This Week: Total Assault On The Culture

September 24, 2016

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Bandcamp
Work has started on uploading the Iron Man Records Catalogue on Bandcamp. To start with all releases will be available for £5 or you can Stream the releases and listen for free. All Releases are available on most of the download and streaming platforms already but for those of you who want an alternative to Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google, Youtube, Facebook and all the other main providers, Bandcamp seems good.

Back In Five Years:
Some people wonder what on earth I do for a living. Well, I earn money working as a Tour Manager. I spend all the money I earn trying to keep Iron Man Records going. Here’s a life in a couple of weeks:

Support Insanity A6 Postcard No Marks
Become A Patron
If you want to contribute to the work of Iron Man Records, here’s How To Burn Money – Become A Patron of Iron Man Records

Cosmic Trigger
Steve Fly and Simon Reeves start work on post production this week. Simon spent three days last week recording Oliver Senton reading Cosmic Trigger 1 by Robert Anton Wilson. Here’s a picture of Simon and Oliver at Framework Studio, Birmingham, on completion of the great work.

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Framework Recording Studios, Birmingham.
Framework Studios has worked with Napalm Death, Carcass, Cathedral, Meathook Seed, P.J.Harvey, Ride, Family Cat and other acts including Piss On Authority, Police Bastard, Spirit Bomb, Drongos For Europe, Selfless, Cerebral Fix and more. Telephone Simon (UK+44) 07790 158210 or email siframework@gmail.com

Vinyl Test Pressings:
I’m waiting on test pressings of John Sinclair – Beatnik Youth Ambient to arrive and also test pressings of Police Bastard – Confined. Exciting times.

Pre-order John Sinclair – Beatnik Youth Ambient on VINYL
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You can pre-order the Vinyl, Double CD and T-shirt here:  http://ironmanrecords.bigcartel.com/artist/john-sinclair

All Press enquiries to Sean Newsham : sean@mutante-inc.demon.co.uk
Catalogue Number: IMB6033
Release date: April 2017
Label: Iron Man Records
Distribution: Cargo

Side A
Do It (6:16) Recitation – John Sinclair, Music – Youth, Mix – Youth and Michael Rendall
Brilliant Corners (11.29) Recitation – John Sinclair, Produced by Youth

Side B
War On Drugs (6:18) Recitation – Howard Marks, Music – Youth, Mix – Youth and Michael Rendall
Sitarrrtha (9:19) Recitation – John Sinclair, Produced by Youth

John Sinclair, the renegade poet, scholar and cultural revolutionary releases “Beatnik Youth Ambient” on Iron Man Records. The record is over 30 minutes of ambient, chill out music from the restless creative mind of Youth with some fine spoken word and poetry delivered by John Sinclair.

John, has been described as an Archetype of the 1960’s art, music and literary synthesis, and who today continues his work for cultural transformation.

Youth is one of the UK’s most influential producers and has been honoured, this year, with an Outstanding Contribution Award by the Music Producers Guild. His career spans more than 30 years and is one of the UK’s most consistent, credible and influential producers, Youth has also hand drawn the beautiful cover artwork.

The record features 4 ambient tracks including 2 tracks completed in late 2015. Do it and War on Drugs were composed and produced by Youth with words By John Sinclair and Howard Marks. John Sinclair presents some illuminating words of wisdom on the life of the artist in the opening track Do It, while Howard Marks delivers some lost last words in War on Drugs on side B.

The Mood is maintained by 2 extra ambient tracks taken from the Beatnik Youth album simultaneously released by Iron Man Records on Double CD. The free-form cinematic Brilliant Corners is a homage to Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs and the smokily atmospheric Sitarrtha reflects on the work of John Coltrane. The record is a smoker’s dream with the 4 ambient tracks clocking in at just over 30 minutes.

From Detroit to New Orleans and from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, John Sinclair is still the king-size, psychedelic old-gangster poet, a living legend, a veteran of the counterculture, a survivor of the Marijuana Wars, and one of the last bohemians still standing. As a co-founder of the Detroit underground newspaper The Fifth Estate, manager of MC5, and Chairman of the White Panther Party described on Wikipedia in these modern times as a far-left, anti-racist, white American political collective founded in 1968 and dedicated to cultural revolution his mark on the boho rock & roll underground has been unique.

In 1969, with Richard Nixon in the White House, Vietnam in chaos in the wake of the Viet Congs near-suicidal Tet Offensive, and American cities still scared and scarred from urban riots, even the comparatively harmless agitprop pranks of White Panther cultural revolution had those in power reaching for their metaphoric and sometimes actual revolvers. Authorities remembered how John had organized the MC5 playing outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the only band actually able to perform before Mayor Daley’s rabid police department violently derailed the massive anti-Vietnam war rally with teargas, billy clubs, and helicopter support.

John was deemed a danger to society and set up like a bowling pin. After handing a couple of joints to a hassling hippie who turned out to be an undercover narcotics agent, John found himself on the bad end of a ten year jail term. At the same time though he became a cause celebre. Free John Sinclair became one more battle cry in an embattled era. Protests, propaganda, and a giant concert in Ann Arbor headlined by John Lennon and Yoko Ono ultimately resulted in John s release in November 1971. Lennon even wrote a song about him called ‘John Sinclair’ which he included on his
‘Sometime In New York City’ album.

In common with much that happens with John, a meeting with producer Youth (Paul McCartneys ‘Fireman’, Primal Scream, The Verve etc & Killing Joke bass player) that sowed the creative seeds was a matter of stoned synchronicity. As former Track Records boss Ian Grant tells it, Alan Clayton told me he had John Sinclair coming round tomorrow. I said “The John Sinclair?” One night Zodiac (Mindwarp) was on the bill with the Dirty Strangers and Youth was very taken with John. “I want to make a jazz album with John” he said. Since then, the two met at Youths house whenever he was home, and when John was in the country, and recorded the album.

And through the course of those recordings John, always so associated with the 1960s, took a serious step into the ways of the 21st century, with the same intoned poetry, but with melodic backing vocals, highly inventive production, even a nod to hip-hop, but still remembering his first loves of blues, be-bop, and classic rock & roll.

Beatnik Youth Ambient is one more step in the Big Chief’s long zigzag trip that seems set to continue all the way to the far blue horizon. Summing up John Sinclair, you can only say with certainty that the beatnik goes on.

Iron Man Records would like to release more music on Vinyl. You are invited to get Involved.

October 16, 2015

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs

I want to invite you to support Iron Man Records releasing more music on Vinyl via Patreon.

A small donation of something like $1 a month could help Iron Man Records release some of the recent CD and Digital releases on Vinyl.

Here is a list of recent releases that could be made available on Vinyl with your help:

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IMB6020 POLICE BASTARD – Dead To The World – Digital Release (23rd November 2015)

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IMB6021 POLICE BASTARD – Confined CD / Digital 2013

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IMB6022 JOHN SINCLAIR – Mohawk CD / Digital 2014

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IMB6023 DEATH TO FANATICS – Iron Man Records 1999-2014 compilation CD 2014

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IMB6027 T.C. Lethbridge – Moon Equipped – Digital Release (23rd November 2014)

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IMB6028 T.C. Lethbridge – 2000 TC – Digital Release (23rd November 2014)

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IMB6029 T.C. Lethbridge – Mina – Digital Release (23rd November 2014)

Iron Man Records invites you to contribute to reducing the costs of producing albums on Vinyl. In exchange for your help, you will get a copy of everything the label produces, as it becomes available. Supporters will get digital files of everything, so they can also listen on portable electronic devices. You will also get all sorts of other benefits like free stuff from the iron man shop, stickers, email updates, free tickets, and whatever else I can think up as I go along.

If you like what Iron Man Records does, if you would like to encourage the label to produce new releases on Vinyl, and if you would like to support struggling musicians who are up against it on a daily basis, then please consider offering your support to the cause.

I have put a page up on Patreon here https://www.patreon.com/ironmanrecords

I think it is an interesting way to raise additional sums of money. This will help produce Vinyl in small quantities and to the highest standards. Patreon lets you make recurring monthly donations and helps to reduce the upfront costs of producing Vinyl.

Anyone who donates will get a copy of the Vinyl produced and a number of other benefits. Anything from $1 a month or more is actually really helpful. Knowing a small regular sum is coming in each month allows me to plan more effectively.

Everything the label produces is accessible for free online anyway so you can have anything, anytime if you look for it. Offering a small monthly donation means that regardless of what goes on, Iron Man Records can keep releasing music on vinyl and keep helping the bands and artists to survive.

Iron Man Records is trying hard, during a particularly tough time in the history of recorded music, to help musicians and artists develop a sustainable future. And to me, the simple way to do that, is give the bands and artists a good record to sell.

Iron Man Records wants to create Vinyl, something really special, something that presents music in a format that people want to keep and enjoy. That’s it really, life isn’t just about computers and social networking. There has to be an alternative. You have to make the world you want to live in.

A small donation could help Iron Man Records to release more music on Vinyl

October 5, 2015

I want to invite you to support Iron Man Records releasing more music on Vinyl via Patreon.

Police Bastard

I have been running Iron Man Records since 1996. I have never earnt anything, of any significance, from the work I have done so far, and neither have the bands. In fact the debts are what the label’s worth. It has been a true labour of love, and I like to think the music has made a lot of people happy. The label has released over 30 records by some fantastic bands and artists and continues to work hard on a daily basis. Iron Man Records wants to make all new releases from the label available on Vinyl and you are invited to help.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 7" singles

The journey has been back-breaking, and the label has generated a mountain of debt too. Everything I earn as a Tour Manager goes into keeping Iron Man Records moving forward. I manage to ensure that records come out every year and during difficult times perhaps every two years. But without fail, Iron Man Records continues to release records by some of the most interesting and talented artists, writers, and musicians. The label seeks to provide an alternative to the onslaught of pop culture and everything that goes with it. There has to be something that opposes the nonsense that we are surrounded by every day, in every format.

I don’t expect everyone to like what the record label releases, but at least the label gives you a choice. You don’t have to buy everything from “the man” and you don’t have to work for “the man” either. There’s always another way, and for Iron Man Records and the musicians, artists and writers it supports “the show must go on, by any means necessary, or until we are all eliminated”

I can handle running Iron Man Records by myself but I could use some help with releasing Vinyl. At a time when “ownership” of music is becoming less important, and digital services are making “access” a much easier way of listening to more music than ever before, I have been left with a problem to solve.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs

How can I continue to release physical records for people to “buy,” at a time when anyone, with any money left, can “access” more music for free, or at a fraction of the price, using streaming digital services?  

We all know how to google an album or a song and find it for free. We’ve all done it. We all know how to access music on social networks for free, and through Streaming services like Spotify. Some of us buy our music from download sites. I think its fair to say some of us listen to more music than ever before, and choose to only spend our money on music from our favourite groups.  

Iron Man Records has invested a lot of time and effort into making every release available through as many digital services as possible. From the stats, it is clear that plenty of people want to listen to the music Iron Man Records produces, but they don’t want to pay for it, they want it as cheap as possible and ideally for free. Fair enough, I can accept that.

It always makes me laugh when you hear people talking about how they wont buy music from Amazon because Amazon doesn’t pay its workers a fair wage and then get drawn into a discussion about what sites to use to find music for free without having to use Amazon.  

People forget that starving musicians have to go to band practice, pay for their rehearsals, record their music, and work out a way to release their music. Many musicians also have to plan and finance the costs of touring to promote their music all by themselves. Musicians also need to eat and have a roof over their head, and I do too.   These days, it’s interesting to note that many musicians would probably earn more per hour packing boxes and packages for Amazon, even on the poor wages that Amazon pays, than at most gigs they end up playing. But lets move on, you get the point.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs

Where does Iron Man Records find itself in the current digital world?

Streaming is taking off and dominating everything, people want “access” to more music and are very choosey about what music they actually want to “buy.” The CD in my view will be around for a while yet but, if you can already access the music as a digital file online either as a download, or a stream, why buy a CD as well? I have always loved vinyl as a format and I have reached the stage now where I want to start making every release on Iron Man Records available on Vinyl, as well as via streaming, downloads and on CD. To be fair, in the UK, not many people will buy the vinyl I produce, the real market for Vinyl is in places like Germany, or Czech Republic and other places in Europe who can’t get enough of it. Vinyl provides a good incentive for any band with Vinyl for sale to go and tour. And that’s what most of the bands on the label do when given the chance.

Some years ago I was talking with a friend in Czech Republic, while on tour with Police Bastard. He was talking about the state of music and he summed it up like this. “I google new bands and their music, and listen for free. If I find a band I like, I will find out where they are playing and go and see them live. If I like the concert I will buy their album on Vinyl even though I already have it as a digital file on my computer at home. The digital files are for listening to on my phone or sending to friends, the Vinyl is for my collection and I listen to it on my record player when I’m at home.

This friend was also the same person who booked Police Bastard to play, organised the promotion of the concert, cooked the food for the band and gave us a place to have a wash and sleep after the show. People like this are what makes being in a band worthwhile, they actually care enough about the music to do something to help.

It is clear to me that if you can produce anything of value in terms of your music, a digital version is necessary so people can access and even download your music. But if you are serious about your music, you must release it on Vinyl so the really passionate fans of your music, like our friends in Czech Republic, can get a copy to add to their collection and enjoy when they are at home.

Iron Man Records is capable of releasing records and making them available worldwide across pretty much every digital platform. Producing CDs of each release is also affordable within the context of selling physical copies, sending out to press and radio and keeping things ticking over.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs 

Vinyl however, is a little bit tricky. Producing a record on Vinyl is about three times more expensive than producing a cd, which means you have to sell three times more records to recover the upfront costs. I don’t think any of the bands are expanding their fanbase faster than the costs of producing their music on vinyl and no one wants to start putting prices up. So something has to give. Either the records are released as digital only, or the releases come out on CD first to test the market, or I have to find three times as much money upfront to release a record on Vinyl.  

This year has been a tough year, income from selling physical sales has continued to decline. In fact physical sales of everything both CD, Vinyl and DVD has steadily declined year on year since 2004 when I started keeping a record. Its not my fault or anything to do with the bands, the physical sales are declining because the market has a greater choice of music than ever before and what I am selling is becoming a smaller and smaller part of that market. Habits have changed and the market is increasingly choosing to access music to listen to via platforms like spotify rather than owning music via buying records to take home and play. Times are changing  and either Iron Man Records changes too or it’s game over.  

So where am I going with all this? Let me explain.  

Digital – I make every release through Iron Man Records available in a digital format and that is relatively cost effective and easy to do. From the stats at this end this is something people want, and a format that makes all the music the label has produced to date easy to access across digital platforms worldwide. As a record label that’s at least one job done that the bands don’t need to worry about themselves. I have yet to generate enough money through digital services to pay the bands any meaningful sum, but month by month the situation seems to be getting better. I remain hopeful for the future.  

CD – I have made every release through Iron Man Records available on CD right up to recent years and the boxes and boxes of unsold stock tell me that there is still a market for CDS but interest in physical CDs is steadily declining. Once I’ve sold the stock I’ve already got I doubt it will be replaced by more cds. 

Vinyl – I started out releasing records on Vinyl when I first started the label, over 18 years ago. To be honest I have still got half the stock of Vinyl I pressed all those years ago but that is probably more to do with the fact I pressed too many records in an enthusiastic, naive and hopeful state of mind.   What I am proposing to do is this. I want to start releasing records on Vinyl again but I need some help and support in reducing the front end costs of producing the Vinyl. I’m not asking anyone to pay for everything, nor am I asking anyone to pay me to run Iron Man Records, I can look after all that myself.

What I want to do is invite people to contribute to reducing the costs of producing albums on Vinyl. In exchange for help and support, they will get a copy of everything the label produces, as it becomes available. Supporters will get digital files of everything, so they can also listen on portable electronic devices, and they will get all sorts of other benefits. For example: free stuff from the iron man shop, stickers, email updates, free tickets, and whatever else I can think up as I go along.  

I would like to think that if you like what Iron Man Records does, if you would like to encourage the label to produce all releases on Vinyl, and if you would like to support struggling musicians who are up against it on a daily basis, then please consider offering your support to the cause.

Iron Man Records - Vinyl 12" and 10" LPs

I have put together a page on Patreon https://www.patreon.com/ironmanrecords which I think is an interesting way to raise additional sums of money. This will help produce Vinyl in small quantities and to the highest standards with regards to artwork and packaging. Patreon lets you make recurring monthly donations and thereby helps to reduce the upfront costs of producing music on vinyl.

Anyone who donates will get a copy of the vinyl produced and a number of other benefits. Anything from £1 a month or more is actually really helpful, and knowing a small regular sum is coming in each month allows me to plan more effectively.

Everything the label produces is accessible for free online anyway so you can have anything, anytime if you look for it. Offering a small monthly donation means that regardless of what goes on, Iron Man Records can keep releasing music on vinyl and keep helping the bands and artists to survive, and to make more music.

Let me be clear: Iron Man Records is not in the pop business. In fact it’s just not in business. The debts are what it’s worth. The label is trying hard, during a particularly tough time in the history of recorded music, to help musicians and artists develop a sustainable future. And to me, the simple way to do that, is give the bands and artists a Record to sell, at their gigs, that people would love to buy. Iron Man Records wants to create Vinyl, something really special, something that presents music in a format that people want to keep and enjoy. That’s it really, life isn’t just about computers and social networking. There has to be an alternative.

Have a look here and any comments, good or bad are invited.

Mark – Iron Man Records 5th October 2015.

Independent Record Labels of the Internet Era by Kristian Evans

September 19, 2015

Few people ask me questions these days. I’m probably deluded thinking anyone would actually want to know what I do for a living, and if I told them honestly they would probably think I’m mad. In truth, I like to be left to get on in peace so I don’t really care. I think the last time I faced 20 questions was a round of “German Traffic Police Roadside Mastermind,” but that’s another story. A few months ago, I spent some time on Skype talking to Kristian Evans and answered as many questions as I could, probably more than 20, on the subject of Independent Record Labels in the age of the Internet. We talked about releasing records through a label, and releasing records as a band without a label. We talked about many of the related issues of trying to release music independently and the many contradictions bands and record labels have to face up to. When the call finished I had to get back to work but Kristian put our discussion into writing as part of a larger case study. Have a read, this is the shorter version, you may find it interesting. If you want the full Case study you can download it in full at the end – Mark, Iron Man Records

Independent Record Labels of the Internet Era by Kristian Evans

This report is dedicated to both uncovering and defining the independent record labels during the era of the Internet (i.e. 1998 onwards). A quick look back in history reveals how important independent record labels have been to modern music of the era, helping to alter the perception of contemporary popular music. However over the past two decades, a number of major changes have happened in the marketplace shifting both the power balance and economy.

By utilising primary research (surveys, questionnaires and interviews), it has been concluded that despite large changes to the operations and methods of the music industry, to some degree the essence of what it means to be an indie label has remained constant. Advancements in technology have given musicians and artists more independence and control, however it would prove challenging to realistically compete with what a dedicated label could achieve.

Introduction

Independent record labels have for decades contributed greatly to the music industry; from the rock ’n roll revolution during the 1950s to the development of other genres such as grunge, alternative rock and countless others. [Cosper, A.2012] Some of the most notable companies to date include Rough Trade, Pinnacle, Mute, Factory and 4AD. Rough Trade and Pinnacle alone stood for almost 30% of the music market during their peak; and throughout the 1980s, independent labels would continuously compete with the majors in the top 20 album charts. [King, R., 2012]

Background

Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 hit the music industry like a comet. Over the past twenty six years the world has seen a dramatic change in how we consume, distribute, discover and create music; or any form of media for that matter. [World Wide Web Foundation 2015] The introduction of the Internet resulted in a bleak outlook for the music industry. The introduction of digital audio files such as mp3 in 1995 caused hard-copy sales to plummet and the industry to suffer financially. [Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, 2015]. Illegal file-sharing websites such as Napster and Mp3.com would wreak havoc until their shutdown in 2001.

It was only then that record labels started to integrate into the digital domain. [Cosper, A.2012] [The Napster Controversy, 2015][Kusek, D., 2008.] Record labels (independent or not) seemed unable to keep up with the constant changes that technology brought us. Illegal file-sharing exploded, services such as Piratebay emerged, devastating physical sales. It wasn’t until 2013 that the music had actually seen any form of market growth since 1999. [Neumeister. L., 2015][Admin.,, 2013] [uSwitch., 2015] [Batterbee, A., 2008, p. 82, 83].

With fewer major record labels today, as a result of companies such as EMI being absorbed into Sony and UMG; there has been a reduction in the amount of current market competition. This information also highlights the struggles of the modern music industry as it has attempted to adapt to the changes in technology. [The Nielsen Company & Billboards, 2011] [Pelzie, 2014]

The Nielsen Company & Billboards, 2011
The figure above demonstrates dominance of the four major record labels before EMI’s demise, and to some degree reflects how the independent section relates to them. Although times have changed, the overall picture remains the same as independents are currently a minority.

With regards to the musician’s point of view and the advancement of technology,  research indicates that internet based technology and other technological advancements have resulted in more independent control than ever before, from musicians being able to produce high quality albums in their bedroom to even being able to distribute music without the need for a label, alternatively creating their own. [Reevers C., 2011] [Thomson, K., 2015][ Case, C., 2015]

Outline

So following the aforementioned changes in the marketplace, where does the independent record label stand? Interviews, questionnaires and surveys have been used to accumulate information from both the client and business end of the marketplace; this will provide the most accurate and unbiased results.

Methods

As previously mentioned, first hand research has been conducted in three fashions. The first being a survey (created via SurveyMonkey), aimed towards the consumer and artists, to determine their overall knowledge about the industry, and also how they have adapted to it. [SurveyMonkey, 2015]
The questionnaire was created as an alternative to the interview. The questions were aimed at the recording labels, and aim to uncover how the businesses are coping.

If the label contacted preferred telephone, a time was agreed to have a recorded interview, where the basis would be the questions used in the questionnaire; interviews were used to get the interviewee to elaborate more in-depth about the inner workings of the indie world.

Record labels were contacted by finding the bands’ homepage on Google, for the interest of aiming it towards the British market place, only British labels were contacted, contact was either conducted via the labels’ online contact form, e-mail or by phoning the company directly.

Social media networking was the primary way of delivering the musicians questionnaire, posting it on social groups dedicated to performing musicians and artists.  Due to the nature of the groups and the style of questionnaire, it was not limited to being answered by British based artists, but was aimed at anybody who produced a product for release.  (Copies of correspondents, questionnaires and survey results can be found in Appendix 1 – 3).

Aims

The intention with this research report, is not to prove that record labels are necessary, but rather if they are necessary, and to some degree decipher the future of record labels.

Musicians can completely bypass recording companies to release their music; some even create personal recording labels for their own release. But can this new found control replace what a recording company does for their musicians?

What do modern music services mean for the industry?

Given all this new technology, how have artists adapted to it?

Do musicians today feel confident with the tools they have been given or how does it influence their decision.

As the market developed for 14 years without any real growth, many companies must have felt the pinch.

How has the indie section adapted to the recent changes, and has it affected operations?

How do the remaining major labels relate to the indie market of today, is there any resemblance to how things were before?

Results

The overall research shows that the drive behind running independent labels hasn’t changed much since the before the Internet’s conception; fuelled by the love of DIY, releasing creative and quality records, independent from major label influence.  Although the desire to run one hasn’t changed, the entire marketplace has shifted after the introduction of the internet. Amongst other things, independents were no longer restricted by getting distribution deals in order to get music out there. But on the other side of the coin, the internet caused havoc on physical sales maiming a major source of income; albeit, a recent rise in LP sales has occurred over recent years. As a result both bands and record labels have had “to adapt or die”. [Badger, M. (Iron Man Records) (2015). Interviewed by Kristian Evans for Case Study,21:24]  [Rushton, K., 2013] [Lewis, L., 2015]

Starting an indie label is relatively easy, with a majority of musicians aware that distribution is possible without a label, more than 50% of the survey’s respondents claim they would consider creating their own label for an upcoming release. DIY in itself is not difficult, but doing it right is a different kettle of fish. Especially as there is no true definition to what is right, what is “right” depends on the surrounding parameters. The benefit of using an established record label is that they can potentially provide understanding, knowledge, experience and resources needed to help the product stand out among the masses; “working with a label that is as old as your band is suicide”.  [Badger, M. (2015). Interviewed by Kristian Evans for Case Study, 11:34]

There is some debate as to the existence of the quality filter provided by labels, it is apparent that some labels do specialise in styles, genres or similar and have fan bases that benefit all artists released on that album. With Spotify having 4 million songs that have never been played and countless more struggling due to lack of experience, knowledge or making the wrong decisions.  [Rochell, 2013] It is more important now than ever that labels keep up-to date and well informed on current events, in order to provide their artists with optimal results.

Although the introduction of streaming services has driven some money back into the industry’s economy, research reveals that it is only the labels with large amount of copyrights that really benefit, in other words the majors, in contrast iTunes is a highly regarded source due to its design and operation.  In recent years 50% of artist’s income has been from live performances; it is therefore important to spread music effectively, market strategically, to reach a wide demographic in order to raise ticket sales. This is an area where an established record label is more likely to see satisfactory results; especially in regards to knowing the market and knowing how to proceed.

D, Passman suggests that the next generation of marketing for bands will rely on direct relationships between the band and its fan base. Research shows that more than 80% of the overall respondents claimed to be comfortable using internet based technology for promotion, 72% of the overall respondents use it actively to connect with the fan base. Having personal relationships and interacting with customers and fans at a personal level can raise the overall success of tours, album releases and so forth, and is actively being used at all stages of the industry, though some of this control can be lost in major label deals. [Passman, D., 2013. 69]

With regards to the major labels, it shows that they have little influence over the independent market, and have somewhat less influence than previously in history; at least what we regard as major labels today. Since the introduction of the internet and later online music services, “new” record labels are emerging under the names such as Apple, Amazon, Youtube and other internet based major corporations; causing competition and a shift in power. In addition to this recent changes and coming changes to the internet and how it operates, such as new laws regarding VAT can make it potentially more difficult to truly be independent.

Discussion

The findings provide an up-to-date insight into how the industry currently looks, and a brief outlook on how companies are adapting to their new surroundings.  The findings in the report are of significant value as they answer all of the aims and questions posed at the beginning of the report, while additionally giving information into what the current events are. These findings also give an insight into the possible future of the industry.

The report reveals interesting facts such as the diminishing influence of the major record labels (Universal, Sony, Warner Bros) which have previously dominated the market, in favour of an increase in the popularity and trading power of major online corporations that deal in a range of commodities (Amazon, Apple, Ebay) and offer a more convenient and efficient service to those customers buying online.

Companies such as these may become the major labels of tomorrow as they regularly cause havoc in the industry; causing major changes in how the internet functions and how customers make use of the various services available.  The days of the Internet providing freedom may be limited with newly established laws and the music industry finally adapting to the monstrous invention that once made the outlook seem grave, though this seems likely to make running an indie label or any indie company more difficult, research has shown how many of these companies are quick to adapt and vigilant in keeping updated about how to deal with coming issues. 
The overall findings are important as they ascertain the importance of indie record labels in modern society, showing that they are as important as they ever have been. Despite many artists being comfortable with their new technological surroundings, and being aware of the options available, the majority still see record labels as a necessity.

All of the aims set for this assignment were successfully met, although not all answers are as comprehensive or as useful as initially thought.  The research assignment’s main weakness is the lack of responses from labels, the entire research period being dominated by lack of replies or not answering the telephone at arranged time and date. In order for the report to have more credibility and accuracy, more time would be needed to collect responses, where the student would avoid limiting the search to labels within the United Kingdom.  The questionnaire in itself requested information that would have been useful to the assignment, but some revisions would be made to it, correcting some phrasing issues and combining questions to make the overall amount less; this might help getting a higher response ratio from participating labels.

Conclusion

The assignment was an attempt to ascertain the importance and market position of indie labels after the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1998. It was also to see how companies have adapted to the recent changes and how this has changed operations and the overall definition of “indie”. To answer questions about their market position and also the clients’ view on the industry, both record labels and musicians were contacted with relevant questions to achieve comprehensive answers.

The research shows that over recent years there has been little change to the core elements of being an indie record label, but the internet has caused for drastic changes in what it means to be a record label. Now often not being required for the recording of the actual album, indie labels function as bands PR agents, providing signed artists with resources, knowledge and experience, arming them to their best ability to survive in an industry that no longer thrives on physical sales, but more live performances and strategically supplying music via the various tools available.

Although from the musicians’ or the markets’ point of view there is no immediate danger, society’s adaptation to the internet and other changes in the market place might cause a raised eyebrow.

In many ways this is an impossible question to answer as there is no set definition of indie, it is instead a combination of past actions and mind-set that have evolved over time. To some indie means a seal of approval while to others it is purely a mind-set. What is counted as indie varies much from person to person, with music from all segments of the industry receiving the tag despite its origin.

What it means to be independent also has its grey areas as even self-releasing music one is constricted to major internet based corporations for distribution, and with the new VAT laws being introduced, releasing music for free might be the only remaining way to be truly independent.

Here it is in full as a word doc Case study – Kristian Evans 2015

9 Questions answered by Mark at Iron Man Records, Birmingham, 2012.

February 25, 2012

How did Iron Man Records come about?

I started buying records at an early age but soon found that record collecting was an expensive luxury and the only choice was what was stacked on the shelves or anything that hadnt already sold out. I spent time finding good second hand shops but again, the majority of records i found were old vinyl in poor condition or unwanted items and i could never find much I was interested in. I spent a lot of my time reading the music magazines for free in shops on saturday afternoons looking at the features and reviews but again there was never much i really found any interest in. The bands all seemed the same, none of them had any story or mystery to them, they seemed to me like manufactured, heavily marketed and promoted vehicles for generating money for the record labels behind them. Few of them captured my imagination or seemed to have much to inspire me in any way shape or form. For a while it seemed like the album artwork was almost more interesting or imaginative than the music on the record itself. I suppose the late 1970’s and early 1980’s did produce some good bands but I think anyone who was in their early teens at the time would agree that the 80’s were a bleak time for interesting new music.

One good thing did happen during that period, I discovered tape trading. In the back pages of many music magazines at the time there were small classified adverts listing people who lived all over the country, and all around the world, who had an interest in all sorts of bands. A typical advert would read something like “My name’s Joachim, I live in Germany and I like bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, The Accused, Suicidal Tendencies. Write me with S.A.E (self addressed envelope) for live tapes, swaps at this address….”

I would read the advert, and then read it again thinking…”I like Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax… but who are The Accused or Suicidal Tendencies?” I would write to the person in the advert and find out. Before long, the postman was delivering parcels to me that were coming in from all around the world. A couple of my friends were doing the same, we swapped amongst ourselves and with the people we wrote to.

The packages that arrived by post, sometimes two or three a week, contained hand written letters from people the same age as me. Sometimes the tapes would contain an album or a couple of band demos or a live recording of a gig on another. I got the first demos from Heresy, Doom, Carcass, Regurgitation and numerous other bands in this way so I was already looking out for them when the band’s first album got released. I discovered bands like Oi Polloi, Stupids, Dr Know, Rhythm Pigs, Sabbat, Butthole Surfers, Sacred Reich, Nuclear Assault, Faith No More, Prong and many others in a similar way.

Sometimes i would get a fanzine through the post with a long letter listing recommendations, some of the people I wrote to also reviewed records for fanzines or wrote their own. I began to realise that the bands I was watching on top of the pops each week and the features and reviews in the music magazines were just the tip of the iceberg and that the really interesting music was everywhere, you just had to know where to look.

I think this was the starting point for everything I do now. I had this idea to try and find a way to let more people find out about, and enjoy, the music that I was finding for myself so easily. I wanted to get all this music out to a wider audience. I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t doing what I was doing. I had this naive idea I could somehow come up with a mechanism to provide some kind of alternative to everything I was seeing and hearing through the standard mass media channels at the time. If truth be told, I don’t think I had any idea how to do it or where to start but seeing as i had no friends around me that knew any better, I might as well make a start and make it up as i go along.

Every week I used to go through all the magazine and fanzine gig listings I could find. I would hope I’d spot a gig for a band I had heard about through tape traders and people I had been writing to. I started going to see bands play in London as my older sister had a place where I could stay. I would show up to gigs and hope I could get in without having to show any id, I was 16 at the time. I spent a lot of my time at venues like The Sir George Robey in Finsbury Park, The Canterbury Arms in Brixton, The White Horse in Hampstead, The Fulham Greyhound and I used to go to loads of other places too many to mention here.

I often went to gigs by myself, once I had managed to get a drink at the bar I would try and find someone who looked friendly and just start a conversation. The easiest way to do this was to ask them about the bands playing or what records they had bought recently or what other bands they were into. I started to make new friends and some of them I’m still in touch with today. Many people I spoke to mentioned various record shops they could recommend, other venues or fanzines worth checking out and many of them mentioned John Peel. I had already discovered John Peel myself through listening to the radio late at night but I hadnt realised just how significant he was in terms of the numbers of people my age who listened to his show regularly. Sometimes John Peel would get a letter in from a band, or a mate of a band, I had heard about through tape trading, and he would read it out over the air. He would include the details of their upcoming gig, news of a forthcoming release and an address to write to if you wanted more information on the band. Quite often, if I couldn’t find anything in the gig listings worth going to see, I would take a chance on a band mentioned by John Peel.

Going to gigs, or earning enough money to go to gigs became, for many years, the complete focus of everything I did. I loved seeing bands play, meeting new people and sharing a drink with other people who liked the music I was into. But going to gigs and tape trading wasn’t enough, I wanted to take it further, I wanted to contribute in some way, help these bands reach a wider audience.

In 1990 I had the chance to decide where I wanted to live, I had an offer from several Universities to do a degree in Geography (Don’t ask) and I decided that Birmingham was the University for me. The City of Birmingham up to that time had been producing the most interesting music that I had heard. For example Napalm Death were based in Birmingham, I had been at the first Godflesh gig at the Canterbury Arms in Brixton completely by chance. Godflesh at the time were from Birmingham. I had showed up to see Dr and the Crippens (from Bristol) play but they cancelled and Godflesh and Sink played instead. Bri from Doom was there, I had been tape trading with him for a couple of years and he had told me a lot about what was going on in Birmingham. I used to trade and write to Les from Concrete Sox too and he was always talking about the Birmingham scene and how good the band Doom were. I had a load of Napalm Death live tapes that I had swapped and a lot of the talk between songs was all about other birmingham bands or records that members of Napalm Death were listening to. For a while, many of the bands I was discovering all seemed to play, or had played in Birmingham either at The Mermaid or The Barrel Organ. Birmingham also seemed to be the place where many bands I was listening to were going to record demos or their first records. For example Heresy, Doom, Carcass and others all recorded at Rich Bitch studios in Selly Oak, right next to the University. It seemed Birmingham between 1986 and 1990 had been attracting bands to a healthy alternative music scene and that was what brought me to Birmingham in 1990. However, like all things in the music world and everywhere else, change is never far away, and in Birmingham, things changed…for the worse.

The Mermaid closed down, The Barrel Organ closed down, in 1992 the Hummingbird closed down. What was left were venues like The Jug of Ale, The Hibernian, The Hare and Hounds, The Flapper and Firkin and the only real alternative venue of any size was The Foundry. There was also the Institute and Edwards Number 8. It seemed to me that the only promoters left in Birmingham were only in it to promote the bands they liked already or they would only put on bands that would appeal to the student population regardless of what might be thought interesting or new. How naive I was. Looking back on it with Hinesight, most of them were probably trying to cling on financially as the world around them was already collapsing and they would do anything if it meant better tickets sales. More ticket sales meant more beer sales. More beer sales meant the venue and the promoter had a future. There had to be a better way to attract customers. At this time, the Internet hadn’t arrived yet in any serious capacity.

Across Birmingham student bars were selling beer at £1 a pint, DJ’s were paid £50 to play records in the local pub, big screen TV’s were everywhere playing sport, computer games were encouraging people to stay at home and play, more channels were accessible on the TV, Cable, Satellite channels and changes in peoples use of their leisure time were all eroding ticket sales. You didnt have to go and see a live band anymore to have a fun night out…you could go to the pub and listen to a dj, or watch the sport, or go clubbing, or go to a sports bar and drink cheap lager. The council already had plans in action to build a new shopping center right in the middle of town, people would be able to go shopping anytime they liked. If this wasn’t enough to sound the death of any hope for the future, do you remember how Birmingham used to have one of the best dance music scenes in the country? House of God, Crunch, a host of other dance nights were all attracting students and other young people…live music was no longer as important as it was, particularly in Birmingham. If you ran a pub, why would you pay £300 or even 500 for a live band when you could get a DJ for £50? It has always been hard enough to run a pub and make money from beer without worry about the rest. Things like marketing and promotion were expensive and complicated, a simple solution for attracting people to drink beer and spend their money was the aim of the game and its still the same today. (It’s interesting to note that these days people even DJ for free in pubs with a laptop or an ipod and think they’re achieving something, they’re just being used…they have their ego flattered and they help sell beer for someone else but, I digress.)

This is where I found myself in 1992. The venues were closing, the promoters were doing anything to stay in business, the breweries would rather fit a big screen tv and provide food than have a fully equipped venue and regular live music. It was too expensive and too much risk was involved. As far as the promoters were concerned, I don’t think anyone was making any money, it was a lot of hard work and a lot of stress. When the venue was packed and the beer sales were good the bands got the credit. When the venue was empty and the beer sales were poor the promoter got a talking to. Either way, if you were a music promoter it was a lose or lose situation. The situation was desperate. Then something happened that pushed me into action.

At the start of 1992 Two bands I had been a fan of for years, from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, came together and appeared on prime time TV right in front of my eyes. One band was Extreme Noise Terror, a band John Peel had introduced me to through numerous plays on his radio show, the other was KLF…a band that had first caught my attention with their antics on top of the pops and an interesting approach to releasing records. The KLF attracted my attention for a number of reasons, you can look up what they are all about anywhere on the internet. Their most notorious performance was what finally did it. The KLF collaborated with Extreme Noise Terror at the February 1992 BRIT Awards, they played “3am Eternal” and fired machine gun blanks into the audience and dumped a dead sheep at the aftershow party. This performance announced The KLF’s departure from the music business, and in May 1992 the duo deleted their entire back catalogue. Im sure anyone will tell you how scarcity increases value of some items, the internet has put an end to scarcity and so the value of music and downloads has become almost nothing. You can get anything you want anytime you want it. There’s no apparent value in ownership anymore. Anyway, back to watching ENT vs KLF on the Brit awards: I watched in disbelief, laughing my head off as the two bands performed on LIVE tv. For the first time in as long as I could remember, something had made me laugh out loud and had lit the fire of enthusiasm to do something myself.

I had been playing in bands for many years by this time, I had been to hundreds of gigs, talked to lots of fanzines, labels, bands, venue promoters and gig organisers. I thought that if no one else was going to do anything to try and sort things out I would have to do it myself. This was the chance I had been waiting for, I had this stupid idea that I should start putting on gigs myself, bring to birmingham all the interesting new alternative bands and I should mix the bills up with good local support acts. All I needed was a venue going bust that would be desperate enough to let me have a go, I would need a sound engineer to look after the sound and I could make the rest up as I go along. That’s exactly what I did.

I started at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. My friend Tom Wiggins was a sound engineer, or at least he reckoned he could do the sound if I paid him and sorted everything else out. I went to the landlord at the Hare and Hounds and managed to persuade him to give me one night a month. I would do all the promotion, I would take all the money on the door and I would have to pay the soundman and pay the bands. I started doing one show per month and then moved on to one show a week. I never made much money, enough to pay the sound man and give the bands a donation towards their costs but there was never enough money for everyone and I certainly was not going to make anything for myself. When I graduated I had a couple of dead end jobs then decided to sign on to free up my time to put more effort into organising the gigs, marketing and promotion. I spent many late nights thinking about what i could do to make things better. I had done my research, I had a strategy and I was putting the strategy into action but still there was not much money and not many people coming to the gigs.

A few years later I spotted a poster for a gig at what became Monkey Micks opposite the fire station in Aston. It was a poster for a band called Dogfood and on the poster it said the event promoter was sponsored by the K Foundation. I assumed and hoped that this was in some way related to the KLF and showed up to the gig with no idea what to expect. I had an interesting night out. Leaving the gig after a few drinks and making plenty of new friends, I felt I had at last found another small group of people who were also looking for an alternative. They were hell bent on making their own fun regardless. I was also pleased to discover the music promoter responsible for the gig posters, he appeared more unhinged than I was and at best came across as a dangerous lunatic. His name was Richard Temple and we became good friends. Richard introduced me to the internet, I had no idea what it was, how to use it or even what possibilities it presented. Richard had to admit that putting K Foundation on the posters was only an attempt to attract people to the gig, he was a fan of KLF and used the name purely to see who would show up. As he stated to me some days afterwards “as a strategy it worked quite well. For a start…you showed up.”

By 1996 Richard was organising shows in Birmingham under the name of “Discordian Promotions” and I was operating under the name of “Badger Promotions.” Both of us were trying to organise shows for interesting touring bands with support slots filled by local acts. I think we both knew that neither of us were ever going to make any money either for the bands, ourselves or the venues we were working in, but we couldn’t stop, the phone kept ringing. I think we both continued because we were both working at it and it felt good that there was someone else as mad, doing it, too.

In 1997 I had come to the conclusion that there was really no hope for the future of local gig promotion in Birmingham. It was a disaster area and would continue to be so until someone or something came along to change everything. Anyone who knew there was no longer any money in it was moving on in the hope of better things. Those that remained were either too stupid or too bloody minded to stop or earning money or promoting half decent new music was not the purpose. Richard and I had started using the internet and hoped that this could be the “thing” to change everything.

Richard set up the first internet based discussion group for “music in Birmingham” called “Discordian.” It started life at egroups, then became a yahoogroups list. We started putting email addresses on posters and flyers and invited people to join the discussion online. For users of twitter or facebook these days, this is it where it all started for some musicians in Birmingham. It was slow to start, painfully slow. I dont think many other people in Birmingham had any idea about the internet either and certainly no idea about what was to become “social networking.” The basic idea behind the discordian group was to provide a platform where people who were into alternative music in Birmingham could freely discuss all things music eg: gigs they were going to, bands they had seen, records they were listening to and so on. It was also a sneaky way to promote the word “discordian” and all related “ideas.” After many months the list still only had about 20 users and Richard and I were the main contributors. So always the one with the insane ideas, Richard decided to test whether the “Discordian” discussion group for music was the problem or the concept of the internet based discussion group itself. Richard tried to think of something that was less likely to be of interest to people in Birmingham than music. He picked the subject of “being naked in public places.” The reasoning was simple: “surely more people would be into going to local gigs than walking around in public naked?” Right? How wrong could anyone be. Richard and I were both masters at that. Richard set up a discussion group that was essentially aimed at people who “liked to walk around naked in public and network with other people who liked to do the same.” Within a month the group had over 1,000 users, within a year it had got out of control. Richard had to shut it down. At least we had the answer we were looking for, the internet is a powerful tool but you need to know how to use it and what you talked about, provided, discussed or promoted mattered. Just because we had access to the internet didn’t mean that people would show up to the gigs in any greater numbers than before we had the internet. The bands, the music, the quality, the profile of the bands were still an important part of the equation, we still had to choose the bands carefully. In fact, everything we had done offline before pretty much mattered just as much as what we were doing online now, we had just given ourselves even more work to do online and off. The internet was not instead of our work offline, it was an addition to our offline strategy.

I continued to think about ways to reach a wider audience, how could a local band in Birmingham reach a wider local audience, a national audience or even an international audience? Did you really need money or could you do it with strategy alone? Richard and I sat around drinking and arguing about what the internet was or wasnt going to do for us and how it would change the future. I had my ideas, Richard had his. I have to admit, looking back on it neither of knew anything but at the time Richard was the only one who had any clear vision of what we were dealing with and what the future might be. He had invested serious time finding out how things worked online and if anyone knew anything it was more likely to be him. At the same time, in the national press I was reading about the internet being the end of the music business. I’d heard that one before. Piracy will destroy the music business, Home taping is killing music and now digital files and downloading is killing the music business. It had to be rubbish, somebody somewhere was losing power and control and they didn’t like it. I thought about it a bit longer and read and re-read the articles about the internet and music. I thought to myself that people who knew how to use the internet effectively and use it in cooperation with everything else they did would no doubt succeed, and people who didnt know how to use the internet effectively were going to fail. The Internet appeared to me as a ten ton truck approaching and somehow i had to get behind the wheel or at least put some good tunes on the stereo rather than just get run down. At a time when the local live music scene was in a mess and the music industry had announced it was starting to collapse I decided to start a record label of my own. I wasn’t after money, I wasn’t after a quick hit or the hope of selling the business on to a larger company when I had made a mess of things. I knew I had no future promoting local gigs, I had already been at it for 5 years in Birmingham at this point and had seen enough to put anyone else off music for life. I just wanted the chance to compete in a new game with an all new hope for helping bands reach a wider audience. And if that wasn’t going to happen I would just have to cheat effectively long enough to stay in the game until I worked out a more effective strategy to survive. In 1997 I was on the dole, I had no money in the bank, I was behind with the rent, I owed people money, I had 5 years as a local music promoter behind me, what did I have to lose? I didnt have anything but there was one small problem. The bank was not stupid enough to lend me anymore money and my credit card was full. All I needed now was to find someone who would give me some money, enough money to release a record and test out the insanity for real. Someone who would not ask for it back if I failed completely. And while I waited, I thought I’d treat myself to a little research, I bought a copy of “The Manual” (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) 1988 – a book by The Timelords (Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty), better known as The KLF. It’s wikipedia entry describes it as “a tongue-in-cheek step by step guide to achieving a No.1 single with no money or musical skills.” I’d heard about it and read bits that had been copied or reproduced. I decided to read it and work from there.

In late 1997 someone with money to lend me walked through the door of The Old Railway. I was organising two shows a week and they asked me how much I thought I would need to start a record label. I couldn’t believe my luck. Within 7 days the record label had a logo and the name I had been keeping for just such a purpose could at last be used. I had already thought a lot of my plans through so when the opportunity just appeared one evening in the doorway I knew exactly what I wanted to do next. Iron Man Records officially began on 23rd November 1997 although I had been working on ideas throughout 1996. The name came from the song Iron Man by Black Sabbath that I used to play when all else failed. Birmingham to me has always been Ozzy’s town. Black Sabbath could not have happened without the crushing despair that prolonged exposure to Birmingham’s built environment brings down onto people. It’s in the water, it’s the skyline, the warehouse roofs and canals, you can’t see much further than the other side of the road, it’s all around you, you can feel it. Birmingham can be a bleak and depressing place. Bands like Napalm Death, Godflesh, Doom and the rest I’m sure were all influenced by the place they spent their time. It shows in their music. The name was also inspired by my own perceptions of Birmingham as an old industrial town, made of iron, populated by stubborn, narrow minded people with no drive to do anything creative for themselves apart from work, consume, breed and die. I wanted to take a tin opener to peoples perceptions of the Birmingham Music Scene and I wanted to take a tin opener to the Music Business in general, I wanted to see what it was all about for myself and offer an alternative. I wanted to show that anyone could set up a record label and and anyone could work effectively to help bands reach a wider audience without having to be a greedy money motivated idiot. I didn’t just want to do it myself, anyone could do that. I wanted to do it properly and fairly without into the age old compromise chasing money etc. Not long after I decided to make a start on the record label, Barney, the singer from Napalm Death showed up one night at The Old Railway to write a review for Kerrang. I spoke to him briefly and asked if he could recommend a good studio in Birmingham for bands to record as I had heard so many horror stories about Rich Bitch. He laughed and said “Go and see Bag at Framework Studios, he’ll sort you out.” Barney gave me the address and the rest is history. When I found Framework Studios I found Bag aka Paul Siddens and Simon Reeves. Bag had worked with Napalm Death for the last ten years, Meathook Seed, Charger, DBH, Little Giant Drug, Cathedral, Carcass, Bjork, Admortem, Family Cat, Crowbar, Six Feet Under, Obituary, Ride, Coal Chamber, Skin Lab, At The Gates, Saxon, and PJ Harvey. Bag starting teaching me some of the most important things about touring, recording and everything else I might need to know. The rest is history, I still work with Framework Studios, in fact Simon Reeves plays bass in Last Under The Sun which is the band I started over ten years ago. The first release on Iron Man Records was a local band called I.O.D and it’s still one of my favourites, a local band that had only played local gigs and with Bag’s work in the studio, they produced a great debut release.

I have kept a list of quotes that have continued to inspire what I do since the record label has been in operation. You can read them here: https://ironmanrecords.net/about/reasons-why/

I have also been questioned on some of the above before. You can find my answers here: https://ironmanrecords.net/about/questions/ and here: https://ironmanrecords.net/about/10-questions/

Is it an equal partnership between you and Kevan? Or does one of you have more control?

I have the main artistic and financial control of the label, but just like any solo project, it is doomed to failure if you don’t have at least one other person involved to keep a degree of sanity to decision making. Kevan looks after all the Legal agreements and we discuss everything at length before I start working on any new projects. Kevan has also contributed many good ideas along the way as he has worked in music and law himself for many years and knows a lot more about the commercial pitfalls and the better aspects of the music business than I ever will.

What made you decide to branch out further that being just a record label?

I never started the record label to make money, I hoped it would cover it’s costs but that was just about it. Since 1997 the label has spent a lot of money and struggled to generate any real income at all. I considered applying for funding and working on more effective marketing and promotional strategies but in the end I decided I would rather abandon the concept of strategy and just generate more releases with bands that i liked in my own time and when funds permitted. After the closure of The Old Railway in Digbeth I was no longer booking concerts for bands and the phone kept ringing. Bands would ask for a show and when I told them I was no longer organising anything in Birmingham the next question would always be…”Can you come and get us from the airport?” or “Do you know anyone with a van who could drive us round Europe for the whole of the tour?” I started to offer Tour Management and driving to bands I already knew just to help them out. But the phone kept ringing and soon I was working with bands I had never met before and they were willing to offer me money in exchange for my experience, knowledge and time. I continue to keep to the idea of only working with people I like and I tend to favour the bands who have something interesting to say with their music, lyrics or approach to their music in general.

I have been offered work by the Musicians Union, local funded organisations, and several Universities teaching Music Industries Skills and Music PR and Promotion. To be honest, whilst I working for all sorts of different entities and enjoy teaching a lot, I don’t like being employed by anyone I wouldn’t want to invite for a drink and a chat. Sadly many Universities and local funded organisations have become administrative frameworks and sometimes you never even meet the people who make the decisions or pay your wages and as an employee you have little chance to influence what is taught or how it is taught or what subject matter should be focussed on.

In this digital age, for what reasons do you sell CD and Vinyl?

There is still a healthy market for CDs and Vinyl and I like them both for different reasons.

In Germany, France and Czech Republic, Vinyl always sells better than CDs or digital downloads amongst the bands I work with both on tour and as a label. One of my friends in Czech republic explained to me that he discovers new music on the internet, by personal recommendation. He downloads suggested mp3 and gives them a listen. If he discovers a new band he likes he buys a ticket and goes and sees the band play when they visit Czech on tour. If he likes the show he will buy a vinyl album or a 7 inch single as a souvenir of the gig and as a valuable addition to his record collection. He explained he had no use for cds as they were digital and he could get the digital files for free from the internet. He explained he likes to sit and listen to his records or invite his friends round to join him. This love of vinyl has been repeated to me by friends I’ve got in France and other European countries. Things may well change in future but for now, Vinyl is still more important that anything else if you want to tour or operate in Europe.

On a personal level I’ve always loved Vinyl, the artwork on the record sleeve, the lyrics inside, the smell of the vinyl and the simple joy of playing the record and sitting down and listening to it. I have a good collection of vinyl and I still think one of my favourite things is to sit down, with no phone, no laptop, no interruptions and just play a record from start to finish. If anyone has ever sat down and listened to any classic record like David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars or Pink Floyd – Dark side of the moon from start to finish without any distraction you can’t help but admit, the music takes your mind to another place and you just cant get that sort of enjoyment from digital files played through tiny speakers on a laptop computer.

CD’s are different to me. I like them as they are digital, you can play them in the car but you can also read the sleeve notes and packaging, you can look at the artwork and you have a physical product. The are also a lot cheaper to send through the post. I have never really like the idea of filling my computer with digital files. All that happens is I listen to endless streams of music files and in the end my brain just becomes numb to all of it and I stop enjoying the music. I still enjoy putting on a good record and listening to it from start to finish. I don’t mind getting up and turning it over if its on vinyl but I really don’t enjoy the continuos, infinite stream, of digital files playing through itunes, I find it soul destroying and eventually irritating.

Digital files tend to be found mostly on my computer so i only listen to files that don’t distract me too much while i’m answering emails or whatever online. I tend to listen to more relaxing or acoustic based music when im on the computer. I think this is why music that is marketed and promoted only though the digital medium will eventually short circuit. the only music that will prevail will be music that people like to listen to whilst playing on facebook or answering emails or whatever while sat at a computer.

Releasing a good physical product, with proper artwork and packaging, that involves the listener playing the music on a record player or a cd player means that at least there is a small chance they wont ONLY listen to the music when sat at a computer.

Do you sell any music by artists that are not with the label?

Yes I run a distro on ebay. By this I mean I buy cds, vinyl, dvd, and all sorts of other stuff off bands I like and I listen to on a regular basis. I try and sell stuff as cheap as I can on ebay and usually I put a freebie of some description into every envelope. Anyone who buys anything from me gets an extra item of some sort in addition to the stuff they have paid for. It’s my way of keeping in touch with my customers and it means I can see for myself what people are buying and what they are no longer interested in as far as ebay selling is concerned. It also helps as i can put flyers or info about events into the envelopes as I pack and wrap items before sending them out. At times it’s just like the old days of tape trading, I have a means to get the information out to the people buying the music and I can bypass everything in the mainstream media or on the net. I know that if they are buying this cd from me by this band, they will probably be interested in this flyer, for this gig, on this date etc.

Do you have a business plan?

Not really, things are changing all the time, my mind is changing all the time, I have to be ready to seize the moment and by the time I’ve written a proper plan out I’m already onto something else.  I do however do my research for each individual release, I assemble a strategy on a release by release basis as every band has different needs, wants, ideas etc and I try my best to stick to the strategy spread over a planned time period. I alway try to set goals or agree indicators for evaluation before I begin so I know whether I have been successful or not. For example I might suggest 2 good local reviews, 6 good national reviews and some radio play might deem a release a success. By comparison another record might need 5 good local reviews and 20 good national reviews to be a success. I’m not going to go through it all here but in simple terms I have a rough outline strategy for everything I do but everytime I think about putting a strategy into action I review it based on recent events, try and do some more research where required and then I’ll customise it depending on what I want to do and how much time or money is available. But I always try to set targets before I begin so i know whether what I have done has been any good or not by the time its all finished or I’ve gone as far as I can.

How is Iron Man Records funded?

The label began with a cash loan that was recoupable against sales but not returnable in the event of failure. It’s probably safe to say the word failure was the result. I’ve essentially written all this loaned money off now, I don’t think I’ll ever generate enough to pay it off, or not in the near future at least. I spent too much money too quickly and expected sales to be about 20 times better than they turned out to be. The result was no one has earnt anything and a huge debt still exists. I try not to think about it too much but it did teach me a valuable lesson. Spending other peoples money is really easy, when you spend your own you don’t make so many mistakes and one mistake can put an end to any plans. This is one of the main reasons I don’t think funding the creative industries can ever produce any meaningful results unless the funding is less than 20% of any new project cost. Projects that only exist because someone has managed to hook some funding for it are a waste of everyones time and nobody gains anything apart from the box ticking people at the funding organisation and the people who deliver the project itself, they get to pay their mortgage or go on holiday but nothing of any value is generated by the process.

Since 2002 I have been funding the record label out of my own earnings from activities outside of the record label. I have earned money from teaching, consultancy, helping to run workshops, speaking and providing online strategy and help with PR and promotion. By far the biggest earner for me these days is Tour management and driving for touring bands. Tour Management was never something I chose to do, my phone just kept ringing with bands asking for my help on tour, in the end I just gave in and said “OK, whats your budget, what are you trying to do, where are you going and when do you need me to start?”

I’ve been doing tour management and driving without even realising it for many years, and for free. I’ve been doing it for purely commercial purposes for the past 6 years as a means to provide income for the label. I always prefer earning and spending my own money than going “cap in hand” to some funding agency or governmental organisation. Not only do these organisations often know nothing about anything, their staff and the people who find themselves delivering many of the projects end up taking more interest in their share of the 45% project spend on “costs”. And when they’re not worrying about their own wages, sick pay, maternity pay, annual leave, lunch hour etc, The project leaders end up spending their time worrying how to spend all the money by a specific time rather than how to invest it properly for the sustainability of the project or to generate more funds for the future. The funding organisations in my view have not only put the real creative businesses out of action by providing unfair and funded competition, they have forced anyone with any intelligence to abandon their creative project and start a new one that meets the criteria of the funding available.

Ive had to stand back and watch people with some of the best minds, talent and ideas Birmingham has produced to date throw their own ideas and creativity away in exchange for a “funded project position.”  I’ve watched them do it for the easy money, a higher salary than could be expected than if you did it by yourself, and some stupid job description like creative consultant or creative director. These people are worse than dead people, they are living dead people who have choosen to kill off their own creativity in exchange for working for someone else because they are too lazy or too fearful of doing it for themselves and risking failure. When the funding finally stops Birmingham will start to produce some creative genius’ again. Until then, give up all hope, the creative genius’ will continue to sell themselves for any price to anyone who will take their fears away and tolerate their cowardice.

What work have you done with other companies?

I’ve organised more than 1000 gigs in and around Birmingham since 1994 as Badger Promotions. I did plenty of shows before that but on an irregular basis under various assumed names.

I set up the Birmingham Music Network in 2000, it’s still running and I organise a networking meeting on the last thursday of the month.

Since 2002 I have continued to put on shows, but they have been few, and far between, and usually under an assumed name as I felt the Badger Promotions thing had run its course.

At the moment I’m playing in a band called Last Under The Sun which started life in 2000 after my last band split up. I also play in another band called Police Bastard. I book the tours and organise pretty much everything else.

I write and maintain several music related blogs and work to promote new music where possible by sharing links, videos, news etc on twitter, facebook and through my websites.

I currently only work for money as a Tour Manager & Driver outside of Iron Man Records. I’ve worked for Seasick Steve, Anthrax, Mika, Killing Joke, Gorillaz, Brand New Heavies, The Enemy, Friendly Fires, Okkervil River, The Wild Mercury Sound, Sierra Maestra, Jay Reatard, The Nightingales, Ivo Papasov, Endbutt Lane, The Rakes, Crystal Castles, The Magistrates, Bullet for my Valentine, The Orb, Barry Adamson, Soulsavers, As I lay Dying, Roisin Murphy, Police Bastard, Dufus, Arrows, Taio Cruz, Ladytron, Son de la Frontera, Jeffrey Daniel, Johnny Foreigner, Xova, Johnny 2 Bad, The Moons, The Lines, Phantom Limb, Little Barrie and many others…..

In the past I have worked for money assembling online strategy for bands like The Orb, Arrows, Xova and companies like Moving Space Tours and more recently Good 2 Go Tours.

I have lectured at Birmingham City University as part of their Music Business degree course, I’ve delivered work for the Musicians Union, projects for Birmingham City Council, Learning and Skills Council and Advantage West Midlands. I was also part of the team that delivered “In The City” in cooperation with Radio 1 before 2000.

What do you feel the role of Iron Man Records is in regards to the music industry as a whole?

To provide an alternative, a different way of seeing the world, a different perspective, something homemade, or homegrown.

I read somewhere that 87% of the population base their beliefs and perceptions on what others around them tell them is true. Only 13% make any effort to research and establish the truth for themselves before making any decision. To that so called “13%” who “make their own decisions” I’d like to offer a record label and a roster of bands that are trying to do something I think is worth listening to. The rest I don’t care about. They have their own decisions to make.

To show you can do it yourself and do it properly on a budget you can stick under a glass.

To record, release and promote music by bands and artists that have something to say for themselves and whose music I like.

To ignore what the rest of the so called commercial music industry or latest fashion trends might be doing.

To track down and share new music by interesting bands from around the world with a new audience with little or no regard to anything else going on in the music industry.

I don’t really care what anyone else is doing, I’m happy to let them do what they want. All I’m interested in doing is what I want, doing it properly and finding like minded people to share what I’m doing with.

Mark, Iron Man Records – January 2012

Katy Jay Interviews Mark from Iron Man Records at Musoplex March 2010

April 1, 2010

Mark from Iron Man Records interviewed by Katy Jay, unsigned music champion from 101.8WCRfm in Wolverhampton.

Musoplex describes Mark Badger as “…..Head of one of Birmingham’s most loved and influential independent record labels…..Iron Man Records have released music from grindcore to punk and anti-folk over the last 15 years. Hear Mark’s views on bands, recording, touring and being the head of a label. The interview features footage of …..punk band Police Bastard, Anti-folk New Yorkers Dufus and Last Under the Sun.”

Mark talks about Police Bastard and Trogg, Tape Trading and life before filesharing and the Internet, touring with a band on a budget you can stick under a glass, the idea of giving bands a small amount of help at a critical time, Robert Lloyd and The Nightingales, how the label got involved with Seth and Dufus and he talks about his own band called Last Under The Sun.

Here’s a direct link: http://blip.tv/file/3407655

How does Iron Man Records choose it's artists and how does it promote them?

November 27, 2009

“HOW DOES THE PUNK MUSIC RECORD LABEL, IRON MAN RECORDS CHOOSE ITS ARTISTS AND HOW DOES IT PROMOTE THEM?” writtten by JANINE LABUSCAGNE BA (HONS) Media & Communication, University of Central England, 2007.

“…..There are two kinds of music – good music and bad music.  Good music is music that I want to hear.  Bad music that I don’t want to hear” Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life, 1978

The objective of this study discusses promotional strategies generated by the independent record label, Iron Man Records.  The research examined the use of the Internet as a free marketing tool and how traditional methods of running a label did not have an affect on Iron Man.  Discussing this, I examined the theoretical areas of music industries, promotion and punk in order to understand and gain a solid background for the development of my research.

Conclusions are then put forward after conducting a participant observation, that social networks play the biggest part in promotion for the label.  Findings throughout the research have been put forward about the different strategies used in the process of online promotion, as well as more general suggestions for further research.

‘De muziek is de geleende creativiteit en motivatie in ons leven’ (translated from Dutch), music is the borrowed creativity and motivation in our lives.  The music industry has had one of the biggest influences in our lives and on our culture.  An example of this would be Wall (2003) and Anderson’s (2006) statements which look at popular music as the: “soundtrack to our lives” (2003; 1) and that “we are consumed by hits – making them, choosing them, talking about them, and following their rise and fall” (2006; 2).  The world of the music industry is one which has been forced to make changes because of the constant development of new technologies.  These changes are in order to keep fans consuming the product that is for sale – music.  Britain is a nation of music lovers and we buy more music than any other country – four units per capita each year (IFPI Recording Industry in Numbers 2002).

The music genre known as punk, has been around since the late 1960s, when unemployment was a prominent social feature in Britain.  It would appear that we are currently witnessing a re-evolution of the music industry and punk’s DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos within independent record labels.  Beyond the development and creation of music, technology has created an impact on the production, distribution, and consumption of ‘Iron Man Records’ music.  “Record companies see the other media as promotional avenues for their music” (Wall 2003; 111).  There are many new and different social networks such as MySpace, MOG and Flickr which will be one of the main areas of focus for the research.  These social networks have evolved on the Internet and the trend displayed by many bands in choosing independent record labels, such as Iron Man Records, above major record labels demonstrates what Barrow and Newby argued about how the music industry:

“Without popular recording artists there would be no music business and without record companies there would be no musical product to be bought in the shops” (1995: 2-3).

The research question, ‘How does the punk music label, Iron Man Records, choose its artists and how does it promote them?’ is a significant topic in the industry to investigate.  The independent label has not been explored in depth before, although academics have looked at similar areas of the music industry.  The study will look at how relationships are being built between a record label, the music industry and bands.  The study also looks at what steps are being taken to promote and market Iron Man Records music.

I support this dissertation through a literature review on what academics in the field have written relevant to my research topic and the critical approach that was taken towards promotion of music.  The following areas will be discussed; music industry, promotion and the genre of punk.  Finding underground independent music is a unique way of consuming music because, the music is not distributed through the mainstream media outlets and distribution channels (TV, radio and the Internet).  The music of DIY artists is being promoted through word of mouth.  I will relate this critical approach to the participant observation research I conducted at the independent record label, Iron Man Records. The DIY ethos associated with the label relates to the wider cultural context of the underground music industry.  It operates through the process of consumers hearing music, liking the music and then wanting to own the music.

In Chapter Two I discuss the changes in the structure of the music industry, such as the Internet and new technologies (MP3 players and digital downloads) and how they shape Iron Man Records in its process of promotion and marketing.

Lastly, Chapter Three, I will describe the approach to the subject matter by undertaking research through participant observation.  At the record label, Iron Man Records.  The research follows four succeeding procedures: (1) Observing the label, (2) asking question about the relationship between the label and bands, (3) looking at producing the product and researching Iron Man Records’ and (4) new promotion strategies using the Internet as a free tool.  By the end of this study, I will conclude my research findings with an answer and suggesting further ways in which more research can be done.

Click link for full article: Janines Dissertation on Iron Man Records 2007