Over the past few years, the music industry has been increasingly dominated by DIY (do-it-yourself) means – whether that involves showing off singing skills via YouTube videos or using Bandcamp to distribute free mp3 downloads.
Despite the ease of releasing and promoting music on the Internet, there has been a recent resurgence of vinyl, cassette tapes and CDs. In 2012, there was a 16 percent increase in vinyl sales on top of a 36 percent increase in 2011. People will tell you that there is something more 'personal' or 'real' about owning a physical album.
Along with this rebirth came a surge of DIY record labels – essentially, people communicating with new and unreleased bands and distributing their music out of their homes on vinyl or tapes. In fact, the foundations for one of these such labels are being laid on our very own campus. Billy Philhower, CSOM ’16, just released a compilation under his brand new DIY record label -- Too Far Gone Records. We got a chance to sit down with Philhower and find out more about this exciting project!
The compilation is available for free download on Bandcamp, check it out here!
M: What inspired the beginnings of this label?
B: Well, I love music and a lot of my friends are involved in music, whether through bands or labels. I have a few older friends that run labels in Pennsylvania and New Jersey who I met at shows or through Internet stuff. Basically I don’t play any instruments and I wanted to get involved somehow, so I thought that doing a label would be a good idea to try and get involved with the music scene as a whole.
M: Describe how you started talking to bands and got the word out about your project.
B: I just use social media. Basically all I did to start was make a Facebook page and set up an email. I have a pretty solid following on Tumblr, so maybe ten to fifteen bands reached out to me on there. People would just email me like, “Here’s a song that we recently recorded, hope you can check it out.” Once a few people contacted me, I reached out to bands that I liked. One of them got back to me and two of them didn’t. Some of the bands I definitely knew beforehand, but I hadn't heard of about half the bands. They’re new bands that most people probably don’t know, which is cool.
M: Describe the compilation. What kinds of bands and songs did you include?
B: Some of the songs were previously released and some bands recorded new stuff for this, so it’s a mix of new songs and old songs, which I think is pretty standard. It starts off really punky and then gets alternative and then nice and soft and has a nice piano end. I really didn’t expect such a reaction. When I was first starting out I didn’t plan on rejecting anyone because I didn’t think I would even get enough submissions to have a compilation, but I ended up having so many that I had to reject bands that I didn’t think really fit into what I wanted to do. I just tried to put together a coherent sound for a compilation of bands that I really like and bands that people don’t really know about but should get into. The purpose is to get these bands some more attention and to get my label its first step into the whole music thing. I hope a lot of people download it, share it, and pass it on to their friends.
M: How did you determine whether or not songs “fit”?
B: I just wanted to make a compilation of stuff that I like. If I won’t listen to it, I don’t want to put it out because I feel like I’d be falsely representing it. I wanted it to flow and I wanted to be able to sit down to listen to it and enjoy it.
M: Did you discover a lot of bands that you didn’t know and like now?
B: Yeah. I have a bunch of friends in bands on the West Coast now that I’ve just met over the past couple weeks. Some live in Colorado and Montana. These are bands that I had no idea about and they’re really cool. I’ve definitely met a lot of interesting people that I probably wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t started this up.
M: Any concrete plans for the near future?
B: I’ve talked to maybe four or five bands about possibly doing tapes in the next month or two. That’s the only short-term plan. I’ve talked to a couple bands about vinyl records but that won’t be until later in the year. Records are really expensive so I’m talking to a few other labels about doing a split release or something. A bunch of bands have definitely expressed interest so I’m looking forward to that.
M: What’s been the coolest thing about it so far?
B: Honestly, the coolest thing has been talking to bands that I’ve listened to for years. They’re not like rock stars or anything but they’re definitely people I really like and look up to. And now I’m friends with all these different people in the industry. It’s cool to sort of be working my way into this whole scene. It’s a lot of fun talking to musicians that make music that you listen to on a daily basis and that you really enjoy.