Name: Spencer Hickman
Occupation: Founder of Death Waltz Recording Co/ Head of Music at Mondo & Deathwaltz.
Current Release: RAW Original soundtrack
If you enjoyed this interview with Spencer, check out the Death Waltz website.
What were your main motivations when setting up your own label?
I wanted to produce an artefact that I would buy, mixing the best pressings, new art and an all-round killer package.
How would you describe the situation for your label right now? What are the financial realities you're faced with, for example? How satisfied are you with the exposure you've managed to create for yourself?
Overall I am very happy! Although myself and my counterpart Mo Shafeek are always trying to push ourselves whether that is in titles we are signing or art packages we are releasing. Financial realities mean we currently can’t send records into space or design a record to be played underwater but I think what we have achieved over the last few years is astonishing
How, generally, do you see the role of a label today? What can a label add to the music scene that myriads of individual artists can't?
We offer cohesion, and an identity. People generally know that what we are releasing is of merit because we only release things we are passionate about; that goes for everything from Twin Peaks to small indies like Darling.
Our originals label has been consistently releasing killer records from the so-called synth-wave scenes for years. Those bands help create the scene and the label gives them a banner to work under whilst still being able to go off and do other things under their own labels or others.
Do you see it as a problem that so many people are setting up their own label nowadays – or artists selling their own music directly - thereby considerably increasing the overall amount of music available to listeners and potentially devaluing the label-concept?
Tricky question! We welcome other labels in the soundtrack world, more competition means more focus for us to be the best. There is so much music available nowadays it is hard to cut through the noise sometimes for sure. Maybe things can get passed over due to lack of time on the listener’s behalf, but it makes it easier for us to find and sign music; so it’s swings and roundabouts!
Do you see the label-concept as tending towards a new form? In which way, do you feel, could labels either add new functionalities to their existing catalogue, or shed others to focus on their core strengths, to become more successful?
We operate something called distributed titles where we take records we love from other labels at wholesale and then highlight them in our newsletter and website as a wider scene, which is good for everyone. I guess we are in a unique place as we can offer posters and apparel as add-ons for artists/composers.
How do you rate the importance of distributors (including mail orders and outlets for digital downloads) for a label like yours? How hard has it been for you to find and work with distributors and what could be improved in this regard?
Incredibly important! We have three main distributors we work with Light In The Attic for USA, Republic Of Music for Europe and Rocket for Australia. I am a huge supporter of record stores and always want to see our records represented. We find it very easy to work with our partners because we operate very simply. We press a version just for them, which means that although record stores may not get the multicolour/effects versions, they will always get a version to have in stock.
Talking of improvements, we have just dipped our toe into digital working with BandCamp, iTunes & Spotify. I’ll come back to you in 12 months and answer that question!
How do you rate the impact of social media on running a label? How do you personally work on creating a community around the label and how would you rate the importance of these social factors compared to the actual music being released?
Very important. It helped us to hype and build the label and it’s a great way to tease releases. I have been leaning more toward Instagram lately as visually it fits in perfectly with the idea of fresh art and crazy coloured records. Social Media allows fans to connect not only with us but with other like-minded individuals. We’ve seen folks coming together to buy records for kids in Europe that are US exclusives and vice versa, it’s really amazing to see.
Just like many artists and labels, the press have found it hard to adapt to the new playing field of the digital age. What kind of support and co-operation would you expect and appreciate from them?
We have a killer in-house PR Team, Fons PR. They connect with every outlet we ask them to and work so well with us, they generally can suggest which outlet will suit which announcement.