Indie Labels Come A-Courtin'
Austin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 16
"If you have a van, you're light years ahead of everyone else," said Jeff Price, president of SpinArt Records, an indie label featuring acts like the Pixies and Apples in Stereo. Wednesday afternoon was spent covering the basics of the independent record biz advising both those seeking a label and those seeking to start or hone one of their own. A successful music career is often born from the maintenance of an amicable, symbiotic relationship between record label and performer, something more easily achieved in the indie world than the majors. However, it must never be forgotten that music is a business, and everyone has to eat. Do your research first, and manage your expectations with the realistic view that everyone wants to be satisfied. According to Price, Martin Hall (Merge), Phil Waldorf (Misra), Nan Warshaw (Bloodshot), and Eric Speck (Ace Fu), a good, reliable label should get you closer to these primary goals by paying for your recording, manufacturing your work, and providing marketing and tour support. While you shouldn't overload indie labels with MP3s, the Internet has become their friend. Price, who put his label's entire catalog online in 1996, is excited about the possibilities the Internet offers. Speck, too, supports file sharing and considers it a "a good way for people to find out about an artist's work and then buy it." There are nuances galore, but in the end, the indie record business is a gamble. "It's not about you," said Price to the aspiring label owners dominating the audience, "it's about you and the band."