helping our friends avoid our mistakes.

One of the things that was kind of cool was that I had met a few people who were considering starting labels, and actually came to me for advice.

As if I had any fucking clue what I was doing.

But I pretended that I did, and I happily dispensed whatever advice I could.  They asked questions about how to get distribution (answer: “I don’t know.”), how to get your records played on the radio (answer: “No idea.”), how to get your records reviewed in fanzines (answer: “Mail them a copy.”), how to have records and CDs manufactured (answer: “Buy a copy of The Mechanic’s Guide.”).

I was honored to provide my trade secrets, which I had developed over years of trial and error.  Mostly error.  And by “secrets,” I mean “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

But the handful of people who were starting labels, for some reason, valued my opinion – perhaps they were simply trying to learn what I did so they could do the opposite, or perhaps they were snowed by the fact that we put out a few good records and thus thought we must know what we were doing.  Either way, it was flattering to me, and when I received a copy of the first 7″, from a band called Skinner Pilot, on GoodSin Records, I was thrilled to see a record come out well, and sound good.

Ba Da Bing! Records was even cooler.  Their owner reached out to me a few times with various questions – he was starting off with a compilation (something I recommended highly against), ad was planning to silkscreen the cover (something I was ready to physically restrain him from doing).  

When I say he reached out to me, he obviously reached out to a lot of guys who ran labels.  I figure he found out about me from various internet mailing lists, ad added me to his list of people from whom he might be able to glean a bit of knowledge.

I say “he” because I, unfortunately, cannot recall his name, but his debut compilation CD (he released two seven-inches before the comp came out), Follow The Bouncing Ball, was an absolutely fantastic compilation, tremendously mellow and melodic, featuring Alger Hiss, Bardo Pond, Spent, and a bunch of other great bands.  And the screen printing looked excellent, too.  Once again, another example of someone who, if they had taken my advice, would have made a big mistake.

Ba Da Bing, by the way, is still around, having released 60 or so titles in the past decade, including stuff from the Dead C, The Receptionists, Th’ Faith Healers, The Weak Moments, and more.

It was no big deal, really.  At the very highest levels of indie labels in the mid 90s were companies like Sub Pop, Matador, Dischord, and Touch and Go.  Underneath that were another level, consisting of companies like Merge, SpinArt, Teen Beat, and Simple Machines.  Then there were a group of labels who all knew each other and freely provided advice and support – I’ve already mentioned many of them, labels like Harriet, Pop Narcotic, Slumberland, Sonic Bubblegum, Carrot Top, Silver Girl and Mag Wheel.

Then there was me.

 I knew people at all those labels I mentioned above.  I tried not to be too much of a pest, I tried to be supportive and friendly, and occasionally I’d ask a question.  Eventually it got to the point where I could consider some of them to be “friends.”  That was cool.  

Anyway, to be asked for advice was unbelievably flattering to me.  It meant that, at least at some level, the person thought it might be worth it to ask me a question, as if perhaps I might be able to provide a decent answer.

Thankfully, Ba Da Bing did not take any of my advice, or the world wouldn’t have heard the 57 or so records that they’ve put out since they asked.

~ by Al on August 25, 2009.

One Response to “helping our friends avoid our mistakes.”

  1. We’ve all given bad advice at one point or another, and there’s something cathartic about admitting it. One of my favorite stories involves my friend Chris, who was looking for his next online ad sales gig and asked me whether or not he should take one of the first sales positions open at a new company. My advice was something along the lines of “Search? Are you crazy? The search business is dead!”

    Of course, you should have discerned by now that the company in question was Google. Thankfully, Chris knew when NOT to listen to me.

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