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Crafted Sounds

Indie Label Roundtable #4 – Whited Sepulchre Records / Crafted Sounds / Tor Johnson Records
Recent releases: Bat Zuppel – MIRROR | RORRIM | Short Fictions – There’s a Dark Shadow… | The Zells – Failure to Slide
What made you start a label?

I tried to make music. I was awful. I also was also bummed out because I was behind on exploring other people’s music. I wanted to be a part of something still, so I decided to start my own label. I focused on the tape format because many local bands from Baltimore/DC area had their music on tape. I released the first Crafted Sounds tape on my 18th birthday.

What are some of the challenges you see as a label owner?
I am a full-time student that works and likes to see his friends from time to time. Needless to say, this stuff takes time and effort for little return. Sometimes I like to sit and do nothing, but I tend to end up working on the label anyway out of habit. I think it is important to find a balance for managing this stuff or you will go crazy… which I do from time to time. I do not know why I do it, but I keep doing it anyway. I always joke and say, “It’s not worth doing if you think about quitting everyday.” I guess I could say the same thing about finishing school… definitely getting my degree though 🙂
Money is not there at least for the scale of my operations… especially because I do not work with pop music or whatever… Money was never the point of the label though. Tapes have terrible margins. I still feel guilty for selling my tapes for above $5 online.
Not being 21 also tends to make things harder.

What is your take on Spotify and streaming services?

Streaming services are great for any independent artist to put their music in standardized locations for people to listen whenever they like. Sure, it’s like $0.00000… per stream, but at least you can get your music out there. Physical media is not the wave, and I am very aware of it. I think people like myself are adapting to the changes streaming services are making everyday. I do not hate streaming or whatever; the industry is just changing.
I will say I am fortunate to work with Misra Records (also of Pittsburgh) for digital distribution purposes. Getting hands on with distribution like that allowed me to really see where things are going from an independent label perspective. Spotify has great tools for artists and labels, and they look improve upon them everyday. It is not surprising that they are beating Apple right now. We even have a label Spotify account now, which I have not been messing around with as much as I would like to.

Is there a specific focus as far as genres or local/regional aspect of music you’re releasing?
Before coming to Pittsburgh, I had a couple of very DIY releases (I had no idea what I was doing) and I knew no one. That is not the case anymore. With each release in Pittsburgh I have gotten better at the label and met tons of people along the way. I love it here. I definitely want to maintain a Pittsburgh emphasis as long as the label is around, however I am looking to expand to other regions more and more. I would love to have a network of artists on the east coast that I work with so people can help each other out with tours and such.
As far as genre goes… I do not know if there are really limits to what Crafted Sounds is or what it will become. I guess you will have to keep listening.

Do you believe that music could bring about social change?

Music is infectious. Messages, melodies, artist cultures… people eat that up. Music can break down barriers and unify people when you least expect it. Sometimes music repeats itself… Pitchfork recently had something to say about that 😉 If you have enough people that believe in another person’s message, sure you will see social change. I have grown up in a generation that has paid attention to everything Kanye West has had to say. I guess that has helped shaped who we are… the good and the bad.
I feel like music in the past used to hold more value within people than what it does now. Releases are shorter and album life-cycles have shrunk as consumer behavior has adapted in to the digital age. Social change through music may be more frequent and abrupt today, but it also may not always necessarily have a long-term impact.

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Indie Label Roundtable #4 – Whited Sepulchre Records / Crafted Sounds / Tor Johnson Records