Image credit: Beth Shalom Records
After getting an artists perspective on the DIY ethos we wanted to chat to some DIY labels, kicking things off is the London based Beth Shalom Records.
For the first half of this article series we spoke to a wide array of independent and DIY artists from around globe. It provided an interesting insight into how these artists operate, the advantages and disadvantages and to as why a lot more artists are going down the DIY path. Each artist had their own experience and story to tell, each one as captivating as the last. It highlighted just how hard musicians work in the modern age, especially if they’re independent. A lot of artists are their own managers, PR and social media manager, whilst also creating, writing and playing music. It’s incredibly impressive.
After chatting to the artists we wanted to know more about the many DIY scenes across the country and expanded this article series to chat to DIY labels. In the past few years there has been somewhat of an explosion of small, independent labels coming to fruition. Whom, like their artists, carry the same DIY ethos and aim to support them as much as possible. As mentioned in previous articles, in any good DIY scene there is a flurry of fans, labels, photographers, bookers and much more all operating to create unique and special scene.
Kicking off the second half of this article series is the London based label Beth Shalom Records. The label was born in 2014 when musician Joe Booley wanted to release his friends’ music and since then he has worked with 40 artists across 100+ releases. Working with artists such as Rosehip Teahouse, Death By Shotgun and many more! Since then the label has grown exponentially and now offers artist management, tour booking and show promotions in the south of the UK.
We caught up with label owner Joe Booley to chat about his experience running a DIY label, it’s advantages and disadvantages and much more!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! How have you been and what have you been up to in lockdown 3.0?
Joe: I’ve been good thanks. I’ve been on and off furlough since March so pretty used to being in lockdown now. But this lockdown I’ve been planning a lot of our releases for this first half of the year which is extremely excited. We’ve had one LP on the back burner for a while so will finally get to start on that campaign soon.
When did you create Beth Shalom Records and what was the inspiration?
Joe: I started Beth Shalom Records when I was 18 in 2014. I’d been performing and releasing music as a solo artist since 2012 and in college had started producing friends’ music too. So it got to a point where I had considered pitching my music to some labels I knew as I’d had some interest already but with deals I wasn’t interested in. Then my lecturer suggested me setting up my own label as I was already producing my music, distributing it and also securing small press coverage too. So BSR started solely for my own music and expanded as I started releasing music of friends I was producing at that time.
How has running a DIY label been during the pandemic and how has it affected you?
Joe: Running a label in this period of time has been a lot of fun to be honest. It’s been great to be able to have a lot more time to spend on it day to day, which in turn has helped me to fine tune my time management so whenever I am back at work I’m now a lot better at working on the label and keeping on top of everything. Obviously, like a lot of people, we’ve lost income from not being able to run shows (as part of our live arm, Let’s Stop Hanging Out DIY) but the amount of support we’ve had through the pandemic is amazing, and has allowed us to have a lot of fun with it plus starting some awesome new partnerships in 2020.
Was the idea to always go DIY?
Joe: It’s tricky. As an artist I’ve always been DIY and there has only ever been one campaign where I let someone else take care of my bookings for example, so I think I carried that mentality over into running the label. I personally don’t see that changing anytime in the future, and while we’re taking steps to make it easier that other labels might not at this stage i.e. working with a fulfilment partner, which ultimately just allows me to spend more time working on the label as opposed to spending days on end packaging up orders.
“The amount of support we’ve had through the pandemic is amazing, and has allowed us to have a lot of fun with it plus starting some awesome new partnerships in 2020”Joe Booley – Founder and Label Manager (Beth Shalom)
What are the advantages and disadvantages of running the label DIY?
Joe: The obvious advantage is control. Being able to work on every aspect of a release and see it through to the end is incredibly rewarding but it can be incredibly draining, which is one of the main reasons we’ve started to outsource certain aspects of the label but all with the core aim to allow the label to run in a smoother way. A huge disadvantage is not having the same financial backing that either bigger labels have or could have available through funding and partners, but even without that we’ve managed to do a lot of fun releases over the years!!
Has the internet made it easier/possible for Beth Shalom to operate and exist?
Joe: Oh definitely. We certainly wouldn’t have worked with some of the bands that we have in the past or even be able to have the customers we have which are stretched across the globe. So having the internet definitely makes it easier to operate the label and I’d struggle to know how to run it without it I think.
Check out Beth Shalom artist Bryony Williams’ track ‘Knockin” here:
How does Beth Shalom remain carbon neutral and Eco-Friendly?
Joe: In terms of remaining carbon neutral we work with an amazing trust that allow us to offset by supporting small hold macadamia tree farmers in Malawi, which doesn’t just allow more trees to be planted but to actually support workers and create jobs in the process. Along the eco-friendly side of things there are a few different strands to think about. The first being how we package our products; we no longer sell any products that are shrink-wrapped, and while we do have vinyl for example in plastic sleeves, they are for lifetime use and protection of that product. And we use all recyclable and biodegradable mailers for our store which our fulfilment partners has kind facilitated too.
Then we have the products themselves and where we get them. For vinyl, we do a lot of eco-vinyl pressings (eco-vinyl uses all the cuttings from previous presses and recycles them to make these gorgeous random and unique records) which we will incorporate into every vinyl release we put out after the Lastelle release next month. And we also make sure we work with suppliers with either offset or dispose of their waste in a sustainable way i.e. one plant we work with send their cuttings to shoe factories to be reused in shoe soles which I think is awesome. And when it comes to merch we are very specific about what brands we use to make sure they are ethically sourced and sustainably produced.
Why do you feel more artists are wanting to be signed to an independent label?
Joe: I think the main thing nowadays is that artists are able to hold as much control of their music as they want which I think is amazing!! You hear horror stories of artists signing with majors or bigger labels which pump a load of money into a record and get dropped, and by the end of that the label still own all the copyrights to that recording etc. But living in a day and age where artists can record themselves and distribute themselves is amazing, so working with smaller, independent labels makes the most sense to that type of artist. At BSR we hold no mechanical rights to any of artists’ music, their music belongs solely to them.
What does Beth Shalom do to help artists and how do you work with them?
Joe: We cover a wide range of services. Our main role across all campaigns is distribution, manufacturing and press, but we also offer tour bookings/promotions (when possible), some artists we work with on a management levels, and look to secure as many opportunities for our artists as possible. If there are certain things that maybe we can’t offer at that point, a lot of the time we know people we can either outsource it to, or even looking moving into that field ourselves.
Do you have a specific criteria as to what artists you work with?
Joe: We call ourselves a Genre-Fluid Label, so we don’t have any set criteria in terms of genres we like to work in etc, obviously there are fields we’re maybe not a clued up on but it’s great to learn about how new genres operate too. We always love to see drive in artists and a passion for what they do, we have goals for the label that might stretch over a few years and we’d love to see similar thinking in artists we’re working with.
Do you approach artists to sign or do they approach you?
Joe: More often than not we will approach people or mutually seek each other out. We’re in a lovely position where newer artists we work with are friends of another roster band and so we’re already aware of each other worked together in some way whether it be on the live side of things or something else.
What have been some success stories of Beth Shalom?
Joe: There a lot of projects that we’re proud of but a few moments that stand out would be seeing reviews and features in Kerrang for the likes of Petlib., The Yacht Club, Parachute For Gordo and Death By Shotgun. Selling out of our copies of Bryony Williams’ latest EP shortly after it’s release. Seeing bands like itoldyouiwouldeatyou playing the Underworld in Camden. Going to Maida Vale with Rosehip Teahouse. Seeing bands like Marigolds, Rosehip Teahouse and PETSEMATARY played on Radio 1. There are so many more I do mention but that list would be way too long.
Why do you feel there are so many DIY scenes popping up?
Joe: I think a lot of it is due to the technology and resources that are available to artists these days. I’ve always been a part of DIY communities and even in that decade things have changed drastically for example, home recording quality is incredible at the moment, little things like that make it possible for people like me and the bands I work with to exist for sure.
What makes a good DIY scene?
Joe: Community and respect. It’s amazing to see the kind of community that has grown around the label and a lot of that is because so many artists are friends of each other, support each other and fans of each other. I’ve seen some scenes and communities disappear because of certain individuals who might think they’re better than everyone else and alienate others, having that lack of respect in such a close knit community is toxic in my opinion.
Lastly, what advice do you have for DIY artists and those looking to start their own label?
Joe: If you want to, just do it. It’s so easy to set up and my emails are always open if you have questions (firstname.lastname@example.org). Yes, it will be tricky at times but it’s really important to realise you are always learning, even 2, 5 or 10 years down the road. Be prepared to learn and I guess just have fun with it.
Beth Shalom‘s Current Roster: Marigolds, Parachute For Gordo, PETSEMATARY, americansignlanguage, acab brik, Human Head, Our Nameless Boy, itoldyouiwouldeatyou, Joe Booley, Treehouse, Bryony Williams, Kern Parks, Floods In Japan