Owner Follow-Up Interview
with Ben Link Collins of Silent Media Projects
Name: Ben Link Collins
Label: Silent Media
City: East Point, GA
Artists Roster: http://silentmediaprojects.com/makers.html
Original Label Owner Interview with QRD
QRD – Any major changes to the label or your general outlook on running a label since last time?
Ben – Silent Media is becoming more like I imagined it before I started putting out releases & less like a record label. SM has always been an interdisciplinary platform, but all the releases up to this point have felt like the video, or the writing, or the photography are sort of supplementary to the music. I have never thought of them that way, but that’s the way they wind up being presented because I’ve largely been following a record label model. It’s taken me this long to figure out how to distance myself from the beaten path & start trying out different platforms & ways to work with other artists. The releases will be less frequent, too. Not that they were terribly frequent before, but I’m not concerned with keeping a release schedule & more interested in releasing things that are stand alone as an artistic endeavor in which all the mediums are an inseparable piece to the puzzle.
QRD – How do you feel labels are more & less useful to artists now than they were five years ago?
Ben – An interesting questing because there are so many possible ways to respond. Obviously this has as much to do with what label & what size label you’re talking about as it has to do with the artist in question. I was marveling at Kye Records a few days ago because all of their releases sell out, all the time, no matter what. I don’t mean to be putting in a plug for Kye here, there are lots of labels that do that, but Kye is current in my mind. As far as I know they don’t make their releases available as download. Many of their artists aren’t exclusive to Kye & don’t necessarily sell out of all their releases all the time with other labels. My point is that I think Kye has achieved a level of expectation for the quality of their releases & a loyal fan base. If a record label has any role regarding its usefulness to artists, it’s that.
QRD – There are a lot less record stores than their used to be. How has that effected your model for releasing music?
Ben – No. I started Silent Media amid the rise of the digital culture & the downfall of brick & mortar music stores. So, nothing has changed for me. I still run around to record stores in my area to see if they want to carry SM releases, but that’s mostly because I still like walking into record stores & finding something unexpected. I like to feel like I’ve contributed to that for others.
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?
Ben – When I listen to Spotify or, more regularly, Last.fm I get excited about what I hear & often wind up buying it. I have to make myself stop listening sometimes because I want them all. I think that most people who would be interested in Silent Media releases care about the music & the artists behind it & wind up doing some version of the same thing. I also think that there’s a lot of idyllic music that dehumanizes the artists because those artists are standing behind big marketing strategies & it makes it easier for the listener to objectify & feel entitled to music when it’s made so available all the time. I embrace the availability of information & as long as that playing field remains level I can’t build a good argument against these avenues. There’s a lot of new scenarios that are being worked through as information becomes more free flowing. In the end it’s up to the artists & labels to upload their work to Spotify, et al. More often than not I can’t find what I’m looking for on Spotify because I think people are becoming informed about their bad practices & not supporting Spotify from the supply side. That alone has turned me away & I have talked to several others that feel the same.
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?
Ben – I mentioned in my response to your first question that Silent Media is moving away from the standard record label practices. I’m working on a project with Acid Rain Productions (.com) right now that will be very limited. However it has the potential to turn into a major production based on demand. The release format will be centered around USB & a small book. The format in this case will allow us to produce 10 or 20 at a time. If those sell, we can have more printed. This release will also have several parts & pieces -- an audio processing app, a small book, maybe a podcast, & music. Custom Art Tools (.com) is working with Acid Rain on the app. We have invited artists to process audio from video projects by LoVid (.org) through the app. We’re also including either an interview (with LoVid) or a podcast or an interview/essay on DIY approaches to art. This project is still obviously under a little development, but I lay it out here to say that there are all these parts & pieces that can either all come together as one release or be made available individually. We’re tossing around ideas for download options as well as physical packaging.
I’m also playing around with an idea for commissioned projects that will focus on a designed experience for an individual or small group like a family or couple or friends. More on that in the next year.
QRD – What social networks are you active on & what ones aren’t worth the time & energy to you?
Ben – I’m on Facebook &, like a lot of people, I’m always weighing the option of abandoning it. In the end I always wind up staying on, not because it has been terribly useful to me for Silent Media, but because I can keep up with what’s going on with other people & their projects & when who is going to be where putting on a show 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?
Ben – I can’t say that my Bandcamp, or the items I have on Amazon, or Discogs, etc. make more sales than my website. In truth, I don’t make enough sales to really draw meaningful comparisons. I keep everything up to broaden the net & make Silent Media easier for people to find.
QRD – Do you think fan funding (e.g. Kickstarter) is the future, a fad, or an awful thing for the music industry?
Ben – I like fan funding, have used fan funding, & would do it again. It’s not like people aren’t getting something for their money. It’s like a community building campaign in which other people can help to reach a goal & actually share in a feeling of accomplishment & making something happen. I like that & not only from the receiving side. I contribute to fan funding projects &, when they succeed, that’s part of the memory associated with whatever I get out of it.
QRD – What’s something you leave up to bands to do rather than handling as a label?
Ben – It’s all been case by case so far. Each Silent Media project has been an effort by everyone involved & I’m hoping that the future releases will be that way even more so.
QRD – Do you see albums, EPs, or singles more relevant than a few years ago or pretty much in the same place?
Ben – Well, I still get a lot more excited about albums than EPs but more excited about EPs than singles. Actually, I don’t really bother with singles most of the time. I can’t really remember the last time I saw one as a physical release. I’m usually an all in sort of consumer of music. I used to get excited about singles before digital downloads were on the playing field & I walked into a CD store & found something that has a track or two on it that I’d never heard. The idea of a single has really morphed into something new now that you can buy single tracks from an album as a digital download. So, I’m not sure that a single or, for that matter, an album or EP have become more or less relevant since we can buy one track from any format most of the time.
QRD – Do you have separate release dates for different formats (CD, vinyl, digital download, streaming)?
Ben – For the first time Silent Media will have separate release dates for different packaging options on the release with Acid Rain Productions I was talking about above.
QRD – Anything else?
Ben – Let’s see Silber’s responses to these!
QRD – Right here.