Monday, June 14th, 2010

Bandsonabudget.com Feature: Behind the Scenes with Black Numbers

Interview with David Fenson of Black Numbers.

 

What was it that inspired you to start a record label?


HAVING PLAYED IN BANDS AND DECIDING IN OUR MID TWENTIES THAT TOURING HARD AND FOCUSING ON PLAYING WAS A CHAPTER OF OUR LIVES THAT WAS SOMETHING WE FELT WE HAD EXPLORED FULLY, WE DECIDED TO START HELPING OTHER BANDS PUT OUT RECORDS AS A WAY TO STAY INVOLVED IN THINGS.



How do you decide when to pass and when to sign a band?

OBVIOUSLY A BAND'S SOUND IS IMPORTANT AS WELL AS THEIR SONGWRITING.  THE MAIN THING THOUGH IS THAT WE TRY TO WORK WITH BANDS THAT ARE GONNA BE DOING WHAT THEY DO WHETHER THEY HAVE A LABEL OR NOT.  WE AREN'T BIG ENOUGH TO KID OURSELVES OR OUR BANDS INTO THINKING THAT BEING PART OF THE LABEL IS GONNA CHANGE THEIR LIVES.  THEY HAVE TO HAVE THE DESIRE TO BECOME THE BAND THEY WANT TO BE FOR THEMSELVES, NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE PART OF A LABEL. LUCKILY, THAT CUTS MOST BANDS OUT OF THE PICTURE RIGHT OFF THE BAT.


What has been the most challenging part of owning a label? The most rewarding?

THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE LABEL IS ALSO THE MOST REWARDING PART.  THE STATE OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS IS IN SUCH DISARRAY THAT IT'S MADE IT TOUGH TO KEEP RUNNING THE LABEL (LIKE WHEN OUR DISTRIBUTORS WENT OUT OF BUSINESS WITHOUT PAYING US A @#$% DIME FOR ANY OF THE
RECORDS WE HAD SOLD THROUGH THEM, INCLUDING THE STATIC RADIO FULL LENGTH RECORD WE PUT SO MUCH WORK INTO).  AT THE SAME TIME, THOSE SORT OF THINGS HAVE CAUSED A LOT OF OTHERS TO PACK IT IN, AND HERE WE ARE, STILL PUTTING OUT RELEVANT RELEASES.



What ideas/morals are at the core of your business?

THAT THE BANDS HAVE TO WORK AS HARD AS WE DO.  WE ARE UP LATE AT NIGHT WORKING FOR THESE ARTISTS, AND AT THIS LEVEL NO ONE EXPERIENCES REAL SUCCESS UNLESS EVERYONE IS PULLING FOR IT.  ALL HANDS ON DECK, THAT'S THE ONLY WAY TO PUT OUT A RECORD.



What feeling do you get when you first approach a band about giving them a record deal?

TO BE HONEST, IT'S KINDA LIKE ASKING A GIRL OUT IN SIXTH GRADE. REGARDLESS OF HOW PRACTICAL WE TRY TO BE, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THAT LITTLE BIT OF EGO THAT WORKS ITSELF INTO THE PROCESS, AND IF WE END UP SIGNING A BAND WE ARE STOKED ON, WE ARE TOTALLY ELATED.  IF WE DON'T, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE BAND DOESN'T WANT TO MAKE THEIR BAND A
SERIOUS PRIORITY IN THEIR LIVES OR THEY FLAT DON'T LIKE OUR LABEL, IT'S A BUM OUT FOR SURE.  IT SHOULD BE TOO, IT LETS US CHECK OURSELVES ON HOW MUCH WE CARE.



Are there any bands that you've passed on, that you're not kicking yourself for?

NOT REALLY, WE ARE PRETTY SELECTIVE IN THE FIRST PLACE AND SO WE DON'T END UP HAVING A LOT OF CONVERSATIONS WITH BANDS UNLESS WE INTEND TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  THERE'S TOO MUCH STUFF AROUND THE CORNER TO WORRY
ABOUT THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, WE DON'T DWELL ON THAT.



What is your general philosophy on “breaking an artist”?

WRITE A GREAT RECORD, TOUR SMART BUT OFTEN, PROMOTE THE HELL OUT OF NOT ONLY THE RECORD BUT THE TOURS TOO.  WE ALSO HIGHLY VALUE THE EUROPEAN TOUR EXPERIENCE FOR OUR ARTISTS (WE JUST HAD BOTH PJ BOND AND STATIC RADIO IN EUROPE ON DIFFERENT TOURS, KINDA SURREAL TO HAVE THEM
CROSS PATHS IN PLACES LIKE GERMANY).



Have all of the risks you've taken to start your own label been worth it?

LOADED QUESTION FOR SURE.  COULD WE BE DOING OTHER THINGS WITH OUR LIVES, PARTICULARLY WITH OUR NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS?  PROBABLY.  WOULD I PREFER TO?  NOT REALLY, I ENJOY WHAT WE DO.  I FIND PEOPLE WHO ENJOY THE MUSIC INDUSTRY THESE DAYS TO BE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN, SO REGARDLESS OF HOW BIG OUR BANDS OUR, I DON'T TAKE OUR POSITIVE OUTLOOK ON THE WHOLE THING FOR GRANTED.



  If you could sign any band, who would it be and how would you approach eleasing a new record for them?

THERE ARE A LOT OF THESE BANDS WHO I GREW LISTENING TO WHO ARE PUTTING OUT RECORDS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TEN YEARS CAUSE THEY REMEMBERED THAT PLAYING SHOWS RULED, AND BASICALLY, THEY CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT.
LIFETIME IS THE PERFECT EXAMPLE, I'D LOVE TO PUT THAT BAND OUT.  THEY CAN PLAY ONE SHOW A YEAR IF THEY WANT, OR NONE, OR 100.  THOSE SORT OF SITUATIONS ARE SO LAID BACK AND FUN, I'D LOVE TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT IN THE FUTURE.



Do you have an ultimate goal set for Black Numbers Records?

KEEP ON GROWING THE ROSTER WITH HARDWORKING BANDS.  THE REST WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.

WWW.THEBLACKNUMBERS.COM