My Kingdom Music interview (02/2009)
|Conducted by:||Bas (e-mail)|
We all have read a lot about bands. We know how they write their songs and lyrics, how they go to the studio to record their songs, how they give concerts, or even do extensive tours all over the world. But what about all the other stuff that needs to be done? Promotion, distribution, mixing and mastering and many more! How much do we really know about the great machinery we call the music industry apart from what the bands tell us?
We wanted to venture behind the scenes and find out a tad more. Francesco of My Kingdom Music was kind enough to answer a couple of questions concerning his work with a middle-sized label that supports bands from a broad range of different styles.
So let's start at the beginning, probably a lot of our members don't know what exactly a label does. Maybe you can tell us a few of the things you do?
Well, a label like mine is something that you can do only if you have a great passion for music. I started it in 2001 and now it is something more than a simple passion. It's my work, a big and important part of my life and luckily it is still a great passion.
Now you ask me what I do… and I can tell that it is a lot of work based on listening to demos/promos, finding potential in young bands, releasing CD's, but also creating great partnerships with media, and distributors. Most of my work is based online, but sometimes I meet people who work with/for me like my bands or partners in music. So as you can imagine it is absolutely a lot of work, but I do it with joy.
There are a lot of unsigned bands that are looking for an opportunity to get signed but also unsigned bands that prefer to do things themselves and stay "independent". When a band joins a label, what advantages does this give them over being independent? And do you think there are any serious drawbacks?
The fact that you are with a label is surely an advantage under the profile of distribution and promotion. Surely a label can do these things better than an independent band, but of course without a label you are free to do everything as you want and above all when and how you want.
What made you start a record label?
The passion for the music I like to listen to. I always had this great desire, I was part of a band before doing it and also an editor of a magazine (Vampiria magazine), so during the years I had the possibility to get to know a lot of people who had the same passion of mine and this lead me to start this project. At the beginning it was a simple job with the intention to release good music that probably didn't have the possibility to be released without me. Then with the passing of years it has become a real work and now I think to have reached good results concerning the criticism as well as the number and quality of my releases.
Does My Kingdom Music provide you with a solid income or is it more of a hobby?
It is something more than a hobby. Now I can live with this but of course there is no space for a great and solid income as you can imagine. As I said you do it only because you like it and the 16-18 hours of work I do are not represented by what I gain.
How hard is it to establish business partnerships when you're new in "the industry"?
It is the hardest point because there are a lot of people who promise great things but then do only 20-30% of what they say. Payment delayed, not serious workers, rip-offs are always present and so it is important to have people who work in a serious way. Now, after a long time I think to have reached a good status to understand who works and who only talks…
Downloading is a big issue in the world of music nowadays. What do you think about people downloading your bands' songs?
You surely know that there is legal downloading and illegal downloading. No problem at all on legal downloading but of course illegal downloading is the plague of independent music. With it people just kill underground music and I think that also the possibility for young talented bands to work in great studios, with good promotional budgets etc… Good music is only on CD… So do not kill music downloading it illegally!
With the current downloading culture and the recent economic crisis, music sales are dropping everywhere. What effect do these developments have on a, with all due respect, small metal label?
You can imagine that a crisis of the musical market hits the little realities before the major or big labels. But I tried during the years to release pure Art, with original music, great men behind musical projects, with people who love what they do and not only products of a business. I hope people could enjoy my point of view on this and so I continue to work in this direction that is releasing art and not products.
How do you decide on what bands to sign? Do you follow specific guidelines or a specific motto when making your decision? Is it more important that you like the music or that the band has a commercial potential?
There are not particular rules or guidelines, but simply sensations that you get listening to a band for the first time and so this is the first step into signing a band. After this I also see other elements like future potential, commercial potential, their way to present what they do, recording, philosophy and many other things but the first step is surely the emotions they give me when I listen to them.
Compared to other labels you support bands from a wide variety of genres, do you see this as an advantage or disadvantage? Don't you think it would be easier to specialise in, say, progressive metal?
I don't know and see it as an advantage or disadvantage. I simply follow my sensations and tastes. I am a very open-minded listener (I like Portishead and Napalm Death, Bjork and Mayhem, Anathema and Neurosis in the same way and at the same time) and so it's simply reflected in my releases.
Please tell us what exactly happens when a band wants to release a new album. I mean the whole process from a band writing new songs, over the mastering of the recordings and the promotional campaign until the album finally hits the store. Why does it always take bands so long until the CD is finally finished?
They send me a promo, I listen to it and if I feel in this promo there is something original and some potential I offer them a deal. Then they record their songs (or send me the master if the work is already recorded), master it, then we prepare the artwork and go to the manufacturing house to print it. Then everything is a lot of promotion and distribution work until the stuff is in the stores.
When one of your bands records an album, do you give them a certain budget or does the band (partly or completely) pay for the production themselves? Is this the same for every band or do you judge every case by itself?
Each band is considered in a different way and everything is valued in relation to a lot of things and personal consideration.
In the metal scene, how many CDs does a more or less known band averagely sell? Bands that aren't underground anymore, but that don't belong to the really "famous" ones either, a band like Deinonychus for example.
Deinonychus is my best selling act with something like 2500 CDs sold with "Mournument". Actually if a band sells more than 750 copies I consider it an average sell.
Deinonychus - Mournument
After which sale count do you consider a CD as "good" from a financial point of view?
It depends on the budget you start with. But selling 750 copies is something good.
What happens if one of your bands records an album that you didn't expect (or don't like) at all? Do you have any influence on the bands' music or do you just accept it and hope for the best?
It doesn't happen because before entering the studio I know exactly what they are going to record. By the way I know my bands before signing them and they always have the complete freedom of choice about what they are going to release. I do not enter into their musical affairs but of course if I sign a Death Metal band I will not expect a Pop album.
How do you promote your new albums? Is the promotion campaign the same for each new album or do you promote every CD in a different way?
Usually I send promos to the most relevant magazines, webzines and radios all around the world and I book ads in most relevant mags like Terrorizer, Metallian, Legacy, Rock Hard etc. Bigger bands have more visibility than little ones of course.
What band(s) of yours should we all check out? Which interesting upcoming releases do you have in store for us?
All of my catalogue is different and great at the same time. So I always suggest the listeners to listen to my bands on myspace for example or on my webpage and find the emotions in music in my creatures. There are bands I love more than others of course, but of course I won't tell you!!!
About the upcoming releases there are two big acts ready for April; they are Majestic Downfall a great Doom act from Mexico in the style of My Dying Bride, and a German Dramatic Black Metal band, Immortal Remains that surely will reserve a great surprise to all of you. Then for May we'll release the debut of a Russian band, that is Nova Art, with an album that is an absolute masterpiece of Gothic Progressive Metal with a great production and very talented musicians.
Well, I think there is no more to say here… just remember that it is too easy to buy a well-known act and their albums, but is absolutely the greatest and most beautiful to find the Art in a young act that you'll know from its beginning.
All the best to all of you and remember that My Kingdom Music is Art For A Decadent Age!
At this point I would like to thank Francesco for taking the time to answer all of our questions and giving us a small insight to a part of the music industry that I, and probably quite a lot of you guys too, don't know very well yet, but that is not less important than the bands who actually make the music! For more information on My Kingdom Music feel free to check out the myspace page and of course the official homepage where you can listen to a full song of each band on My Kingdom Music!
I'd also like to thank Lucas for helping with some of the questions.
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