Owner Follow-Up Interview
with Dylan Magierek of Badman Recording Co.
Label: Badman Recording Co.
City: Portland, OR
Release Roster: Lanterna, the innocence mission, n.Lannon, My Morning Jacket, STRFKR, Mark Kozelek, Lovers, The Builders & the Butchers...
Websites: badmanrecordingco.com, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Badman-Recording-Co/166410763378262
Original Label Owner Interview with QRD
QRD – Any major changes to the label or your general outlook on running a label since last time?
Dylan – We’ve slowed things down quite a bit over the last year, but we have two new releases coming out: Lanterna -- Backyards & n.Lannon -- Falling Inside that keep us busy. Badman has been releasing more vinyl with an emphasis on collectible short-runs in a variety of colors for our better sellers like STRFKR, Mark Kozelek, & My Morning Jacket. & somehow, even in this strange music biz atmosphere, music keeps selling for our artists.
QRD – How do you feel labels are more & less useful to artists now than they were five years ago?
Dylan – I still feel that having an experienced label behind an artist outweighs releasing an album yourself. Just having that other party to seek opportunities & pull from their cast of professional “go-to’s” for radio, press, in-stores, sync licensing, social media promotions... is invaluable. Though, having said that, I do think that a band being very involved in building their audience by all means possible (& touring like mad!) is the foundation that everyone is going to build on top of.
QRD – There are a lot less record stores than their used to be. How has that effected your model for releasing music?
Dylan – I’m happy that there are many quality retailers out there. Folks like Terry Currier at Music Millennium still get super excited about music. Music Millennium, Fingerprints, Amoeba, & a number of other record stores continue to have live in-store performances -- & that’s fantastic. They do it even though it’s usually not much of a money maker. Stores have live performances to offer something exciting -- like they always have -- a physical presence that can move you & a way to discover music that you may have completely missed if you hadn’t been shopping in the store that day. Digital sales became our #1 source of income close to a decade ago. We still see a decent amount of sales on CDs for some of our artists. & of course LP sales are quite strong, but the cost of vinyl manufacturing leaves very little on the table for the artist/label.
QRD – Spotify has become an undeniable force that has reduced download sales while (allegedly) fighting piracy. In the end what is good or bad about it for you as a label & do you embrace it?
Dylan – Well, the strange thing is that Spotify just became our top source of income. I’m not sure if they are the digital equivalent of a developer destroying the rain forest for profit, but they are paying artists that aren’t seeing much income from other sources -- especially on catalog titles. I am fond of any outlet that leads to folks discovering music from remarkable artists. Perhaps Spotify is a bit like a cassette mix tape that gets passed to friends: you get it for free, or for the cost of a nice chrome tape, & you suddenly have a bunch of favorite songs that you listen to over & over that soon affect you deeply.
QRD – Most labels are making a bit less money than they were a few years ago. What have you done to lower expenses or find new sources of revenue?
Dylan – We manufacture a lot less CDs & when we do, we order through Discmakers. They have great deals & high quality packaging/discs. Also, we do a lot less advertising than we did years ago. Social media helps balance that out by getting the word out yet costs close to nothing. Now LP manufacturing... that’s another beast. An LP may cost around $4.00 to $5.00 to make, $.75 to ship from the manufacturer... If a few get damaged, that’s a loss. & then the wholesale price after retailer discounts (especially Amazon) gives us back around $6.50 each. So, you’ve got around a buck or two left to split with the band. There’s a lot of work involved with artwork, art & manufacturing delays, mistakes, damage... to make around $500 by selling 500 albums. Though some records sell thousands, many don’t sell more than a few hundred. But they sure look nice.
QRD – What social networks are you active on & what ones aren’t worth the time & energy to you?
Dylan – Facebook is biggie, of course. I don’t bother with Twitter. It just hasn’t seemed comfortable to tell strangers what I/we are up to all the time through that format. & I don’t want to just be a sales person on social networks. So, we post updates a few times a month to not inundate folks.
QRD – With the rise of social networks & trusted download shops, has your own website become less important than it was a few years ago?
Dylan – Yes, it has. We see less traffic, but a huge pick up around new releases. It is easier & more immediate to get the word out to folks through Facebook than through our site. & it’s challenging to figure out how best to advertise our site. We’ve tried GoogleAdwords but it mostly led to too wide of an audience & no additional sales.
QRD – Do you think fan funding (e.g. Kickstarter) is the future, a fad, or an awful thing for the music industry?
Dylan – Any financial assistance a band can receive to help them make & promote an album seems like a positive thing to me. I’d like to see more known artists still putting their albums out through labels rather than just through fan funding sites. & the prices many are charging for their goods ($20 a CD, $35 for an LP...) are often outrageous. But, if folks want to pay that, I guess it is worth it to them. But, perhaps it makes it unfathomable for a band like that to consider sharing more realistic returns with a label that would keep working the album well after their fan funding campaign has ended.
QRD – What’s something you leave up to bands to do rather than handling as a label?
Dylan – Contacting their fans, working their social network, setting up their own gigs.…
QRD – Do you see albums, EPs, or singles more relevant than a few years ago or pretty much in the same place?
Dylan – I still like the experience & breadth of music/concept on full-length albums. I don’t get too excited when a band sends me an EP they are thinking of releasing. EPs tend to not get as much action as a full-length. Though, I do understand when a band just doesn’t have the material to make a full-length -- like my own band, Aina Haina. We barely pulled off a six song EP over a few years of work.
QRD – Do you have separate release dates for different formats (CD, vinyl, digital download, streaming)?
Dylan – We offer up releases through our website about a month before retail/digital street dates.
QRD – Anything else?
Dylan – I think that doing every aspect of a project (from recording to release to promotion) yourself can occasionally lead to some delusion & disappointment. Getting an outside mixer to help you finish your album can be a great idea. Some outside assistance in promotion & publicity is something to consider. Focusing on what you do best & letting others work on areas they specialize in is a smart move.