Photo by JoJo Renard
Quick thought experiment – you’re a DIY rock ‘n’ roll band from the same area of Massachusetts that produced The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. and you’re trying to pique the interest of indie labels. You’ve released an album, done a bit of regional touring, got a strong fan base going and some press attention. Ok, what do you do now? Blast pitches all over the place to a bunch of “info@” email addresses? Tag every indie label in the known universe in your album cover art Instagram pics? Now put yourself on the other side of the equation – you’re an indie label constantly on the hunt for fresh talent. You have a rock solid reputation but limited budget and resources. How do you navigate the crowded waters of new music while still developing your current artists? The answer for both sides – queue the self-promotional back-patting for a quick moment – is ReverbNation. This is the story of LuxDeluxe and Old Flame Records, as told by them, with inspiration for any musicians out there looking to make the next big move.
I’m pretty sure y’all know there are a bunch of opportunities on ReverbNation all the damn time, right? Ok, good. Then you also know about all the artists who get selected for them all the damn time, right? Ok, good again. This post is about just one of them. One band + one label + a bunch of indie-ness. We were going to do this in a traditional interview style, but quickly saw stark similarities between the two, even though they operate on different sides of the business (sorta). I’ll let them take it from here.
Built out of a love for music, grown through determination and consistency.
Old Flame Records: Old Flame originated as a creative outlet for myself and a friend of mine…we were working together at a label in Manhattan and we were burnt out on working with artists that we were not passionate about…a few incarnations and 110+ releases later and we’re still chugging. We are looking for bands that are good people and willing to work hard. We are blue collar and hard working…not sure that makes us different or not, but our ability to maximize our existing resources is our biggest strength.
LuxDeluxe: Three of us are related to one another (Gabe, Caleb, Jacob are all cousins. Jacob and Caleb are brothers). So we started playing music together really early on. The oldest of us was 10. We started off playing Beatles songs but we started messing around with writing almost right away. All of our songs were terrible for a long time but it gave us a bit of a leg up on the process of writing. Later on we met Jake (drummer) and Ned (singer) in high school. We started playing with those guys the same way we started as little kids by messing around on some Bruce Springsteen songs. But it didn’t take long to get into writing originals as this new group. We still have a ton of work to do, if not even more and we’re constantly figuring things out through trial and error. It takes an unbelievable amount of work and time. It’s super fun and rewarding, but you have to really want to do it. You gotta make your craft priority number one.
We’ve all had some pretty terrible jobs just to keep the music dream alive. Working the graveyard shift at a plastics factory. Definitely the worst. 11pm-7am. The job was to stand there and watch a machine make plastic medical tubes and then put them in a box. We’ve all had to deal with crappy jobs that get in the way of music. One of us worked at a thrift store that wouldn’t give time off to tour. So I (Jacob) just decided to fake a back injury so I could get a doctor’s note for the length of the tour.
The business is the struggle.
Old Flame Records: My biggest struggle is the $$ obviously. That said, when you aren’t spending big money, you can recoup faster! My biggest advantage is my reputation.
LuxDeluxe: The biggest struggle has been balancing the business side with the creative side of the band. Because we don’t have people working for us, a lot of our time is taken up with booking shows, promotion, budgets, etc. We’re running a business, but the most important aspect of our business is creating music. So we’ve had to make a conscious effort to always make the creating process number one on the list.
Making connections in New School ways.
LuxDeluxe: We had started the process of reaching out to labels about our album that we had just finished making, “Let’s Do Lunch”, just to see if we could get some interest. Old Flame had been mentioned to us by a friend of ours as a good label to reach out to. So when the opportunity came up on ReverbNation, we were already aware of Old Flame and some of the cool stuff they’ve put out in the past, and hoped they were somewhat aware of us by that point.
Old Flame Records: I had heard from some industry friends that ReverbNation is doing some cool things so I figured I’d roll the dice. I cannot believe how many GREAT artists there are waiting to be discovered on the platform.
LuxDeluxe: We were so psyched [about being selected]! It was a big morale boost for sure. Helped legitimize the crazy amount of work we put into this band. It’s sort of a tangible recognition that we can point to when we’re unsure if what we’re doing is making an impact on people. We had no idea thousands of other bands applied, which makes us feel incredibly lucky and extremely excited to see what comes from it.
The label / artist relationship is…well, a relationship.
Old Flame Records: I review potential new bands with just me and some headphones…my ears and gut are my biggest assets. I haven’t heard anything quite like LuxDeluxe in a long time. Their swagger and lounge vibes hooked me almost instantly.
LuxDeluxe: First thing we did was talk to Rob, who heads up Old Flame, and discussed what he was looking to do and what we were looking to do just as a way to get to know each other a little bit. We told him about all of our material that we’re currently sitting on waiting for the right time, and he was psyched and open to help put out with whatever we wanted to do. Right away, they struck us as being cool people who just love music and are making that the priority of their label, which we love. At the time of our signing we had already finished an album and were planning on self releasing it, but Rob was interested in jumping in right away to put it out on Old Flame. As of right now we are going to be releasing our next album, “Let’s Do Lunch” on Old Flame on July 14, which we couldn’t be more excited about.
Old Flame Records: When growing an artist’s career, I start with areas in which I have good relationships…maybe start off by getting a little press/regional radio going and build DSP presence and try and get a few syncs going pretty fast….that’s a typical approach. It’s a lot of plotting. Each plan is tailored to each specific band based on their goals, existing groundwork, etc.
Work hard, work hard.
Old Flame Records: I’m not really too caught up on style, genre, production, although that all helps…I’m really looking for bands that are willing to tour hard, that make great music and are quality people to deal with! Having a fanbase to market to helps, but really it’s all about the amount of work that people are willing to put in!
LuxDeluxe: There’s no blueprint, so it takes some creative thinking and some real self evaluation. What are the strengths of our group, what are our weaknesses, how can we reach people in our own way? I don’t think doing what someone else did is really going to have great results. Create a kick ass live show, spend tons of time getting the vibe of your group together, and write some real good songs. If you can manage all of that, which is no small feat, people will notice, and they’ll come looking for you.
Advice on how to get noticed.
Old Flame Records: I get pitched about 15 times a day. I hate when I get sent music that I’d never EVER put out…Also, triple check that you have the label/band’s names correct before you hit send. Do your research. Look at the labels on the backs of your favorite albums and really whittle your pitch down the 3-5 to start…don’t cc 100+ people on an email. If you want to impress me, do your research and tell me which LPs caught your ear!
LuxDeluxe: A couple years ago we started making “promo videos” because we thought the standard mailing list email blast was pretty boring and getting drowned out. Since then it seems like it has become more common. Our videos tend to be very strange so they have been known to work well or really not go over well at all.