Welcome to Classic Music Vault.
Our goal is simple – to supply you with the best music we can find by artists whose roots are planted in the late Sixties through the Seventies – with very few exceptions.
For the last 13 years we have sought after the best independent artists in an effort to bring you – the dedicated music fan – a web site that you can depend on for quality music. The dedication of this site is not just to provide music to great music fans like you but to help fine artists make a living in this world of prefab music that is forced upon society by the major labels and Top 40 Radio.
We make every attempt to provide the artists with as much income from our worldwide distribution efforts at stores like iTunes and Amazon as possible. The artists receive as much as 75% of the purchase price of all CDs and downloads sold. We think this is only fair since, after all, where would we be without them?
Since May of 2009 we have made an additional effort to bring you the best Classic Music artists by way of CD re-issues and new product from the likes of artists like Dino Valenti, Barry Goldberg, Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny, Natural Gas (feat. Joey Molland of Badfinger) and many more. As the months go by you will find that we will provide you with tons more music that we certainly hope you’ll love.
Thanks for your support.
Our Mailing Address is:
Classic Music Vault
1326 Woodcrest Ave.
Clearwater, FL 33756
Feel free to contact us by email. We’ll get right back to you.
A little history on Dean Sciarra, President of Classic Music Vault
Born in 1949 and literally raised on rock’n’roll from the age of six with Elvis and Bill Haley 45’s, Dean Sciarra finally began his music career as a music journalist in Philadelphia in 1974, writing record reviews and interviewing artists such as Peter Frampton, Lindsay Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, Richie Furay of Poco and Buffalo Springfield, Rick Nelson, Michael Nesmith, The Doobie Bros., Strawbs and so many more.
By 1976 he was privileged to work for George Meier, publisher of the FM Radio trade publication (and bible) called Walrus. And by 1978 he was the editor of Walrus, responsible for reviewing every album released in the US, recommending tracks for FM Rock Radio airplay, managing a staff of writers (including Rolling Stone’s David Fricke) and photo journalists on both coasts, and writing a speak-out column for FM radio called “Radio City.” (the name, taken from the title of the second album by his favorite band, Big Star).
By 1980 he wanted to make more of a difference in the music business, so he went to work for American Entertainment Management in New York as assistant to company president, Peter C. Leeds, manager of Blondie and Roberta Flack. While there, Dean was fortunate to meet and work with the amazing Tommy Keene, before, during and after the making of Tommy’s first and legendary album, “Strange Alliance” which has never been released on CD.
Struggling through the 80’s, trying hard to get the major labels to pay attention to the artists he thought should be signed, and coming very close to that goal with artist, Will Connelly from Tommy Keene’s band, Dean decided to go back to his roots in Philadelphia and started his own management company called True Management.
One thing lead to another and Dean’s own indie record label, 7Records was born in 1992. Artists who were signed to his label included Huffamoose, Ben Arnold and Peter’s Cathedral.
Fast-forward to 1999 and we find Dean as the President/Owner of ItsAboutMusic.com, the first Online-Label with more than 300 exceptional independent artists. His goal to this day isn’t much different from what it was more than 30 years ago – find great artists and tell the world about them.
In late 2011 Dean formed a partnership with two longtime friends, Phil Nicolo (Grammy winning engineer and owner of Studio4 in Conshohocken, PA) and Chris Schwartz (legendary owner of Ruffhouse Records from the 90s – The Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Cypress Hill and many other million selling acts). The new company was called IAMP (It’s About Music Partners) with a sub label called “Ruffhouse Records” distributed thru EMI/Universal and featuring artists Beanie Sigel (Hip Hop) and Glenn Lewis (R&B;). The new company was located in Conshohocken, PA. Let’s just say that it was more difficult than expected trying to revive the greatest Hip Hop label of all time. After one year of effort, we decided to put Ruffhouse to bed once and for all.
With that behind him, Dean took IAM and moved to paradise – Clearwater, Florida, and transformed IAM into the smaller, sleeker, more focused Classic Music Vault featuring artists from the 60’s and 70’s (for the most part). Just great music – that’s what we do.
Delving deeper into the philosophy of ItsAboutMusic.com (and now Classic Music Vault), below are excerpts from an article that was published in 2003. It’s really interesting to see what has come true from what he said more than a decade ago:
My history in the business has everything to do with what I do today. Every single aspect of what I’ve done has somehow all become my day-to-day. As a rock journalist in the late 70’s, my vantage point was not to tell music fans about the new Robert Palmer album (back in 1976) as much as the new Jess Roden album that was released at the very same time, on the very same label. Palmer was good – no question. Jess was better but he never got the push Island Records gave to Palmer. In other words, I always championed the talented underdog.
My opinion of music always seemed to matter to readers because I would never badmouth music I didn’t like. I saw no point in it. I tried to turn people on – not off. I always looked for the best music I could find and to let people know about it. My position as a rock critic brought me into the music industry as an insider when I met George Meier, the publisher of the AOR FM Radio trade publication called “Walrus.” George had worked tirelessly to make “Walrus” the bible of the rock radio business. Since he never took advertising, he could speak the truth in his reviews about every album ever released by all labels. Eventually, he gave that job to me and made me the editor of the magazine. My opinions were always accurate and hindsight has proven that fact. But this position was a turning point for me since I had to, in essence, “badmouth” some music because I had to review everything. I was not afraid to tell radio programmers across the country that I felt let down by one of my favorite bands, Fleetwood Mac, when they released “Tusk.” I certainly loved some songs on that LP but in my mind, Lindsay Buckingham had strayed too far too soon from the genius he had shown on the two previous releases. I’ll never forget that review because it marked my transition from “the music lover” to “the music critic.”
Eventually, I got a little bored with talking about music that everyone else made, so I got involved in artist management. I wanted to turn my opinion into a crusade to get artists signed to major labels and prove what I already knew, that I had the best ears in the music business. Little did I know the long and winding road that lay ahead. During the 80’s I worked with a number of artists. The best was Tommy Keene. We released his first (of many brilliant albums) independently because the labels just didn’t get it. What else is new? Tommy went on to be signed by Geffen and released his most ambitious album called “Songs from the Film” but he didn’t catch on – a defeat that Geffen Records has since taken full responsibility for. To this day, after a dozen releases on various labels, Tommy is still not a household word but has delivered some of the best music you’d ever want to hear. The Tommy Keene experience was one that would repeat itself.
In the 90’s I found a few artists I believed would change the world. A little known band from Philadelphia called Peter’s Cathedral and a well-received band called Huffamoose. Both of these bands were unbelievably cool so I decided to start my own label. I produced and released the first albums by both of them and began my meteoric rise to the top – or so I thought. I was very successful with both bands but personalities and impatience got in the way and after a few years, the bubble burst and all I could think about was getting out of the music business. I really tried to get it out of my blood but I couldn’t.
Then came the Internet. My (then) wife will attest to the fact that in 1996 I told her that someday, we would be able to download all the music we ever wanted onto our hard drives and make CDs for ourselves. Of course, my original vision included downloading the artwork so that we could make “real” copies of the music CDs.
So after a mere 40 years in the business of music, all of the trials and tribulations that I have suffered in the name of great music have come to pass leaving me with my initial “mission from God” still in tact. All I really do is collect all the best recording artists I can find and try to tell the world about them through any means I can. Whether it’s digital distribution or CD sales, everything I do today, I learned a long time ago. And that has allowed me to get some visibility online simply due to the high quality of the music I represent.
I get so tired of hearing music that simply gets in the way of great artists who are trying so hard to be heard. There’s only so much room in the world for music. We have an overabundance of it today. Too many people think they are good enough. They just aren’t. But with all of their effort, they make it more difficult for the ones who are good since people get inundated with inferior music and wind up getting turned off to the process. I sift through the bad until I find the good. What set’s ItsAboutMusic.com apart is the quality. Great music will always survive. My secret weapon is not a secret to anyone who has visited my site. It’s the music. Any success I see comes directly from that. It’s not a marketing innovation as much as it is consistent quality.
I started the process of digital distribution for my artists about three years ago (2000), unless you count placing songs at MP3.com, which started for me in 1999. In the last year or two we all thought that we would never see the “download” business make enough to keep us going. Then came iTunes’ advertising and all of a sudden the world woke up. In the 3rd quarter of 2003 we received 169,000 downloads at EMusic.com alone. As for the future of downloads, my site has already transformed into a stand-alone digital download site. This is the first indie site to do so. In the years to come, I imagine that we will not even offer CDs for sale. What’s the point? We all live on our computers and that’s where we get our music. CDRs will never go away as a place to store our music, until we all have iPods, that is. Nothing happens in a day. This is just the beginning of the digital revolution. We’ll know how true that is ten years from now. But if we don’t lay the groundwork today, we’ll have nothing in ten years. The artists of ItsAboutMusic.com can look forward to always being on the cutting edge of digital distribution. And they all know they have someone who will be prepared to go the extra mile for them. This is a very exciting era and the future looks great for the first time in a long time. We have finally arrived at a time in music history where the indie artist can truly be independent. And we always make sure that the artists come first since we only commission a small percentage of what we earn for the artist. Never again should any artist lose the rights to their masters. The music should always belong to the artist.
It’s not just getting music into physical stores that I gave up on. CDs sell when the artist is exposed to the public. They have to tour, get airplay, distribution into stores and get press on massive levels in order to sell CDs. That’s just too expensive today – with no guarantee they will make any money. The guards at the gate are still there. They used to be at the major labels, deciding which bands got signed. Today they are at the radio stations, record distributors, record stores and in the press. Who cares what they think! The only opinions that matter are those of the people who buy the music, live with the music, tell their friends about the music, have their lives impacted by the music. We give too much power to industry people who are in the position to make decisions about music that will affect the success of any given artist. Of course, some of those people are cool enough to handle the job. Too many are not. I see no time in the future when we will pursue brick & mortar distribution. The web’s the thing.
My agreement with my artists is verbal. I will not ask any artist to sign any deals with my company. If we can’t trust each other then we shouldn’t be working together. If an artist wants to leave for any reason, they can. And they have on occasion. Mostly due to signing record deals that didn’t allow them to continue with me. If I want to ask an artist to leave, I can. And I have on occasion asked an artist to do so. Usually that has more to do with them being too “high maintenance” and thinking that I had become their manager. I do what I do for all artists on the label. I select no one above the others to be favored for anything. My verbal agreement is not exclusive. If they sign another deal with someone else that is exclusive, then we have to part company. As for profit sharing, the sharing comes from their income, not mine. I take a commission from their earnings for which I am responsible. I try to make the arrangement as easy as possible.
My last thoughts have to do with my feelings about the music and the business associated with it. My ideas about both have always been a little ahead of the curve. Consequently, I never quite fit into this business. For many years I tried to get a job at the major labels. I was given a position at A&M; Records in New York as the East Coast A&R; rep through producer David Kershenbaum only to have it taken away before I started because David owed a favor to a friend who owned the Beverly Hills Hotel and who needed a job for his son. I then had to deal with the guy who took my job in my efforts to get bands signed. That was my fate. I saw it early on. I always had to be on my own. I always had to prove myself. Nothing has changed in that regard. I offer this little story to those who feel ignored and neglected. If you know in your heart that you have a contribution to make, just make it. And don’t let anyone else stand in your way. In the immortal words of Billy Joel, “Don’t take any shit from anybody.”
And here’s even more about Dean from a recent interview with GOLDMINE Magazine
The hunt for long-lost albums can lead to the Classic Music Vault
Just because the 1960s and ’70s are in the rear-view mirror doesn’t mean the music and artists of the day should be forgotten. At least, that’s the viewpoint of Dean Sciarra, owner of Classic Music Vault (classicmusicvault.com) and It’s About Music (itsaboutmusic.com). When it comes to his Clearwater, Fla.,-based business, Sciarra is a one-man band. Although he is a businessman, it is clear that Sciarra shares a common bond with record collectors far and wide: He loves music, he treasures his records and he loves to spread the word about deserving artists who might otherwise go unnoticed.
GOLDMINE: What was the first record you ever owned/bought (or remember buying)?
DEAN SCIARRA: The very first record I ever bought was in 1956 at the age of 6 — a 45 of “Hound Dog” by Elvis. He made an early impression but soon the influence got a little lost on me as I discovered I was into more far reaching sounds. The ’50s were a real mess musically — great music, but it was all over the place as a result of the influence from the ’40s. It wasn’t until the Beatles came over in 1964 when I was a freshman in high school that it all started to make sense. By then, the writing was on the wall for me. Music was all I cared about. Ironically, I never became a musician other than to learn how to play drums and then never joined a band.
GM: Do you still collect and enjoy vinyl records (or other bygone physical formats)? If so, what and how much do you collect? Or have you switched over completely to CD/digital? And what are your go-to albums these days?
DS: I still buy vinyl sometimes, but usually it’s because it’s music that I must own that is not available in other formats. At one time, I had about 10,000 LPs — back when I was a reviewer in Philly and New York — but I now have a small vinyl collection that means the world to me, like the first Big Star album, the American release of “Lifeboat” by The Sutherland Bros. & Quiver, early Poco, the first CSN along with “Deja Vu,” the Christine Perfect album, the first It’s A Beautiful Day, all of The Buckinghams LPs and a few Beatles LPs. I don’t own cassettes anymore, or 8—tracks for that matter. I’m actually selling off almost all of my CD collection (7,000 CDs) in favor of digital (with duplicate backup drives — just in case) using Apple TV as my interface to iTunes.
My “go-to” albums today are what they have been for a very long time — the above mentioned LPs (now in digital) along with most Van Morrison albums (“No Plan B” rivals his entire catalog for me), early Fleetwood Mac with “Future Games” side by side with “Bare Trees,” but the Peter Green era is very special, “Portraits” by The Buckinghams, the only album released by the band Elizabeth on Vanguard in 1968 (saw them a few times — great band!), Good God’s only release on Atlantic, a few albums by Heads, Hands & Feet, any early album from Procol Harum but “Broken Barricades” tops my list, most Al Kooper records, the first Alan Bown and Jess Roden’s first, but I love all of his albums, a whole bunch of albums from the band Man — but “Back Into The Future” stands out, “Songs From The Film” by Tommy Keene (I was his first manager in 1981), the first Mahavishnu Orchestra, “Jools & Brian” by Julie Driscoll and Brian Augerl I’m pretty much a Lindisfarne freak. Caravan can do no wrong; but “For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night” is my fave.
Andy Pratt’s “Resolution” album. I’m a huge fan of The Association. Aztec TwoAndy Partt album-Step’s first album is in my all—time Top Ten, “Romany” by The Hollies, Ben Sidran’s “Feel Your Groove,” John Martyn’s “Solid Air,” Batdorf & Rodney really impacted me in 1972 along with Bill Quateman, Emitt Rhodes, Casey Kelly, Jackson Browne, Colin Blunstone, Peter Frampton, Dan Fogelberg, Boz Scaggs, Gary Wright’s “Extraction” album, Buckingham Nicks and so many more. Of course, the mid—period Beach Boys (“Sunflower” — “Carl & The Passions” — “Holland”) along with some Byrds’ albums (mostly “Notorious” & “Younger Than Yesterday”), the first Loggins & Messina, Laura Nyro’s “Angel In The Dark,” Luther Grosvenor’s “Under Open Skies,” The first McGuinness Flint and Dennis Coulson’s solo album, Sopwith Camel’s “Miraculous Hump” and all three Space Opera albums are standbys and can often be heard coming from my stereo. And then came Crack The Sky — the best live band I’ve ever seen. We got to be friends and still are. I tend not to listen to the Beatles much since I know every song by heart, I suppose, but I own all versions of their U.S. and U.K. albums on CD. My guilty pleasures include Bread — “On The Waters,” Cat Stevens, England Dan and John Ford Coley’s “Fables” album, “Canned Wheat” by The Guess Who, The Spiral Starecase and “Lucky” by Steve March (Torme).
Recent albums, like the last 25 years or so, include “Hats” by The Blue Nile. I fought liking Adele, but she is pretty amazing. Love The Alternate Routes; Ed Sheeran is pretty cool. Lizanne Knott’s “Standing In The English Rain” is ingrained at this point — check her out.
GM: When did your label officially go into business, and inspired you to start your own record label? How did you choose your area of focus?
DS: My current labels are not my first. I started It’sAboutMusic.com in 2001, but I had a label in 1993 called 7Records, which featured the first Huffamoose album and a few other artists you probably never heard of. What inspired me to start a label? I had access to artists whose music was great, and no one was paying attention to them, so it was a no-brainer to take my support of these artists to the next level. Luckily, I lived in Philly and had the best-ever radio station in my market — WXPN — who played the livin’ sh*t out of Huffamoose along with another great band on my label, Peter’s Cathedral. The song “James” by Huffamoose was the most-requested song in the history of that station, probably still is. As for my area of focus — that was easy. I got behind any band I loved. I still do, but today it’s only bands/artists from the ’60s and ’70s, since that’s my wheelhouse. There are a few exceptions, like Nik Everett, but that’s because he sounds like he’s from the ’70s. What a great songwriter!
GM: What are the characteristics of your label and its releases that set Classic Music Vault apart from other labels, both independent and corporate?
DS: First of all, I don’t try to release “big” records. If I sell lots of units, that’s great. My biggest seller thus far is “Live at The Fillmore ’68” by It’s a Beautiful Day. But I’m happy releasing much lesser-known stuff by artists like Country Weather from San Francisco (1969). They are a real treasure as far as I’m concerned. But I don’t get caught in the psychedelic stuff. I’m as likely to release pop as well — like the entire Bill Quateman catalog from the ’70s or all of Michael Stanley’s catalog. I suppose there’s a thread connecting all of the releases on my label, but it’s probably more to do with the quality of the music than the niche they’re in.
GM: In addition to high—resolution downloads, your label offers DVDs and CDs. Where do you stand on offering reissues and new releases on vinyl?
DS: I love the fact that vinyl has made a comeback, but I’m too much of a perfectionist to want vinyl over a CD. Pops and clicks have no place in music for me. But the idea of holding a 12-by-12 album cover in my hands certainly makes me feel all warm and cozy and takes me back to the days I cherish, when you’d run to the record store the day an album was released and then get home ASAP and sit and listen to the album without distraction. Nonetheless, I don’t see my artists as the kind that warrant vinyl releases.
GM: What’s the process you go through from the initial point of selecting an album for release or reissue, all the way up to selling the finished product?
DS: Since I am a one-man band, so to speak, I do it all. I find an album that I love, make the deal to release it, design the artwork, master the album, set it up for release with my distributor (MVD — who are great, by the way) and do some promo work with their help. The real problem today is that artists from the ’70s still think the business runs the way it used to, and they want a big advance and expect radio promotion and a publicity campaign.
Truth is that none of that does a bit of good and will doom a release to financial failure. All you can do these days is to count on your reputation as a label and hope that people are paying attention. Radio doesn’t sell records anymore. It used to be that people were listening to the radio to hear something that they would then run to the stores to buy. Not anymore. And only record hounds are reading blogs and magazines to find albums they must have. Thank God Goldmine is still around for those of us who can’t live without the info you provide.
GM: What steps, if any, do you take before you complete a reissue in terms of re-mastering, album art and overall presentation? Do you update liner notes and tweak the art? Are there any special features or items your reissues and releases have that others lack?
DS: Since most of what I release came in its original form as an LP, it can be a little tricky transforming it into a digipak, which is the only format I use these days. Digipaks aren’t square, so you have to adjust your perspective with either an abbreviated take on the cover art or a border that respects the original. Each release demands its own approach.
The masters for some albums simply don’t exist anymore, so you have to use vinyl as the source on occasion. Luckily, I’m pretty good at converting vinyl so that 99 percent of people can’t tell. I remastered the first LP by Casey Kelly (Elektra, 1972), which was the worst pressing ever. I did such a good job that when Casey heard it, he cried and said that not only did it sound great but that he hadn’t heard it sound that good since he was in the studio when he recorded it. Hearing an artist say that means the world to me. That’s why I do what I do. By the way: I’m pretty sure that Elektra used my master when they finally released the first Casey Kelly album. So vinyl as a source doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
I love to write new liner notes when I can, like with the Dino Valenti “Get Together” release. But that was the first time that album saw the light of day, so I had to write something. But when you reissue an album that people used to own, I think they want the original liner notes, as well as artwork, that comes as close as possible to the original.
GM: How do you feel the recording industry has changed since the 1960s and 1970s? Is it better or worse, or just plain different? And what is your view of the role of independent record labels in today’s environment?
DS: What a loaded question! Well, back in the ’60s, it seemed like all the good bands got signed. There were fewer bands back then, and the scene was exploding, so records were a big part of the expanding consciousness. I think because of that, record companies got caught signing everything and played their successes against their losses since their successes were gigantic, and they needed the losses to offset their financial gains. They wound up signing some great bands that they had no idea were really good and they let them slip through the cracks. Bands like Blue, eventually on Elton John’s Rocket label, released their first album on RSO that went nowhere. Of course, Rocket changed the band somewhat, and they did have a minor hit, but the first album was amazing. My point being is that far too many bands were overlooked simply because the label had no real interest in breaking them. They were loss leaders, except to those of us who truly loved the music.
In the ’70s it just got worse. Don’t get me wrong: The music I truly love to this day came out in the ’70s. But the concept of throwing a band against the wall like spaghetti to see if it’s ready started taking the labels to a new low of signing crap simply because they had no idea what was good, while promoting the hell out of it and letting the truly good stuff slip away. I always tell the story of when Island released the first Robert Palmer album with the first Jess Roden album on the same day, as I recall. They pushed Palmer and treated Jess like yesterday’s news. I wrote a review of both albums in a Philly mag back then, explaining that Jess was more and that Palmer was less. To this day, Jess is still the artist to listen to, but Palmer made all the cash. I find it interesting that Robert Palmer replaced Jess Roden in The Alan Bown and that it is Jess’ version of that band that is still more interesting.
Today — risking being the old man disrespecting the new generation — I find that what serves as hit songs is more often than not just passable music and not anything that could ever unite a generation or even stand the test of time. It’s like processed food with an early expiration date. There’s nothing of great value in it, and, ultimately, it will do you harm since it will water down your taste in music. Much of today’s music is just that! It fills the space needed to play something, but tomorrow you’ll want something else. Of course, there are exceptions, thank God! But they are few and far between.
GM: What’s the most interesting thing (or most unexpected skill) you’ve learned as a result of running your own record label?
DS: Funny you should ask. When I started ItsAboutMusic.com I wanted to do nothing more than help great artists, so I signed 300 of them. Literally. I worked my ass off to tell the world about them. In general and in retrospect, no one cared. Well, not too many, anyway. I still had the naïve perspective that if I built it, they would come — the fans, that is. But today, more than a decade later, I have had to trim my roster down to 50 artists who actually make money in order to keep the label afloat. Instead of caring for 300 artists, I now care for far less and make sure that I keep things interesting for each of them. A hard lesson to have learned.
Another hard lesson was my involvement in the revival of the Ruffhouse label in 2012, as the president and majority owner of the label alongside its originator, Chris Schwartz. We signed Beanie Sigel (an amazing individual and a gifted artist who got caught in everyone else’s crap and deception and is now in prison — such a shame!) and Glenn Lewis (from Canada), who is a great singer, but who thought he was a great songwriter. You’d think that Beanie would have been the most difficult to deal with, but it was Glenn who made my life hell. I worked with “Beans” exclusively since he wanted nothing to do with Chris or anyone else at the label. The end resulting album, “This Time,” was under my purview — all of the artwork and the music was mostly guided by me as much as it could be while working with a strong artist like Beans. Our NYC promo junket was a nightmare, though, since Beans was about to deliver himself to the penal system a few weeks later, and he was stressed to the max. I tried to influence the Glenn Lewis album called “Moment of Truth,” but while Glenn acted like he respected my opinion, in the end it turned out that he was disrespectful and ungrateful. The hell that became the Glenn Lewis experience was something I’ll never deal with again. The album finally came out but went nowhere. It’s a great album, but the direction I wanted it to go in was considerably different. Maybe if he had listened to me, things might have been different. We blew more than a million dollars on both artists and came up with bupkus. Politics within the company played a huge part in its failure. Just because Chris made Ruffhouse the biggest Hip Hop label in history the first time (in the ’90s) didn’t mean he could do it again. Living on your laurels is no way to run a company. History doesn’t always repeat. When I write my memoirs, it will all come out in detail. But that’s for another time.
GM: What’s the most challenging part (or task you dislike the most) of running your own record label?
DS: Having been around for 40 years, I’ve seen it all. I used to think that dealing with artists was the most difficult part of this business. Some of them can be really difficult. But that was personal. What really bothers me is the writing on the wall. If you’ve paid attention to the demise of video stores and the near demise of record stores, then you’ve noticed that video streaming has caused chains like the giant Blockbuster to go out of business. Why buy or rent a DVD when you can click and stream? Well, that’s what’s about to happen with music by means of companies like Pandora and Spotify. Except the one thing most people don’t know is that those companies pay almost nothing to the artists and labels while they reap huge profits. One million streams pays $300 to the artist/label. What are you gonna do with $300? You can’t afford to make more music that way. And please tell me which artists you love that can even approach 1 million streams. Streaming video still pays well and justifies making more films. If streaming music takes over, with actual sales diminishing to almost nothing, then there will be no way that new music will be made. Streaming music is the end of the music business itself, no matter how cool it may seem right now, unless the artists get paid what they deserve.
GM: What do you find to be the most rewarding part of running a record label?
DS: After 40 years of doing this I can honestly say that I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling. When I was young, I had a fever for all of this. Don’t misunderstand; I love this business. But the gild is off the lily for me. I love bringing music to the masses even if the masses are smaller than desired. But the angst that drove me to stay up all night with bands after gigs and see the morning sun when we exited a recording studio after a 24-hour session? That’s gone. So to ask what is the most rewarding part of this for me can only be answered in the abstract. That is to say that when I look back on all of it, I’m rewarded by what I’ve accomplished and thanking my lucky stars that I took what I loved to do and made a living from it. In addition, the personal relationships I’ve made with artists like Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams, David LaFlamme of It’s A Beautiful Day, Pat Martin of Unicorn, John Batdorf, Iain Matthews, Michael Stanley, Jake Holmes, Andy Pratt, Nick Gravenites or Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step make all of the headaches worth it. I’m a very lucky guy.
GM: What are your label’s plans for the rest of the year and beyond (upcoming releases, new artists, new formats, setting up a huge recording studio, opening up an online store to sell your own CDs, etc.)?
DS: I have always sold CDs in my online stores, but I find it easier these days to link to Amazon for fulfillment than to drive traffic to my site and then fulfill orders myself. I may do the same with iTunes soon, so that I don’t have to deal with my own download sales. But I like offering full streams of the albums at my site rather than partial streams, so that fans can get a full perspective on what they are hopefully about to buy.
As for new artists, I’m planning an anthology from Marc Benno and two from Michael Stanley — one from the Michael Stanley Band — and more reissues from It’s A Beautiful Day. As of September, all of the Bill Quateman catalog will have been released, as well as all of the Michael Stanley and MSB catalog. I have a rare recording of Huffamoose live that sounds amazing coming later this year. By 2015, I’ll release all of the Andy Pratt catalog, and I’m slowly moving toward reissuing the Grinderswitch catalog.
GM: Anything else you’d like to add or share about yourself, your career background or your record label?
DS: In general, it’s been a real trip — good and bad. But the good far outweighs the bad. In my early days as a music journalist working under David Fricke and as George Meier’s assistant at Walrus, and then as editor of that trade publication, I felt that I would someday be the next Bill Graham. Not! But I did what I felt was right for me and for the artists I loved. All things will pass, but when you can have a knock-down, drag-out fight with an artist — namely Huffamoose — and then 20 years later you can still work with them and feel the same kindred spirit and want to continue with the same respect you always had for them, that’s saying something not only about the music but the people who make it.