Owner Follow-Up Interview
with Keith Jones of Fruits de Mer, Regal Crabomphone, & Friends
of the Fish
Name: Keith Jones
Labels: Fruits de Mer, Regal Crabomphone, Friends of the Fish
City: Leafy Surrey, England
Bands - for 2015, the list includes Tir na nOg, Sendelica, The Bevis Frond, Cranium Pie, Schnauser, Crystal Jacqueline, The Luck Of Eden Hall, Arcade Messiah, The Soft Bombs, nick nicely, The Chemistry Set...
Website - www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
Original Label Owner Interview with QRD
QRD – Any major changes to the label or your general outlook on running a label since last time?
Keith – Fruits de Mer Records still operates to a large extent within a timeframe that started around 1966 & is then in denial about most of the last 40 years: CDs are dull, downloads don’t exist, music still matters...
I re-read my interview with you from two years ago & perhaps the biggest change is that at the time I thought that a brilliant instrumental psych/prog album by a Swedish band called Tor Peders was going to remain lost & unheard forever, but I was able to renew contact with the surviving members of the band & I released the LP in 2014 -- Brev Fran Ederstorp, it’s wonderful!
I’m releasing more records now than a few years ago, & having to turn away many more opportunities to put out music I love -- things could get seriously out-of-hand if I didn’t give myself a strict talking-to once in a while. The label is also becoming more balanced between singles & albums -- 2015 will be a mainly-albums year - but I’m determined to get back to more singles in 2016. There’s also more of a mix to this year’s releases between covers & original music -- although everything is still heavily influenced by the 60s/70s & the presentation seems to be getting more complex -- box-sets, screenprinted sleeves.…
QRD – How do you feel labels are more & less useful to artists now than they were five years ago?
Keith – It’s the simplest thing in the world to make your music available as a download, incredibly easy to put out a CD & not that difficult for an artist to self-release on vinyl, so a label has got to add some value somewhere. It takes some of the hassle away, including the financial risks, but what really matters is when it helps get music heard by people - make that LISTENED to -- by people for whom music MATTERS -- DJs, music bloggers, journalists & most importantly record-buyers. When so much music is so freely available, it risks becoming no more than background noise; labels select artists & music that appeal to them & help connect the musicians with like-minded people, in quite a personal way. If a record buyer builds up a degree of trust in a label, they’ll buy - or at least listen to - music by artists that are new to them, if the label has given them their support.
QRD – There are a lot less record stores than there used to be. How has that affected your model for releasing music?
Keith – Most Fruits de Mer records are sold direct by me, through mail order services, or through specialist shops that are well-placed to cater for the increased interest in vinyl releases (new & old) -- so I haven’t seen any impact.
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?
Keith – Spotify means nothing to me, neither does the iTunes store or whatever the Amazon equivalent is - if they ever do, then that will be the time for me to give up on Fruits de Mer; it’s a physical label for people who think that having their music in a physical form is an important part of their love of it.
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?
Keith – Fruits de Mer has never tried to be a serious business; I’m happy as long as I don’t lose money & as long as I don’t look too closely at costs & revenues, I stay happy.
QRD – What social networks are you active on & what ones aren’t worth the time & energy to you?
Keith – I post a lot on Facebook; I run a Facebook page for the label & a more general Facebook group; I tried a bit of advertising on Facebook but I didn’t see any measurable results that justified spending more; it’s a just good place to keep in touch with people in an unobtrusive way & it’s easier than updating the clunky FdM website -- but if I have any really important news, I email people. & there is a Fruits de Mer members club for anyone who is seriously hooked on the label & is prepared to cope with even more emails from me.
QRD – With the rise of social networks & trusted download shops, has your own website become less important than it was a few years ago?
Keith – The Fruits de Mer website is very important to me - as a reminder of what I’m doing & have done as much as anything else. If I spent more time keeping it current, I think it might be a lot more useful & interesting to followers of the label! But it’s a pretty good introduction to anyone new to FdM -- & includes the “Shop” page that lists everything that’s still in-stock.
QRD – Do you think fan funding (e.g. Kickstarter) is the future, a fad, or an awful thing for the music industry?
Keith – Kickstarter seems quite a useful service for bands without a decent website or an email list of their fans -- but I’m not sure what it really offers to artists beyond that.
QRD – What’s something you leave up to bands to do rather than handling as a label?
Keith – I’m happy for bands to handle downloads, streaming, CDs while I stick to vinyl (although I am reissuing a couple of vinyl albums on very limited run CDs this year, just for fun).
QRD – Anything else?
Keith – As well as selling a couple of CDs for the first time this year (at FdM gigs - see below), I also put together occasional free CD compilations for members of the FdM club -- a thank-you for their continued support & also a way to give exposure to music & artists that I simply can’t fit into the very limited vinyl release schedule I have to work within. As CDs become the new/old vinyl, I’m starting to get kind of nostalgic about them!
Delivery schedules at vinyl pressing plants seem to be getting longer by the month - I guess it’s the short-term impact of the glut of RSD 2015 releases & a general rediscovery amongst large labels of the vinyl format & some belated bandwagon-jumping; it means I’m having to do something that’s been something of an anathema until now - plan ahead.
Fruits de Mer is involved in two live events this year -- a gig at the famous Half Moon pub in London in May & a three-day festival in Wales in August; lots of great live music, lots of exclusive vinyl for sale, artist signing sessions & some specially-compiled FdM CD giveaways for everyone who comes along but, perhaps most importantly, they are a chance for fans of the music & the label from around the world to meet up (we’ve already sold tickets to people coming over from Germany, USA, & Australia!)