a new way of looking at the future of recording deals

for several years i’ve been operating a small cassette label out of my kitchen. well technically it’s the dining room. i started this for many reasons, not the least of which is my love of the cassette format.
in the old days, my friends and i made these mix tapes that had to be lovingly recorded one at a time with hand scribbled covers and so forth. they were a real work of personal art and i can still vividly picture some of these tapes my friends and i made, with the funny titles and what the brand of tape was and what they contained {the finest bluegrass punk rock blues avant weirdo dub}. so what i set out to do with my little label, was to offer cassettes that had a homemade vibe to them. again, as though they were lovingly made for you by a friend. all on a very small scale of course. part of my trip is that my art is ALL the stuff i do, from how i work in my yard to the music i put out and how i exercise and what i read, my doodle drawings and all that. my feeling is that your art is YOU.
i’ve been so fortunate to have many great friends in music that do really cool stuff. some of it is completely under the radar and unheard by others. {i suppose in a sense that describes my own entire output depending on how you might look at it har har}. and it gives me great joy to:
a. release my own weirder music, that a standard label would likely outright reject {for very good reasons actually ha! some of it is total noise}. this way i can get some of my ideas out in a small format way, that won’t cost an arm and a leg, thus getting a bit of a fresh look at them. it’s very helpful to document and work through one’s ideas. and the ideas can be reused later in larger or other works.
b. put out some of the things my close friends have done {or people i otherwise find interesting}, that might not ever see the light of day otherwise.
here’s how we structure the deals. first off the project is recorded for free, or in a couple of cases the artist records the music at home on a four track or however they would like to do this. i take the tracks and mix {perhaps i do a “remix”} and sequence them for cassette, and get them ready. usually drawing the cover myself, endeavoring to create the homemade vibe of a mixtape lovingly made for you by a good friend. we talk about how many cassettes would make a good tiny run, usually 50 or 100 or in the case of someone that plays quite a bit 200. the number could go as low as 10 or even i suppose 1. in some cases the artist signs and numbers the tapes, as they are in their own right, an objet d’art. we pull off enough tapes to pay for the duplication, and split the rest. the artist is free to give them away or sell them at their shows or on their site or whatever they want. {the only cost is the duplication} we also put the music up on the label site offering it as a download, as not many folks in the mass even have a cassette player {however i’d say almost every one of my close friends has several working machines}. the end user can download in whatever format they choose, audition the music, buy individual tracks etc.
here is the best part. the artist is free to take the tracks and re-release them themselves at their own leisure. why? because it’s their music! they are the ones that busted their ass to learn an instrument, in many cases spent years on the road sleeping on floors, and wrote all this stuff. it’s theirs! and they are free to do what they want with it when they want.
it’s all very small and informal, and high on art value. the artist in this case isn’t looking at a market and THEN trying to make music that will work in an external environment, but rather is making something they actually want to have for themselves and/or a very small group of friends. so the music turns out pretty special. i call it the Secret Music. a very tiny world. i just wanted to put this idea out there. sometimes these commercial structures get put into place over the years whereby the math gets worse and worse over time for the person making the art.
example: streaming. which sounds a lot like screaming. the giant monolithic machine, in order to sell bandwidth and computers, over time leveraged the deal to bundle in all music free. the trouble is, the creators had no say in this and we all got royally screwed on this... and since the mass got what they perceived as “free music” it was all fine and good as far as they were concerned. which is all great until i try to buy food. that’s when things get sticky. nonetheless, i just wanted to demonstrate that new, equitable, fun, arrangements are possible, that perhaps places a high emphasis on the art itself. the narrative whereby the creators hand over a folder of their entire life’s work, to be used to profit a giant external distant machine, all the while receiving no effective recompense at all, can and should be broken. maybe i’m the only one that thinks this way and that’s alright.
if nothing else minner bucket records has been a fun experiment. we have some new stuff coming out this year and it’s small funky and cool. as a society sometimes we just accept these awful commercial arrangements in every aspect of our lives. especially as the noose tightens only slightly every year. like the backs of rent car agreements. but really there are other ways of looking at things. and i suppose artists have to be as creative about how they put things out as they are about making the stuff in the first place. so this is one of my responses to this challenge. if only in a very tiny way.