owner follow-up interview
with James Moncada of Basses Frequences
Name: Jerome Moncada
Label: Basses Frequences
City: Pertuis, France
Artists Roster: Aidan Baker & Nadja, Nicholas Szczepanik, Peter Wright, Duane Pitre, Locrian, Yui Onodera, thisquietarmy, Pleq, Yellow6…
Original Label Owner Interview with QRD
QRD – You called the label quits in 2012. How far out did you see it coming?
Jerome – The whole story starts after summer 2011. Sales decreased so drastically, it took me by surprise. I didn’t see this coming. It was a punch in the face. I had to start looking for partners to co-release some of the records that were already on the line, to cut the expenses. & I understood I had to slow down on taking new projects, just in case things got worse.… I took my chances by contacting Stuart Dalhquist of Asva anyway, proposing my humble services. I was surprised, but he accepted & gave me his collaboration with Philippe Petit. That was a huge opportunity for me, working with big names in a slightly different style, this should open some doors & bring in some fresh customers & I’ll work with Joe/Small Doses once again. Time flew, I managed to release some of the records I was supposed to, but late every time. Money wasn’t coming in & I put more & more money of my own to keep things going. That concerned me a lot, but I had faith in the Asva record. The Asva record that wasn’t coming as quickly as expected & communication was difficult during a good part of the process & I had to spend money for it too (some studio recordings & stuff). It took 9 months for it to be ready, but we weren’t much allowed to talk about it, as nothing was certain until the very end. We (Joe & me) sent a huge amount of promo CD & LP & put it on sale just before summer. &... nothing happened. I got 30 copies sold (CD & LP accrued) in the first month. Joe didn’t sell much more though. That was a huge disappointment & at the end of the summer, sales were at 55/60 copies (CD & LP) at the max. I was far from getting back the money involved & I was far from being able to release anything new without paying it from my pocket once again. & that was something I didn’t wanted to do, as I had done it quite enough in the past. I was disappointed, disgusted & all, & most of all, tired of fighting this fight. I often thought that I was part of my problems: there are too many records released every day, no one can follow everything, & I was releasing records myself, without being capable of making a real difference. I realized that the money I used to spend in the label from my pocket (around 2000 euros a year during the last two/three years) would better go to the family. I don’t blame the Asva release for killing the label, it just happened during its release.
QRD – Did you have any more releases planned when you decided to stop & if so what did you do with them?
Jerome – I did have some in the pipeline indeed; but only a few, as I stopped taking new projects for a while. It took some time, but all of them found a new home eventually & actually, better places! I was frustrated to let them go, to let these artists down, but there was no other alternative for me. Most of them were very comprehensive, they knew me very well & understood the situation.
QRD – In your blog entry about closing the label down, you took on all the responsibility of the label ending because of refusing to adapt. Do you feel like with the knowledge you have now, you would’ve changed things or your happy to have not compromised how you wanted to run a label?
Jerome – I really didn’t want to run things through the whole social network thing. I am not interested, I don’t use them & I really didn’t have the time to get interested as I had (& still have) a full time job & a growing family. Being out of all that was a way of not compromising & that was very important for me. I don’t know if I would use them if I started again. I would surely try to find a way not to, even if I know that nowadays it’s clearly a problem not using them at all. Seems you have to compromise in some ways nowadays.
QRD – Has anything tempted you to come back?
Jerome – Sure! A few times, I seriously thought about how to come back in a different way, but still being myself. But thinking back about all the money & pressing troubles killed the idea every time. But I thought about it during the first year after quitting. I really don’t anymore. Life without a label is good too & I guess the new status quo definitively won.
QRD – You have the back catalog up on Bandcamp, are back catalog sales still happening or has interest drifted away?
Jerome – Sales happen once in a while. But dead labels can’t be interesting anymore. There are so many records released every day, people are catching up on new things not by “old things” (as now, a records becomes “old” in a couple of years). Sometimes, some people dig into some artist discography & fall into Basses Frequences & buy a couple of releases & even come back eventually. It happens, but it doesn’t really keep me busy!
QRD – I assume you still have a fair share of physical inventory. Do you think you’ll eventually be able to sell it or eventually just admit it’s not worth the space it takes up in your house?
Jerome – I do have a huge quantity of record boxes indeed. But I have the chance to store them all in the basement of my work’s place. So it doesn’t really bother anyone there. I don’t have anything at home. So, as long as I work there, the records can stay & be available online. If I had to move, that would be a problem for sure.
QRD – Do you own any rights to the back catalog or did you give all of those back over to the artists?
Jerome – Well, there were no contracts, but I guess I own the record in the format I released it in as far as it’s still available from me. If anyone wants to re-release something that is sold out, they can do it for sure. What I do is give copies to artists they need some when they are touring around. It is far over the royalties, but at least I can still help in my own way.
QRD – What would you say to someone thinking about starting a label now?
Jerome – Seems that I have no advice to give as I failed! Ha! There are many ways to run a label & eventually succeed.
QRD – Anything else?
Jerome – It was a wonderful experience, even if it got tough at the end. I don’t regret doing it for 12 years & I would have kept going if I had the chance to. That was a big part of my life & who I am. But I don’t regret quitting either: I spent the last three years listening only to demos people were sending in & records I was releasing. Quitting gave me the opportunity to go back to music with a new, fresh, open mind & that was an awesome experience too, as I discovered many things I wouldn’t have if I were still running the label. I can now read & listen to anything I want to, without it being mandatory that it is related to the label, as it used be. I guess I kind of locked up myself into the label & forgot about everything else & that drained all my energy in some way. Now, without the label, I feel free. That may have been one of my problems at the time.