Today we’re continuing our series of TuneCore label profiles with a look at aspecialthing records, an independent comedy label that works with comedians like Doug Benson, Paul F. Tompkins, and Jen Kirkman. Check out our interview with Matt Belknap, who co-founded aspecialthing with Ryan McManemin, in which Belknap talks about how the label came to be, why TuneCore works for their artists, and why he believes “community” is helpful in achieving success.
Can you describe your label – (genre, number of artists signed, how long you’ve been operating, etc…) ?
aspecialthing Records is a comedy label that I started with my friend Ryan McManemin in 2005. It grew out of an online community I founded called aspecialthing.com, where fans and practitioners of alternative comedy have gathered to discuss what makes them laugh and why since 2001. In the last six years we’ve produced over 30 albums and have worked with comedians like Paul F. Tompkins, Greg Proops, Bob Odenkirk, Doug Benson, Jen Kirkman, Jonah Ray, Kyle Kinane and many others. In addition to albums, we also produce comedy podcasts, notably Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies, Greg Proops’s The Smartest Man in the World and Never Not Funny with Jimmy Pardo.
How did you get your label up and running?
I think Ryan and I each chipped in a thousand bucks or something? Stand-up comedy is one of the more basic audio recording tasks, and I already had the recording equipment and software from producing podcasts, so we really just needed enough money to get our first CD pressed. We did all the recording, mixing, mastering and cover art/layout ourselves, then sent it off to be turned into CDs.
What does TuneCore provide for you as a label?
An affordable way to get our content out to the world in the most popular and heavily-trafficked channels available. When we started I didn’t know how to get audio into the iTunes Store, and I was so relieved when I found TuneCore and realized it wouldn’t cost thousands of dollars to release our albums digitally. On the contrary, it’s one of the least expensive ways to sell digital content, and yet it accounts for the vast majority of our revenue.
How do you use the monthly sales information in your account?
Mostly for accounting purposes. We gather the sales totals from there every quarter, break everything down in a spreadsheet and pay our artists their share.
Are the weekly trending reports in your account of value to you?
I don’t look at them much, to be honest. Since that wasn’t available in the “old days” of TuneCore, I guess I became conditioned to wait 6 weeks or so to find out how a new release was doing. And sometimes it’s actually nice to have that buffer, so that you’re not obsessing over the numbers right out of the gate.
When one of your artists has a new release coming out, what do you do to promote the release, and what do you expect the artist to do?
We have a PR person who does a great job getting the word out and getting interviews and reviews lined up. We put it on the news page of our site, set up the pre-order link in our store, and tweet it out. But we’ve found that with comedy, the artists themselves have much more reach in social media, because their feeds tend to be a source of entertainment for thousands of followers. So we encourage them to hit Twitter and Facebook and any other channels they’re using, and even encourage other comedians (either ones on our label or just friends of ours and/or the artists’) to help spread the word. Podcasts are also a great tool for promotion, and in Los Angeles there’s a whole circuit of comedy podcasts that comedians can go on to get the word out.
What are the most important tips you would give to a DIY artist trying to achieve his/her goals (whether it be getting signed to a label or not)?
I think community is an important aspect of art. We’re at a point where anyone can make their own thing without any great expense, but it still helps a lot to be a part of something larger than yourself. I produced a weekly live show at the UCB Theatre in Hollywood for years, and I met so many great comedians and performers there, many of whom I now work with on one project or another. The energy that results from gathering a bunch of people who are passionate about the same thing in one room is powerful, and often really exciting, unexpected things develop as a result. So I guess, in addition to the usual “just keep at it” axiom, I would say that artists should find a community to be a part of. It doesn’t mean they necessarily have to collaborate with others, but just being in proximity to other people who share your dream can be inspiring and motivating.
More on aspecialthing Records @ astrecords.virb.com
If you missed our interview with Alan Lastufka of DFTBA Records, you can check it out here.
On Monday, October 22nd, check back for insight from Travis Yetton of sensibility music (The Civil Wars’ label).