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[nextpage title=”Intro” ] Continuing our conversation with indie record labels –  challenges they face, their views on streaming services and more! Our interviewees for part 3 of ILR include Tymbal Tapes (US), Full Spectrum Records (US) and Audio Visuals Atmosphere (Belgium).
Check out part 1 of ILR (featuring Community Radio TapesWarHen Records and Blue Tapes) and part 2 (featuring Arachnidiscs, Disintegration State and Bad Cake Records).
[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Tymbal Tapes” ] Tymbal Tapes - Label Logo

Adventures in new music from the headwaters of the Heartland. Run by Scott Scholz. 

What made you start a label?
The impetus for Tymbal was a guest on the Other Music radio show which I co-hosted for a while in Lincoln, NE. We had former Lincolnite David Moscovich on one night, doing wild live text cut-ups with his own modular synth accompaniment, like a singer-songwriter from deep space, and it was profound and transcendent and touching and hilarious all at once, and I wanted to share his work with the world.
I’d been doing a lot of radio and review stuff at the time, too, so finding other interested artists fell into place rather easily. Joseph Jaros, another Other Music co-host and a fantastic, inventive musician himself, helped me get things going, my wife Heidi helped with naming the thing, and Tiny Little Hammers helped out with artistic direction, and here we are. A second Moscovich tape is coming soon, too!


What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
Primarily time constraints for me. Doing things to meet my own expectations is mighty time consuming. Making sure everything comes together well, making sure the audio is mastered well or doing it myself, dubbing (I dub everything myself), putting everything together, making sure copies get out to reviewers or radio/podcast joints, and mailing orders, is all a one-person show at Tymbal, but it’s incredibly gratifying. I suppose money is another issue, as like most labels, I’m constantly running in the red, but it’s more a matter of topping off the money tank every once in a while.


What’s your take on Spotify / streaming services?
I’m personally not a user of streaming services, but I’m glad they exist for folks who are. I’m far more interested in the control I can exert on making a good-sounding and aesthetically-pleasing cassette, so from the label standpoint, I don’t like the potential loss of sound quality or incomplete experience one gets from streaming compared to “the real thing.”
From a broader music industry perspective, it’s certainly problematic that artists receive so little from streaming services, but that whole industry is so upside-down right now that I have no idea how one could even go about fixing it. I’m more concerned with how things like Spotify are affecting peoples’ listening habits, to be honest: it’s more about turning the “faucet-of-music” on and off as a background soundtrack, rather than digging into an album as a statement or an artist’s journey over time. In this case, I think the technology has the potential to reduce music to a more generic experience for a lot of casual listeners.


Is there a specific focus to your label as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music?
There hasn’t been a specific regional or genre direction per se, but you could say that it’s curatorially following my own listening interests in adventurous music. There is a little quirk for Tymbal, though: for a lot of albums, I pitch an idea to the artists about emphasizing some particular aspect of their work that I admire: maybe something orchestrational, conceptual, whatever. In that sense, there’s some “producer” interactions sometimes, or maybe an extension of my reviewing and deep-listening habits into asking for basically what I’d like to hear or what I think would speak to particular artists’ strengths, and perhaps that’s a little unusual for tape labels.


Do you believe that music could bring social change?
I spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating about society, technology, and social change, and I have for 20+ years. Briefly put, I absolutely think that music is part of social change, but I think some context is in order: I guess I fall into that “Xennial” sub-generation, with a solid footing in both pre- and post-Internet worlds, and as a result I tend to view social issues through a lens of technology, extrapolating some of the ideas pitched in the TV-dominant era by folks like Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan.
Over-generalizing for the sake of brevity, I think that humankind’s ability to innovate and create technology vastly outpaces our collective ability to incorporate it meaningfully into our lives. In times like our present international “situation,” it’s especially easy to see, feel, and experience those gaps, those disconnects between the human condition, which evolves slowly from a more or less eternal kind of center, and evolving technology, which happens as quickly as possible, and we hope to figure out how to incorporate or at least monetize it as it materializes.
When gaps form between these poles, we fill them with age-old human tendencies toward anxiety, fear of the future or “the other,” circling our social wagons to avoid falling in. That’s the negative side, but music in general, and art/expression and the cassette community in particular, point toward the positive side.
As tribal creatures, we’re also hard-wired to foster relationships in our various communities, centered around our common interests, needs, or aspirations. In the midst of ever-evolving technology, we also see phenomena like the “slow movement,” from food to parenting to travel, rise up, the DIY and DIO movements for working together on common causes, and lots of young folks are entering community organizing and politics, changing and deeply enriching the dialogue and direction our communities will take.
Even among labels releasing modular synth bleeps or gentle ambient textures (slow music?), I believe ultimately that all art is political and all politics starts locally, so all of us coming together to participate in the cassette universe, be it as artists, labels, or listeners, are part of a community that shares a lot of other common goals beyond music.
To the extent that music is a force that brings people together, it can’t help being a catalyst for social change. In this information-dense era, one can’t expect to find a “soundtrack to the revolution” in the same ubiquitous way we saw in previous eras like the 1960s, but as we focus on our own communities, both those we live in and those we connect with in a wider geographical range, we work together, we build together, we live together, and we listen together. Sometimes it’s a symptom and sometimes it’s the cause, but music is an inextricable part of social change.
[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Full Spectrum Records” ] Full Spectrum Records - Label Logo

Originally founded in 2008 in Greensboro, North Carolina by Andrew Weathers and Andrew Marino as a means to document their early collaborations, the label has since evolved into a collective community of musicians, experimentalists and artists of various disciplines who share a common goal: to discover and produce exciting new sonic shapes for interested ears everywhere.

What made you start a label?
I started FS in 2008 with Andrew Marino when we were living in Greensboro, NC. Like a lot of labels, we started it because we were making work and didn’t have an outlet for it & no label interest otherwise. It made more sense to just put a name on it rather than putting together endless self-released CD-rs. I’m a decade in & running FS is still one of the most satisfying of my many pursuits.
What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
I don’t really see myself as the owner of anything, it’s more like there’s an entity that I try to manage to the best of my abilities. Lately the main challenge for FS has been following the ebb and flow of the endlessly fickle underground music press. As much as we don’t want to admit it, the underground scene is trendy and cliquey to its own detriment.
There’s an intense feeling of “keep up or get left behind” and that’s just something that I’m not interested in or able to do. Our economy of attention is incredibly crowded, and the only thing that I know to do is to continue doing the best work possible and hope that it matters to someone. Obviously it’s incredibly difficult to sell music in 2018, especially since we deal in primarily abstract and unusual music, but I accepted that a long time ago.
I would like for it to be easier to break even on releases, but really only so that we could release more. We’re very lucky that FS cultivated a small group of people who regularly pick up our releases. That really keeps us afloat. I am endlessly impressed by people who continue to start labels without major outside funding, that would be such a daunting task. It’s definitely a double-edged sword. I’m grateful that barriers to entry are becoming lower & a certain class of gate-keepers are inching towards irrelevance, but I wish I could keep up & support all of the things going on that I think are interesting.


What’s your take on Spotify / streaming services?
Spotify and other streaming services are vultures and bloodsuckers, but there have always been vultures and bloodsuckers in cultural industries. Our participation in those systems is hesitant, skeptical, and out of necessity rather than appreciation. Without a doubt these services are taking advantage of musicians and so many of us willfully follow them, knowing that we only lose under Spotify’s imposed future. I really think of anyone boosting Spotify at this point as having Stockholm Syndrome or an inside connection that not many of us are lucky enough to have.
When Spotify controls who makes “real money” by landing on their big playlists, we all lose. Everything that Spotify offers other than paying artists a reasonable wage for our labor is a lackluster consolation prize. Our request is simple and straightforward yet these people are bending over backwards to do everything except the thing asked of them by the people whose backs they’re standing on. I’ve said for a long time that underground musicians need to unionize in no small part due to unfair wage practices perpetuated by people like Spotify. A (very) small step in the right direction would be cancelling our Spotify premium accounts & diverting that amount to artists & labels on Bandcamp: the money isn’t much but it amounts to more significant support.


Is there a specific focus to your label as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music?
There is a specific focus, but it’s so abstract that it’s almost not worth articulating. The focus isn’t aesthetic or geographic, though both are considerations. The link is more in spirit than anything else. We’ve almost never released work by someone that wasn’t familiar to someone in the FS fam in a Real Life sort of way. The quasi-mysterious separation of artists from real human bodies and personalities isn’t really something that we’re interested in. So in that sense, the focus is regional to physical space.


Do you believe that music could bring social change?
Yes, absolutely. I think that folks who say it can’t have a pretty limited notion of what ‘social change’ means. If the assumption is that the only social change that matters is that of Official Policy, then sure, I guess there’s an argument there. Music does not in fact, factor into the way our governments work, for better or worse. But I think if we’re talking about how social change actually happens we have to go beyond that sort of thinking. Good creative work shapes and changes the way we perceive and move through the world.
Music is an aesthetic representation of the structures that we want to build. It only makes sense that music is the root of social change, no matter what our personal definitions. Even just speaking personally, music shapes my morality, music shapes my political outlook, music shapes every facet of the way that I live. All of that is only possible if we’re able to take things that we learned from the creative work that we appreciate and apply it to the rest of our lives, which I think is a valuable exercise.
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[nextpage title=”Audio Visuals Atmosphere” ] Audio Visuals Atmosphere - Label Logo

Belgian record label. Founded by Niels Geybels in April of 2015.

What made you start a label?
I started the label out of the need to release my own music. I was fed up with (the little) contacts I had (back then) and felt like the only option was to do it myself. Further more this gave me the ability to control each stage of releasing a product (physically creating it and the way you want the outside to perceive it).


What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
Reaching the right kind of audience. Having an overall aesthetic of the label in general, but also creating visuals for each individual release so it represents its own concept accurately. •what is your take on spotify and streaming services? In this day and age record labels shouldn’t shy away from it, but I feel that it doesn’t represent the same as a material release. I put a lot of thought and effort in creating a physical object that holds music, this is – and will always be – the main objective of Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere. I still feel that everything that’s digital is quite momentary and a way to break away from this is getting something tangible out there. •is there a specific focus as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music you’re releasing?


What’s your take on Spotify / streaming services?
In this day and age record labels shouldn’t shy away from it, but I feel that it doesn’t represent the same as a material release. I put a lot of thought and effort in creating a physical object that holds music, this is – and will always be – the main objective of Audio. Visuals. Atmosphere. I still feel that everything that’s digital is quite momentary and a way to break away from this is getting something tangible out there.


Is there a specific focus to your label as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music?
I never thought about being very specific with releasing a genre as it started as a means to release my own music and later on music from others that I liked and came in contact with. Now three years later I can definitely see a certain specificity; almost all of the music that’s been released on the label is instrumental and somehow a challenging listen. A local/regional aspect to the music was never present – I’m in contact with people from all over the world. I do however am interested in whatever happens close to me, I support local events and try to meet people that are working in the same field.


Do you believe that music could bring social change?
I think that’s very difficult. Music itself can be a strong catalyst for many things, including change, but in the end it will have to come from something more than music alone.
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