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.