Interview with Mike Riddick (Label owner)
Interview conducted by Michel Renaud
Date online: December 20, 2008
Hails! First of all, what prompted you to start an all-digital extreme metal label?
The idea to launch an all-digital label arose when my wife made some interesting suggestions while discussing my other traditional label, The Fossil Dungeon. It was something that hadn't been done before (for our genre) and it seemed like a good idea in preparation for the future of music and the scene.
A lot of people say it's ridiculous to pay for mp3s, since they can be downloaded for free. What do you typically answer to that?
Did the book industry ever go out of business because libraries were opened? I believe people will pay for something they want because they value it and want to support the artists they enjoy. This is not always true, but I believe it's more common than those who download music illegally.
Are the mp3 files of variable audio quality, or is that uniform among all releases?
The Metalhit.com Mp3 store sells only the highest fidelity Mp3 format available (320 kbps). Other retailers tend to vary in the quality of Mp3s they sell. The industry standard tends to be 192 kbps currently.
Judging by the promos you've e-mailed, you're promoting music from many other labels - that list is actually getting pretty long! Did you approach these labels yourself, or was it the other way around? Have you ever had to do some "arm-twisting" to sell a label on the idea of distributing their artists' music in mp3 format?
I promote new releases for almost all of the labels I work with. Most of the labels I contacted myself, though a few did contact me. It did take some encouragement to get some of the labels to sign on with me, but for the most part, many liked what I was doing and wanted to get their releases into the digital market. They just didn't have a good solution for it until I presented the opportunity to them. I also designed my services to be totally profitable for the labels and artist I'm partnered with. There is no risk and it's a win-win situation.
What do you think about DRM-enabled (Digital Rights Management) music files, which limit in various ways what buyers, can do with the music files they purchase? A couple of online music sellers have given up the online music market, and as far as I know their clients are left stranded with sometimes unusable files (can't remember which ones exactly, but I seem to recall reading something about Yahoo! Music and Microsoft leaving the market...)
DRM was just another attempt by the corporate music industry to control the bootlegging of digital files. It really did nothing but to irritate the consumer. Who wants to buy something that's limited? It's not fair to the consumer and finally many people are starting to realize that. The songs sold at the Metalhit.com website are DRM-free.
You've signed a few bands directly on your label. Do you provide the same type of support a "normal" label would usually do? (recording, touring, etc...) I know you definitely do promotion, because I've seen many of your ads in the metal press.
I feel that we do provide most of the same services a traditional label provides. We assist with recording to some extent and we certainly do promotions. The difference is that we pay better royalties. For most artists publishing CDs, they only capture about 5%-20% of sales. Metalhit artists are given 50% of sales. As digital music becomes more popular I believe a lot more bands will want to work with Metalhit.
Would you ever consider "breaking the rules" and providing an alternative physical release for one (or more) of your bands?
We actually are "breaking the rules" by publishing limited CD-R editions of our releases, available only through the Metalhit website. They will start becoming available in 2009. We will also have other merchandise available as well. We will continue to do this until CDs get close to extinction.
I know many magazines/webzines and/or reviewers who simply won't review mp3s. Have you run into a lot of those? Do you try to convince them, or have any of them ever wrote back and said "Well, you know what, why not..."?
I have crossed paths with some reviewers who won't accept Mp3 submissions. All of the reviewers in our network have personally agreed that they can accept Mp3 submissions. I don't try too hard to convince writers to accept Mp3s because it's simply a matter of their preference. Now that major labels are sending promos in this way, I think it will become more accepted. I have had one or two people write and eventually decide they can accept them for review. I think some writers will find our promotions to be valuable because they can get new releases from more than 35 different labels, by getting in touch with only one source (Metalhit). They don't have to personally network with all of those labels separately. They just come to me, and I provide it all.
So far all the promos I've received from you, no matter the label, have been free of any anti-piracy garbage such as voice-overs, fadeouts, shortened songs, etc... Is this something you have to insist on when distributing other labels' work, or is everybody OK with that? I for one don't mind reviewing mp3 submissions, but by principle I don't review mangled promos, and I usually insist my reviewers ignore those as well.
I don't see the point in sending an album to review if it isn't the actual album. I understand some labels feel they need to protect their music by adding voice-overs, fade-outs, etc. However, that's not allowing a reviewer to get their job done. It's an irritant.
Are there any connections between Metalhit.com and your more traditional label, Fossil Dungeon? What do you release through that label?
There aren't too many connections between either label. They deal with different music genres so they are primarily separate. They are both exclusively digital, however. I used to publish CDs and Vinyl with The Fossil Dungeon, but now I only publish albums digitally. We had a lot of good releases in the past and I miss making real CDs because we put a lot of detail into the packaging. However, from a financial standpoint it didn't make sense any longer.
Metalhit.com is always accompanied with the mention "extreme metal label" in ads. Are you into other genres of metal at all, and would you eventually consider releasing/distributing the less "extreme" genres such as Heavy Metal and Power Metal for instance?
I would absolutely be open to distributing traditional heavy metal and power metal. I enjoy those genres as well. I chose the banner of "extreme metal" because it seemed to encompass the majority of the bands and labels I had planned to work with. It also keeps the door open for other future genres of extreme metal that have yet to be invented! In essence the term "extreme" is simply a generalization. We represent all metal genres in our catalog.
As I write these lines, Metalhit.com has been in operation for nearly a year. How are things going so far? Are you satisfied with the response, both on the artist/labels side as well as the consumer side?
Things are going extraordinarily well. It's been a great pleasure to start Metalhit with a single vision and to see it come to life in such a short time. We started with only a few bands and one or two labels who believed in our vision. From there we now represent about 12 artists and more than 40 different labels, amassing to a sum of more than 6,000 metal songs. Our store is receiving regular sales and the labels and bands are satisfied with our promotional efforts as well as the extra income and digital retail availability we're producing for them. We have more exciting projects unfolding in 2009 so it will continue growing. Our vision is to make Metalhit.com the source for extreme metal online and a place for fans of true underground metal to support this future medium of music.
I've noticed you have links to many online music stores such as iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, eMusic, Napster, and it seems that your own store is hosted by Klicktrack. How easy (or difficult) is it to work with all those stores? Do some of them limit what you can distribute through their store (through some "parental guidance" policy or whatever), or is everything you distribute available through these alternative channels?
It takes work for us to manage all of these accounts, but that's what we're here to do on behalf of the labels and bands we work with. For the most part, all of the releases we represent are available in these various digital retail stores. We have had to edit a few song titles and album covers because of their content, but it's been very few. I have observed that the sites that support more independent-type of artists are more lenient than more commercial outlets like iTunes, for example.
That's all for now, and thanks for getting rid of that autostarting music player you had there for a while. :) Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Thanks, Michel, for this interview and opportunity. I enjoy what you're doing with Metal Crypt and I wish you the best of success, always! To those who read this interview, I appreciate your interest and we hope to provide a good service to fans of extreme metal and digital music. All my best!
Web site: www.metalhit.com
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