Christian Holden of The Hotelier and Chad Matheny of Emperor X have come together to form Dreams of Field Recordings (DoFR), a new artist-managed cooperative record label. The full press release can be found below.
Inspired by solidarity economics, credit unions, and established international cooperative principles, DoFR aims to create a new kind of artist-controlled and financially-transparent label structure that is vitally essential to the art and music communities of our current time. In the long term, they hope cooperative label structures will catch on as a viable model for music scenes everywhere, forming a network of artist-cooperatives that offer a practical alternative to both the bland conformity of media megacorps and the financial insolvency of many DIY operations.
Dreams of Field Recordings will function much like other independent labels but with three key differences that make the DIY/punk ethos an explicit, rather than implied, part of its financial DNA:
1. NON-PROFIT MOTIVE: 100% of the label profits must be reinvested into member-artists and their releases. While many labels spend profits more or less like this already out of good faith, DoFR will bake this requirement into artist contracts and its founding articles of organization. This removes economic incentive to invest only in projects that are more likely to sell, leaving more room on the release schedule for albums that challenge the current state of music.
2. DEMOCRACY: Major decisions (such as signing new bands) will be made by a board of all artists signed to the label on a consensus basis. Day-to-day operations will be carried out by working groups (paid people), performing the tasks label owners perform, but accountable to the artist board.
3. TRANSPARENCY: Label financial statements, including a list of all label/artist revenue and costs, will be available to the public on DoFR’s website. This is an attempt to eliminate the confusion of music makers and their fans about how capital flows around music communities.
In the wake of operational conflict surrounding their former record label (Tiny Engines) and some of its artists that went public with the matter, Chad and Christian found themselves among a group of peers seeking to find and redefine true independence.
“It was the first time in my music career that a group of musicians on a label really felt like an active scene, a mini-class, a union-like assembly of allies,” Matheny explains. His project, Emperor X, has been releasing and reinventing the approach to independent music since the late ‘90s, most recently having released the critically-acclaimed Oversleepers International via Tiny Engines in 2017.
That solidarity Chad talks about was his initial inspiration for putting more details into the dream in private email/Slack/Discord conversations and Twitter threads. Upon seeing Christian, a longtime friend and labelmate, sharing similar feelings, the two decided to re-focus their energy into a new kind of record label that could be less susceptible to the problems their peers were facing.
“Dreams of Field Recordings was an idea I’ve had for years. I had originally intended it to be the title of an audiozine project, but the main goal remains to focus on music as an art form that asks questions, starts conversations, and explores new territory,” Holden explains.
Witnessing how institutions like this have been on the decline in recent years, Christian found themselves inspired through those initial conversations with Chad, as well as with other radical visionaries in the music world, about what is needed and how they can actually create it themselves.
They continue, “I feel clear about how DoFR is going to fit into this world of many moving pieces, and am excited to get to work.”
Chad and Christian will host a live webinar at http://dreamsoffield.com/webinar tomorrow at 3:00PM Eastern to discuss what makes a cooperative different than a traditional business and why they lend themselves to the model of a DIY record label.
The webinar will begin an ongoing dialogue between the label and attendees about these ideas and how they may work in various contexts, as well as allow for discussions about mutual grievances within the current state of the music world and explore how we can structure institutions to address them.
To participate in the webinar, please visit: http://dreamsoffield.com/webinar
For more information on DoFR, please visit: