Nowadays it’s chic for many entertainment pundits to discuss the demise of record labels and the rise of the independent artist. Releasing music independently can work for musicians across the gamut: those who already have a following and can reap more profit by cutting out the middle man, self-sufficient up-and-comers looking to avoid Steve Albini’s now-legendary nightmare scenario, and acts who have no chance of getting signed anyway.
Although I confess to a small fetish for the Warner Bros. logo (must’ve been all the cartoons I watched as a kid), I’m an indie supporter and sympathizer. But since I’ve started Slush City, I’ve realized that I might be more dependent on the machine than I’d previously thought. As I go through the Slush, I’m looking for cool album covers, interesting photos, good lyrics, funny song titles. But often, when I don’t have a lot of time or all other factors seem equal, it’s the record label that determines whether an item gets unslushed. Like that Jeremy Jay CD, for instance. If it’s not on K Records, no chance I’m listening to it: The implicit Dub Narcotic endorsement weighed heavily even though Jay looked like a jackass. Likewise all the Yep Roc stuff, whether that’s warranted or not.
But it’s not just the big-name indies. If you’re on a label, any label, I guess subconsciously I’m going to assume that at least a few people besides your mom think your music has value. For those brave artists who are putting stuff out all by themselves—with only their home address and e-mail on the packaging—I have thus arrived at the following advice, which I promise I will be the first to follow when the next Egg record comes out: Make up a label. Make up a logo. And make up a press kit that looks like it was written by somebody other than you. There are people out there who will listen to your music, but they don’t want to be the only ones.