I have a record label. It’s called Slobor Media, and I started it with my friend and collaborator, Jason Sloan, in 2001. This is the tenth anniversary of the label. I’ve come to take Slobor Media for granted. It’s always there, and it’s always been an outlet for my music, a place where compromised art isn’t welcome, a place where the artist can be themselves.
We’ve never lost money on a release, though admittedly we’ve come close. This was especially true when we were doing hardcopy releases. We don’t do that much anymore, unless we take them out for live shows. Mostly our music is available for digital download. We also have a variety of collectable, handmade editions that we did in the early days. Those are mostly gone now, and we’re always pleased when we see one of them on eBay fetching hundreds of dollars.
We didn’t have much of a business plan for Slobor when we started. We don’t have much of a business plan now. We make music and release it. We’ve found cheaper and cheaper ways to do these releases. We do our own design, our own graphics, our own packaging, our own Web development, our own mastering, our own engineering and our own promotion… Pretty much everything we do, we do ourselves. This the model that we took from labels like Dischord Records in Washington D.C., and bands like Fugazi, as well as labels like Chicago’s Touch and Go (by way of East Lansing, MI), or Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe Records. Punk rock taught us how to be DIY.
When we started the label it was out of necessity. We couldn’t get labels to take an interest in our work and our vision, so we joined forces. Both Jason and I have worked with many labels since then and even some before, but the right emphasis wasn’t put on the music or the art of making and presenting music, so we saw no real option: We had to do it ourselves.
We have a rich following, which always surprises me, not because I don’t think the work is good enough; I know it is, because we put our all into it. It’s surprising because our music is obscure, non-mainstream (or even close) listening music that rewards attentive listening. As global culture requires more and more instant gratification, our music couldn’t be further from that realm. It’s slow, and slowly evolving, like a fine wine, in that patience is rewarded.
The world is changing. Music business is changing. Expectations for the distribution, sale and experience of music is changing. We don’t know where it’s going and we don’t know how we’ll be getting our music to ears tomorrow, or in another ten years, but we will be. Our vision is as clear now as it was then: Create, distribute and promote music, artists and works of art that move us and might otherwise be neglected.