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,