Published Sep 01, 2004Public Transit Recordings was founded in 1998 by Toronto DJ Moonstarr (Kevin Moon) and a collective of artists and producers. Now run by Moon and Mano Narayanan (aka Dialect), the label has released six CDs and a dozen plates of vinyl, all of "innovative urban electronic" music, from techno and broken beat to hip-hop and down-tempo. Narayanan guides us through the philosophy of PTR.
Changing the world one beat at a time.
We just wanted to get the music out and create an outlet for independent electronic artists in North America, and see where it would go. We also wanted to be respected for releasing quality music, but do so with an air of consciousness.
What are those crazy Canucks up to?
In Canada there isn't a strong support network for electronic music, with Canadian touring being our biggest obstacle. Euro heads look at us as "the Canadian label" putting out left-of-centre electronic on par with what is going on in Europe. We don't tend to put out similar types of releases one after another, so I think people look to us when they want to be surprised or hear something different. It's not the best way to run a label, but because the people involved with PTR are into different styles of music, we can't keep everything to one specific genre.
DIY makes all the difference.
We mainly get sent demos from home producers and don't outwardly look for new music. We like to establish more personal links with our artists before we release music, so we both work together to help each other grow. Most of the artists we work with produce from home studios so we don't finance their recording budgets. It's the mastering, promo, manufacturing and distro we take care of.
It's not just a marketing strategy it's a lifestyle.
Vinyl is a big part of our business we use it as a marketing tool. DJs tend to have influence, whether they spin at home or at a small residency or have a radio show. The manufacturing costs are high, but the price per unit is low. We usually start at 1000 units and repress from there; you have to repress a couple of times before it turns profitable, but it's an excellent promo tool. Our advertising budget isn't that much, so we tend to advertise on a project-by-project basis, depending on the potential sales and how big the project is. But for all our releases we do a worldwide print/radio media and DJ promo mail-out to create a buzz. We use online reaction sheets for our releases as an interactive tool to connect with our media list as well and keep up with the responses.
Skirting the distribution issue.
Distribution is the biggest issue for a Canadian label. We have an online store started last year (www.ptrmusic.com/store.html); it's a great way to fill the gaps left by normal distribution channels. We have had success with it and haven't really promoted it; we plan to in the coming months.
Friends don't make friends sign the dotted line.
We don't do exclusive contracts, only on a project-by-project basis. We are small right now and sometimes bigger and better opportunities come along after we have worked a record worldwide. We don't want to restrict our artists in that way, especially if the right opportunity comes along. Ideally we want to become that label, but we are not there just yet. We usually split the profits of our releases with our artists 50/50. Artists are integral to the development, execution and financial rewards of any project. Our intent isn't to make a quick buck, but to help develop artists and a following for them as best we can.