Arachnidiscs Recordings is a Canadian boutique label that has been releasing “Music For and By Weirdos” since 1999.
What made you start a label?
It was 1989, I was in grade 11, and I’d recorded my first demo tape. I’m not sure why I felt I needed to create a label for it—other local bands didn’t really do that with theirs—other than out of a sense of fun. I don’t know if I was trying to make it seem more legit or not. I might have romanticized DIY culture a bit, but I was definitely aiming to get on a major label at that point so I don’t think I ever intended it to be a real label. I think it was teenage dream-fulfillment to have a label logo on the j-card more than anything, Anyway, that was No Love Records which became Arachnidiscs in 1999 when I started doing CDr.
With Arachnidiscs, it was definitely, and still is to some extent, a vehicle for my own releases and to legitimize them in some way. I started to put out friends’ music to legitimize the label itself so it wouldn’t come across to radio programmers and journalists as just a vanity project. Because for some reason back then I thought that’d matter or they’d even care. Eventually, I branched out to releasing stuff by strangers from all parts of the globe, now I’m focusing a bit more locally again.
What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
In the last 12-18 months I’ve noticed a dramatic drop in sales. I think the golden age of the micro-label is coming to a close. I’m not sure if it’s because people are buying less or if there’s just exponentially more records being released every month and sales are spread more thinly across the board. It sure seems like it. I think in some ways this downturn is concurrent with this being a sort of golden age for independent music. For the last five years I’ve really questioned to need for smaller labels like mine—ones that release 50 or fewer copies of a title.
There’s not much labels like Arachnidiscs can provide an artist that Bandcamp doesn’t provide for them already. I’m not great at getting press (I don’t pay-out for PR weasels to get results); I can’t help with tour costs or studio or video costs. Basically I save an artist a few hundred dollars on getting tapes made and a tiny bit of brand recognition.
Being on Arachnidiscs says to people at least one “gatekeeper” (me) believes in the band. But I’m not sure that matters as much as it used to, to have that label stamp of approval. The end result of all this is, though I’m not in it for the money, there comes a point when not being able expect to break even becomes… not very fun and frankly a bit irresponsible. I’m toying with ending the label some time in 2019, after 20 years and 200 releases.
What is your take on Spotify and streaming services?
If you’re a career touring artist who doesn’t care about record sales, then it seems like a useful, perhaps essential, tool for finding an audience. For a micro-label like Arachnidiscs, it doesn’t really make sense. When I’m trying to sell 40 copies of a tape or CD (I don’t sell stand-alone digital files unless it’s my own project), paying-out my break-even margins to get it on Spotify, and promote it enough with paid Facebook or Instagram ads or whatever to matter that it’s even on Spotify, to find an audience to buy 40 tapes… It’s madness, really. Especially when the size of the audience you’d have to find would be so huge because you need to find that small percentage of people who love the music so much that having it free and conveniently on Spotify isn’t enough for them, and they need to buy a physical… what? A tape? Madness, I say.
Is there a specific focus as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music you’re releasing?
Currently, I’m only interested in releasing instrumental music. Despite being my most successful releases, I regret releasing song-based music on Arachnidiscs as I think it damaged the label’s brand aesthetic of being a home for weird music. If I had to name a genre it’d be “drone” but it’s really whatever catches my fancy. “Drone” could be doom-metal or new-age synth music or a string quartet or someone humming into a loop pedal or maybe ambient-dub or a freaky jam-band. My preference is for improvised, experimental music under whatever banner.
Do you believe that music could bring about social change?
Not anymore. Those days are gone. Music doesn’t hold the same social weight as it used to. The proof is Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” didn’t chance a damn thing. That more recent Childish Gambino video didn’t do a thing except make Donald Glover money. That ship has sailed. The revolution will not be sound tracked. What I believe could, and probably does, bring about social change now are memes.
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