Label Owner Interview with Jason Bryant of Infraction
August 6, 2017
Name: Jason Bryant
Artists Roster: Drape, Beautumn, Keith Berry, Pausal, Celer, Offtheskyand Pleq, Loren Dent, Bengalfuel, Willamette, My Home Sinking, Zimiamvian Night, Alio Die, Lantscap (Warren Kroll, Ian Hawgood), Matteo Uggeri, The National Pool,
Websites: infraction.bandcamp.com, www.infractionrecords.com
Photos - self, logo, work area, bands, etc
QRD – When & why did you start your label?
Jason – 2001. Because I am not a musician -- I wanted to do the next best thing & assist others in areas of music that I was very interested in.
QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?
Jason – It was an extension of the mail-order business I was running & subsequently closed a few years later to focus on the label.
QRD – How many releases have you put out?
Jason – Roughly 60.
QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?
Jason – If I were full time?? 10. I’m lucky to get 4 or 5 out though.
QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?
Jason – Not enough. 10-15 hours maybe. Ideally, I could do this full-time. Ambient labels are not support-the-family-&-the-future labels, so I’m satisfied for it to just support itself.
QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?
Jason – That folks are out there making incredible recorded works & sharing them. The collaboration, the artwork, bringing works to a physical fruition.
QRD – How do you feel labels are more & less useful to artists now than they were five years ago?
Jason – More. There is *so* much music out there. Labels may act as a bit of a filter & curation house.
QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed over time?
Jason – Life happens, so it’s an ebb & flow. The motivation is still there, I still enjoy it. If I didn’t, then that would be the time to close it up.
QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?
Jason – Hmm... good question.
QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?
Jason – Admire - probably Kranky, Soleilmoon, 4AD. Kinship? Low Point, Elevator Bath, Facture, Home Normal, Scissor Tail, Desire Path.
QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?
Jason – Running a music mail-order business helped.
QRD – What makes your label special & unique?
Jason – Because it’s ambient & the exploration of what that genre can & does sound like. The elevation of the physical piece with high quality CD & LP sleeves, heavy gram pressings & talented graphic artists.
QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?
Jason – We’re in Ohio, so...
QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?
Jason – I have always loved music, many genres outside of what is on Infraction. I think a good amount of time is dedicated to demos, then refining what is to become a release - the mastering, sequencing, editing. I don’t have as much free time for free listening.
QRD – What’s your demos policy?
Jason – Send them along. I may not listen to them immediately, but I listen to each & every one of them.
QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?
Jason – Maybe someone suggests something, or I seek it out. I’ve had long relationships with many artists on the label. The new artists are usually from demos & some of them are stunning.
QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?
Jason – I have no idea. Maybe word of mouth, someone’s playlist, recommendations. You can view streaming trends, but who knows how they got there.
QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?
Jason – Tetsu Inoue’s World Receiver probably. It is an ambient classic, was out of print & arguably Tetsu’s best recording. The other is Koda’s Movements. I think just because it resonated with people, & received some great word of mouth.
QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?
Jason – Like asking what your favorite child is. I think there are 2 - the Zimiamvian Night releases, because Mike Bennett is a dear friend, the other is Adam Pacione’s From Stills to Motion - because it was the complete package of art & music & has left an everlasting impression on me. Hope to work with Adam again.
QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?
Jason – Great recording, willingness to work together.
QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?
Jason – Unrealistic expectations, ego.
QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?
Jason – They are all stunning in their own right.
QRD – How involved are you with a band for acting as a producer as far as hearing demo ideas or selecting tracks to be on a release or mixing & mastering?
Jason – Depends on the release. Some, not at all; others there is some extensive curation. There is no forcing though, because ultimately, it’s their recording.
QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?
Jason – Again, some very much... others, the package is done & just needs credits & a logo.
QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?
Jason – Monos took 6 years, others just a few months. Depends. I work slow though.
QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?
Jason – Ambient is usually a solo project, so I can’t say that has ever happened.
QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?
Jason – Swing by & help pack their own orders.
QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?
Jason – Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock or Spirit of Eden. I guess you could always do reissues, but each of those have been done more than a few times.
QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?
Jason – Release it anyway.
QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?
Jason – We front costs & have a financial arrangement once costs are recouped.
QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?
Jason – Both.
QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?
Jason – No.
QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?
Jason – Ambient is usually not a touring thing.
QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?
Jason – Mostly in-house. Again, most larger promoters don’t know what to do with an ambient release.
QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?
Jason – Mail-outs, email, FB, door-to-door.
QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?
Jason – Uh, no.
QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?
Jason – Just me. 3 would be nice. Volunteers would be superb.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?
Jason – Promos, emails, specials.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?
Jason – Promos, emails.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?
Jason – Sexual favors.
QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?
Jason – Sexual favors within reason.
QRD – What is the job of your distributors?
Jason – Well not much anymore since I’ve pretty much cut off working with distros. I got tired of loaning out our product for years on end & getting a check (or a return) at the end of that time. Decided we needed revenue & to not be a bank.
QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?
Jason – Past performance. Somewhere around 500 copies of a CD &/or LP usually will do.
QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?
Jason – Hmm, 5-10%
QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?
Jason – Not so much, no.
QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?
Jason – Yes.
QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?
Jason – I’m not an artist.
QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?
Jason – I think if I released something I recorded, I would be pushing the envelope in a horrible way.
QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?
Jason – I may suggest a collaboration, but otherwise I’m hands off.
QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?
Jason – Hmm, I think every artist has a day job, so that may not be a balance of concern.
QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?
Jason – I’m happy to break even & send some funds to the artist.
QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?
Jason – No.
QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?
Jason – Trying to work with more local pressing plants. Cut out the distros. Visibility may decline, but again I don’t want to loan out our product to help their balance sheet.
QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?
Jason – I hope not!
QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?
Jason – Might be. Time will tell.
QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?
Jason – Physical releases are essential. Net label may be easier & have the ability to fast-track releases, but the physical format is essential in my book.
QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?
Jason – Depends on the release. If that is what a label or artist can afford, then more power to them.
QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?
Jason – Again, there may be a financial reason for doing it.
QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?
Jason – I think streaming is important for trying things out.
QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?
Jason – That is an enormous waste of time & an unfortunate aspect of the business. I hate to sound passive about it, but you could spend all your free time trying to shut down those avenues & then something else would pop up.
QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?
Jason – Releasing without permission.
QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?
Jason – Life changes, or if the support dries up.
QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?
Jason – Release what appeals to you. Have passion, it will show.
QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?
Jason – I think these are mostly self-funded ventures. Not sure if that answers the question.
QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?
Jason – Again, curation, filtration & help in promotion & financing.
QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace, LastFM), but when MySpace died there was no real space that picked up the torch, what do you see as the place where “normal” people go to find out about & get excited by new music?
Jason – Spotify.
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?
Jason – There is accountability, albeit fractions of cents, for each song stream. So, there is viable continuity there & perhaps it keeps catalog albums & songs a bit more alive than in years past.
QRD – What social networks are you active on & what ones aren’t worth the time & energy to you?
Jason – We do FB, I don’t know if a Twitter or Instagram account would appeal to those that support what we’re doing. I may be wrong.
QRD – With the rise of social networks & trusted download shops, has your own website become less important than it was a few years ago?
Jason – I think Bandcamp has more visibility than our site as an example, but you still need a home base that is a little less restrictive.
QRD – Do you think fan funding (e.g. Kickstarter) is the future, a fad, or an awful thing for the music industry?
Jason – I think we see reissues & standard issues that otherwise would not have happened. It seems to work for both artists & fans that want a tiered return for their money. If it’s a project I support & can put in ‘x’ amount & get an LP, a mention in the credits &/or some other type of bonus -- that’s pretty great.
QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?
Jason – That it is a label with a focus on ambient, that it is a label that you can blindly pick up anything on & still be rewarded.
QRD – Anything else?
Jason – Not at this time, thank you.