Label Spotlight: Frontier Records

posted October 4, 2010

by Corinne

Frontier Records

Please introduce yourself.

I'm Lisa Fancher, sole owner of Frontier Records

When and why was the label started?

The first record that was released came out in 1980. I started the label because it seemed like a good idea at the time, whether it was just a one off or if I was ever to put out more than one record.

How many employees does the label currently have?

One employee, Betty Fresh, who has worked for me off and on since 1986! There was a time when there was as many as six and we had an East Coast office but it's a small boutique operation now, that's for sure.

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

Mostly punk but some alt guitar and Paisley Underground.

What was the first release and how was it financed?

The first release was the Flyboys EP in March of 1980 and I paid for it with my paychecks from Bomp! Records.

What is the most recent release?

Middle Class- Out of Vogue "The Early Material" LP

What has been your most successful release?

Suicidal Tendencies S/T

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 never stopped releasing vinyl, it's always been the backbone of the label. I didn't release everything on vinyl from about the mid '90s on but anything that's punk rock definitely has to be on vinyl and CD. People tell me "the trend" is cresting but I think it will always be around, except now major labels will stop putting out totally inappropriate releases on vinyl.

Frontier Records is celebrating 30 years. What do you think when you reflect on those three decades?

How quickly they passed! Seems like just yesterday I began... There have been many ups and downs, and lately mostly downs, but I feel fairly proud of the records I've released over the years.

Can you tell me about your experiences starting and running a punk label as a woman?

I don't think being a woman had anything to do with Frontier being successful or not being more successful. Maybe I delude myself? I've always kept a pretty low profile so I don't think a band didn't sign to the label because a woman ran it, or vice versa. Maybe it's a novelty even after all these years but I don't think anyone judges the label's merits on my gender. Gosh I hope not!

Your website states you're not currently accepting demos, but are interested in reissuing punk and alt rock. Why the change in focus?

It takes money I don't have to market new records so bands are just better off going with a label that has a full time publicist, promotion and/or retail person. We don't! It's so hard to make an impact in the music world now, indies aren't up against majors so much as they are up against about a million other labels that release WAY too much product. Everyone should step back and cut back their new releases by half in order to have them make some noise.

What do you see as the future of record labels?

I hope there is a future but it's pretty grim now, record stores are trying to keep their doors open so they're devoting more space to other stuff like shirts, posters, books... The old traditional method of physical product is of course falling by the wayside gradually, lots of people only download and don't want to own physical product. As a record collector this makes me very sad but I think a lot of people will always want to hold a record or CD in their hands and look at the packaging the way the band and label want it to be presented. It might just be scaled way way back in the future. There's tons of great music being made now, you just have to spend a lot more time connecting with it somehow.

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

As clumsily as possible! I remember not even wanting to get a fax machine back in the mid '80s. I am very resistant to change and always hope everything is "just a fad." I wish there was still only vinyl, those were the best times of all for so long. Every time the majors try to do something to make a financial killing, it always backfires and hurts all of us. But it is what it is, digital is here and we just have to hope that some honest people will still pay for music even though it's so very easy to steal it.

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

Use your own money and don't expect to ever get it back. If you do-great! Having a hit is about as probably as winning the lottery so do it because you love music. No indie label worth a shit ever lasted when they were just based on a business model. Even after all these years, no one knows what the public wants. You just have to record a good record with sold songs and hopefully it will connect with an audience.