Published Feb 01, 2006Since his days fronting Canadian punks the Sick Boys, Steve Stumble has been a dedicated, hard-working member of this country's underground music community. Bucking popular trends in the world of punk rock, Stumble Records has released dirty, gritty punk and rockabilly for nearly eight years. There were some growing pains as the label shifted from working in both Canada and the U.S. to focusing solely on Canada, but Stumble Records has found a welcome niche in the world of Canadian punk while branching out into the lucrative world of publishing.
Turning Rebellion Into Money
"When you're talking specialty market stuff like punk rock and rockabilly, a major successful album sells somewhere in the range of three to five thousand albums, unless it happens to go commercial and takes off to the extreme. We base our work on those kinds of numbers. We sell three thousand, we make our money back. We sell five [thousand], everyone makes money. When I see other labels just throwing money at bands, I'm like, They're never going to make their money back.' I don't know what they're doing. But that's me. I come from the D.I.Y. approach. I've probably spent way more money out of my pocket than we've ever brought in."
Where Scan Fits the Plan
"SoundScan doesn't apply to indie stores, where we sell most of our stuff. So we get our SoundScan sheets in, and it says we sold 100 records, and we're like, 100 records? We had to sell more than that.' I've been really bugging my bands to do SoundScan sheets for all their offstage sales now. It's a necessary evil, even though it's a real pain in the ass, because that's what the stores look at. I know with the Matadors record, we sold [approximately] 700 copies that SoundScanned, but we did way more offstage and through indie stores."
Seek Professional Help
"We've been with d.e.p. [distribution] since 2001 or 2002, and they merged with Universal about a year ago. I thought we were going to take some flack, but no one said anything. The way retail is now, we probably still wouldn't be here putting stuff out if it wasn't for them. I used to use Sonic Unyon, FAB, Scratch; I've used them all over the years. They target the indie stores, which is cool, but I do that myself. There's only 60-something stores left in Canada that I deal with."
Finding Alternative Outlets
"There's free money out there. [Licensing] is basically no work. You just send them something and say, Want to use it or not?' and they say yes or no. I just got a call two days ago saying we sold this band MDM's song to Toyota for a commercial. We just sold a Matadors song to Degrassi: The Next Generation. We've only been doing this for two or three years, and I'm getting more into it. And the cool thing about publishing is you don't have to stick to just punk rock. We can use whatever we want. We have guys who just make us instrumental stuff."
Police and Thieves
"Canada's still the biggest stealing-everything country on the planet. I had this conversation with the Matadors, because they're going on a tour, and they're selling out every day across Canada, and everybody knows all the words and they're like, How come we've only sold this many records?' and it's because everybody's stealing it. We've probably had just as many records stolen off the internet as we've sold. It totally kills us."
Trimming the Fat
"Postage has been a crazy expense for us, so we started releasing two records at a time to cut down on the mailing cost. We ain't rich here."