Label Spotlight: Metropolis Records

posted March 17, 2008

by Corinne

Metropolis Records

Please introduces yourself.

My name is Dave Heckman and I am the president, owner, and founder of Metropolis Records.

When and why was the label started?

The label was launched back in 1994. I was the buyer and co-owner of a record store in Philadelphia along with my wife Gail Delong. As the buyer I made a lot of contacts with German record labels and artists as the store was the premier store in the country for imported industrial music and most of this was coming from Germany were there was a big scene. There was an opportunity to license albums from many artists that were only making their way over here as expensive imports. After I licensed a handful of releases almost everyone starting coming our way.

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

Well we are still known as the premiere industrial label, but we do so much more then that now.

Besides industrial we have released other forms of electronic music such as trance, along with rock, goth, punk, and some metal. I would just consider Metropolis an alternative record label at this point.

What was the first release? How was it financed?

The first release was Love Is Colder then Death, which was an electro-goth band in the vein of the Dead Can Dance. I started the label with $12,000 of savings and moved on from there, never having to use any outside financing.

What is the most recent release?

We put out a lot of releases so who knows what it will be by the time this article runs. However our most important recent signing is IAMX which will come out May 6th. This is Chris Corner from the Sneaker Pimps “new” project. Although they have had releases in Europe since 2004, his first two albums are just coming out now in North America on Metropolis.

How do you feel about sharing music on the Internet?

Bluntly speaking, there is no such thing. File sharing is a misnomer. There is the illegal distribution of copyrighted material over the internet and the legal sale of music over the internet. If anyone is not paying for music they receive whether over the internet or burning a copy of a friends CD; it is theft. Many artists I know, both on and off the label have given up as their sales have plummeted due to this phenomenon and they can make a living.

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

Well it has been a great and rewarding experience for me, but I started in this business 14 years ago. Even back then most labels lost money and that was during the “good times.”

If you start a label you have to know clearly what your goals are. If you are doing it for fun, fine. However, you better have a good full time job.

If you want to make a living doing this, then realize that running a record label is a business and you better run your label with that in mind. If you do not make a profit you will be out of business and can not release the music you want. Besides knowing the music you need to understand finance, inventory control, distribution, marketing, personnel management, legal issues, and so much more. If you do not have the business skills or you are not the entrepreneurial type, do not start a label unless as a hobby.

What has been your most successful release?

“You’ll Rebel Against Anything” by electro-punks Mindless Self Indulgence.

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

I don’t operate like most other labels. I don’t care about bios, photos, or who you played with. I just want to hear the music. I know most advice is to send a three or four song demo, but I want to hear as much music as possible. I like when I am sent a full CD worth of music and preferably exactly what an artist wants to release. Again this may not be what other labels want. This is what I want.

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

Quality; that always come first. I like a band with strong song writing, but also a band that has a strong or unique sound. I have heard some decent stuff that is all over the place and that will rarely work.

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?

That is one of my many job functions. One of the reasons for the success of the label is that we all my employees have different job functions and we have a lean and efficient staff.

Along with taking care of A&R and finance; legal matters are taken care of internally by me.

Metropolis Records was founded before the real boom of the Internet. From finding and signing bands to everyday business, how have things changed?

When I first started physical distribution was tough for a new label, so a lot of that had to be taken care of internally. We used to sell a lot through our mail order, but that is now declining a bit. We now have a major distributor in ADA/Warner Brothers and have had major independent distribution for twelve of our fourteen years of existence. However, physical sales are declining and digital sales are increasing. So the biggest change is in the distribution model.

As far as promotion is concerned internet promotion has now been added to the mix, but otherwise touring, club promotion, radio promotion, publicity, and retail promotion are still needed to get exposure and sell a record. The internet is a small and important part of the total mix, but it is not the end all or the most important part of the equation as most people now believe.

As far as finding bands, I still rely on getting demo copies or contacting bands without licensing partners in North America. Also, tons of established bands that were dropped or unhappy with their previous label constantly contact me. I do not go to MySpace to check out bands and I will not open unsolicited MP3s.

What spurred the decision a few years back to buy several other labels, including Pendragon Records and 21st Circuitry?

That was nine years ago and actually I was not interested in purchasing either of those two labels and they were the only two that I did purchase.

In the case of Pendragon, Colm O’Conner who owned Pendragon approached me about buying his label as he was going back to his native Ireland and did not think he could run it properly from over there. 21St Circuitry was a totally different situation as Don Blanchard the owner of that label got into financial difficulties and wanted to get out of debt and get out of the business. So it was a matter of helping out two friends.

Anything else you would like to add?

Not much, You asked very insightful questions that cover the industry well. I can say that Metropolis will continue to adapt to the ever changing environment. Also, we will continue to explore new genres of cutting edge music.

Thanks for your time!