Here’s why we will sign your band to our independent record label
An insider view into the why’s and motivations of a local independent record label
Bands are a dime a dozen. My neighbor said this to my bandmate (his son) Dave Garcia and I in 1987. We laughed at him behind his back, thinking him clueless for making such a blanket statement about something we felt he knew nothing about, especially in regards to our band at the time, Phallucy. I would later come to find out his prophetic statement was right on the money. In 1987 there were, let’s say, dozens of bands in the Sacramento area.
Today, there are hundreds, maybe thousands. Everyone is in a band, everyone plays guitar, and bands are a dime a dozen. And that’s cool with me. For nearly all these bands, getting paid to travel the world playing their music is the goal. But how do bands get to live this lifestyle most only dream of? Many believe that getting signed to a major record label is the solution and many times it is. I’ve been in bands over half my life and I have yet to be signed to a major label.
Having spent over 12 years in the music business (8 at Polygram Group Distribution, one at Tower Corporate, and three at Innovative Distribution Network) and having a business degree, my wife Lynn was still just one of those people in a band who wanted her CD out. At the time neither her band The Skirts nor my band Daycare had any major label leads. After talks with Skirts drummer Wendy Powell and Daycare singer/songwriter/guitarist David Garcia, we did the logical thing: we started an independent record label called Blackliner and signed ourselves.
Working at a top-notch distribution company, IDN, Lynn is in a very unique position. She was able to sign a contract with IDN for an exclusive distribution deal with our label. She is able to utilize all of IDN’s national sales reps who service rack accounts, Mom & Pop stores, major chains and One-Stop accounts in the United States. If IDN doesn’t directly service a particular Mom & Pop (one of the best home’s for indie music), IDN’s parent company Alliance Entertainment (think Valley Records) certainly does. All Blackliner releases get the benefit of extensive U.S. distribution, a very coveted thing. We feel a good distro company is a crucial part of good label. One flails without the other. We have all worked on different ends and feel we can comment on this statement with somewhat of an education. A label can slave over your band endlessly, it doesn’t mean much if your CD’s aren’t in the stores.
To embrace an indie label relies a lot on your mind frame and overall goals. A lot of bands want a major label behind them for various reasons: sometimes it’s ego, sometimes it’s money and resources, and sometimes it’s just what happens, whatever we’re fine with majors, and we’re not here to judge people’s motivations. But unfortunately, all too often, if you don’t instantly meet predetermined benchmarks, major labels will drop your band fast. The days of letting artists develop on majors (think Tom Petty, The Police, Black Sabbath and so on) seem to be over.
Most indie labels usually do not have the power or the influence to accomplish things like getting your video on MTV or your song added to mainstream radio. Bands need to know that going in. However, bands can use an indie label to develop their songs, sound, live shows and image. Or they can use indies as a stepping-stone to a major label. Majors like to see that bands have a following. If you can accomplish that on an indie, you can probably command more if and when you’re in negotiations with a major. You can usually prove your skills with a simple tool such as Soundscan, which tracks your sales. Most indies, if they can afford it, report to Soundscan, I know we do for all Blackliner bands. Then there are some bands that are great, they just haven’t been noticed by a major and they don’t care to ever be. They just want the opportunity to get their art out to the mass public. Since indies are more likely to take a chance on weird and unknown bands and marry that to loose and simple contracts, indies are perfect for these artists.
Every indie label is different, staff sizes differ, experience levels differ, but we can tell you, with the right people, distribution and songs under your belt, you can be quite successful on an indie, and actually make more money than you would on a major. Our first two releases was a Skirts full-length and a Daycare EP. Both releases sold well nationally thanks to our incredible distribution and a tiny bit of marketing. Because of that, we decided to put out records of bands that we, the owners of the label, are not in. It started real casual last December with The Brody’s full-length and has quickly grown into a nice roster. Since December 2001, we have released full length CDs from Phallucy, The Skirts and Magnolia Thunderfinger. We have also signed on Doppler Records for a sub-distribution deal (an indie label run by Sacramento natives Keara Fallon and Deathray’s Victor Damiani) who have released CDs from The Golden Shoulders and Deathray. In early 2003, Blackliner will release full-lengths from cyber-voodoo rockers Luxt and ex-Far members Milwaukee.
We at Blackliner are trying to help out other deserving bands (in one way or another) to achieve their goals be it getting signed to a major, selling millions, or just wanting to get their CD’s out to the stores on a national level. We customize each deal we do. We’re looking for artists who have good chemistry, good music, artistry, energy, creativity and marketability. There is so much un-signed talent out there. We are just trying to help musicians get their music out to the masses. Sometimes bands and artists have no idea how to even get started selling their CD outside of venue sales. It can be intimidating. Musicians need a break too.
—Sonny and Lynn Mayugba
Blackliner has been in business since April-2000 and is based in Sacramento, California
They have a current roster of 11 bands.