Heart Music

"Tab's one of those rare people in the world that is not out to make a bunch of money," says Elias Haslanger of Tab Bartling, president of Heart Music, the label that has put out all three of his CDs. "He's out to produce music that he believes in, and he hopes to break even. If he can, he's happy, more often than not he doesn't."

"The major labels right now are only going with the tried and true," says Bartling. "They're not taking new artists. They don't want to develop any artists right now. It's hard enough out there."

Not only has the retail market suffered over the past few years, the makers of jazz have felt the pinch as strongly as anyone, especially a local indie like Heart Music, which is home to acts like Haslanger, Joe LoCascio (see "Jazz Records" in this issue), Carla Helmbrech, Tony Campise, Erich Avinger, and Monte Montgomery.

"I think you have to develop these artists," says Bartling. "You can't have real high expectations on the first few records. If you get past that and they develop and grow on their own, and if the press supports them, and the music is great, it can be a good financial investment. When you start off you can't expect to get any money back unless you look at the overall thing - three or four years. It's a long-term thing."

Bartling says that the market has treated him well; Haslanger's first two albums have sold locally and in smaller markets, as well as in Japan and Asia.

"Certainly we don't ever lose money on Elias, it just takes a while to get the money back. People seem to really know who he is."

Bartling, who turned 44 this past Friday, is all too willing and able to take the chance. As president of Bartling Oil, a business started by his father Ted, a longtime Houston oil man, back in 1971, Tab's cash flow is better than most.

"I try to let Heart Music support itself, but unfortunately it doesn't always do that. So I support Heart Music with what I make in the oil business. Everything I make kinda goes into Heart Music, to be honest. I've been trying to build it for 10 years, and I may not have made a lot of money or gotten it all back, but I've got some good CDs." - C.H.

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