Carrying on the first part of our interview with Basick Record head honcho Nathan Phillips I’m pleased to bring you the second half of our discussion where we discuss the labels stance on Spotify and Bandcamp as well as the somewhat controversial signing of the The Algorithim.
PBAF: I’m curious as to how Basick ended up signing The Algorithim. I remember when I saw it I realised that if any label would release him it made sense to be you guys but I’d always imagined him to be the internet cult figure.
Nathan: I think he probably would have done had we not got talking. It was more the result of a random conversation about where he would like to take his music in the future. Remi came back to us and said’ yeah I’m up for this and up for that but it’s just me and I need help.’ Part of it as well is I used to work for an electronic label before Basick, way back in 2002, so I’m very aware of the electronica world and all that kinda stuff. His mix of metal and electronica I could understand. It made sense to me, and I knew other people would feel the same. Don’t get me wrong, when we announced it and put videos up we did get a few ‘ what the fuck was that?’ responses. But that’s alright, we’re here to ask those kind of musical questions. It all just kind of made sense really. He played over at Euroblast in Germany which we were at, and we saw him play live and saw all the future and possibility with this guy. Which is when we got Mike from Monuments involved on the live drum side, because he is a machine, Mike can just learn this insane stuff unbelievably quickly. So now we had them open up our show tonight because it was the perfect opportunity. It was just what he needed as well, because he was great at Euroblast, but this added another dimension to the show. It’s going to kill, I can’t wait to see it in front of audience. As a fan as well, I’m doing my job until 8pm and then I’m just a fan.
PBAF: As an independent label what’s your stance on sites like Bandcamp that allow the artist to run themselves on an independent level separate of labels? Although there are labels like yourselves incorporating Bandcamps, which I use more than iTunes for you releases because I know the band take more revenue percentage from that than from iTunes.
Nathan: That’s great, you’re making an informed decision. We find that’s a case with a lot of our audience and more power to you for it.
PBAF: So would you say Basick aspires that Trent Reznor idea of ‘ let people be as involved as they want with your music’. As in don’t force them to just have the CD, or just come to the show but give them a whole world of options?
Nathan: Totally, I think its important to make sure exclusives are exclusives. I hate when labels release 500 pressings on white vinyl then 500 more a year later on clear vinyl it kind of lets down the fans who invested from day one. For instance we did a clear vinyl with the latest Chimp Spanner record that will never be re-pressed or re-issued ever. Certainly not as long as I’m at the label. I also like giving people the choice they need, I want to deliver to people how they want it delivered to them. The cool thing is people like yourself, and other like-minded intelligent people, have the understanding that music can’t be made for nothing. If you want that person whose music you enjoy to keep making the music the best thing you can do is invest in them. Doesn’t matter to us how. Buy it from the band at the show, or like you say you buy it from bandcamp because you know the royalty percentage is much higher than the 40% iTunes kicks back. What’s great for us to be able to say at the end of an accounting period to our artists ‘ Here, have some more money so you can create even more.’
PBAF: Bandcamp also wonderfully allows you sell exclusive physical versions along with the digital ones which is a favorite feature of mine about it.
Nathan: We’ve exclusives there as well like the Chimp Spanner CD. Can’t get there anywhere else but the Bandcamp.
PBAF: It’s obviously been a key topic on much of the online metal press of late so I’m curious as to what your stance on the Spotify debate is, if you have one?
Nathan: Spotify is an interesting one. I think my personal view on it has changed over the 6 months as my knowledge on the ins and outs of it has increased. We did a straw poll of people’s useability of the service, which gave some really interesting results. One report was, I can’t mind the exact figures, but it was something like say Chimp Spanner’s album got 2,000 streams on Spotify in the month of April and the revenue from that was something like £1.80. And I went ‘Ok, something isn’t right about that.’ Part of our situation with Spotify is our artists are handled on Spotify by our distributor ADA, who are part of Warner. Warner are one of the major’s who apparently get a bigger cut because of their deal with Spotify. Now, I don’t know what anyone else is getting, because I only see our reports, but if£1.80 is the better cut, Christ knows what anyone else is getting. So I think the royalty issue needs to be addressed. That’s why labels like Century Media have taken all their content off it. Clearly the royalty thing needs to be seriously addressed. However, Moving on from that, I think people are missing the point with them retracting it, saying they’re not moving with the times, or that they don’t agree with streaming. I think people who think like that are missing the point. Take Summerian for example, their records are available to stream on YouTube and we do the very same thing. We’re nullifying the ‘try before you buy argument’ for torrenting by having our albums available for streaming. The thing with Spotify is people use it as a music application to play music. A direct replacement to windows media player, to iTunes and to CDs. That’s how they now consume music. It’s not like YouTube, which you use because you’re on your PC, it’s now the default choice. People now don’t think at all about picking up a CD for MP3. That’s the difference, certainly us and Summerian aren’t against streaming but whether it’s a sustainable model…the jury is still out for us. My inclination is if people opt for Spotify over iTunes, CDs and Amazon MP3 I’d almost rather they torrent it. And that’s horrible to say that but it’s true. It’s just they way the music is consumed on Spotify that’s the problem, which I think a lot of the talk around the subject has missed. But, the jury’s out for now.
PBAF: I find myself unsure as well. I’ve never used the service because I always buy, in fact I’ve only ever torrented once and never again since. I was certainly pro-Spotify as an exposure tool but the more I learn about the royalty side the less sure I become.
Nathan: Exactly. A lot of our bands ask when is their back catalogue going on Spotify? Our fans keep asking us when is it going to be up? Everything so far is on their but…if all of a sudden people are using only Spotify and not CDs. You can’t live as a band on Spotify sales. I understand from the consumers points of view Spotify is great but not so much for us. One option we’re considering is only keeping the back catalogue on Spotify so for the first twelve months of an albums life you can’t stream it on Spotify. There’s surely pros and cons for that as well. It’s a real tough one. There’s a lot more to come in the Spotify story.
PBAF: Any big releases in the pipeline this year from Basick?
Nathan: As it stands, we’ve got great records from SkyHarbor, 7 Horns 7 Eyes and A Dark Orbit are coming back.
PBAF: Fuck, I’d almost entirely forgotten about them!
Nathan: I think a lot of people almost have but I’ve heard the pre-mixes of this new album it sounds incredible. Chimp’s working on a new record, maybe get that before the end of the year as well as stuff from Aliases and Circles. Potentially the Monuments release as well, they’re working behind closed doors just now. They’re working with a great vocalists just now who we think is the guy but we’ll see how that works out. Lots of cool shit to come from us this year. All the bands that did EPs last year will have albums this year.
That was pretty much the end of our discussion so far as Basick went. It was a real pleasure to speak to Nathan as labels like Basick are the reason I created this site, such as it is for whatever its worth.