Gettin’ all up in the business of the music business
It has been suggested in some quarters that it might be interesting for some moderate percentage of the 3-4 people who accidentally read this column to learn what a typical day is like here at Sub Pop, figuratively buried up to our necks in the musty magic of the music industry. And so…
Hello and welcome to another exciting day at Sub Pop Records!
Here in the professional music business, many days kick off with a bracing round of apologies. On the best of these days, this involves simple explanations of the previous night’s not altogether thoroughly considered words and actions (first recalled, on waking, in an experience we in the industry refer to as a “shame spiral”). The likelihood of this scenario increases significantly during music festivals, conferences, conventions, and the like. On the more challenging of these days, the apologies are in response to some real shortcoming like, say, an unforeseeable manufacturing mistake. Happily, we’re an independent record label and so no one seems to really expect us to know what we’re doing, and we’re regularly allowed, or even encouraged, to try again.
Apologies made, we confront the real business end of the music business and read through SoundScan reports, radio charts, relevant media features and reviews, trending hashtags (whatever the hell those are), maybe a little bit of D-Listed or Lefsetz. Then, depending on the results of all that, we either inch closer to or temporarily a little farther away from the great, yawning chasm of irrelevance that surely awaits us all. The kids are forever coming up from behind and that’s, for real, the good news.
Then, we just dick around for 20-40 minutes. No use trying to make that into something it’s not.
At some point during the day, we all listen to music. This is both our great privilege as people with ears and an interest in art and the world around us, and our professional duty as music industry professionals. New music from the exceptionally talented roster of artists currently suffering through long and punishingly unfair recording agreements with Sub Pop is always a source of great and sincere joy. New music from friends, distant relatives, friends of distant relatives, distant relatives of friends, and actual, categorical strangers is sometimes a source of great joy and more often a source of a great need for new ways to say, “It’s not you, it’s us. Please continue to D it right in the Y.”
As with many employed people we too find time to research anagrams and abbreviations specific to our industry: DMA (“designated market area” or “dugong mouth anus”?), I/O (“initial offering” or “irritated orifice”?), SRLP (“suggested retail list price” or “slurp”?). And others, probably. I feel confident there are others. And, same as you, we look for business opportunities which might correlate with personal travel interests. The 2015 Bananada Festival in Goiania, Brazil will feature both King Tuff and J Mascis! The line-up for the ATP in Iceland in July has clipping., Mudhoney, and a whole bunch of great bands who are not on Sub Pop! We would like to turn these opportunities yes!
There’s also the matter of responding to bulk/spam email, with special attention to those that seem most real or demanding (inclusion in an upcoming edition of Who’s Who; invitations to exclusive conferences of top, professional industry leaders; good news which requires immediate response regarding small business award presented by extremely vague and heretofore unknown organization (named using the same approach as local medical marijuana dispensaries (ex.: Northwest Medical Life Improvement Solutions Partners and Chillax-eria)).
And, at some point each day, we spend approximately zero time investigating the appropriate marketing approach to “Millennials.” Conversely, each year we spend significant time reading through and being deeply inspired and encouraged about the future by the Sub Pop Loser Scholarship applications of this same heavily-targeted generation.
There’s also an awful lot of reading and responding to email. There’s a fair amount of meeting together in various groups with the dedicated, talented and hard-working staff here, whose combined creativity and persistent effort on behalf of the artists we represent, and in support of one another, is a consistent and for-fucking-real marvel to me. Alongside the clear and present genius of the bands, comedians and jugglers we’re lucky enough to work with, the improbable longevity of this particular medium-sized record label should be credited to each of them. And I’m grateful to find myself amongst them every goddamned day.
Next time: journey to the center of the suggestion box.
Don’t worry, we’re professionals,
The Helio Sequence are set to release their self-titled 6th album on CD/LP/DL May 18th & 19th worldwide via Sub Pop. The Helio Sequence,
featuring the highlights “Stoic Resemblance,” “Upward Mobility,” and
“Battle Lines,” was produced & mixed by the band at The Old Jantzen
Building in Portland, OR and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound.
can now hear the lead-off track, “Stoic Resemblance” through an
animated visual (Not-the-video) directed by multimedia artist Emanuele Kabu. Stereogum premiered the track and says it “matches harmonious psychedelic chorus with a brisk krautrock pulse (see track post March 2nd).”
Helio Sequence will tour extensively in 2015 to support the release.
Preceding that tour, the band have scheduled an acoustic performance on March 31st in Seattle at The Triple Door. For up to date information on live dates & tickets, please visit http://www.theheliosequence.com.
Preorders for The Helio Sequence are available through Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp. All customers who pre-order the LP version of the album from megamart.subpop.com will receive the limited “Loser Edition” on yellow-colored vinyl. Additionally, CD and LP versions of The Helio Sequence will also receive The Sunrise Demos,
a CD comprised of 11 demos recorded during the making of the album
(while supplies last). Additionally, there will be a new T-shirt design
available as stand-alone item or as part of a bundle with purchases of The Helio Sequence.
About The Helio Sequence:
The self-titled sixth album by The Helio Sequence began with a friendly
competition. Several of the duo’s friends within the Portland, Oregon
music scene had been playing “The 20-Song Game.” The rules were simple,
playful and ambitious: Songwriters would arrive in their studios at
prearranged times and spend all day recording 20 complete songs. When
they were finished, they’d have a party, listen to the results and talk
about the process—of taking the good with the bad, of letting creativity
push past constraint, of simply making music in the moment. Brandon
Summers and Benjamin Weikel took the spirit of the “The 20-Song Game” to
heart, and forged ahead writing a new record.
In May of 2014, inspired by the “20-Song Game”, they began arriving each
morning in their Portland space—housed in the cafeteria and break room
of an old warehouse— with the mission of making as much music as
possible in one month. They began exploring and capturing, recording
guitar riffs and keyboard loops, drum patterns and bass lines. One piece
documented, they quickly advanced to the next idea. Summers and Weikel
didn’t discuss what they were making or the reference points that
informed it, though such discussions had once been central to The Helio
Sequence’s more self-conscious process. They just played. Created. In
time, they returned to each fragment, broadcasting it over the studio
PA, jamming and recording the results. Mistakes didn’t matter, and
second chances didn’t exist. After two weeks, Summers and Weikel began
cutting those loose takes into rough shapes, steadily building songs
from their cavalier sketches.
When June arrived, the duo gathered their 26 finished songs and sent
them to 31 friends, fans and family members. They asked each person to
rank their 10 favorite tracks. By summer’s end, they had arrived at the
brisk 10 tracks that shape the breathless and magnetic The Helio Sequence—a
record so named because it’s a kind of clean restart for the longtime
pair, a revamp of their process and a revitalization of their results.
The Helio Sequence is a renewed push forward for the band: From
the cool wallop of “Deuces,” where guitars snarl and harmonies soar, to
the stuttering anxiety of “Upward Mobility”, where pianos pound and
drums race, this collection depends upon an effortless kinetic energy.
Lyrically, “Stoic Resemblance” is a study of existential anxiety, but
musically, it’s a beguiling burst of pop, Summers’ vocals rising over
and sliding off of Weikel’s big, irrepressible beat. The bittersweet
“Leave or Be Yours” evokes the easy twinkle of romance and the
smoldering sadness of losing it. Crisscrossing vocals and cross-talking
guitars and drums map a broad swirl of emotions. There’s a delightful
candor to The Helio Sequence, an openness that is a rare and special
feat for a band about to enter its third decade (read more at Sub Pop).
Sub Pop Records in Seattle, WA is offering a grand total of $15,000 worth of college scholarship money to three eligible high school seniors. There are three scholarships—one for $7,000, one for $5,000 and one for $3,000. To apply for these scholarships you
must be a resident of Washington or Oregon, and a graduating senior on
your way to full-time enrollment at an accredited university or college.
We are looking for an applicant who is involved and/or interested in
music and/or the creative arts in some way.
To apply for these scholarships we would like you to submit an essay, no longer than one page, letting us know about one or more of the following topics:
What are you doing in the arts/music field in your community?
How and/or why did you become interested in artistic outlets?
How would this scholarship money help you to progress in your chosen field?
What are your influences and/or who inspires you? Who are some of your favorite bands or artists?
Applicants are strongly encouraged to send digital links and/or
provide hard copies of their artwork along with their essay (we have
never had a winner who submitted only an essay). However, please be
aware that Sub Pop will not return any of this material, so please don’t
send originals. Sub Pop will give equal opportunity to all applicants
who fit the criteria outlined above. The deadline for applications is April 2nd.
Please send all submissions and attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 2nd, 2015. We will announce the scholarship winners on April 15th.
THEESatisfaction’s EarthEE is now available now on CD / LP / DL via Sub Pop. EarthEE is the follow up to awE naturalE,
the alternative R&B group’s critically acclaimed debut, and is led
by highlights “Recognition,” “Nature’s Candy,” and the title track.
was produced by THEESatisfaction and Erik Blood, mixed by Blood at
Protect and Exalt Labs: A Black Space and mastered by Adam Straney at
BreakPoint Mastering in Seattle. The album also features guest
appearances from Shabazz Palaces, Meshell Ndegeocello, Porter Ray, Blood
and Taylor Brown.
EarthEE, along with “Recognition” and the title track, is earning THEESatisfaction acclaim from outlets likes of NPR
Music, CBC, AV Club, Exclaim, NME, The Quietus, Q Magazine, Mojo, The
Guardian, Consequence of Sound, Okay Player, Treble, The Needle Drop,
Pitchfork, The FADER, Bitch, BUST, Dummy, and more. At radio, the album was #3 most added with CMJ reporters. On a related note, you can watch the band’s just recorded KEXP session now.
THEESatisfaction’s 2015 tour schedule in support of EarthEE
has been extended through May 9th. Highlights include: CD release
shows in Seattle (Feb. 26th at Neumos), Los Angeles (Feb. 28th at
Jewel’s Catch One) and New York (Mar. 6th at Santos Party House); SXSW
(Mar. 20th-21st); And a support tour with label mates Sleater-Kinney
(April. 16th-May 9th). For a complete list of tour dates, please view
the attached flier or visit https://www.subpop.com/artists/theesatisfaction/tours.
EarthEE is now available for purchase from Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp. All customers who purchase the LP version of EarthEE from megamart.subpop.com
will receive the limited “Loser Edition” on emerald-colored vinyl and a
7” single with “I Don’t Like You” on the A-side, and “Supa Dupa (Love
Affair)” on the B-side (while supplies last). Additionally, there will
be two-new T shirt designs available as stand-alone items or as part of a
bundle with purchases of EarthEE.
What people are saying about THEESatisfaction:
“In theory, EarthEE is a cosmic, funky dance party. In practice, it’s a revolution.” [First Listen] - NPR Music
true gift of this Seattle-based duo is their ability to seamlessly
weave serious commentary into music that also seriously brings the
party.” [Review, 4/5 Stars] - BUST
[Review, 4/5 Stars] - Q Magazine
is remarkable in its ability to balance the obscure and experimental
with the direct and familiar. It’s an album that engages with the
history of black culture while challenging the political, cultural, and
musical status quos at every turn.” [Review, B+] - AV Club
[Review, 4/5 Stars] - MOJO
“EarthEE feels both comfortingly familiar and thrillingly alien, without striving too hard to be either.”
[Review, 8/10] - Uncut
“This album is highly recommended, as its afro-futuristic, honest, and raw philosophy is too delicious to deny.” [Review] - Bitch Magazine
informed and encompassing portrait of life as we know it, that pays its
respects where it’s merited and condemns injustice when it’s
warranted.” [Album of the Week] - Dummy Magazine
is a powerful record, crafted by two black, queer women in a time when
many people would encourage you to think that it’s easier than ever to
be any one of those three things. But THEESatisfaction, through powerful
metaphors and otherworldly imagery, are clever enough to reveal just
how often all people are asked to hide behind that very sort of
facade.” [Album of the Week] - Treble Zine
moment is rooted in spacious, natural, sometimes esoteric beats. It’s a
sonically challenging, chilled out, blissful creation, where samples
are stacked and staggered, breathing and bleeding into each other. At
turns it’s angry, sexy, vulnerable, empowering and healing, every moment
flowing like liquid gold into the next.” [First Play] - CBC
“(C)hallenging, engaging, and revolutionary” - Pop Matters
title track ripples with cosmic incantations. Harris-White commands
with the intoxicating force of a priestess: “Loosen up my mind/ Lengthen
and unwind/ Release, one time.” Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler and
emerging MC Porter Ray share reverent verses of their own, the former
reading like a personals ad seeking a moment of transcendence with a
celestial goddess.” [“EarthEE” track review] - Pitchfork
“20 Albums To Get Excited About In February” [EarthEE] - NME
“”Recognition” shines a light on the duo’s spacey roots with a dazzling atmospheric treatment.” [“Recognition”] - Okay Player
“…Spacey, kaleidoscopic” [“Recognition”] - Stereogum
Sun Ra percussion with woozily hypnagogic synths and a sprinkle of
prog-jazz, in the best possible way – as ever, Stas and Cat duo sound
like no one but themselves.” [“Recognition”] - FACT
“A groovy, hypnotic jam that eventually leads to one rather engaging, synth-led interlude.” [“Recognition”] - Consequence of Sound
“Recognition,” the duo fuses their own soulful delivery with the
esotericism of Erik Blood and Shabazz Palaces.” [“Recognition”] - Mass Appeal
“Song of the Day” [“Recognition”] - The Stranger
“The panoramic rhythms, chants, and deep space synths on this cut are alluring and intoxicating.” [“Recognition”] - The Needle Drop
Sub Pop has a great history of working with artists from Canada, our wonderful neighbors to the north. Click to listen to “Eh Very Canadian Playlist”,
featuring Canadian Sub Pop artists, both new and old, and boasting the
brand new track from METZ, the ferocious “Acetate”, off of their May 5th
record, II, which you can pre-order here. The playlist is on Spotify and Rdio.
Eh Very Canadian Playlist TracklistMetz – Acetate
Mister Heavenly – Bronx Sniper
The Black Halos – Some Things Never Fall
Constantines – Soon Enough
Chixdiggit! – Henry Rollins Is No Fun
Jale – Not Happy
Hot Hot Heat – Bandages
Handsome Furs – All We Want, Baby, Is Everything
Eric’s Trip – Behind the Garage
Julie Doiron – So Fast
Memoryhouse – The Kids Were Wrong
Zumpano – The Party Rages On
Hardship Post – Watchin You
Sparkmarker – Sawed-Off But Silent
Doldrums – HOTFOOT
Elevator To Hell – Why I Didn’t Like August 93
Chad VanGaalen – Willow Tree
Wolf Parade – I’ll Believe In Anything