with Anna-Lynne Williams of Saint-Loup Records
Name: Anna-Lynne Williams
Label: Saint-Loup Records
Artists Roster: Lotte Kestner, Sergius Gregory
Websites: www.saintlouprecords.com, www.lottekestner.tumblr.com
QRD – When & why did you start your label?
Anna-Lynne – I started the label toward the end of 2010. For years I’d been a fan of my friend Sergius’ music & we would send each other songs back & forth (he was living in Alaska). Neither of ours solo music was on a label, but I’d been releasing mine on CD. I decided to start the label officially so that I could release his music too.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Anna-Lynne – Just from my own savings. I’m generally able to break even when I release my own music, but hadn’t realized how hard it would be to start another artist off from scratch as well.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Anna-Lynne – In 2011 there were 2 releases, Sergius’ debut & my second album, which was a covers record. This year I released a poetry book. I’ll be putting out my next EP & a companion DVD on the label around January...
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Anna-Lynne – Ideally, 2 seems a good number. But at the end of 2011, two of my own projects got signed to other labels & that has become my priority. I’ve been busy making videos & writing new songs & haven’t really been focusing on the label.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Anna-Lynne – I spend hours every day working on my music & promoting it. But since none of my next 3 releases are coming out on my own label, Saint-Loup is kind of on hiatus. Until my new EP comes out.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Anna-Lynne – To be able to see Sergius’ music in print. To handwrite & personally mail everyone’s orders. I love that.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?
Anna-Lynne – I just want to make, produce, & promote music. Whether it’s on my own label or not. I figure in the year ahead I’ll gain some really interesting insights into how different labels do things differently & how effective or ineffective I am at promoting my own music compared to other people. Hometapes is putting out the Ormonde album & Saint Marie is releasing the next Lotte Kestner & the farewell Trespassers William album. Then I’m releasing my own EP & DVD. So I’ve been crazy busy & this should be very interesting.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Anna-Lynne – None of it. :)
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Anna-Lynne – I’m too small to compare myself to any other label. I love how the labels I’ve worked with have handled things. Gizeh & Hometapes are inspirational to me. Sub Pop is still going strong even in today’s market.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Anna-Lynne – Being obsessed with music. & other than Having, almost every album that Trespassers William put out was at some point self-released. So I’ve been doing this for 15 years.
QRD – What makes you label special & unique?
Anna-Lynne – Since most of the music on it is my own, I don’t feel like I can answer that. :) Maybe that it’s teeny tiny.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Anna-Lynne – Seattle is as good a place as any for a label. & Sergius has moved out here now & we get to play shows together. We had his album release here. I think it’s a good place for his sound.
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Anna-Lynne – To be honest, I have gotten more immersed in my own projects & my friends’ work over the past 5 years. I’ve spent way less time listening to music on the radio or reading up in magazines. So my focus has narrowed for sure, because that’s what I have time for & what my priority is. Luckily, I know so many talented musicians that just their output alone is enough to keep me musically sated.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Anna-Lynne – Sometimes I get people wanting to send me stuff, but I’m not really looking to sign anything. I just want to keep putting out my own projects whenever there isn’t another label on board. & Sergius is kind of doing his own thing digitally right now, releasing some new tunes.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Anna-Lynne – Trespassers William.
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Anna-Lynne – My covers album has sold more than the other albums I’ve put out. It’s my most recent solo work. Hopefully the next one will do even better.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Anna-Lynne – I put out my first solo album in 2008, though at the time I didn’t have a business license or label name or anything. That was the most special, because it was the first time I’d ventured off on my own without Trespassers & did literally everything myself.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Anna-Lynne – Beauty.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Anna-Lynne – Well, I guess this isn’t really relevant for me, but I can imagine a bunch of things... Some people just lose their drive, stop writing great music, don’t want to play anymore.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Anna-Lynne – It’s all kind of nighttime lullaby music.
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?
Anna-Lynne – Sergius’ songs were left as-is. They had to be, because they were old rough recordings & we didn’t have the option to mess with them, nor did we want to. I did get involved helping him book shows & things though. But I didn’t interfere with the music.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Anna-Lynne – Artwork is important. Sergius’ used some drawings he found that his grandmother had done. I always select my own artwork.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Anna-Lynne – I was as fast as possible with Sergius’ album. A few months after we signed a contract & I got a business license, his album was already mastered & pressed. I get eager about things.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Anna-Lynne – If they’re putting their main focus on their music & not on other things, that’s enough for me.
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Anna-Lynne – I wanted to put out a bunch of my friends’ albums. Klum, Simontronic, Bill Patton. But in all their cases, I feel like they deserve a bigger label than mine.
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Anna-Lynne – For the time being, I’m only going to release my own music. I am so busy promoting my own projects that I don’t have the time to get anyone else off the ground. But I guess a digital release would be the obvious first step in that case.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Anna-Lynne – I pay for everything.
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?
Anna-Lynne – 50/50 after recoupment.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Anna-Lynne – Yeah, I drew up my own contract with Sergius. I basically just wrote exactly what I would want on the other end.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?
Anna-Lynne – No way.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Anna-Lynne – Touring is pretty necessary if someone wants to make any noise. But I haven’t enforced anything in the past.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Anna-Lynne – Just me.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Anna-Lynne – Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, blogs.
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Anna-Lynne – Just me.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Anna-Lynne – I’m just using the online sources at present. I used to do consignment, but not at the moment.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?
Anna-Lynne – Most of my relationships were built as an artist & not as a business owner.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?
Anna-Lynne – Email.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?
Anna-Lynne – Email.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Anna-Lynne – Since physical sales are declining so rapidly, I start off really small now, smaller than I used to, & start from there.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Anna-Lynne – Probably somewhere between 10 & 20 %.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Anna-Lynne – Yeah, in the past I’ve done t-shirts. & I’ve released 2 books.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Anna-Lynne – No.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Anna-Lynne – Since I’m pretty much just releasing my own things these days, it’s all one & the same. I like being involved in all aspects of things, from keeping the books to writing the songs, to mixing my own albums, to going to the post office & doing the mailings.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?
Anna-Lynne – I do.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Anna-Lynne – Sergius & I have played a few shows together. He’ll sit in with me or I’ll sit in with him.
QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Anna-Lynne – I only really worry about the integrity part.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Anna-Lynne – Well after Sergius’ album I realized I couldn’t afford to master & press any more records for a while, besides my own. Because I know exactly how much of my own music to press & I’ve already spent my whole life promoting it.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Anna-Lynne – No. I probably should though.
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Anna-Lynne – I have friends master some of my albums... much cheaper. I start off with smaller pressings.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Anna-Lynne – I truly hope not. But the numbers are obviously declining.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Anna-Lynne – Vinyl - not a fad. Cassette - just a fad.
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Anna-Lynne – I can’t see why a band would have an exclusive arrangement with any label who isn’t going to press their album.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Anna-Lynne – I think it’s cool. Sometimes you just really want to share your music & then you can make something really special for the people who really want it. I’m going to do a limited run on my DVD, since I’ve never released visual media before & I want to start small.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Anna-Lynne – Don’t know much about it.…
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Anna-Lynne – I think people should pay for music, if that’s what you mean.
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Anna-Lynne – I haven’t taken any action. But it’s too bad that music brings people so much pleasure & yet most people expect to get it for free now.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Anna-Lynne – I really don’t think labels should be taking publishing.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Anna-Lynne – Even if physical merchandise died, I’d still be into digitally releasing my own music.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Anna-Lynne – I guess they should just be clear as to whether they’re doing it as a labor of love - releasing the music they really care about, to make the world a better place but maybe be a really uphill climb - or if they’re doing it to make money. Unfortunately those aren’t the same thing.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Anna-Lynne – Film placements. Video games. Digital downloads.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Anna-Lynne – Because most musicians are way too busy making music & traveling around the world to think about the billions of emails that need to be sent out & hand shaking & send outs & things. There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes.
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?
Anna-Lynne – YouTube. Might as well get to look & listen at the same time.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Anna-Lynne – I just want people to remember the music I’ve made.
QRD – Anything else?
Anna-Lynne – Mmm... that’s good. :)
Other QRD interviews with Anna-Lynne Williams:
Guitarist interview with Anna-Lynne Williams of Lotte Kestner & Trespassers William (June 2010)