Owner Follow-Up Interview
with Richo Johnson of Fourth Dimension Records, Lumberton Trading
Company, & Winter Hill Recordings
Name: Richo Johnson
Label: Fourth Dimension Records, Lumberton Trading Company, Winter Hill Recordings
City: Krakow, Poland
Artists Roster: Artists we have have worked with include Sion Orgon, Theme, Sleaford Mods, Nick Mott, EXTNDDNTWRK, Mahler Haze, Brian Conniffe, JFK, Part 1, Kleistwahr, Glass Out, Cindytalk, etc.
Websites: www.fourth-dimension.net, www.lumberton-trading.net
Original Label Owner Interview with QRD
QRD – Any major changes to the label or your general outlook on running a label since last time?
Richo – My attitude towards running my labels or being involved in anything else I’ve turned my hand to over the years has largely remained consistent, to be honest. However, we do live in times now where the market, even concerning that of a more niche or specialised nature, is completely saturated. For better or for worse, more people than ever can get involved in music due to the accessibility of the means. It is great that the internet has opened so many new possibilities for music in many different respects but the price is that some labels & artists suffer as a result. On a bad day, this can seem depressing; but I’ve always been partly driven by frustration & anger anyway, so this only adds another layer to the mix that I already contend with. As much as I might proclaim notions of giving up quite often, I’m generally in favour of battling against the tide however possible. I remain motivated & still feel dedicated to supporting those few artists I feel are producing great, challenging & wonderful work that might at certain junctures dovetail with my own sensibilities. I don’t believe this will ever change, either.
QRD – How do you feel labels are more & less useful to artists now than they were five years ago?
Richo – Considering the fact artists can manage everything themselves quite easily if desired these days, I feel labels can only triumph where contacts, distribution deals, &, of course, financial backing are concerned. If a label cannot at least do this for any given artist, or release, then their purpose is rendered mostly redundant. Of course, some artists prefer to work with labels so they can take care of everything for them while they continue to dedicate themselves to their own work; but, again, the internet has opened up many new possibilities for those artists wishing to remain wholly independent.
QRD – There are a lot less record stores than there used to be. How has that affected your model for releasing music?
Richo – My releases have mostly been made available through the kind of record shops that are more specialised in the first place or mail order outlets & the like. I’ve always also encouraged direct orders & feel more comfortable operating this way, ultimately. Direct control is much more agreeable, although I’m fortunate in that I likewise work with Cargo Records, who do a fantastic job in getting at least a certain percentage of my releases to those places who prefer to work with distributors than directly with labels.
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?
Richo – Never used it, so I cannot answer this. I barely have spare time enough to cope with my main interest with physical releases, never mind such places as Spotify, etc. I fully realise I might well be missing out on something here, but it really is a time issue for me. If somebody else I could trust wanted to handle this side of things for me, I’d gladly consider 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?
Richo – I’ve never made money from my labels. I don’t even know how that’s achievable with the kind of releases I put out. If I knew how to do otherwise, I’d jump at it as I’ve always run my labels from my own pockets & they’re largely empty these days.
QRD – What social networks are you active on & what ones aren’t worth the time & energy to you?
Richo – I use Facebook & Twitter. Both have brought in some extra attention from time to time, or maybe an additional order or two. There are other benefits to using both as well, of course, & these can actually outweigh their use as a means to promote releases or whatever.
QRD – With the rise of social networks & trusted download shops, has your own website become less important than it was a few years ago?
Richo – I’ve never grasped exactly how important websites are in the first place. They might serve a function as an information source concerning labels & artists, etc.; but it is ironic that, for example, people email me & then ask for my street address or other such info when this is all easy enough to find on the websites. Who pays that much attention to them in this age of deluge & concomitant complacency? I have no idea.
QRD – Do you think fan funding (e.g. Kickstarter) is the future, a fad, or an awful thing for the music industry?
Richo – I’ve tried one of these myself. I launched an Indiegogo campaign not that long ago, but cannot claim it has been a great success. Maybe my target was too high? I don’t see anything wrong with the idea, though. Why not? Clearly, some people are happy to help labels, artists, & projects that need such support. As long as it is a two-way thing & they then get something for their help, I’m fine with it.
QRD – What’s something you leave up to bands to do rather than handling as a label?
Richo – I never stake any ownership over any band’s release. If they want to make it available to download themselves, they are welcome to. Beyond that, I’m here to help them as much as I possibly can. Ultimately, I have arrived at my labels from the perspective of a fan who feels certain artists’ work should be more readily available. I view each of my releases as a mere stepping stone in this respect. I wouldn’t dream of getting in the way of any given artist’s own path, although of course I’m happy to continue working with them if it has been mutually proven we get along & everybody is satisfied. In this sense, it might be fair to say I largely work with friends who create great music as well. I like to think it is more than just a working relationship, although this has been very much the case in certain instances &, in one or two cases, anything but friendly!
QRD – Do you see albums, EPs, or singles more relevant than a few years ago or pretty much in the same place?
Richo – They all have their different purposes & I rather enjoy all. When I was a teen, I bought 7” records as they were all I could afford. I still love them partly due to this nostalgia I have for them, but LPs always have the advantage in that far more can be done with them. Some songs are perfect for 7” releases, however. “Mr. Jolly Fucker”, by Sleaford Mods, is a triumph in this respect for me as I think it’s up there with all the classic punk singles I was weaned on. It works a treat on this format, plus we’ve had some great fun with different editions of it due to the demand. I’ve really enjoyed everything concerning this release. I only wish I could do the same with everything else I support!
QRD – Do you have separate release dates for different formats (CD, vinyl, digital download, streaming)?
Richo – Oh no. My release dates forever get broken due to cash flow crises & the like. When I announce one it invariably simply means I’m committed to trying to get a particular release at a given point in time. Unfortunately, outside factors dictate everything, though.
QRD – Anything else?
Richo – I’ve largely operated without much media support & whilst I’m perfectly happy with this, I am given to likewise complaining about it sometimes. This paradox may also be embedded in my attitude to running my labels.