adam – Depends on the band, depends on the circumstances. It’s not out of the question to continue the release, but I’m definitely inclined to consider canceling it.

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

Adam – Email me their tour dates so I can help promote! Order their tour t-shirts longer in advance of their deadline.

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

Adam – A long-lost RUSH record from the 70s. Or a vinyl collection of Johnny Cash Unearthed.

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

Adam – Press fewer records & convince people that they should love the band as much as I do.

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

Adam – It’s different for everyone, depends on the release & the band.

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

Adam – The band gets a % of the pressing as royalty payment in full unless they’re an inactive band that doesn’t tour or play shows. What meager profits there are get reinvested in the label.

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

Adam – I used to do agreements, but it’s all handshakes now. Contracts irritate me & I try to only work with honest genuine individuals. Shouldn’t be necessary in DIY.

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

Adam – No.

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

Adam – It’s very important to me. I give bands great deals on shirts, buttons & patches... sometimes free records.

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

Adam – In house. No one will be more amped on my records than me; no one will give them more attention. Plus PR firms are costly.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

Adam – All the standard social networking garbage, plus an extensive mailing list.

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

Adam – I have one guy that helps out regularly. I call him when tedious crap needs to be done & he comes to do it. We watch movies & I make him good food.

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

Adam – Just me & the one occasional helper. I’d love to have a person working regularly alongside myself.

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

Adam – Not a lot, I really wish I had time to do more. I have a lot of fun ideas & no time or energy to execute them.

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

Adam – Nothing, but I should.

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

Adam – Constant contact about new releases, offering exclusive content premiers. Buying adspace.

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

Adam – Constant contact about new releases, offering exclusive content premiers.

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

Adam – A little of both, depending on how well the ad is designed. No one cares if your ad is garbage.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

Adam – To work closely with their retail accounts to ensure good retail coverage of new releases from the label. That’s what an exclusive distributor should do. I’m in between exclusive distribution at the moment, so I’m just stoked when a distro takes stock.

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

Adam – Tons of variables, everything is different.

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

Adam – Lately? Almost none, I do a lot of digital promos.

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

Adam – Some shirts, it’s limited, though.

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

Adam – Just a bit, I’m very selective about picking up on trades or wholesale. I don’t want to run a distro.

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

Adam – It more or less crushed one aspect of it. I have almost no time for additional creative output.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

Adam – Not anymore, not now that the label is established.

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

Adam – Nothing really, I don’t want to force the bands to be friends. Sometimes I’ll put them in touch to help each other with shows, that’s about it.

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

Adam – “We will do what we want, & hopefully we break even.”

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

Adam – My wife would laugh if she knew someone was asking me this.

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

Adam – No.

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

Adam – Learn to screen print, do layouts, make buttons & do anything else I can. Stop releasing records I know I’ll lose my ass on.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

Adam – No, I think honor & love for physical art is dead.

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

Adam – Cassette, maybe. Vinyl, no. It never went anywhere, it just ebbs & flows like everything else.

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

Adam – I hate digital only releases. Physical always & exceptional packaging always.

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

Adam – I think it’s fun & fine for some things.

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

Adam – I don’t think I even know what that means, but it sounds annoying.

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

Adam – I have every release possible posted as name-your-own-price downloads for fans. If they don’t want to support the bands that’s their thing, fine. Take it for free if that’s what you want. But if you want to ensure the creation of future art, you can kick in what you feel is worthy.

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

Adam – Nothing, if people care they’ll support.

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

Adam – Ha! Oh, dear... too much to get into publicly. I’m judgmental & an idealist.

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

Adam – If people stopped caring about vinyl & physical records altogether.

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

Adam – Be terribly critical, to a fault if you need to. Consider every record you’re interested in releasing... does it really require your time & energy. Is it worth it, do you REALLY love it... or are you blinded by the idea of having a good record (that’s actually sort of mediocre) on your new label. Do NOT use a credit card, ever ever ever ever ever.

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

Adam – Future? I don’t know where it’s going... cash flow into music is so sporadic. Right now bands need to focus on creating art that is 100% the best they can do. If they focus on that & succeed then people will naturally want to support them. People recognize & understand honesty & passion.

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

Adam – Because it takes one type of person to create the art & another type of person to oversee logistics, PR, etc. Very rarely do these two types align in one kind of person.

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?

Adam – Bandcamp.com is easily the best thing that’s happened to my label logistically in the past couple years.

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

Adam – I hope it will be remembered for releasing groundbreaking & honest music with a personal touch in a high quality manner.

QRD – Anything else?

Adam – This is my personal creative outlet: http://carryingdeadweight.com - Thank you.