By paul

Paul: Kev, first of all, Merry Christmas. It’s been a very exciting and busy year for BSM. Looking back, are you happy with what you’ve achieved in the last 12 months? Did it all go to plan?
Kev: Hey Paul, hope you’re enjoying your first Christmas as an engaged man! Right now it’s Boxing Day and I’m answering these on the laptop in front of the football, full of leftover turkey and trying to invent new and exciting cocktails. Looks like I won’t be moving for a while so it seems as good a time as any to get on with this! If the answers start to get weirder as it goes on, you’ll know I’ve found a good drink… The last 12 months have been incredible. We finished last year in slightly uncertain terms, what with Pinnacle (the partner of our distributor, Shellshock) going into administration, the credit crunch in full swing, and a release schedule full of unknown bands. For the first time in the label’s history I dared to look further than a few months ahead, but in all honesty, didn’t even know if we’d be able to see out the year. As it worked out, it was our best so far, with the bands working their butts off and everything falling into place in so many exciting ways. Honestly couldn’t be happier with 2009. Even my rent was reduced by £50 a month this year! Seriously, when does that ever happen?!

Paul: Is there anything you planned to do this year that hasn’t come off, for whatever reason? What went wrong?
Kev: Not really. We’ve lost a few bands with The Tupolev Ghost, Wintermute and Colour all unfortunately calling it a day, but all three left us with stunning releases which will live on for a long time in our back catalogue and remain great souvenirs of a fine year. I can’t actually think of too much else which went wrong, it was pretty much a perfect 12 months.

Paul: What would you say have been the highlights – both on a personal level and as a label boss?
Kev: The whole campaign with Kevin Devine ranks quite highly on both fronts. Generally I work with new UK bands, trying to build them up from a very early stage, so starting work with an American artist on his 5th album was different, but completely refreshing and very exciting. We released the record, ‘Brother’s Blood’, in July, a couple of months after it came out in the US and about 4 months after it leaked online, but it still went on to do very well and with UK tours with Brand New and Manchester Orchestra, not to mention a very successful string of headline dates on the BSM xmas tour, and US treks with the likes of The Get Up Kids, I sometimes have to pinch myself as it reads more like a list of my favourite bands than it does a biography of our work together! Since the album we’ve released the Christmas single and now have lots of ideas for 2010, which leads me nicely onto…..

Paul: How did the deal with Kevin Devine come about? Any plans to work with him on releases during 2010?
Kev: The “difficult” thing with Kevin is that we currently have a catalogue of something like 100 songs which aren’t readily available (if at all) in the UK, so trying to work out the next move is unlike anything I’ve had to consider before. We have a live album ready to go, from Kevin’s gig at the Old Blue Last in London back in July, which should see the light of day in the spring. We’re also talking about doing something with the back catalogue, one way or another, and I’d expect some new music at somepoint too. The deal came about early this year. Last winter I heard ‘Another Bag of Bones’ on Myspace and fell head over heels in love. Before that point I’d heard some of Kevin’s music but I guess I hadn’t actually listened to it, and by the time I went to SXSW in March to see him play for the first time, I was a bit of a superfan. I remember it was all very weird when we finally met up and discussed things. I hadn’t slept the night before, having slightly overdone it with some Irish friends let loose in a very hot Texas, but having a few meetings and lots of bands to see had meant I just had to suck it up and power through. I went for a drink with Kevin’s manager and Jeremiah (Manchester Orchestra drummer and Favorite Gentlemen Records owner) to talk about a possible UK release for ‘Brother’s Blood’. From there we went to a party thrown by some lawyer with a free cocktail bar and every industry dickhead you can imagine packed inside. I hit that point of tiredness where you don’t really know where you are, so by the time we went for dinner… on the roof of a BBQ restaurant… with The Bronx… nothing at all felt real. I don’t remember much of the evening but I guess I managed to avoid embarrassing myself too badly as we had the album release agreed shortly after and haven’t looked back since. I also slept like a baby that night!

Paul: What is the release schedule looking like for 2010? Any new artists you’ll be working with that you’re prepared to announce?
Kev: Ah there’s two I really, REALLY want to tell you about as I know a lot of people on here will be really excited, but I probably shouldn’t. Sorry! The schedule’s looking very busy though. We’ll have a bunch of new releases from the likes of Talons, Mimas, Shapes and more, along with our ’10 Collection, which is a series of 52 digital single releases. People will be able to sign up (for just £15, going up slightly from February) to receive a track each week, an exclusive BSM t-shirt and a 10% discount from our online store. We’ve got the first two months of singles locked in and it looks amazing! In fact, one of the two signings I want to tell you about will be the 2nd release in the series, so you won’t have long to wait to find out about that. The 2nd new, mysterious release is something so ridiculous you probably wouldn’t even believe me if I told you! Intrigue aside, we’ll actually hit our 100th release in the summer, so I’m starting to make plans for those celebrations along with our 4th annual 5-a-side football tournament, which Punktastic of course won back in 08. I’m feeling pretty positive about next year all in all and am confident there’ll be something to please everyone somewhere in there. If there isn’t, well it sucks to be you, cos I’m gonna have a great time!

Paul: You recently announced scant details of BSM USA – how did that come about? What are you looking to achieve? Will it mean signing more American acts or are you looking to take the UK bands over there?
Kev: This is another thing to come from SXSW actually. My friend Chase (who I met through his work for Sargent House in LA) was looking to setup a label and as he was so into many of our bands, it seemed to make sense for us to work together. Right now it’s very early days and I have no idea how things will pan out, we’re just taking it all slowly and will continue to assess everything as it goes along. We’re working with an awesome PR guy, have a small distribution agreement and have our first US releases coming up in early 2010, with more to follow. Eventually I’d like to be able to send some of our UK bands over there a little more often, but as I said, it’s early days just yet. We’ve also got some pretty exciting things happening in Japan right now, which I’ll be announcing details of in the next few weeks.

Paul: Is the success of BSM USA imperative for the label to grow and thrive as a whole, or is it an experiment you can afford to go wrong?
Kev: We still have plenty of room for BSM to continue growing in the UK, so any progress overseas is just a bonus. We’re not yet at a stage where this will make or break us, it’s just really exciting to be working with Chase and the new bands over there.

Paul: How are you finding CD sales – are they continuing to hold out or have you noticed legal download sales are eclipsing them? What have you done, if anything, to ensure physical releases still make money?
Kev: Sales via high street shops are declining, but in all honesty there just aren’t many of them left anymore! HMV have changed their buying policies which, in the most part, don’t always benefit small labels like us, they have no chains left to compete with, and the indies are vanishing. When I started the label I think we had 5 record shops in Oxford, there are none left now. In fact, the last one to go is now an estate agents where I rent the flat I run the label from. Gotta love that irony. Download sales are strong right now but I don’t know if this will be the case in a couple of years, when streaming music devices are more prominent and mobile phone applications replace the need to own iPods etc. Physical sales are something I’ve worked hard on this year though. Despite the downturn in sales through shops we’ve continued to encourage people to buy via our website and at shows (which we couldn’t survive without) and have released a number of things in limited edition and handmade packages. Calories‘ EP, for instance, which came in a denim sleeve, helps remind people why owning these products is so much cooler than just having a few MP3s, and I’m certain there’ll always be a market for such items. We’ll have lots more bits like that out next year and the music enthusiast inside of me is looking forward to adding them too to my geek collection!

Paul: What’s your take on the RATM Christmas number 1 campaign? Is it a pointless waste of time or does it show the value and merits of running carefully co-ordinated internet campaigns? Is the Christmas number 1 and the singles market still relevant?
Kev: Personally, I really don’t like the song. Too many bad indie club nights have ruined it for me, but I’m really pleased it won. It’s the kind of campaign people will talk about for years and it’s nice to see one of these things actually come off for once. It shows the power the internet holds. The whole chart system is so detached from anything I do it doesn’t even feel like the same world, but I get annoyed by the culture of new bands being famous for 5 minutes. I see it with friends who work in the industry, becoming obsessed with ‘the next big thing’, grasping on to minor victories as the A&R guys huddle up around some new band, only for them to be forgotten a month later. Seriously, how many “new so and so’s” do the media present to us every single year? We’ve even had it with bands I’ve worked with in the past, and whilst it’s mildly flattering, it’s also kind of annoying. There’s a band from Norwich called Men who we’ll be working with next year. Ben Patashnik (former Punktastic and NME writer, now features ed at Rock Sound) was a fan and put their CD on the stereo at NME. A couple of ears pricked up and the next thing you know, without anyone so much as anyone hinting at it, they had a full page feature in the magazine, which in turn lead to coverage from Pitchfork and one or two other influential blogs. All amazing stuff and I felt like I was looking a giant gifthorse in the mouth, but instead of sending the usual “please will you cover this band” emails, I was writing ones saying “hey, any chance of holding off for a couple of months til they have a release, or maybe just a couple of gigs coming up,” simply because I feared the industry prick brigade would soon be circling overhead, and it was just way too early. It’s almost reached the point now where you want to keep the industry locked outside whilst you can try to plant your roots and build up a bit of a real fanbase, before the coke sniffers and money men come looking, thrusting you into the limelight for 2 minutes and forgetting about you the next. Sorry about the rant, it doesn’t have much relevance to your question but I felt the need to unload!

Paul: Simon Cowell recently claimed the X Factor had revitalised live music and music buying. Is he right?
Kev: This again is a world away from what I do so have very little knowledge on the subject, but if the X Factor winner goes out and sells 500,000 singles, or whatever ridiculous number it was, in one week, meaning more than that number therefore buy RATM, I guess it must be true to a degree. I mean, how many people would’ve download ‘Killing In The Name’ otherwise? I’d be surprised if it hit three figures in the UK. But just like I struggle to understand the mainstream world of top 40 charts and millions of TV viewers, I very much doubt Simon Cowell has much of an appreciation for the long tail and the world of underground music. You don’t need to be selling half a million records to sustain a career, but I somehow doubt I’ll ever get the chance to explain my views on the subject to him. (Set the interview up Paul, we’ll film it for PT!)

Paul: What changes will the industry face in 2010? How do you intend to change BSM, if at all, to counter these changes?
Kev: I think streaming music is definitely on the rise. The Spotify iPhone app being accepted was huge (perhaps more so than people have realised) and I’m expecting to see more of these services springing up in 2010. This is going to continue to change the way people listen to, and of course, purchase music, and I do worry about the knock-on effect it’ll have further down the ladder. Whether such changes will really come through next year though, it’s possibly a little too early. The main thing I see changing is a continuation of people opening their minds to DIY. The power is so firmly back in the creative hands of the people who care now, with bands and small labels having the ability to completely control their own careers, not needing the help of anyone else. Lots of people seemed to wake up to that in 2009. In terms of BSM, I don’t really intend to counter any changes, just accept and move with them. Behind the scenes, next year is the midway point of a three-year plan to shift things towards where I want the label to be. It all sounds a little cryptic and weird right now, but come 2011 we’ll be releasing music in ways I would never have thought about as recently as summer ’08, and I’m really intrigued to see how that all works out. Let’s do this again next winter and I’ll give you a proper answer on the subject!

Paul: What were your favourite three records of 2009 and which three are you looking forward to most in 2010?
Kev: Until this point I’ve managed to avoid giving my favourite records of the year. It’s always embarrassing as I get so engrossed with my own work I often reach the end of a year and realise I haven’t even listened to 10 new albums! 3 I can just about manage though! I’m bound to forget something really obvious, but Manchester Orchestra‘s ‘Mean Everything To Nothing’ has to be right up there, as does Mutiny On The Bounty‘s ‘Danger Mouth’ and Tubelord‘s ‘Our First American Friends’. Obviously Kevin Devine, Blakfish and Colour all get very honourable mentions too, and I also really liked ‘Daisy’ by Brand New, but haven’t quite fallen in love with it yet. Still sure I’m forgetting something and this is gonna bug me now! I don’t really know who’s releasing new records next year so I don’t know if I could give you three unfortunately. Grown Ups, Mimas, Shapes and Talons are all going to come up with incredible records, I’m sure, so I’ll just list those and turn this into a BSM preview rather than a Kevin Douch answer!

Paul: If you have a festive message for PT readers please leave it here!
Kev: Thank you so much for your support this year! I keep saying it but it really does mean a lot that you’re out there supporting our bands. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that 2010 will bring you all lots of incredible new music and the best of luck with all of your individual endeavors.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.

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