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Record Label Profiles

Engine Records: Just Say No to Dumbass Music

By Published: May 19, 2006
SW: We split anything that comes in from the sales, whether it be through my website, iTunes, or gig sales. As I said above, I don't fake and say that my formula's a miracle and everyone should follow it. I'm saying that the music business sucks right now, and I'm trying to structure my label financially to survive a number of years, and to get the highest quality performances out of the musicians as is possible.

The main problem with my formula is on the listener side. Right now, most people are more comfortable buying at iTunes and are not active enough to search out and buy music straight from the web. iTunes takes 30% off the top for every track they sell. That's a lot of loot. My hope is that as I release more and more music, and become a more established label people will purchase directly from me. In the music business as soon as you involve a middleman in the sale of your music, you are paying a disproportionate amount of money. I put music on iTunes so some people might find it, dig it, and then end up buying from me directly in the future.

AAJ: You gotta get in touch with distributors in France, like Jussieu Jazz in Paris, and Improjazz maybe.

SW: Man, I'm ready to get down with anybody who is a reasonable businessman and a music lover at the same time. I'm dying to license a couple of discs in Europe. I think I can make more money in Europe than I can in the United States. European stores, I'm not too concerned about, but I would love to hook up with a jazz label in Europe, or someone who would be in a position to license some of the music I've created.

I would be eternally grateful to anyone you could turn me on to. I followed up with the guy who had a chain of stores, but he could have cared less because I'm small and no one has heard of me. That's just the truth, a record store is going to sell the music that is easiest to sell—I understand that. I know there are dudes in Europe who could make money with me and my artists; I just have to find them.

AAJ: What are the forthcoming projects on Engine Records?

SW: As for other projects, I'm hopeful that I will be able to record Warren Smith's big band in April—it's seven horns, drums, bass, and percussion. And in May I will be doing a third Paul Steinbeck record with Malachi Thompson doing some trumpet work, Warren Smith on drums/vibes, and Chris Washburn on trombone.

AAJ: That sounds great. All the best to you, Steven.

SW: Thanks, Taran.

Selected Discography

Andrew Lamb/Warren Smith, New Orleans Suite (Engine, 2006)
Niko Higgins Ensemble, From Eye to Ear (Engine, 2006)
Paul Steinbeck, Three Fifths (Engine, 2005)
Andrew Lamb/Warren Smith, The Dogon Duo (Engine, 2005)
The Moving Form, The Year of the Endless Movement (Engine, 2004)

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