Label Focus 02 – Baptists & Bootleggers
In the second of our features on small, independent record labels I spoke to Callum from about-to-launch Manchester label Baptists & Bootleggers who are aiming to combine art, music & literature in a series of free releases.
(((o))): Firstly give us a little bit of history about yourselves. You won the money to start the label from Umbro the sportswear manufacturer, that’s quite an unusual way to start, can you tell us a bit more about it?
B&B: The main ideas behind the label is that everything we produce will be mostly handmade, physical releases & be available for free. We have both released our own music in the same way previously & this is where the idea stems from.
Umbro provided us with an opportunity for the first release to be a lot bigger than we originally thought it could be, IT’S ON WHITE VINYL, & then have some money afterwards to keep ourselves going on smaller releases for a while.
(((o))): Over the years there have been many independent labels using a variety of models to greater & lesser success. Who/what inspired you to get started in the first place?
B&B: On the aesthetic side of things, with everything being handmade & packaged with various goodies; posters, artworks, any other ideas we have floating around that we can put together, we’re very influenced by the likes of Constellation, Young God & Southern Lord & the like. Smaller labels who put a lot in to their packaging to make a release feel like a bundle, keeping things special rather than just a CD & a track list, something people want to get a hold of rather than just download.
(((o))): What’s the selection process for bringing a band onboard? Do you have a set of criteria or is a more ‘gut feel’ thing?
B&B: The selection process is as simple as if we like it & want to release it.
(((o))): For a while now we’ve been debating the pay what you want/free download mode with a number of people. You’ve stated right from the outset that everything you produce will be free, including physical stock. How is that going to be sustainable?
It’s not just “including physical stock”, everything will be physical stock, & all of that will be free. We’re completely relying on funding & donations. This is where everything being handmade helps, not only does it add a more personal feel, but it’s far more cost effective than getting ready printed sleeves etc. & hopefully adds an extra charm to everything.
(((o))): Also, what do you say to the argument that giving an artist’s work away for free devalues the effort & talent that went in to producing it? We live in a world where so much is free & throwaway; do we really want our arts to be the same?
B&B: Yet if something’s free & makes its way to the right hands then they will hopefully see the “value” in it & will no doubt spread the word. Making arts free will grant it a wider audience & give smaller artists the chance of a wider audience.
It all comes down to how you, as an artist, value your work – ourselves & the artists involved don’t place any kind of monetary based value on our work. If anything we feel we value it more & want more people to be able to get hold of the work. This does not mean we are against making money from our work or the artists involved making money from theirs, more we want to give emerging artists the chance to get their work heard or seen, this has already come in to play as one of the artists involved in the first release has gone on to get work writing soundtracks for film and TV.
(((o))): You’ve said that the work that you’re planning to release is not merely music but will have art & literature elements as well. Can you expand on this? How & why are you doing it that way?
B&B: We don’t just come from a music background, we’re both practicing artists too.
(((o))): Tell us a bit about the novel distribution method that you’re proposing?
B&B: We will be distributing to shops, galleries & other stockists as well as giving a number of copies out to artists involved with the label for them to then distribute at their own events, functioning much like a co-operative rather than a label. This gives the artists an opportunity for their work to reach an audience further afield than it may have been otherwise, for example with “…Of The Wolves” there’s a Berlin based musician/sound artist involved who will be helping us reach the right people over there. So the more people that release through the label, the larger our distribution network grows and the further afield our artists work gets seen or heard.
(((o))): Are you a hands on kind of set up, do you get involved with the decision making processes that go into bringing out releases, or do you just let the artists get on with it and bring you the finished idea they want to be produced?
B&B: The decision making is mostly down to the artists, with “…Of The Wolves”, we’ve chosen the musicians, artists & writers we wanted to have involved in the final product, who we trusted to come up with something we’d really like & nobody’s let us down. Our involvement is more to do with putting the whole package together, helping the artists find people they want to work with.
(((o))): What with piracy issues, artist rights and the monopoly that the bigger labels have had, and the knock on effect it has had on indie labels. Where do you fit in and what do you think the ‘industry’ (in the loosest sense of the term) should be doing in the future to stop its decline?
B&B: The “industry” needs to realise that people aren’t going to be happy spending their hard earned money on just a CD & cover art or even worse an MP3 & a picture of the cover art. People are far more likely to choose to download illegally if they’re going to be getting the same thing. They need to make the physical copies something special that people want to get hold of.
(((o))): How do you measure success with what you’re doing at the moment?
B&B: It’s difficult to measure our success right now with us the launch still just round the corner. We seem to have been quite successful at building interest in the label & this will hopefully show when we start to work on some of the future releases, we’ll be working with some great artists over the next year.
(((o))): What has been your proudest moment so far?
B&B: Either the moment we found out we’d won the funding from Umbro Industries or the moment we got the first few records finally packaged & ready.
(((o))): Finally, what are your plans for the year/s ahead? Anything in the pipeline that you are dying to reveal?
B&B: It’s still early days, there’s some exciting things coming up. We’re looking forward to getting more of the art & literature side released, as much as we’ve tried to keep a decent mix on the first release, with there being a big slab of vinyl right in the centre of everything it’s definitely the music that stands out with “…Of The Wolves”. There are a few art books in the pipeline that we’re really looking forward to producing & we’re going to be starting work on a printed version of Kollektivnye (www.kollektivnye.com), who have been great to collaborate with.
Tags: Baptists, Bootleggers, Interviews, Label Focus