I recently got the chance to interview the founders of the new label Easy Killer, who have made waves in recent days by signing artists like Night Verses and Mandolyn Mae. With such a bold contrast in signings for a fresh record label, I thought finding out what Kevin Gales and Mike Judy, the duo who founded and run Easy Killer, think about and do in the music business would be interesting to consider. Lastly, I'd like to thank them for giving their time to come up with some well thought-out responses. Without further ado, here we go.
What is your vision for the label, musically?
Kevin Gales: We’re looking for diversity, for sure. It may seem to naïve to say diverse and good, but for me that really sums it up. Mike may say this better, but it’s an on going quest for balance. I think the vision for our label is summed up nicely on June 25th; Easy Killer releases records Mandolyn Mae and Night Verses on the same day. Both are completely amazing, and completely different.
Mike Judy: A diverse roster of sincere, talented artists. Musical honesty is a major issue with us. We've focused on trying to bring in guys who have really honed their craft. I'm thrilled that we have such a high level of integrity and musicianship within the roster currently. We definitely plan on using these guidelines moving forward when looking to bring new artists aboard.
What's your philosophy regarding band promotion?
Mike Judy: Kevin will touch on the advertising portion of this, but I'd like to chime in on what promotion bands do on their own via social media, etc.: Love to see bands active and engaging their fans, when the content they're engaging with is relevant. Maybe it's just me, but I've never been down with seeing someone post a status like, say, "Favorite Ninja Turtle: GO!" just to grab some comments and likes on their FB page. Don't get me wrong, I goddamn LOVE the ninja turtles, but unless a good majority of your lyrical content is about eating pizza and fighting crime, you probably should focus on posting something more related to your, ya know, music. To each their own, I suppose.
Kevin Gales: I heard Rory Felton from The Militia Group say (and this was about 5 years ago) “I’ve lost all faith in print advertising.” Since then both Spin, Amp, HM, and a view others have all either bit the dust, or gone digital. That said, when Victory puts out a record, everyone knows the release is coming because of how much Tony invests in advertising his bands. Just prefacing my response by stating the seemingly opposing philosophies of two guys who have sold way more records than we have. If your promoting a band that won’t see the light of day of radio, and I mean serious rotation on serious big buck commercial radio, I think there’s little substitute for touring and having a kick ass publicist. Where we come in is helping them afford both.
What made you decide to create a label?
Kevin Gales: We just thought there was room in the marketplace for a label that was gonna do things a little differently. Not that we’re splitting the atom here, or suggesting that anything NEEDED to be done differently. We just saw a bit of an opening to maybe bring a different business model to the table.
Mike Judy: We've both come from pretty vast musical backgrounds, so this just seemed like a logical step. It's sure been a blast this first year. The sense of pride we get when listening to one of our artist's albums for the first time is just so rewarding in itself.
As a freshly started label, how do you plan on facing the adversity of piracy?
Mike Judy: Kevin has some pretty strong thoughts on this which I stand behind. Piracy is a tough thing to fight, but we're going to do whatever we can to take care of our artists and make sure they get the most out of this that they can.
Kevin Gales: I’m not sure if there’s a plan to be had. People will pay for what they want to pay for. I think the one thing still in our control is making sure our artists are getting their royalties, and they sure as hell aren’t getting them on Spotify. We likely won’t have much there, and definitely won’t be approving much for release to Spotify. MRI and Sony have been incredibly supportive of that decision. If someone comes up with a streaming model that compensates the artist well, Mike and I would likely seriously consider that. But right now, it’s just not happening.
How will you incentivize fans to pay for albums?
Kevin Gales: This will sound so obvious, but I think that if fans love their bands, they’ll support them. Good god, look at Kickstarter; fans just rushing to give them money. Each release is like our own little Kickstarter campaign, except the record is done! There will always be a place for good bands to sell good music to their fans, and we’re happy to help with that process.
Mike Judy: There are plenty of ways to go about adding in extra incentive, and I think it varies per artist. We've got some great ideas, and you'll actually start seeing a few of them rolled out here with several of our upcoming releases. At the end of the day, I think we have the type of bands who have fans that truly believe in what they're doing, and do want to support them by purchasing their albums. Honest musicianship and honest......consumers? One can hope.