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QRD #59 - Indie Label Interview Series Part IV
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about this issue
Indie Label Owner Interviews with:
Autumnal Release
Bo' Weavil Recordings
Little Helpers
Withering Trees
Erototox Decodings
Jehu and Chinaman
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Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Silber Kickstarter
Label Owner Interview with David Mench of Waggletone
March 2013
David Mench of Waggletone
Name: David Mench
Label: Waggletone
City: Valdense, NC
Artists Roster: Johnny Cryboy, Terry Eckard Band, Seducer, Pandora’s Lunchbox
Websites: http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=waggletone

QRD – When & why did you start your label?

David – I began the label in 1993.

QRD – Where did you get the money to finance your first few releases?

David – I had already opened a record shop & was selling music so I used some of that money to get started.

QRD – How many releases have you put out?

David – 18 releases on vinyl, cassette, & CD.

QRD – How many releases would you like to do a year?

David – As many as I could afford.

QRD – How many hours a week do you work on the label & how many would you like to?

David – Most of my time is not spent on the label. I am an artist & musician & selling music in a Main Street record shop & on Ebay.

QRD – What are the fun &/or rewarding parts about running a label?

David – The fun comes from providing the world with new & interesting sounds.   Rewards come if anyone takes interest or inquires about an artist.

QRD – How have your motivations for having a label changed?

David – I now know that there is not much profit involved in it & that nowadays it seems you have to throw a lot of money at it to get anywhere. I do it for the fun of it & if none cares so be it.

QRD – What do you feel is the biggest waste of your time running the label?

David – Trying to get radio stations to play any of my releases often enough to matter.

QRD – What are some labels you admire or feel a kinship to?

David – Repot Records & Hospital Records because they had a label before me & that gave me inspiration to try.

QRD – What other work experiences prepared you to have a label?

David – None really other than selling other labels music.

QRD – What makes you label special & unique?

David – The label does not have a certain style. I enjoy releasing all kinds of sounds.

QRD – How has your physical location effected your label?

David – It has affected it adversely because there is no college here. 

QRD – Do you enjoy music as much now as you used to & how has running a label effected how you listen to/hear music?

David – I still enjoy music. I probably enjoyed it more when it did not become part of my job. Nowadays though there is so much of it that it is overwhelming.

QRD – What’s your demos policy?

David – Demos are fine. I try to listen with an open mind.

QRD – How do you find out about new artists for your label?

David – Most of the time they come in the store or I might have seen them live or they are friend that I have worked with before.

QRD – How do most fans find out about your label?

David – They have to find my Ebay, (SELLER ID: WAGGLETONE) or hear samples or read reviews on websites.

QRD – What’s been your biggest selling release & why do you think it was?

David – Antiseen/Seducer split 7” because Antiseen tour frequently & are known all over the world.

QRD – What release that you’ve done was the most important & special to you personally?

David – I really like the Subklinik release because it is weird industrial rock & that is something I can relate too. The Terry Eckard band is really nice too, because blues rock & 70s style rock is something I still enjoy.

QRD – What are some things that make you want to work with a band?

David – They have to be cool people. I don’t want to have anything to do with irresponsible & unfriendly artists. It is important that they are promoting their music by playing live & have a merchandise booth. If they stop in at radio stations to give interviews, that is great.

QRD – What are some things that would make you stop working with a band?

David – Non-cooperative behavior

QRD – What is the thing all releases on your label have in common?

David – They have nothing in common.

QRD – How involved are you with a band for acting as a producer as far as hearing demo ideas or selecting tracks to be on a release or mixing & mastering?

David – So far the bands have done all of the mixing & mastering.

QRD – How involved do you like to be in the artwork design for a release?

David – I enjoy being involved with the artwork & design for a new release. The most recent release: Johnny Cryboy has a photo on the back I supplied. At that time I had no knowledge of photo or art programs on the computer. I have gotten somewhat better with the programs now & enjoy creating interesting images.

QRD – How long is it from when an artist delivers an album to you until release date & why?

David – I try to get it going as soon as possible. I see no reason to wait.

QRD – If a band breaks up between the recording of a release & the release date, how does that effect what you do?

David – That is a bad situation. I am not comfortable with that. I would probably want more funding on their half to release anything.

QRD – What do you wish bands on your label would do?

David – I would like them to keep rehearsing & performing, recording in the studio, etc. Any artist has their hands full with the creative process alone. If they can give me a clue on where to send their music for reviews or airplay I will follow that lead.

QRD – What’s a record you’d like to put out that you’ll never be able to?


QRD – If you really like a band, but aren’t sure you could sell many copies of their record; what do you do?

David – I would release it! Johnny Cryboy is a great example.  You either love it or you hate it. Of all of the releases on Waggletone this is the most controversial.

QRD – How is financing of a release split between artists & the label?

David – It depends. Some artists will foot all costs, some half the cost.

QRD – How do you split profits from a release between artists & your label?

David – If it is a truly remarkable release I split the number of CDs or records manufactured up to 50/50.

QRD – Do you have written contracts with your bands or handshake deals?

David – We do it on a handshake so that is why I like to work with responsible artists.

QRD – Do you take a cut of a band’s publishing?

David – No, I do not.

QRD – How important is it to you to have touring acts on your roster & what do you do to encourage it?

David – I answered this already, it is very important. I believe you have to perform live to get a real fan base growing. I may be old fashioned & out of touch for some seem to do well with YOUTUBE, etc.

QRD – Do you handle promotions in house or hire out & why?

David – I do it myself. I do not have the $$$$$ to hire out.

QRD – How do you maintain contact with your fanbase?

David – I am a seller on EBAY with an ABOUT ME PAGE & a positive rating of 98.9 percent. I have sold over 20,000 items. There is only one Waggletone in the world so if you Google the word I am all over the net.  I don’t do Facebook & such though.

QRD – Do you have intern & street team programs & if so, how do they operate?

David – I do not have that.

QRD – How big of a staff do you have & how big of one do you need?

David – There is only me & so far that is all that’s needed.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with record stores?

David – I have given plenty of good product to record stores. If they would only play some of it in the store occasionally, they would sell some. I have not found anyone that was devoted to doing it.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with radio stations?

David – I have called & sent product to many radio stations. They play my artists once in awhile, but not often enough to gather a following.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with magazines & websites?

David – Some of my releases are available on CDBABY.COM & Homegrown Music Network. A lot is available on Ebay.

QRD – What do you do to build relationships with bloggers?

David – I have not done much of that, but I have seen Waggletone product on blogs.

QRD – Do you view advertisements as a way to generate interest & revenue or more as a way to financially support magazines & websites you like?

David – Yes, I have found that it is very expensive with few results. I advertise in SHUFFLE MAGAZINE right now, it is starting to get attention after spending a lot. I believe I would rather give my advertising dollars to Shuffle though, because they have a high quality free music magazine that covers all of North Carolina, border states, & beyond.

QRD – What is the job of your distributors?

David – To distribute product, but who is going to need distribution for artists that are not getting heard? The product will just sit on the shelf.

QRD – How do you decide how big the initial pressing of a release should be?

David – Most of the time it is the artists commercial potential that will determine that. I hate to say it depends on that, but so far this has been like digging a hole & throwing money down it. I recouped my initial investment in Terry Eckard’s first CD Rebel on the Highway. Made my money back & more on Antiseen. Other than that the rest of the product has not paid off in profits.  Sales on Seducer Trials & Tribulations & Sin Speaks is improving after all these years & I have been selling some of that off & on.

QRD – What percentage of a pressing do you use for promotions?

David – Depends on how many are produced.  Out of 500 I would say 100 copies.

QRD – Do you sell merchandise other than the music (t-shirts, etc.)?

David – Not associated with my label; but in the record store I sell t-shirts, incense, beads, DVDs, & video games.

QRD – Do you sell music that is not on your label?

David – In my store Play It Again Records I do. At the front counter there are some artists like Tammie Davis, Buck Austin, Bobby Denton, & other local artists.

QRD – How has running a label effected your own artistic career?

David – I don’t think so. I perform with Dementia Precox in Dayton, Ohio. They have another band called Dark Backward. There is some talk that future releases may be on Waggletone.

QRD – Ideally, would you release your own material?

David – I released an industrial project called FLIP’N’BOOGERS with Dennis Schlichter on my label years ago. You would have to be into John Cage or SPK to appreciate it though.

QRD – What do you do to try to build a sense of community within your roster?

David – There is no community with my roster. I don’t find that bands work with each other too well. I think that they look at other bands as competition.

QRD – What’s your most common conversation with bands as far as balancing artistic integrity & financial viability?

David –I tell them stay together, keep performing & touring, set up a merch booth at their shows.

QRD – How often do you look at your “return on investment” & adjust your business model?

David – I had to as of late. The latest Johnny Cryboy CD Turn on the Tears is limited to 100 copies. This is due to the extremely bizarre nature of the release. It is competing with the likes of Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed & groups like Half Japanese, Daniel Johnston & THE SHAGGS! Frank Zappa would say “NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL.”

QRD – Do you worry about search engine optimization & website traffic?

David – I don’t pay extra for it.

QRD – What have you done to cut costs over the years?

David – I have had the artist help fund half the project, etc.

QRD – Do you think the album format is dead?

David – If you are talking about a record album, it is coming back.

QRD – Do you think the return of vinyl & cassettes is a fad?

David – There was a return to 8 tracks for a while. I believe vinyl is back for good. I still sell quite a few cassettes & hope to get rid of most of them as soon as possible.

QRD – Is it important to have physical releases over digital ones or does it not matter?

David – I have never had a strictly digital release. I prefer physical releases.

QRD – What do you think of ultra-limited runs of releases (less than 100 discs)?

David – It costs more to do it that way & the quality is much less.

QRD – What do you think of “print on demand” discs?

David – It is okay for some. I prefer a real CD over a CD-R.

QRD – How much content do you feel should be available free to fans?

David – Just samples of each song. I have to make some money on this or it is hard to keep doing it.

QRD – What do you do about people distributing your music without financial compensation (piracy & file trading)?

David – I can’t do much about it. I don’t see myself going over to China to confront someone about it. This is always going to be a problem for the big guys & smaller guys like me.

QRD – What’s something you see other labels do that you think of as borderline unethical?

David – Release music by bands that was found in a trash bin & the band thought it was disposed of only to find out it is available on the market. Case in point Alice Cooper Freak Out Show or it has also been called Science Fiction & other things.

QRD – What changes in things would cause you to stop your label?

David – Health reasons. I am in it for the long haul as long as I can keep doing it.

QRD – What would you suggest to someone starting a label today?

David – Good luck hope you have had more success than me.

QRD – Where do you think money is currently most available to labels/musicians & where in the future?

David – Internet sales.

QRD – Why do you think labels are still important to artists?

David – My label is hard to categorize, but I shop by label a lot because I know what to expect from certain labels like Tone Casualties, Opal, or Wax Trax for instance.

QRD – Music has had different hotspots on the internet over the years (newsgroups, MP3.com, MySpace, LastFM), but with MySpace’s decline, what do you see as the place where “normal” people go to find out about & get excited by new music?

David – I am not sure; but I like allmusic.com, Amazon, CD Baby. & Discogs.  I would suggest starting an independent website.

QRD – In 20 years what do you think/hope your label will be known/remembered for?

David – It’s variety & quality. There is not much on my label that I would say sucks. I believe several releases on my label will be thought of as classics someday when I’m gone.

QRD – Anything else?

David – Thanks for the opportunity to speak out!