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.