Label Spotlight: Barsuk Records

posted October 1, 2005

by Corinne

Barsuk RecordsPlease introduce yourself.

I'm Josh Rosenfeld, co-founder of Barsuk Records.

When and why did you start your label?

I started the label with Christopher Possanza in the mid-nineties to release music by This Busy Monster, the band that we were in. Christopher still plays shows on occasion, but, hilariously, we're too busy with the label now to play regularly.

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

We release records by musicians we love. We care a lot about songwriting, which I guess is the common denominator between bands like Death Cab for Cutie, John Vanderslice, The Long Winters, Nada Surf, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Aqueduct, Travis Morrison, Kind of Like Spitting, and the rest of the roster. I'm really excited about some new signings that we'll be announcing soon too.

What was your first release? How did you finance it?

Our first release was a This Busy Monster 7" single, financed largely on a loan from our good friend Emily who is now a co-owner of the business. Our first CD release, a few years later, was the debut This Busy Monster album, which was financed by the band. Our second CD release was the debut CD from Death Cab for Cutie, also largely financed by the band before Barsuk and our friends at Elsinor Records took over the manufacturing and marketing expenses.

What is your most recent release?

The Long Winters - Ultimatum. It's great.

How do you feel about sharing music on the Internet?


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

Nope. Sign Death Cab for Cutie...? Get ready to work a lot and not make very much money, but be happy that you like your job and the people with whom you work?

What has been your most successful release?

If you're asking specifically about sales-based success: our biggest-selling release is Death Cab's last Barsuk release, Transatlanticism. Artistically, I think that literally every single record that we've released is pretty amazing. I'm really proud that our roster is so consistently brilliant.

What's the best way and the worst way to get a label's attention?

Best way: write and play great and original music, tour even if you have to book shows yourself, and make recordings on your own. Worst way: send unsolicited packages with your music, no matter how great, without doing any of the above.

Regardless of genre, what do you look for in the artists and bands you sign?

Originality, excellent songwriting, unique sounds.

There are a lot of legalities involved in running a label (signing bands, releasing records, everyday work, etc.). How does your label deal with these things?

We've figured most of that stuff out as we've gone along. For a long time we relied on verbal agreements with our distributors and bands, now we have a few attorneys and contracts and all that, but all of our relationships with everyone we work with are still founded on mutual trust and respect. I consider us very fortunate to get to work for the bands that are on Barsuk, and to have been successful enough to be able to have a large staff and to make a living doing what we love. Plus, we've been financially successful enough that the business has grown over time and we're able to take care of increasing amounts of the everyday work in-house rather than hiring independent people to do it for us (like, for instance, publicity).