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Interview with George Mastrokostas of Sound In Silence
June 2013
Sound In Silence
Name: George Mastrokostas
Label: Sound In Silence
City: Athens, Greece
Artists Roster: Absent Without Leave, Port-Royal, Stafrćnn Hákon, J.R Alexander (aka Message To Bears), Yellow6, The Declining Winter (side-project of Hood), The Gentleman Losers, Millimetrik, Silencio, David Newlyn, Good Weather For An Airstrike, Caught In The Wake Forever, Wil Bolton, Epic45, Building Castles Out Of Matchsticks, Die Stadt Der Romatische Punk (member of Giardini Di Miro), Gnac, Televise (ex-Slowdive), Arbol (ex-Piano Magic)…and many others.
Websites: www.facebook.com/soundinsilencerecords, www.soundinsilencerecords.bandcamp.com, www.soundcloud.com/soundinsilencerecords, www.myspace.com/soundinsilencerecords

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

George – I started the Sound In Silence label in 2006 with a good friend trying to release exclusive high quality new music by a wonderful international roster. After the first release I continued running the label on my own until now.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?

George – Savings.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?

George – 15 at the moment (April 2013) & about 10 more are already scheduled for the near future.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?

George – It doesn’t really matter the quantity, but just the quality, so I don’t plan on any number of releases in a given year. Things usually get released when artists complete them.

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

George – It depends on circumstances & what needs to be done. When working on pending releases I have to take care of the mastering, printings, cutting & gluing front cover photos, hand-stamping & hand-numbering the packages, burning & printing the discs, press releases & whatever else is needed & when something comes out I have to do some more promotion, send packages for orders, etc.
QRD – What are the fun & /or rewarding parts about running a label?

George – Meeting a lot of interesting people, finding new music, working with artists I like, working on artwork, getting the final product in hand, helping artists get some deserved attention for their work & getting thank you messages from artists & fans for doing these releases.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?

George – Not at all.

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

George – I’m trying to have my own path, but I really like a lot of music released by Constellation, Kranky, Type Records, N5MD, Make Mine Music, & many other smaller DIY labels.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?

George – None.
QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

George – For sure all the artists in label’s roster & I’d also hope the packaging & design of our releases.
QRD – How has your physical location affected your label?

George – It’s not important at all.
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?

George – I still enjoy music the way I used to, so nothing has changed. I like the fact that first of all I’m a fan of the artists of Sound In Silence & not just their label owner.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?

George – I’m trying to listen to all the demos I receive, but in the end I’m only working with artists that I’m a big fan of their work.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?

George – Generally, new additions to the label’s roster come from artists that I really admire, after building a good relationship with them over a period of time.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?

George – Via the internet, recommendations from friends, reviews, radio play, etc.
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?

George – The two biggest selling, & now sold out, Sound In Silence releases are:
Port-Royal & Absent Without Leave – Magnitogorsk (split, 2008) & Absent Without Leave – Faded Photographs (2010).  Usually most of Sound In Silence releases sell out very quickly, but these two albums were the only ones that were released in edition of 500 copies while most of the others so far came out in editions of about 200-300 copies.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?

George – They are all special to me.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with an artist?

George – First of all their talent, but it’s really important for me not only to like their music but also their aesthetics & even better if I like their personalities too.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?

George – Hopefully quality.
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?

George – I’m usually involved as much as the artist wants me to be. I really appreciate when sometimes artists send me some demos while they are still working on them & ask for my opinion. I have studied sound engineering, so when all the tracks for a release are collected, I’m available to do the mastering, if the artist wants me to do it.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?

George – I like to take care of the artwork so that it fits the label’s aesthetics & to be sure there are no problems with the templates, etc.  Of course I’m asking for the artist’s opinion too, so that both sides are satisfied with the final result, but we usually agree from the beginning about it, as we have similar aesthetics.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?

George – It depends on what I have to do. Usually I’m working on the artwork & packaging while the artist works on the music, so when he delivers me the album I have already finished the artwork & it takes about 1-2 months to burn & print the discs, send press releases & promos, & then it will be released. When I have to do the mastering too, it takes a little more, about 2-3 months.
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?

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

George – All Sound In Silence releases are in limited editions so I’m not thinking about selling many copies when doing a release.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?

George – The label pays all production costs (artwork, packaging, discs, mastering), except for recording, which has to be done by the artist.
QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?

George – I usually give a percentage of the pressing to the artist & send another percentage as promos to magazines, radio stations, webzines, & blogs.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?

George – Everything is on a handshake basis. I’m always very clear on the deals & everything has worked very well so far that way. If I’m going to work with an artist, first of all we have to trust each other.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?

George – Absolutely not.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?

George – Touring always helps promote a release, but I don’t expect it from any artist.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?

George – I do it all in house. All these years I have built a big community with reviewers, bloggers, & radio producers; so I think I can do a good enough job of promotion just by myself.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

George – Using the social networks, sending a newsletter only when there is a new release, writing on some forums, printing some flyers for forthcoming releases that keep people aware of what is coming in the next few months, etc.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?

George – No.

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

George – It’s just me with the occasional valuable help of my girlfriend.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?

George – I send out some emails offering them my terms for ordering directly or giving them info of distributors who they can get the Sound In Silence releases from.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations, bloggers, magazines & websites?

George – I send them some promos.
QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?

George – Probably 50/50.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

George – Spreading the word amongst people that are interested & making the releases available to as many stores as they can.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?

George – From my experience I can understand what the right amount of copies for each release is.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?

George – 10% of the physical copies, but I also try to send as many digital promos as possible.
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?

George – No.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?

George – No.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?

George – In some ways it helps, but sometimes it hinders too.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

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

George – All the artists on the label’s roster are in some way a community based on their music & aesthetics. I think everyone knows & likes the other artists’ material & even though we all live in many different countries, we try to keep in touch as much as we can via the internet & maybe playing together when someone reaches the other’s city on tour.
QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?

George – I have never had that conversation with any artist.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?

George – Whenever necessary. At least I’d like to gain the invested money of every release back.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?

George – No.
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?

George – Gone as DIY as I can, doing all the artwork, printings, mastering, packaging, burning/printing the discs, press releases/promotion & releasing the right number of copies.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

George – No.
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?

George – Vinyl, hopefully not as some music sounds really better on it.  Cassettes, most likely.  Both formats work more as collector’s objects nowadays.
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?

George – For me it’s really important to release physical items.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?

George – I really like them, especially when they come out with nice handmade packaging.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?

George – I’ve never considered them.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?

George – Maybe 1-2 tracks from each release as a taster or the entire album as free to stream so the listener will know exactly the content of the release, hoping that this will encourage him to buy a physical copy.
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?

George – Sometimes all you can do is notifications, but generally it’s unavoidable.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?

George – I have no idea what other labels do.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?

George – Lack of time & money.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?

George – Think carefully about it first, be yourself & love what you do.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?

George – It’s different for everyone.

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

George – Labels offer an established brand name that encourages people to check an artist’s release. Moreover they usually do things most artists don’t like to do, like promotion, etc. so they can better spend time doing their creative work.
QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace), 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?

George – Bandcamp & Last.fm are two really good places for exploration.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?

George – Hopefully for releasing some interesting & beautifully designed records.
QRD – Anything else?

George – Thanks a lot for the interview & keep supporting all the interesting independent labels & artists.