The Self-Made Man: Greg Anderson
TSB has looked at guys who’ve started their own record labels before, and we generally agree that making any kind of mark in that business—especially considering what the Internet has done to/for music—requires you to be an extremely dedicated self-starter. Also, a crazy person.
Southern Lord Records’ Greg Anderson is both of those things. A musician himself, most infamously as a member of Sunn O))), Greg started a record label to distribute music he liked (namely stoner metal) that wasn’t getting enough attention elsewhere.
Most of the other DIY record label owners we’ve talked to were heavily involved in the underground punk scene, which got a lot of mainstream attention in the 1990s and has been extensively documented since. The same cannot be said for experimental heavy metal, especially the drone, stoner, and doom varieties. Greg probably figured that if he didn’t try and put this stuff out there, no one else would. It’s worth noting that Greg was also performing in bands that needed a record label, and Southern Lord was originally started to release those records.
Greg was working for Caroline Distribution when he started Southern Lord in 1998, so he knew just enough about the business to get himself into trouble. “We stumbled a lot and made some mistakes,” he told Metal Insider back in 2009, “but made a lot of good decisions as well.”
One of those good decisions was pressing vinyl. Believe it or not, vinyl record sales are going up even as CD sales are falling, and Southern Lord does their stuff right, with ornate packaging that turns every album into an object worth preserving, instead of just a product.
This is completely and entirely on purpose, too. “I hate it when with some of my favorite records, the music’s amazing, the album’s amazing, but the artwork is totally cheap and flimsy,” HYPERLINK “http://pitchfork.com/features/interviews/7678-sunn-o/”Greg told Pitchfork in 2009. “What’s the point? I think great music should be complimented by great art and great packaging.”
Anyway, as Southern Lord grows and more bands sign with them, Greg’s rule about not signing bands that he doesn’t personally like has never wavered, and his label’s releases are consistent in a good way; you know that a band on Southern Lord is intense, heavy, and not just coasting on empty hype.
Greg Anderson also has some advice for anyone out there who wants to start a record label: “Figure something else out to do!”
He goes on to say that “if anyone wants to start a label, you better be really into it, and you better not be looking to make a buck and you better not be doing it for an ego thing. Do it because you have to do it, because you’re dying to get the music that you like out to the people. If you don’t feel that way, don’t do it.”
In other words, be prepared to work really hard with no guarantees because you love what you’ll be doing. Spoken like a true TSB-approved entrepreneur.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.