With so many cool bands out there to check out I offer you some minor guidance by introducing you to a label called VIRIDIAN FLAME RECORDS. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
How hard is it to pick a label’s name? With the right name you don’t really need any sort of declaration of intent. Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you?
-It was pretty hard for me since I’m rather perfectionist on these things! I wanted a name with a good “ring” to it, and a good abbreviation as well, to use for catalog numbers. After considering many ideas, I found some inspiration from an Agalloch song, which uses the phrase “emerald fire” in reference to the northern lights. I changed it to Viridian Flame, which sounds a bit more unique. Since I’m a big fan of both Agalloch and the northern lights, it’s a perfect name for my label!
Why have you decided to do a label? How do one even start a label? What does it take to make it all work?
-I got the idea while I was trying to get my own band’s album (Soul Dissolution – Stardust) released on vinyl. I knew there was some demand for it, but no label seemed interested, so there was always the option of releasing it myself. But rather than pressing just that one album, it occurred to me that I could push things further and start a proper label, also releasing other albums in the same style. And since I had recently switched to being self-employed in my day job, I could take the opportunity to run this as part of my business, thus limiting the financial risk for me. In the end, it was a “why not? let’s do this!” kind of thing hahaha
I can’t really tell you much more about running a label, since Viridian Flame is just starting out. I have no idea if it will actually “work”, but I have good hopes for it.
At least starting a label is pretty easy : pick an album to release, make an agreement with the band, find a pressing plant that would produce the right amount of copies for a reasonable price, fill in the graphic templates,… Of course you’ll have to do some financial planning too, like, how many copies do you need to sell to recoup your costs. It’s all pretty straightforward when you start thinking about it.
How do you choose what bands to release? What do they have to have for you to even become the slightest interested?
-Viridian Flame is not a traditional kind of label, as I choose to only release vinyl versions of already existing albums, for which I feel there is a demand. In fact I’m just playing it safe. The point is not to find some unknown band and promote it, but rather use a band’s existing notoriety and deliver a vinyl version of an already acclaimed work.
When picking new albums to release, there are three criteria to be fulfilled:
– The album must be within the Atmospheric Black Metal realm, as it is the focus of this label
– There must be enough “hype” around the band/album, so I check the relevant numbers on social media, Bandcamp, Youtube, Spotify,…
– I must really like the album, so I can stand behind it 100%
I am a huge fan of record labels! In the past I have followed several and tried to collect everything that they release. I still do today even if it isn’t as fun with all the digital releases. What is the state of physical v/s digital today for a label? Is digital killing the physical product?
-I can’t really answer this question since Viridian Flame does not do any digital distribution. But I don’t think it’s really an issue since people interested in vinyl won’t be replacing it with a digital download. They want “the real thing”, preferably in a nice packaging too. I think there will always be some demand for those things.
How important is having a label to back up a band today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? Are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans?
-First of all, there’s certainly nothing wrong with the availability of music! I think good music is meant to be heard, so it should be available to everyone!
And regarding the role of labels, I think it’s just a nice help for bands. It’s true that any artist can release his music through digital platforms without a label, and that could work out fine, but a label can help with some things. The most obvious is the financial aspect : not all bands have the budget to press hundreds of CDs or vinyls of their album, so the label can make this investment for them. Next is distribution : a band can sell CDs online through Bandcamp or other platforms, but a label could make those CDs available at bigger retailers, shops, and other labels’ distros. This creates more visibility for an album and more fans have the occasion to stumble upon it and buy it. Promotion is also an important aspect, as labels are used to promote new albums all the time, so they generally know how to do it properly.
Overall, a band can be successful without a label these days, but a label is still a “nice to have”. On the other hand, many artists have the impression that they could become really popular by just being signed on the right label. This is a misconception : most bands signed to bigger labels were already “popular” or “hyped” before that, at least to some extent. A good label will just help the band realize its full potential, but it won’t magically make everyone like the band’s music.
I get the feeling that fans that are true to a band, is a lost thing with the easy access to music these days. Do you feel that this is a bad thing or are there any positive aspects of it at all?
-I don’t share this feeling, actually. I think there are still fans staying true to their favorite bands, even today.
What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
-This is a tough one… I can’t really describe what makes a great cover, but I do recognize one when I see it. It needs to have impact, be aesthetically pleasing of course, be memorable, not looking too amateurish… preferably it should represent the music adequately as well. Obviously it’s really subjective.
Paintings work very well these days, with cover artworks by Mariusz Lewandowski, Marcela Bolivar, Jeff Grimal and Jordan Grimmer generally getting much praise.
Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? What is the climate for metal in your country?
-I feel connected to the Belgian scene through the bands I play in as a musician. It’s a nice scene, with a lot of dynamism in recent years ; many new bands being formed, new initiatives being created…. There is no distinct “Belgian” sound, like it could be said for more well-known scenes like Germany or Iceland, but there is still much talent to be found!
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS. Do the different platforms help selling music or are they are part of killing off the music as we know and love it?
-Here again, I can’t really say because I’m not doing digital distribution with this label, so I don’t know to what extent physical sales are affected by these platforms. But in any case, I honestly don’t believe music will be “killed” by making it more easily available. Even if it means there is less money coming in from sales, artists will always find ways to create.
What lies in the future?
-The label is still in its very early stages, as we just launched the pre-orders on our first three releases one month ago. So far the response has been quite encouraging, so I feel motivated to have more releases going forward. I’m thinking of adding 3 more releases for the second half of 2019, and I already have agreements with some bands in this regard. Next to that, much work will go into making the label and its releases more visible. Getting the name out there is my biggest challenge at this point, but I’m confident it will work out!