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5 Questions For…Brian John Mitchell (Silber Records)

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Brian John Mitchell is an owner of North Carolina label Silber Records and listed below is an interview with him that was conducted  online in October 2009:

1. When did you start Silber Records and what were some of the obstacles
 you have encountered (if any)?
 I started my music zine (now webzine) QRD in 1994 & that morphed into
 Silber in 1996 with the first CD I released.  There are always obstacles
 & they vary with the times.  In 1996 it was hard to find out where to
 send stuff for reviews & get the word out.  Now it’s easier to get the
 word out, but there’s a lot more competition for notice.  There’s always
 been trouble with getting good distribution that actually pays & there
 probably always will be.  These days of course there’re problems with
 people thinking music is not valuable & worth paying for, but hopefully
 that will turn around one day.
 2. What do you look for in up coming artists who you would like to sign?
 There are three different things I look for & they boil down to
 business, artistic, & personality.  On the business end there is the
 question of whether they have an established fan-base & a North American
 touring presence (because our best distribution is in North  America) &
 if they can help to expand the Silber brand name (being a business is
 part of being a business).  On the artistic side I don’t even know
 exactly what the “Silber sound” is, but I know it when I hear it & I
 want someone that fits in with the label & that Silber can help them to
 some degree with giving them exposure & what not.  The personality side
 is huge as well because to some degree anyone that is on Silber to some
 degree represents me personally & so I don’t want any jerks on the
 label.  Plus if you had the ability to only work with friends, who
 wouldn’t?   So there’s a balancing act of who can help me, who I can
 help, & do we get along & have similar goals in music.  I think the
 number one thing that impresses me is if someone says they’re contacting
 me because they’re a fan of a few of the bands that have worked with Silber.
 3. Where do you see Silber Records in five years from now?
 Hopefully having a slightly higher profile & being more highly
 respected.  Maybe making most of the money from film placements & being
 able to give bands money to use to hit the road.  I think ideally there
 would be two albums released every other month with occasional comps &
 EPs as well.  But of course I can’t even predict if there will still be
 a music industry in five years.  Maybe things will have changed that
 albums come free with t-shirts.
 4. Similarly, where do you see music industry in 5 years? What place do
 you think record labels will have in the music scene?
 I think music consumers have been overloaded & drowned with low quality
 material for the past few years.  Music has gotten cheaper & easier to
 produce & manufacture & it’s hard to sort out the gems from the shiny
 bits of plastic.  This is really frustrating to the consumers & the
 bands that are trying to promote themselves.  So I think the branding
 associated with certain labels is going to become more important
 (whether they are releasing things in a physical format or a digital
 format).  I also think there’s going to be a revival of people going to
 see live music performed.  Right now there is a problem that people can
 make an album & book a tour without really being entertainers or even
 competent musicians for that matter.  Consequently people are not
 getting good experiences with live music & are not going to clubs as
 much as they did in say the early 1990s.  It’s just a matter of times
 before the only clubs left are the ones that do their jobs & get
 musicians that have a great stage presence & people love to see live &
 once people get used to seeing that they’ll start to bring their own
 shows up to that level & more people will start to come to live music. 
 Of course I could be wrong, the future could be people just making
 videos of them playing in their own houses.
 5. What advice would you give to new artists / young labels?
 For Artists:
 Listen to music on the radio & figure out why it’s good or bad to you. 
 Go see bands playing live & figure out what they are doing right &
 wrong.  Then figure out what you are doing right & wrong & improve it. 
 Trust that quality will eventually rise to the top with persistence. 
 Play live as much as you can & pay attention to & interact with your
 audience as much as you can.  Only release music you’re proud of,
 there’s already enough bad music available.
 For Labels:
 You are running a business, so that means you need to get some basic
 accounting skills or you will not last.  Ask other labels what to do. 
 Ask your favorite label if they have an internet internship program (we
 do at Silber & it’s a four tier program that essentially ends with
 someone handling one of our themed compilation from start to finish
 (collecting tracks from bands, doing the artwork, writing the press
 release)).  Build a brand for yourself.  Have a logo that looks good on
 a t-shirt.  Make friends instead of enemies with everyone you can. 
 Offer new content (be it actual music or just informational) as often as
 possible on your website.  Labels like Projekt, Dischord, Young God, &
 hopefully Silber are successful in part due to the cult of personality
 associated with the owner of the label; so figure out a way to build
 that level of charisma. Realize that you should spend as much on
 promotion as you do on manufacturing.  Oh, & try to put out good music –
 because it takes just as much money & work to put out a good album as a
 bad one.

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