Label Spotlight: Dischord Records

posted April 2, 2007

by Corinne

Dischord RecordsPlease introduce yourself.

My name is Alec Bourgeois and I have been working here at Dischord since 1993.

When and why was the label started?

The label was started in 1980 by the teenage members of the band, Teen Idles to put out a 7 Inch of their band.

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

We don't label our music, but we work within the punk community here in Washington, DC.

What was the first release? How was it financed?

The first release was the Teen Idles, "Minor Disturbance" 7" which was financed with the $600 that the band had left-over in their band fund when they broke up.

What is the most recent release?

Our latest release is the Antelope, "Reflector" CD/LP.

How do you feel about sharing music on the Internet?

I think the fact that music industry's monopoly over the distribution of music is finally being diluted is fantastic. The power is shifting from institutions to individuals and that is an exciting idea. At the same time I think the abstraction of the digital format has created a sense of disconnection between the artists process on one hand and the distribution of the finished media on the other. I believe artists should be supported by individuals who feel a connection to their work. I also believe that giving people the opportunity to choose what form of support they wish, or can afford, to express is a cool idea. Music is a conversation and the more varied the topics the more interesting the conversation.

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

Simple, only work with people and music you love.

What has been your most successful release?

I think the Minor Threat Discography and the Fugazi 13 Songs CD are neck and neck for the top seller.

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

The best way to get a label's attention is to get out there and contribute. Play shows, book shows, go to shows and make really interesting music. This is my advice for anyone doing anything because it doesn't assume that outside validation is the key to success. Labels want to be a part of something exciting and as long as you are looking to them for validate your mojo then you are looking in the wrong direction.

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

Trust, sincerity and an appreciation for what we are able to bring to the table. There are lots of bands whose music we love but who would not be satisfied with the way we do things and vise versa. It has to be a good fit.

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 only work with people we know and trust personally. Everything with our bands and our partners is done with a handshake and if we feel this leaves us vulnerable then we won't make the deal. Anything outside of our bubble is done on a non-exclusive basis (for instance we signed up with iTunes, but not before also signing up with downloadpunk.com).

Dischord has a very specific DC bands only rule. In this Internet age where borders and boundaries are becoming less and less, how does this stance affect the label and releases?

It has been great for us and continues to be. Keeping our focus here on our own community has meant keeping our focus sharp. Too many labels get distracted and lose sight of the elements that brought them success in the first place. We've always looked at this thing as a living thing, and all living things come to an end -- some more gracefully than others.

What upcoming releases can we expect from Dischord?

We put out a slew of records last fall and now we are pretty tapped out! Medications are recording sometime this summer so we hope to have an album out before the end of the year. The Aquarium album we released featured songs they had recorded some time ago so are thinking about recording some of their newer material, and Joe Lally is also going to be recording with Ian [MacKaye] this Spring. So, we have work to do but we don't have an actual schedule. Stay tuned!