Label Spotlight: 20 Buck Spin

posted August 23, 2010

by Corinne

20 Buck Spin

Please introduce yourself.

David Adelson, 20 Buck Spin, Owner & Founder

When and why was the label started?

2005. I'd worked for other labels and was tired of compromising and having to defer to someone else's vision of a label. I started 20 Buck Spin to release the music I liked with no one else's input.

What kind(s) of music does the label put out?

Anything that falls under the umbrella of heavy and metal.

What was the first release and how was it financed?

Black Boned Angel - Supereclipse CD. The album was already made prior to my involvement. I financed the manufacturing of the CD itself. If I remember correctly that was just done out of pocket. I must have had some extra money around at the time. Those were the days.

What is the most recent release?

The latest album released is by a band from Olympia, where I live now, called Christian Mistress. The LP is called "Agony & Opium." This is heavy metal that is focused on a current version of the late '70s, early '80s style heavy metal without being just another throwback. They are unique and will stick out from the submental tribute drivel that abounds, probably dividing opinions along the way.

What has been your most successful release?

In terms of sales I believe Coffins "Buried Death" has sold the most.

There's been a lot of talk the past few years about vinyl coming back into fashion. Have you seen any significant increases in interest from fans or bands wanting to go vinyl?

I think CDs sell less now for sure, but I'm not sure vinyl is selling more. Maybe slightly. The audience that pays attention to 20 Buck Spin has been interested in vinyl since before 20 Buck Spin was around, so in that regard, the more things change the more they stay the same. I think the media people talk about it more now, so it becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. And when vinyl gets talked about it often seems more in relation to the packaging itself then the music contained therein. Many metal publications that review music will either not review a vinyl only release at all, or will maybe have a small vinyl column that talks mostly about how it looks. This is a tragedy as much good music is released on vinyl only. Sales seem the same as they ever were, which is probably better than the significant drop that digital plastic discs have had to endure.

20 Buck Spin has a sister label, Actual Noise, for music "not appropriate for 20 Buck Spin." How do you balance the two labels and how closely do they work together? What made you decide to keep rigid genre boundaries for each?

Originally 20 Buck Spin was set up to be a label for anything I wanted to do. If you look at the label's discography during the initial years there were more experimental style releases then there are now. As time went on I decided I didn't want to do that, I wanted 20 Buck Spin to stay more focused on heavy metals of various sorts. I knew I'd still want to release more experimental stuff, particularly stuff like Power Electronics and Industrial, but I thought it should be released under a new label name, hence Actual Noise. AN is far less active then 20 Buck Spin but that could change at any moment. Especially if Green Army Fraction wants to do a release on AN.

What do you see as the future of record labels?

Hard to say. I'm part of an underground that to some extent has its own set of rules and laws that both overlap with the larger music business and also operate independently of it. Right now it looks like there will be enough people interested in buying underground metal records to keep it going for a while yet, but I'd be surprised if any newer labels can grow to the size of a Relapse or Southern Lord. SL seems to be the last one to break-through at that level. For my part, I'm happy doing what I do, releasing underground records and running a small well-curated mailorder. I have no interest in releasing digital music though so if people do give up on records then I'm out.

How has your label adapted to changes in society, business, etc?

I have noticed an effect on things financially in these last few years with the shrinking of the economy overall. Particularly at my retail store. I can't say I've adapted really well. Like most people I think I'm hoping to just weather this storm without sinking entirely. If Paul Krugman can't solve it, what hope do I have? What can one man do against such pervasive societal globalist forces? It helps to keep a sidearm handy whenever possible.

Any words of wisdom for those brave souls interested in running their own label?

It does seem even more impossible to do now then when I started five years ago. Just be willing to lose money. If you can't stomach losing your money then it's probably not a good idea. You can't do it for money. Do it because you have to, because you want to be involved in some way, and because you want people to hear the music you care about. But honestly, there's enough music out there as it is.

I'd like to see people do more zines, actual print zines. Those are much more needed than more labels and bands. I'd like to see more regional distros, where people in a certain geographic area buy records from someone in their own area. Since "real" record stores are dying fast I'd like to see more DIY boutique type record "stores" that occupy a corner of a used book store or vintage clothing store or something, that cater to a specific scene instead of everyone; smaller, more well-curated selections. Leave the major label and big indie releases to the Target's and Best Buy's whose racks those pathetic labels so covet. So I'd like to see other areas of the "scene" grow instead of just more labels and bands.