Date of Birth: 1998
Releases to date: 37
Upcoming releases: Matthias Von Imhoff, Wayne Horvitz / Ron Samworth / Peggy Lee / Bill Clarke / Dylan van der Schyff
In the universe of experimental music, success is a relative concept. CD sales will not sustain an artist — sales are likely to be in the hundreds or even in the dozens. The main sources of income are performances, session gigs, grants, teaching and commissioned works. CDs are an artist's business card, much more so than for other underground genres. Thus it must generate interest in small but dedicated communities worldwide to create future opportunities.
Spool Music's founders Daniel Kernohan and Vern Weber are well aware of the economics of the situation, and do their part to help artists realise their own goals with a minimum of interference. They are modest to a fault, yet have released more than three dozen records in six years — an impressive track record. They've also managed to accomplish this with little governmental assistance, a testament to their commitment to independence.
No Borders Here
Along with labels associated with Quebec's DAME distribution, Spool has released a significant portion of the best Canadian experimental music of recent years, as well as discs by foreign artists. In particular, it has released a good deal of music associated with players in Vancouver's large improvising ensemble, the Now Orchestra Workshop. However, there is no deliberate attempt to champion any one sound. Kernohan explains: "We release free improvisation, avant-jazz, electro-acoustic, and perhaps avant-rock. The music is varied but there are connections. We are not really trying to establish a sound or anything like that — it's natural for people to assume an intention behind this but there really isn't. Our label is probably in some ways defined by genre, but really it's just a matter of those musicians who want to be on the label and of those the ones we are comfortable with, given our financial limitations and musical predilections."
Declaration Of Interdependence
Spool's artists are usually seasoned musicians with decades of experience — Spool makes no demands on their artistic vision and offers them a fair deal, if not one with many frills. Says Kernohan: "We don't really recruit artists. The artists come to us fully formed and require nothing from us. We would like to think that we operate in a forthright and fair way with them. We try to clearly outline what we can and cannot offer." Agreements between Spool and its artists vary depending on the project, but generally artists deliver a finished master and there is a degree of cost sharing with the manufacturing. CDs on Spool have two great advantages. The first is Spool's common typeface and layout for all its releases, making them instantly recognisable. Secondly, they are distributed by a dozen or so concerns worldwide, and do online sales. Still, it's essentially up to the artists to raise their own profiles — playing live, undertaking greater promotional initiatives, even releasing music on other labels. By doing so, Spool's exposure is heightened as well. "In the area of music we are operating in, it is better for us if the musicians also release on other labels. If a listener hears one of our artists on another label there is a chance they might come to Spool for more. Of course Spool is more of a beneficiary here as we are a tiny label."