Label Spotlight: Sin Klub Entertainment

posted July 1, 2005

by Corinne

Sin Klub EntertainmentPlease introduce yourself.

Edward Shimborske III – Chief boot-knocker at Sin Klub Entertainment; self-actualized ape from Ohio; publisher of The Glass Eye; front-man of The Thessalonian Dope Gods

When and why did you start your label?

The label began with a two-fold purpose. My own act – The Thessalonian Dope Gods – surprisingly started to get local airplay and generate a wee bit of positive interest after we sent out badly-recorded demos to really minuscule labels. The thought-process was simple -- if someone other than me liked it, it could be worth holding onto and releasing independently (which happened years and years later). At the same time, I worked in college-radio with Michael Seday, who hosted a weekly local-show, focusing on Ohio and Michigan-based acts. Accordingly, he’d receive a ton of demos, and we’d habitually rifle through them, looking for the best “singles” to play for listeners. When a tape comprised three of four really good songs, we’d look at each other and go, “Someone should put this record out,” thinking, of course, to smaller labels like Alternative Tentacles, Touch and Go, and Frontier. After that happened too many times, we started SKE.

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

Our focus, thus far, has centered around more assertive styles of music, ranging from old-school punk and hardcore to stoner-rock and industrial-metal, but we’ve dabbled in blues-rock, emo, and punk-ska too… the archetypal ‘bad music for bad people’ experience.

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

Our first release – Environmental Hazzard’s One Stands Alone – came out in 1992, after we spent a year trying to do things the right way with contracts, publishing and a music-lawyer. They were a great thrash act who had started picking up a ton of opening slots for bands like Flotsam and Jetsam. I had secured a couple of thousand from my grandmother and also taken out a few ridiculously-unnecessary student-loans (for Graduate School), and, I believe, Michael had a few bucks saved up. After sending out promos, getting glossies and posters made, making phone-calls, ironing out contracts and buying computers and various programs, we didn’t even break even. Consequently, we did a compilation next and had each band kick in a little dough to cover some of the costs of the project, which enabled us to make a little money and issue two more releases. It started to make a little more sense at that point… but not much more.

What is your most recent release?

At the time of this interview, we just issued The PB Army’s Spine For the Snapback (their sophomore release), and Evolotto’s Smile (their third record), as well as debuts from Highbinder (…All the Way to Hell) and Bleed For Me (Composition). Before the year is up, we’ll also be issuing the third Thessalonian Dope Gods CD and debut releases from both Chrome Helmet and The Highgears.

How do you feel about sharing music on the Internet?

It’s a great tool to apply in the acquisition of new bands and tunes, but I’m still pretty old-school. Now that I’m no longer a starving twenty-something, I spend about a thousand bucks a month on music – grabbing random CDs that look interesting, in addition to cheap used records, new stuff, and compilations, etc. I really don’t download too much music unless it’s out-of-print, comes from a band’s site, or is being promoted through a label site. As far as SKE music goes though, I don’t get pissed-off when people bounce the tunes back and forth. Otherwise, how would the bands really get more exposure? It’s not that much different than taping friends’ new LPs, as I did when I was young, and I think it will pay off for the smaller bands and labels in the long run. I just don’t do it out of respect for the business side of things and the bands. Plus, there’s nothing like actually owning the CD, with lyrics, album art, liner-notes and the always-entertaining ‘thanks-list.’

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

Don’t do it! Unless you have a disposable income or you’re willing to designate it a hobby and toil for years on end, I’d stay far away! Most enthusiasts don’t realize all the time that’s actually involved creating and recording a CD from start to finish and then promoting it, trying to get distribution, stuffing hundreds of mailers, creating one-sheets, and not making any money. And despite your best efforts, some band will think your efforts are less than stellar, no matter what you do or don’t do. They don’t realize that you’re building databases and e-mailing people to listen to the record while they’re watching “Friends” or hanging out.

What has been your most successful release?

We have a few CDs that have gone into additional printings, the most memorable being Five Horse Johnson’s debut and the Porn Flakes’ debut, and some that have sold out completely (Environmental Hazzard’s debut, our first Bunjie Jambo release), but then we’ve got releases that are very critically-acclaimed yet haven’t sold big. On top of that, we’ve got CDs that feature other artists – Clutch, Dan Hicks, Kid Rock, Big Chief’s Barry Hennsler, Consolidated, etc. – so that’s a coup as well. And we have a good continuing education program – we graduated a member of the Porn Flakes to Gwar, and the original singer of Section 315 to Pro-Pain. Still, personally, it’s a huge triumph just to get a new record out!

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

Any band, despite demos and clever ways to get heard, has to have a following somewhere. They have to be able to continuously put people in a room or sell records in one or two bigger markets. Remember: there are five bands like you in every city, so unless you rise above, the labels are going to scoop up acts in NYC and Los Angeles first and foremost. To get a label’s attention, work hard and trade-out shows until you start to get into Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas, etc. Get press -- hire a publicist if necessary -- spend money, get in the van, and be happy when you get an inch further each year. I mean, think about how many demos a label must get each day and get realistic about your place in that menacing echelon. Actually, talent is about the last thing you need to bring to the table. And if a band doesn’t want to adhere to that ideology, they should remain starving artists and let the people interested in business move ahead. There’s a reason acts like the 2-Live Crew and Green Jello got signed, and it had little to do with talent.

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

I watch the bands perform a few times, and I go drinking with ‘em to start building a little personality sketch. I also think about the label’s strengths and how our supporters – be they fans or press – might respond. I look for people who work hard, are already making money to put toward ‘their dreams,’ and are realistic about what needs to be done to get that inch each year. I can’t stand working with bands that don’t know how the machine works or who think they’re doing something truly original that no one else has ever come up with. You have to be very realistic and quell those rock-star dreams. If you’re already a rock-star in some two-horse town, then why chase the dream any further?

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?

Badly… we ignore as much as we can and rely on our reputation and what the bands we’ve worked with say about us. So far, it’s worked out OK -- a lot of bands help other bands into our fold when they think they might click. Regrettably, we’re pretty much a one-man-army until my partner gets back from Taiwan, so I man the helm for now. The cons -- I instruct at a college in Toledo, work another job, run a thriving online business, own a recording-studio with a partner, publish a monthly magazine, do music and voice-over work with the TDG, and chase around three kids. Needless to say, time appropriation is a major concern. The more the bands can help out, the better. I’m certainly not a control-freak or some sadistic puppeteer holding the bands’ lines tightly.

Anything else you would like to add?

Yeah – labels need to be perceived a little more appropriately by bands. They are nowhere near the be-all-end-all, and they will solve few of your problems. In fact, they might make more dilemmas for you. Bands need to suppress their expectations and remember that labels are only a small part of the pie. They should only be used as a tool – not a savior -- to get records in stores and allow you to work with bigger promoters and/or clubs (guilt by association); utilize them for a little advertisement dough and some decent publicity. Do some research – at the small-potatoes level, there’s not too much a label can do that you can’t do yourself. Find one you can trust or has a good track-record and focus on getting shows, doing interviews, nabbing endorsements, and recording more material. Get out of your town every weekend. In reality, it always comes down to the band and what their goals are; labels never seem to run out of bands, but bands drop the ball all the time for a lot of different reasons… disillusionment being the top protagonist. Or go down and talk to the old drummer from Faster Pussycat and ask him how that major-label deal panned out as he’s washing the windows of a flower-store.